With two weeks left in the regular season, there still could be a Miami-Minnesota Super Bowl. It’s a mess out there - very befuddling, bedeviling and bewildering - but here are the key playoff factors to follow:
Pittsburgh, Denver and Green Bay have clinched division titles. Arizona, meanwhile, can ensure an excellent airfare for its NFL draft-day travel plans by booking “super saver” flights by next week.
If the Chiefs beat the Colts or if the Chargers lose to the Bears and the Oilers lose to the Bengals and the Jaguars lose to the Seahawks and the Raiders lose to the Broncos, Kansas City clinches a playoff berth. But, frankly, it’s a moot point if Rich Gannon remains the Chiefs’ quarterback.
The Jets and the Giants, as is their annual custom, have missed the playoffs. In a related move, the two teams announced that, for the first time, they will hold a joint press conference announcing new coaches at the Dairy Queen in Rahway, N.J.
Revised NFL tiebreaking procedures for wild card replaces “strength of schedule,” with “size of instep.”
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue rejected BYU’s bid Thursday to enter the league’s postseason alliance.
Nobody controls his own destiny. Except The Man.
Carolina is Super Bowl-bound! (Speaking of which, on Monday morning I walked up to the vanity in my boudoir, flexed two of the considerable muscles in my bulging right arm, gazed into the mirror and said out loud, “God, you’re good.” Because, my friends, The Man is.)
(Richie Rich & Rick, Unplugged: Jets’ Richie Kotite now 4-33 in last 37 games as head coach, Rams’ Rich Brooks now 6-18 in last 24 games and Saints’ Rick Venturi now 2-47-1 in last 50 games. It’s nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try.)
(Jeff George update: The embittered, erstwhile quarterback, upset that “super agent” Leigh Steinberg can’t find him a new team, has scheduled back-to-back breakfast meetings Tuesday with Arliss Michaels and Jerry Maguire.)
As usual, the following picks against the point spread are for recreational purposes only:
Seahawks at Jaguars (-4): Last week I promised to provide the “exact final score” of the Jacksonville-at-Houston game. I predicted an upset and said, “Jacksonville 27, Houston 19.” The actual final score was Jacksonville 23, Houston 17. Folks - and this should help you understand the outrageously high standards I have set in the gaming industry - for The Man, that’s an off day. Pick: Jaguars.
Ravens at Panthers (-8-1/2): Carolina is you-know-what. But those of us who call Caesars Palace Sports Book “home” realize that even though the Panthers are the better team, even though they are unbeaten at historic Ericsson Stadium and even though they are bound for super things, this is a “letdown game” for Carolina. My Panthers might win, but not by much. Pick: Ravens.
Bills at Dolphins (even): You know, when Jimmy Johnson said last week “everybody is going to have smiles on their faces after Sunday,” maybe he just meant the Dolphins would be watching “Big Comedy Monday” on CBS… . Bills’ Marv Levy, overheard on sideline phone: “I think I got some skunky offense, man.” Pick: Dolphins.
Redskins (-3-1/2) at Cardinals: When Redskins coach Norv Turner ordered “tackling dummies” in off-season, he didn’t know GM Charley Casserly was going to draft them. Pick: Redskins.
Saints at Giants (-7): Sources indicate if Rick Venturi can win just one game with New Orleans, he would become leading candidate for Jets’ head job… . Saints RB Lorenzo Neal needs 957 yards rushing in final two games for first 1,000-yard season. Pick: Saints.
Eagles (-7-1/2) at Jets: Eagles offense hindered by new 12-percent tax on all passes longer than 20 yards… . When you see the Jets coaches in the booth, don’t they look like they’re on a stakeout? Pick: Eagles.
Buccaneers at Vikings (-6-1/2): If this were “Planet of the Apes,” those smug simians never would believe that Trent Dilfer is evolving into a semi-competent NFL quarterback. Pick: Buccaneers.
Raiders at Broncos (-7): Hillary Clinton spoke recently with Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Davis spoke recently with George III. Pick: Broncos.
Chargers at Bears (-3-1/2): San Diego’s besieged Stan Humphries to become first NFL quarterback to use stunt double on third downs. Pick: Chargers.
Bengals at Oilers (-3-1/2): Scalpers look forward to Oilers games like hookers look forward to rainy nights. Pick: Oilers.
Packers (-8) at Lions: On The Learning Channel this week: “Secrets of the Pyramids and Fritz Shurmur.” Pick: Lions.
Patriots at Cowboys (-5-1/2): I like Patriots DT Pio Sagapolutele, but he’s no Naim Suleymanoglu. Pick: Cowboys. Colts at Chiefs (-6): Colts’ sideline injury vehicle now has more mileage than Maddencruiser. Pick: Chiefs.
49ers (-2) at Steelers: Wolfgang Puck hired as “consultant” for 49ers’ team meals. Pick: Steelers.
Rams at Falcons (-5-1/2): “Return to main menu.” Pick: Rams.
Last week: 9-5.
Season record: 106-100-2.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Norman Chad Syndicated Columnist