IT’S ALL ON THE LINE IN FINAL WEEKEND OF REGULAR SEASON
With one week to go, there are still 16 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLV in North Texas.
In the AFC, five of the six playoff spots have been secured, led by the New England Patriots (13-2) who won the AFC East and have homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. However, two division titles will be on the line.
The AFC North comes down to the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) and Baltimore Ravens (11-4). Pittsburgh clinches the division and a first-round bye with a win or Baltimore loss. The Ravens win the AFC North and secure a first-round bye with a win and a Pittsburgh loss.
In the AFC South, the Indianapolis Colts (9-6) look to hold off the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7). The Colts will win the division with a win or Jacksonville loss. The Jaguars clinch the AFC South with a win and an Indianapolis loss.
Nine teams remain in Super Bowl contention in the NFC. The Atlanta Falcons own the conference’s best record at 12-3 and can win the NFC South and secure homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory over Carolina. The defending champion New Orleans Saints (11-4), who beat Atlanta in Week 16, are still alive for the division title and homefield advantage. The Saints can secure both with a win and an Atlanta loss. Both the Chicago Bears (11-4) and Philadelphia Eagles (10-4) are still in the running for homefield advantage. And one of the teams will at least receive a first-round bye. The Bears can clinch a first-round bye with a win or a Philadelphia loss. The Eagles need two wins and a Chicago loss to secure a first-round bye.
The NFC West title will be decided on Sunday night (NBC, 8:20 PM ET) when the St. Louis Rams (7-8) visit the Seattle Seahawks (6-9). The winner of that contest clinches the division.
The second and final Wild Card berth will come down to three teams – the Green Bay Packers (9-6), New York Giants (9-6) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6). Green Bay is in with a win or losses by both New York and Tampa Bay. The Giants need a win and a Packers loss. Tampa Bay goes to the playoffs with a win and losses by both New York and Green Bay.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (4-11) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-4)
STREAKS: Bengals: Past 3 & 6 of past 8
COACHES VS. OPP: Bengals-Lewis: 10-5 / Ravens-Harbaugh: 2-3
LAST WEEK: Bengals-W 34-20 vs. Chargers / Ravens-W 20-10 at Browns
LAST GAME (9/19/10): Ravens 10 at Bengals 15. Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent converts all 5 FG attempts (36, 30, 46, 38, 25) & Bengals’ defense has 4 INTs.
LAST GAME AT SITE (10/11/09): Bengals 17, Ravens 14. Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer passes for 271 yards & throws games-winning 20-yard TD pass to WR Andre Caldwell with 22 seconds remaining.
BROADCASTCBS (1:00 PM ET): Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots. SIRIUS: 130 (Cin.), 152 (Bal.). XM: 106 (Bal.).
PASSING: Bengals-C. Palmer: 330-541-3,665-25-18-82.7 / Ravens-Flacco: 292-470-3,497-25-9-94.6
RUSHING: Bengals-Benson: 300-1,058-3.5-7 / Ravens-Rice: 287-1,143-4.0-4
RECEIVING: Bengals-Gresham (R) (TE): 52-471-9.1-4 / Ravens-Rice (RB): 63-556-8.8-1
OFFENSE: Bengals-326.3 / Ravens-331.1
TAKE/GIVE: Bengals -5 / Ravens +4
DEFENSE: Bengals-340.9 / Ravens-313.8
SACKS: Bengals-Dunlap (R): 8 / Ravens-Suggs: 11
INTs: Bengals-Hall: 4 / Ravens-E. Reed: 6 (T1C)
PUNTING: Bengals-Huber: 42.2 / Ravens-Koch: 43.2
KICKING: Bengals-Stitser: 28 (7/9 PAT; 7/7 FG) / Ravens-Cundiff: 110 (38/38 PAT; 24/27 FG)
BENGALS: Aim for 4th straight win vs. Bal…QB CARSON PALMER has 9-3 record vs. Ravens with 14 TDs vs. 9 INTs & 85.2 passer rating. Palmer had season-best 4 TD passes last week. Has 82.2 passer rating vs. AFC North in ’10…RB CEDRIC BENSON is averaging 105.0 rush yards per game in past 3 vs. Bal. (315 total)…WR JEROME SIMPSON had career-best in rec. (6), receiving yards (124) & TDs (2) last week. WR ANDRE CALDWELL has 2 TD rec. in past 3 vs. Bal. Rookie WR JORDAN SHIPLEY (3rd round, No. 84) posted 3rd TD rec. of season last week…Rookie TE JERMAINE GRESHAM (1st round, No. 21) leads all AFC rookies w/ 52 rec. Posted 4th TD catch of season vs. Chargers…Defense had 4 INTs in last game vs. Ravens…Rookie DE CARLOS DUNLAP (2nd round, No. 54) has 7 sacks in past 5 & aims for 6th straight game w/ at least 0.5 sack. Dunlap ranks 2nd among rookies w/ 8 sacks (NDAMUKONG SUH, 9)…LB REY MAUALUGA posted 2nd INT of season last week…CB LEON HALL has 4 INTs vs. Ravens & aims for 4th straight game w/ INT vs. Bal…RAVENS: Club aims for 7-1 record at home for 3rd time in franchise history (2003; 2006)…QB JOE FLACCO (3,497) needs 116 passing yards to surpass career-high of 3,613 in ’09. Flacco can become 4th QB in NFL history to start postseason game in each of his 1st three seasons. At home in ’10, Flacco has 13 TDs vs. 1 INT & 107.7 passer rating…RB RAY RICE averages 116.5 rush yards per game this season when he has 25+ attempts (466 total in 4 games). Rice is averaging 122.5 rush yards per game in past 2 (245 total)…WR DERRICK MASON (58) needs 2 rec. to join TONY GONZALEZ (13) & Pro Football HOFer JERRY RICE (11) as only players in NFL history w/ 60+ rec. in 11 consecutive seasons. WR ANQUAN BOLDIN has 2 TD catches in 3 career games vs. Cin…LB TERRELL SUGGS (11) needs 1.5 sacks to surpass career-high of 12 in ’03 rookie season…S ED REED posted 10th game of career with at least 2 INTs last week & Ravens are 10-0 in such games. Reed has 6 career INTs vs. Bengals, incl. 2 INT-return TDs.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (11-4) AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-10)SERIES LEADER59-56
STREAKS: Steelers-13 of past 14
COACHES VS. OPP: Steelers-Tomlin: 6-1 / Browns-Mangini: 2-2
LAST WEEK: Steelers-W 27-3 vs. Panthers / Browns-L 20-10 vs. Ravens
LAST GAME (10/17/10): Browns 10 at Steelers 28. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger passes for 257 yards & 3 TDs. Cleveland rookie QB Colt McCoy passes for 281 yards in 1st NFL start.
