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Three spots in playoffs chased by 11 teams

Going into the final weekend of the NFL regular season, 11 teams were still in contention for three playoff spots.

For most of the 11, though, it's a long-shot bet.

Only the New York Jets and Denver Broncos control their fate. All they have to do is win their game at home today. New York will be host to the woeful Oakland Raiders (2-13). The Broncos will be home to San Francisco.

Also controlling their fate are the Philadelphia Eagles. All the Eagles have to do is defeat the visiting Atlanta Falcons to clinch the NFC East title. Philadelphia clinched at least a wild-card berth with its 23-7 win at Dallas last week. The Cowboys, though, still could win the division if the Eagles lose and they win their home game against the Detroit Lions.

The No. 1 seed and home field throughout the AFC playoffs still is in play, but San Diego can wrap that up by defeating Arizona today. Baltimore can clinch the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a win over the Buffalo Bills, regardless of what happens elsewhere.

>Game of the day

Falcons (7-8) at Eagles (9-6)

TV: Ch. 29, 4:15 p.m.

The line: Eagles (-7 1/2 )

The scoop: Almost out of nowhere, the Eagles became the late-season story in the NFC after being all but written off when QB Donovan McNabb was injured. . . . After a 3-1 start the Falcons have slumped, losing four of their last six and perhaps endangering coach Jim Mora's job security.

Outlook: Eagles have come too far to blow it all now. Philly, 24-13.

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>Top attractions

Raiders (2-13) at Jets (9-6)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Jets (-12 1/2 )

The scoop: How do the Jets do it? A really soft schedule helped. For example, New York drew Raiders and Browns, the two worst AFC teams as nondivision opponents while Bills drew San Diego and Baltimore, the AFC's two best. . . . This will be a test of Raider pride. Oakland defense could make it a tough day for Gang Green.

Outlook: Unless Raiders have quit, it should be a tough day for Chad Pennington and Jets. New York, 13-9.

*

49ers (6-9) at Broncos (9-6)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-10 1/2 )

The scoop: All Broncs have to do is win to get AFC wild-card spot. This is last of interconference games on regular-season NFL schedule with AFC owning 39-23 lead going into weekend.

Outlook: Niners throw a scare into Mile High faithful. Denver, 31-30.

*

Jaguars (8-7) at Chiefs (8-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: Loser has no playoff shot. Winner will need so much outside help to make playoffs it's ridiculous. . . . K.C. RB Larry Johnson must outgain Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson by 98 yards to win NFL rushing title.

Outlook: Jags have been road flops all year. Chiefs, 17-14.

*

Steelers (7-8) at Bengals (8-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-6)

The scoop: How easily Steelers were handled by Ravens (twice) was one of most surprising results of NFL season. Bengals must win and get help to make playoffs.

Outlook: Steelers won't lay down. Bengals, 24-20.

*

Patriots (11-4) at Titans (8-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-3)

The scoop: Nothing for the Patriots to gain here. Think calculating Bill Belichick will risk his front-line players? Tennessee fans should expect to see a lot of Pats backup QB Matt Cassel. . . . Amazing Titans, who began season 0-4, have won last six.

Outlook: Titans will be huge factor in '07. Tennessee, 23-20.

*

Packers (7-8) at Bears (13-2)

Kickoff: Ch. 2, 8:15 p.m.

The line: Bears (-3)

The scoop: Packer QB Brett Favre has 21-8 career record against Bears. . . . Chicago has nothing left to gain except satisfaction of beating ancient rivals from the north. . . . Packers have decent shot at making playoffs if they win.

Outlook: NBC must have been desperate to grab this one. Bears, 20-10.

*

Lions (2-13) at Cowboys (9-6)

TV: Ch. 29, 1 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-12 1/2 )

The scoop: Dallas win puts pressure on Eagles to win later in order to claim division title. . . . Lions have lost last seven. . . . Detroit QB Jon Kitna and Cowboys' Tony Romo each have thrown for 17 TDs. The difference is Kitna has 21 INTs and Romo 12.

Outlook: Cowboys won't lose third big game in a row at home, will they? Dallas, 24-13.

*

Rams (7-8) at Vikings (6-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Rams (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: Last week Rams WR Isaac Bruce (13,310) passed Andre Reed (13,198) for seventh on all-time list for receiving yards. . . . Marc Bulger of Rams has been one of the most effective QBs in league with 23 TD passes, eight INTs.

Outlook: Brad Childress was No. 1 flop among new coaching hires. Rams, 27-17.

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>Best of the rest

Cardinals (5-10) at Chargers (13-2)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Chargers (-14)

The scoop: No rest for Chargers, who have only a pair of three-point losses to mar record. Bolts have won last nine, but need to make it 10 to assure home field throughout AFC playoffs. . . . Birds have gone 4-2 since Nov. 12.

Outlook: Lions only team to score fewer than 20 against Cards. San Diego, 30-17.

*

Bills (7-8) at Ravens (12-3)

TV: Ch. 4, 4:15 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-9 1/2 )

The scoop: Coach Dick Jauron battling long run-for-the bus tradition of the Bills. Half-hearted effort will lead to rout by physical Ravens, who need a win to clinch first-round bye and stay alive for shot at No. 1 seed in AFC.

Outlook: Betting on show of pride by Bills. Ravens, 20-16.

*

Dolphins (6-9) at Colts (11-4)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Colts (-9)

The scoop: Colts need help from Bills to gain first-round bye. . . . Will Miami offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey abandon run early against NFL's worst run defense?

Outlook: Colts, 21-13.

*

Panthers (7-8) at Saints (10-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Panthers (-3)

The scoop: Saints are locked as No. 2 seed in NFC playoffs. Panthers handed Saints their only loss in division, 21-18, on Oct. 1.

Outlook: Saints stay loose in Big Easy. N'Awlins, 27-21.

*

Seahawks (8-7) at Buccaneers (4-11)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Buccaneers (-3)

The scoop: Even accounting for injuries to Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks rank as one of season's major disappointments. . . . Ex-Niner Tim Rattay has perked up Bucs' offense last two weeks.

Outlook: Bucs show life occasionally. Tampa Bay, 24-16.

***

>Dog of the day

Browns (4-11) at Texans (5-10)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Texans (-4 1/2 )

The scoop: Neither has been in playoff picture for weeks.

Outlook: Houston, 24-9.

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com

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