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Turnover trend continues in field for postseason

The National Football League prides itself on its competitiveness parity, if you will -- and the turnover in playoff teams from year to year.

It may seem like the same old same old in the postseason. Not hardly.

For the 16th year in a row at least five teams will qualify for the playoffs that were not in the season before. San Francisco, Houston, Detroit, the winner of the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game and either Denver or Oakland in the AFC West are the teams that will make it who were not part of the 2010 postseason action. Cincinnati, Oakland or Tennessee could make it six if one of the three wins the second AFC wild-card berth.

Today, three division titles are on the line -- the AFC North and AFC West and the NFC East -- on the Week 17 schedule.

Baltimore will clinch the AFC North with a win at Cincinnati, but a loss could open the door for Pittsburgh. Also, the Ravens will clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win.

If Denver wins at home against Kansas City, it will win the AFC West, but a Broncos loss opens the door for Oakland.

In the NFC East, it's an easy call: the winner of the Cowboys at Giants game will take the division title and the No. 4 seed in the playoff bracket.

Four teams -- Cincinnati, Oakland, Tennessee and the New York Jets are alive for the final AFC wild card.

San Francisco will clinch a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs by winning or if New Orleans loses. 2

>Game of the day

Cowboys (8-7) at N.Y. Giants (8-7)

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

The line: Giants (-3)

The scoop: The loser is out of the playoffs. Three weeks ago, the Giants rallied for two touchdowns in the final 3:14, then blocked a Dallas field goal try in the final seconds for a 37-34 win. New York has won six of the last eight against Dallas counting the 2007 playoffs.

Outlook: Eli Manning adds to his Giants record of 4,587 passing yards. New York, 31-23.

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>Top attractions

Ravens (11-4) at Bengals (9-6)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-2)

The scoop: Bengals in the lead for final AFC wild-card berth and a win clinches it. A loss opens the door for Tennessee or the Jets. Ravens, who are seeking to go 6-0 in the division for the first time, intercepted Andy Dalton three times in a 31-24 home win over the Bengals on Nov. 20.

Outlook: Will Bengals fans pack the house? Game did sell out, but who knows? They might miss a 17-14 Cincy victory.

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N.Y. Jets (8-7) at Miami (5-10)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Dolphins (-3)

The scoop: Miami blew 17-0 lead at New England last week, turning the ball over twice in the second half while the Jets gave up a 99-yard pass play and a safety in loss to Giants. New York won first meeting of season between rivals, 24-6. Mark Sanchez looking to become fourth Jets quarterback in history to reach 3,500 passing yards. He needs two rushing TDs to equal franchise record for QB (7) set by New York Titans' Al Dorow in 1960.

Outlook: Jets have the back of their boasting coach. New York, 27-20.

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Panthers (6-9) at Saints (12-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Saints (-8)

The scoop: The Saints actually were outgained, 469-463, in rout of Falcons last Monday night in four-TD night for Drew Brees. Brees already owns NFL record for most passing yards in season (5,087) and looks to extend his streak of TD passes to 43 games. Cam Newton of Panthers has passed for rookie record 3,893 yards and has run or passed for rookie record 34 total TDs -- including 20 passing scores, another rookie record.

Outlook: Should be a wild one. Saints, 51-34.

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Steelers (11-4) at Browns (4-11)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-6 1/2 ).

The scoop: Towel-waving Steelers fans may take over Browns Stadium. Expecting Steelers to at least start Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) if there is a shot at division title. Seneca Wallace will start again for Browns, who had a shot at upsetting Ravens in Baltimore last week. Only Rams (166) and Chiefs (205) have fewer points than Cleveland's 209. Return of RB Peyton Hillis has helped Cleveland offense but it still lacks explosive weapons.

Outlook: Browns need special teams or defensive scores. Otherwise it's lights out. Steelers, 20-3.

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Chiefs (6-9) at Broncos (8-7)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-3)

The scoop: Kyle Orton asked for and got his release from Broncos and ended up in K.C. Now he has chance to knock Denver out of playoffs. Chiefs had try for winning FG blocked by Raiders at end of regulation last week, then lost in OT. Broncos and Tim Tebow were humbled by Bills.

Outlook: A huge rivalry game. Chiefs, playing for interim coach Romeo Crennel, spoil Tebow-Broncos Cinderella story, 17-14.

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Chargers (7-8) at Raiders (8-7)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Raiders (-3)

The scoop: Oakland swept the Bolts last season and had 24-17 victory in first meeting this season. Before 2010, Chargers had won six straight in Oakland. This could be final game as San Diego coach for Norv Turner. Ownership has to do something to appease disgruntled fans.