LAST GAME AT SITE (12/10/09): Browns 13, Steelers 6. Cleveland RB Chris Jennings rushes for 73 yards & scores 1st career TD (10-yard run) as Browns snap 12-game losing streak vs. Pittsburgh.
BROADCASTCBS (1:00 PM ET): Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts. SIRIUS: 127 (Pit.), 125 (Cle.). XM: 102 (Cle.).
PASSING: Steelers-Roethlisberger: 225-367-2,920-15-5-94.3 / Browns-McCoy (R): 115-181-1,367-5-6-81.9
RUSHING: Steelers-Mendenhall: 310-1,237-4.0-11 (T3L) / Browns-Hillis: 264-1,164-4.4-11 (T3L)
RECEIVING: Steelers-Wallace: 57-1,152-20.2-9 / Browns-Watson (TE): 61-696-11.4-3
OFFENSE: Steelers-340.5 / Browns-294.0
TAKE/GIVE: Steelers +14 (T2L) / Browns +2
DEFENSE: Steelers-280.3 (2L) / Browns-345.5
SACKS: Steelers-Harrison: 11 / Browns-Benard: 7.5
INTs: Steelers-Polamalu: 6 (T1C) / Browns-Haden (R): 6 (T1C)
PUNTING: Steelers-Kapinos: 40.1 / Browns-Hodges: 43.9
KICKING: Steelers-Suisham: 50 (14/14 PAT; 12/13 FG) / Browns-Dawson: 94 (28/28 PAT; 22/27 FG)
STEELERS: Aim for 7-1 road record for 1st time since ’04…Pit. is 3-0 vs. Cle in January regular-season games…QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER is 11-1 vs. Browns & has 17 TDs vs. 9 INTs & 96.2 passer rating vs. Cle. Is 4-0 vs. AFC North this season…RB RASHARD MENDENHALL (1,237 rush yards, 11 rush TDs) needs rush TD to join HOFer FRANCO HARRIS & WILLIE PARKER as only Steelers w/ 1,200+ rush yards & at least 12 rush TDs in season…WR HINES WARD (949) needs rec. to reach 950 career. WR MIKE WALLACE posted 6th 100-yard receiving game of season last week & needs 100 receiving yards in Week 17 to surpass YANCEY THIGPEN (6 in ’97) & tie HOFer JOHN STALLWORTH (7 in ’84) for most 100-yard receiving games in season in Steelers history. Wallace (96) needs 4 rec. to reach 100 career…Pit. is allowing league-low 64.1 rush yards per game & can finish season allowing 5th-fewest rush yards per game in NFL history & 3rd-fewest in SB era (since 1966)…LB LA MARR WOODLEY (8.5) needs 1.5 sacks to join JAMES HARRISON as only Steelers to have 10+ sacks in 3 consecutive seasons (11.5 in ’08; 13.5 in ’09). LB JAMES FARRIOR has sack in 5 of past 6…BROWNS: Rookie QB COLT MC COY completed 23 of 33 passes (69.7 pct.) for 281 yards w/ TD & 80.5 rating in last game vs. Pit…RB PEYTON HILLIS (1,164) needs 36 rush yards to become 6th player in franchise history w/ 1,200 rush yards in season. Hillis (60) needs 6 catches to surpass GREG PRUITT (65 in ’81) for most receptions by RB in season in Browns history…TE BENJAMIN WATSON has career-high 696 receiving yards in ’10 & needs 4 rec. yards to become 4th Browns TE w/ 700+ rec. yards in season. Had 6 receptions for 88 yards w/ TD catch in last game vs. Pit…WR BRIAN ROBISKIE aims for 3rd straight game w/ TD rec…Rookie CB JOE HADEN is tied for NFL lead among rookies w/ 6 INTs (DEVIN MC COURTY, 6). Had INT in last game vs. Steelers…S T.J. WARD leads team w/ 98 tackles & can become 1st Browns rookie to lead team in tackles since ’99 (WALI RAINER).