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Playoff spots the desired presents around the NFL

Some can do it on their own. Others need outside help to clinch places in the National Football League postseason.

Five teams -- Green Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit and New England -- hold their postseason destiny in their own hands.

The Packers will clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win over visiting Chicago on Sunday night.

The Saints will win the NFC South by defeating the Falcons in New Orleans. Atlanta will clinch at least a playoff spot if it wins.

Detroit will wrap up its first NFC postseason berth since 1999 by defeating the Chargers at Ford Field. The loss also would eliminate San Diego.

The Patriots will clinch a first-round bye in the AFC postseason with a win.

On the other hand, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco and Dallas need to win and get some help to achieve their immediate objectives. Assuming they win:

The Ravens need a Pittsburgh loss to clinch the AFC North.

Denver will win the AFC West with an Oakland loss at Kansas City.

Dallas can clinch the NFC East if the New York Giants lose to the Jets.

Rare tie games haven't been considered nor have scenarios that are more complicated.

For example, if the Eagles and Jets win today and the Giants (against Dallas) and the Eagles (against the Redskins) win New Year's Day, Philadelphia would emerge as the NFC East champion.

And Kansas City, which was routed by the Bills in the season opener and fired coach Todd Haley, has a shot at winning the AFC West, believe it or not.

The possibilities add up to a most interesting Week 16 schedule. 2

Game of the day

Giants (7-7) at Jets (8-6)

TV: Ch. 29, 1 p.m.

The line: Jets (-3)

The scoop: Oddsmakers installed Jets as three-point favorite. Must be the home-field advantage. Jersey Swamp rivals have not met in regular season since Giants won (35-24) in '07. Of course, Big Blue had home-field edge for that one. It's first time Rex Ryan has led Jets against Jints in regular season. Both suffered huge losses last week. Jets were routed in Philly and Giants were flat in home loss to Redskins. Too bad Yankees, Mets, Rangers and Knicks couldn't have lost, too.

Outlook: Giants, 31-28.

Top attractions


Chargers (7-7) at Lions (9-5)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Lions (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: No receiver in NFL can take over a game the way Calvin Johnson of the Lions did at Raiders last week (nine catches for 214 yards, two TDs, and two huge catches on 98-yard winning drive in final minutes). Chargers have averaged 36 points in winning last three over Jags, Bills and Ravens. QB Philip Rivers is 23-2 in December games, best in NFL in Super Bowl era. Win at Oakland was Lions' fourth after trailing by 13 or more, most in league history.

Outlook: Lions looking to lock up playoff berth and Chargers' pass "D" has given up 27 TDs, more than even the Bills. Detroit, 35-31.


Eagles (6-8) at Cowboys (8-6)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-1 1/2 )

The scoop: Highlight of Eagles' season was 34-7 humbling of Dallas on Oct. 30, then Birds lost four of next five. Philly also won in last visit to Arlington, 30-27, last December when DeSean Jackson ran wild for 210 receiving yards. LeSean McCoy of Eagles leads NFL with 20 TDs, 17 rushing. Since early season OT win at San Francisco, Cowboys and Tony Romo have flunked every major test. They are 1-5 against opponents who are .500 or better. Game may be decided by which pass rusher (DeMarcus Ware or Jason Babin) and/or tight end (Jason Witten or Brent Celek) has the bigger day.

Outlook: Eagles in the playoffs would be exciting. Philadelphia, 42-35.


Falcons (9-5) at Saints (11-3)

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

The line: Saints (-6 1/2 )

The scoop: An Atlanta win keeps NFC South race going another week. Last four meetings between them have been three-point games. Two went to OT. Saints won, 26-23, at Atlanta on Nov. 13. Each team beat up on an inferior opponent last week -- Saints over Vikings (42-20) and Falcons over Jaguars (41-14). New Orleans is 9-2 versus Atlanta under coach Sean Payton.

Outlook: Another dome-burner between division rivals. New Orleans, 33-28.


Cardinals (7-7) at Bengals (8-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bengals (-4)

The scoop: Cards have won six of last seven, three in OT and three others by four points or less, to stay mathematically alive for wild card. Bengals' only wins in last six were over 4-10 Browns and 2-12 Rams as things have gotten progressively tougher for rookie QB Andy Dalton (18 TDs, 13 INTs).

Outlook: Cards have shown surprising grit, even on the road and despite erratic quarterbacking. Arizona, 19-14.


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

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: Raiders would be tied with Denver for AFC West lead if they hadn't blown a two-touchdown lead in 28-27 home loss to Lions. Raiders have won last six road games against divisional opponents and will be looking for their fifth straight win in Kansas City. Chiefs coming off upset of season, their 19-14 shackling of mighty Packers last week. Some envision Chiefs and Broncos playing for AFC West title next weekend at Mile High.

Outlook: Chiefs and their fans would like nothing better than to be spoilers for hated division rival. Kansas City, 20-17.


