Share this article

print logo

Quarterback changes make games hard to figure

Doping out each week's games in the NFL is difficult enough without all the uncertainty at the quarterback position throughout the league.

Only 21 of the 32 kickoff weekend quarterback starters were expected to start for their teams entering the Week 16 schedule. Five of those starters -- Jason Campbell Raiders , Chad Henne Dolphins , Aaron Rodgers Packers , Alex Smith 49ers and Matt Cassel Chiefs -- have been replaced for one reason or another during the season.

The 11 projected starters this week who were not in the opening lineup for their teams are: Shaun Hill Lions , Tim Tebow Broncos , Rex Grossman Redskins , Jimmy Clausen Panthers , Ben Roethlisberger suspended for Steelers opener , Colt McCoy Browns , Kerry Collins Titans , Ryan Fitzpatrick Bills , Joe Webb Vikings , Jon Kitna Cowboys and John Skelton Cardinals . Philadelphia counts in both camps because both Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb were on the field for the Eagles' opening snap against Green Bay and split time at the position during the game. Vick, of course, is now the full-time starter.

It all makes for a lot of guessing for handicappers and fantasy players, not to mention opposing defenses.

A capsule look at Week 16 games: 2

>Game of the day

Saints (10-4) at Falcons (12-2)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Falcons (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: Falcons have clinched playoff berth and are in command in NFC South race, but Saints could stay alive for division title with a win and force Atlanta to go all out in Week 17 against lowly Panthers.

Outlook: Falcons have led a charmed existence, particularly in last five home games. Saints rebound from a below-par performance at Ravens, 23-21.

***

>Top attractions

Jets (10-4) at Bears (10-4)

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m.

The line: Bears (-1)

The scoop: Bears clinched NFC North with win over Vikings on Monday night but need a win and help to clinch a first-round bye. Jets clinch at least a wild-card playoff spot with a win. If Jets don't win they have to bank on beating Bills next week. New York's chances at division title are mathematically possible but improbable.

Outlook: New York is 11-4 as road team under Rex Ryan. It won't be pretty. Jets, 17-14.

*

Colts (8-6) at Raiders (7-7)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Colts (-3)

The scoop: If AFC South ends up in a tie between Indy and Jacksonville, the Colts own tiebreaker advantage. Colts can't afford letdown against Raiders, who are still in the playoff picture but need Chiefs to lose twice and Chargers to lose once.

Outlook: If Raiders can keep Indy pass rush off Campbell they have a chance. Oakland RBs have speed to hurt Colts' defense. Raiders, 30-21.

*

Giants (9-5) at Packers (8-6)

TV: Ch. 29, 4 p.m.

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Packers (-3)

The scoop: Choking G-Men need just one more win to clinch at least NFC wild card. Packers have to have this one to stay in wild-card picture. Green Bay gets back QB Aaron Rodgers (concussion) for this one after he was out of most of last two games, both losses.

Outlook: Remember, Giants won at Lambeau in '07 playoffs. However, Packers really need this. If Rodgers can dodge Big Blue pass rush, Green Bay, 28-20.

***

>Best of the rest

49ers (5-9) at Rams (6-8)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Rams (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: Believe it or not Niners can win NFC West by winning out and with a Seattle loss. Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford has hit the wall last two weeks as St. Louis struggled to score. Only Panthers (16) and Dolphins (22) have scored fewer touchdowns than the Rams (25).

Outlook: Niners need big game from RB Brian Westbrook. SF, 20-17.

*

Vikings (5-9) at Eagles (10-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Eagles (-14 1/2 ).

The scoop: Philly clinched playoff berth with Meadowlands Miracle II last week. Now Eagles have to guard against letdown against Vikes. Who will start at QB for Minnesota? Rookie Webb, journeyman free-agent pickup Patrick Ramsey or Brett Favre?

Outlook: Favre really isn't thinking about playing in this one, is he? Eagles, 34-17.

*

Redskins (5-9) at Jaguars (8-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Jaguars (-7)

The scoop: Jaguars need help to win AFC South, but first they must beat Redskins. Turmoil surrounding McNabb and Haynesworth didn't seem to bother Washington last Sunday. Redskins came from 20 down in second half to tie Cowboys before losing on late field goal. Grossman gets another start at QB for Washington.

Outlook: Jones-Drew goes against Redskin run defense that allows only 93.9 ypg. Redskins make it tough. Jags, 24-20.

*

Titans (6-8) at Chiefs (9-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-5)

The scoop: Chiefs have been bottom-feeders all season. Nine teams KC has beaten have combined 49-77 records. Titans have been decent (3-3) road team this season, but KC is 6-0 at home.

Outlook: KC has too much riding on this one to lose to Kerry Collins and Titans. Chiefs, 30-23.

*

Patriots (12-2) at Bills (4-10)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-7 1/2 )

The scoop: New England looking for routine win to wrap up AFC East and home field in AFC playoffs. Bills keep losing players and keep improving from week to week. Chan Gailey and staff have turned in best coaching job in Buffalo since Marv Levy and Super Bowl days.

Outlook: In home finale, Bills put up stiff opposition. Patriots, 27-24, in another heartbreaker.

*

Chargers (8-6) at Bengals (3-11)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:20 p.m.

The line: Chargers (-7 1/2 )

The scoop: Chargers need help to win AFC West. They will know outcome of KC game before they take the field in Cincy. San Diego is 5-2 in Cincinnati since losing infamous Freeze Bowl game for 1981 AFC title.

Outlook: Terrell Owens (knee) out. Is that addition by subtraction? San Diego, 36-30.

*

Ravens (10-4) at Browns (5-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-3 1/2 )

The scoop: Baltimore will have to win out and Steelers will have to lose once for Ravens to win AFC South. Browns lost another close one (2 points) last week at Cincy. Ravens took first meeting of divisional series, 24-17.

Outlook: Browns look worn down. Ravens, 21-10.

*

Lions (4-10) at Dolphins (7-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Dolphins (-3 1/2 )

The scoop: How many empty seats will there be at Sun Life Stadium today? Loss to Bills left Fish with 1-6 home record. Detroit ended record road losing streak with OT win at Tampa Bay last week.

Outlook: Dol-Fans are booing and Sparano may be in trouble because Fish are so dull on offense. Lions coming on, 17-10.

*

Seahawks (6-8) at Bucs (8-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Buccaneers (-6 1/2 )

The scoop: Except for wins at Chicago and Arizona, Seahawks have been dreadful road team. Despite that, Seattle still will have a chance for NFC West title even if it loses today. Home game against St. Louis next week may decide division and playoff berth.

Outlook: Pete Carroll doesn't have superior talent he had at SoCal. Bucs, 20-10.

***

>Dog of the day

Texans (5-9) at Broncos (3-11)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Texans (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: Hard to see how Texans' Gary Kubiak survives this disappointing season with talent on hand. Arian Foster leads NFL in rushing with 1,345 yards but has only 21-yard lead over Maurice Jones-Drew of Jaguars and 42 over Jamaal Charles of Chiefs. Tebow's second start makes things a little interesting for Denver fans who are staying away in droves.

Outlook: Two worst defenses in AFC go at it. Houston, 42-31.

Last week's record: 6-9 outright, 5-10 versus spread.

Season's record: 127-87 outright, 118-105-5 versus spread.

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com