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FOOTBALL FREAK: NFL playoff push intensifies


With only three weeks left in the National Football League regular season, the playoff picture is still a little murky in both the AFC and NFC. 

Journal Pioneer NFL columnist John Turner.

In the NFC, the Cowboys and Seahawks look to be both the first and second seeds, respectively, while the Falcons and Lions are the front-runners to win their divisions. However, the Bucs, Vikings and Packers hope to have something to say about this over the last three games. 
The wild-card race has the Giants leading the way, with the Redskins holding down the second position. The Bucs, Saints, Vikings, Packers and Eagles all have a realistic chance to get a wild card.
The AFC is wide open as only the Browns, Jags, Bengals and Jets are out of the playoff race. The divisional races, especially in the AFC West, South and North, will all probably come down to the last week of the season. 
Only the Patriots have their division locked up as they have a solid lead on the Dolphins. 
One thing for sure, we are in for a real exciting finish with many divisional and conference games to finish the season. Enjoy the last few weeks of the regular season!

Stat of the week
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady set a record for the NFL’s all-time leader for wins by a quarterback in Sunday’s 26-10 victory over the Rams. Brady now has 201 wins.

Bonehead play of the week
Jets head coach Todd Bowles tells the media he is replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback. The only problem is he told the media before Fitzpatrick.

Sure thing
If the Lions are for real these are the games they need to win, especially against a bad division rival in the Bears. The Bears have a good running game, so Detroit needs to shut it down and let Chicago’s quarterback make the mistakes. The Lions beat the Bears.
This is a must-win game for the Vikings if they have any hope for the playoffs, and the Jags are playing out the season. This game will be close only because of the Vikings’ inept offence. But, in the end, take Minnesota on the road.
Usually I don’t like taking Atlanta on the road, but this week they are in sunny Los Angeles against a Rams’ team that struggles offensively. The Falcons have the Bucs and Saints chasing them in the NFC South, and need a win to solidify their grip on the division title. If they are truly a playoff team, Atlanta needs to beat a team like the Rams on the road. The Falcons fly across the country, and come away with a win.

Don’t mortgage the house picks
It’s a tough game to pick between Cowboys and Giants. The key for New York is to stop the Dallas running game with eight in the box, single up in the secondary and score some points on offence to force the Cowboys to throw the ball. All easier said than done. Can’t see the Giants controlling the line of scrimmage, which is the key. It’s a hard one, but have to take Dallas.
The Ravens always play the Patriots tough in Foxboro, and this game will be no different as it will come down to a late field goal between two of the better kickers in the game – Justin Tucker and Stephen Gostkowski. Brady drives the Pats late, and Gostkowski hits the winner.
There’s a huge game Thursday that might decide the AFC West Division between the Raiders and Chiefs. Oakland has difficulty against the pass, so Coach Reid will devise a game plan to exploit this – even with Alex Smith at quarterback. The young Raiders are having a great season, but aren’t ready to win a critical road game like this one. Chiefs win.

Upset special
If the Browns are going to win a game this season, this is the one against a divisional team.
The Bengals are out of the playoffs, and are banged up.
The “Dog Pound” knows this is their chance to break the “goose egg,” and will be fired up.
The possible return of RGIII will give the Browns some renewed offensive energy.
Give the dog a bone, take the Browns at home in a big upset!
Last week: 5-for-7.
Season: 63-for-91.

John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher and coaches youth football. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to ssidespartansfootball@yahoo.ca.

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