Best of the rest

Bears (7-7) at Packers (13-1)

TV: Ch. 2, Sunday, 8:15 p.m.

The line: Packers (-12)

The scoop: Aside from Murmansk, can you think of a place you'd rather not be on Christmas night than Lambeau Field. Chicago will turn to Josh McCown at QB in an attempt to stop four-game losing streak without Jay Cutler. Packers won first meeting, 27-17, at Soldier Field in September as Aaron Rodgers passed for three TDs and 297 yards. Romeo Crennel of Chiefs found a way to slow the Pack in upset last week. Also, Green Bay seemed to miss injured WR Greg Jennings, more than you might expect.

Outlook: Suddenly, the Packers and their defense and ordinary running game look beatable in postseason. Green Bay, 27-10.


Broncos (8-6) at Bills (5-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-3)

The scoop: Teams last met in '08 in Denver with Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson scoring touchdowns in 30-23 Buffalo win. In last visit to Orchard Park ('07), Broncos won on Jason Elam FG on last play. Denver has won last five road games and QB Tim Tebow is 7-2 as the starter this season with 14 TDs (10 passing, four rushing). Ex-Bill Willis McGahee needs 10 yards to reach 1,000. Broncos lead league in rushing (163.1) and should have huge special teams edge. They are third in punt return average (13.0) and fifth in kickoff returns (26.4), while Bills are far down the list in all but gross punt average (47.7).

Outlook: Expecting the Ralph to be little more than half full for this one. Denver, 24-17.


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

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-12 1/2 )

The scoop: Ravens won first meeting Dec. 4 at Cleveland, 24-10. Baltimore is 7-0 against Browns under coach John Harbaugh. Seneca Wallace will start at QB for Cleveland with Colt McCoy (concussion) out.

Outlook: Ravens should be smarting from embarrasing Sunday night loss at San Diego (34-14). Baltimore, 20-10.


Dolphins (5-9) at Patriots (11-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-9 1/2 )

The scoop: New England defeated Fish, 38-24, in first meeting on Kickoff Weekend, helped by 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, one reason he leads NFL in receiving yardage (1,380).

Outlook: Dolphins have played hard for Tony Sparano and now Todd Bowles as they await owner Steve Ross' whiz-bang, super-dynamite coaching choice. New England, 27-19.


Jaguars (4-10) at Titans (7-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-7 1/2 )

The scoop: Jaguars won first game of season series, 16-14, on Kickoff Weekend and won at Tennessee, 17-6, last December. Jags' Maurice Jones-Drew leads league with 1,334 rushing yards, 404 more than Chris Johnson of Titans, who has been major disappointment most of season.

Outlook: Jags' offense is all MJD. Tennessee, 27-13.


Vikings (2-12) at Redskins (5-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Redskins (-6 1/2 )

The scoop: Both teams out of postseason picture but Redskins keep on showing development. This may be one of Mike Shanahan's best coaching jobs. Redskins humbled Giants, 20-13, at Meadowlands last week. Vikings were embarrassed at home by Saints. Vikes' Adrian Peterson returned last week and averaged 6.0 yards in 10 carries.

Outlook: It won't be pretty. Both QBs (Ponder, Grossman) have negative TD-INT stats. Washington, 27-16.


49ers (11-3) at Seahawks (7-7)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: 49ers (-2 1/2 )

The scoop: Seahawks have minuscule shot at playoffs, one reason they have played inspired football, winning five of last six including road games at St. Louis and Chicago. Wanna bet ex-Bill Marshawn Lynch (1,011 yards, 11 TDs) becomes first to score a rushing touchdown against Niners this season?

Outlook: Pete Carroll has Seahawks believing after 2-6 start. Seattle, 24-21.


Bucs (4-10) at Panthers (5-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Carolina (-7 1/2 )

The scoop: Panthers won first game of season series, 38-19, on Dec. 4 in Tampa. Bucs have not won since upsetting Saints, 26-20, on Nov. 6, dropping last eight, longest streak going in league. Rookie Cam Newton of Panthers has 17 TDs, 16 INTs. Bucs WR Mike Williams (Riverside) has 60 catches but was targeted only once in last week's loss to Dallas. Losing streak and throwing blame on his players again has Raheem Morris on hot seat in Tampa.

Outlook: Rookie head coach Ron Rivera quietly has done superb job with Panthers and Newton. Carolina, 30-13.


Dog of the day

Rams (2-12) at Steelers (10-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Pittsburgh (-14)

The scoop: Each team coming off a loss. Steelers blew chance for division lead with Monday night loss (20-3) at San Francisco and risked health of Ben Roethlisberger (high ankle sprain) in the process. Rams played hard but just didn't have enough oomph in home loss to Bengals (20-13).

Outlook: Rams upset Saints but Pittsburgh, 17-6.

Last week: 7-7 outright, 7-5-2 versus spread. Season's results: 135-78 outright, 104-100-9 versus spread.