Outlook: Chargers have nothing to play for. Raiders, 28-20.

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Best of the rest

Bills (6-9) at Patriots (12-3)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-10 1/2 )

The scoop: Bills defeated Patriots, 31-0, in 2003 opener and vengeful Pats returned the favor by the same score in '03 finale. Next Bills win over New England didn't come until last Sept. 25 (34-31). Tom Brady of Pats needs 103 passing yards to reach 5,000. A good game will push him past Dan Marino's former record of 5,084. Rob Gronkowski of Pats has five TD catches in three career games against Bills and 15 for this season.

Outlook: Bills have not won in Foxborough since 2000 and never have won in Gillette Stadium. New England, 34-10.

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Lions (10-5) at Packers (14-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Lions (-4)

The scoop: Oddsmakers have visiting Lions as favorite at Lambeau. Must be thinking the Pack will rest Aaron Rodgers and other key performers. Packers won first meeting between teams, 27-15, on Thanksgiving. Rodgers has passed for 45 touchdowns and leads NFL with 122.5 passer rating, which would be a record. Matt Stafford of Lions has 36 TD passes, including three last week against San Diego.

Outlook: Lions have not played in a true cold-weather venue this season, except for Chicago. Can't see them winning on frozen tundra of Lambeau unless Packers let up. Packers, 35-27.

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Titans (8-7) at Texans (10-5)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-2)

The scoop: Titans trying to keep slim playoff hopes alive while Texans are playing out the string and looking ahead to next week's playoff game against Steelers or Ravens.

Outlook: Texans get WR Andre Johnson and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips back for this one, but Titans win on road, 24-17.

*

Bears (7-8) at Vikings (3-12)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Vikings (-1 1/2 )

The scoop: Once a playoff hopeful, Bears finish the season in a meaningless game with journeyman Josh McCown at quarterback. Jared Allen of Vikes looks to add to his league-leading sack total of 18.5.

Outlook: Figuring Vikings' Christian Ponder will turn it over at least twice. Bears, 27-24.

*

Redskins (5-10) at Eagles (7-8)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Eagles (-8 1/2 )

The scoop: Giants win ended Dream Team's playoff hopes last week. Eagles are biggest flop of 2011 in NFL despite huge season by RB LeSean McCoy (20 TDs) and DE Jason Babin (18 sacks).

Outlook: Resourceful Mike Shanahan has kept Redskins competitive most of season (except for Bills game) despite lack of talent. Eagles, 31-28.

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49ers (12-3) at Rams (2-13)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: 49ers (-10 1/2 )

The scoop: Could be last game for Steve Spagnuolo as St. Louis coach. Rams just can't put the ball into the end zone and went 0 for 2 on FG tries in shutout by Steelers last week. Niners looking ahead to first playoff appearance since 2002. SF won first meeting of former West Coast rivals, 26-0. Kellen Clemens likely to get start at QB again for St. Louis.

Outlook: 49ers are not an offensive juggernaut. San Fran, 16-6.

*

Seahawks (7-8) at Cardinals (7-8)

TV: Ch. 29, 4 p.m.

The line: Cardinals (-3)

The scoop: Seahawks couldn't hold late lead in 19-17 loss to Niners last week while Cardinals fell behind by 23, then came up short at Cincinnati.

Outlook: Marshawn Lynch of S-Hawks looks to score TD in 12th straight game. Seattle, 24-16.

*

Buccaneers (4-11) at Falcons (9-6)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Falcons (-10 1/2 )

The scoop: Bucs look like most demoralized team in league heading into the last weekend and it could cost Rahim Morris his job. Unless Atlanta wins and Detroit loses, the Falcons will get the No. 6 seed and get a possible rematch next week with the Saints in New Orleans. Falcons will know outcome of Detroit and New Orleans games before they kick off.

Outlook: Falcons avoid red zone failures and costly turnovers they had in New Orleans. Atlanta, 35-10.

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Dog of the day

Colts (2-13) at Jaguars (4-11)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Jaguars (-3 1/2 )

The scoop: There's lots of speculation that Jim Caldwell will be canned as Indy coach after this one. Neither side has anything to play for although Colts could blow the No. 1 draft pick with a loss. Despite record, Colts may have two 1,000-yard receivers in Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. Despite NFL rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew (1,437), Jaguars rank last in NFL in total offense, one reason coach Jack Del Rio isn't around any more.

Outlook: Colts are 7-3 all-time in Jacksonville but that was with Peyton Manning. Indy, 17-10.

Last week: 10-5 outright, 9-6 versus spread. Season's results: 145-83 outright, 113-106-9 versus spread.

email: mnorthrop@buffnews.com