December 28, 2008 in Sports

The NFL matchups

By Terry Bannon Chicago Tribune
 

Bears at Texans

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Texans by 3.

Records: Bears (9-6); Texans (7-8)

Bears: Showing lot of heart with two straight OT wins. Must win to have shot at division or wild card, but they’ll take care of their end.

Texans: Another non-winning season for Texans, who made progress this season but not enough.

Fantasy outlook: Bears tight end Greg Olsen becoming more of a force with 2 TD catches in past 3 weeks, team-high 4 for season. Titans’ Andre Johnson second in NFL with 105 catches, has 6 TD receptions.

Injuries: Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (ankle) and safety Mike Brown (knee) and Texans safety Nick Ferguson (knee) are questionable.

Rams at Falcons

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Falcons by 14.

Records: Rams (2-13); Falcons (10-5)

Rams: Major rebuilding looms after nine straight losses; longtime team president Jay Zygmunt departs. Hard to see them challenging.

Falcons: Does one-season turnaround story have another chapter? With win and Carolina loss, Falcons would be No. 2 seed. No worse than top wild card.

Fantasy outlook: Rams’ Steven Jackson, coming off 108-yard game, has 4 rushing TDs; Falcons’ Michael Turner second in NFL with 16 rushing TDs, 10 in past 7 games.

Injuries: Falcons defensive tackle Jamaal Anderson (ankle) and Rams guard Jacob Bell (hamstring) are questionable.

Patriots at Bills

Time: 10 a.m. TV: CBS

Line: Patriots by 5 1/2 .

Records: Patriots (10-5); Bills (7-8)

Patriots: All they can do is win and hope Jets can beat Dolphins to give them AFC East title or a Ravens loss to Jaguars will give them wild card. Patriots are a good road team (5-2).

Bills: Long fade continues as coach Dick Jauron’s future remains in question. What do they have to play for? Ending 10-game losing streak vs. Pats.

Fantasy outlook: Matt Cassel continues to flourish with 8 TDs, 1 INT in past 3 games. Bills rookie Steve Johnson has caught TD passes in past 2 games.

Injuries: Pats defensive end Richard Seymour (back), Bills T Jason Peters (knee) and RB Marshawn Lynch (shoulder) all questionable.

Chiefs at Bengals

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Bengals by 3.

Records: Chiefs (2-13); Bengals (3-11-1)

Chiefs: Chiefs finishing worst season in their 49-year history. Will Herm Edwards get chance to complete rebuilding job that featured 18 rookies?

Bengals: Have won 2 in row, but it may be too late for coach Marvin Lewis. Not easy playing most of season without QB Carson Palmer.

Fantasy outlook: Chiefs’ Larry Johnson healthy and finishing strong, coming off 108-yard game. Cedric Benson continuing his comeback, ran for 171 last week.

Injuries: Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco (hamstring) likely out.

Lions at Packers

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Packers by 11 1/2 .

Records: Lions (0-15); Packers (5-10)

Lions: Rod Marinelli doesn’t deserve this – he didn’t make years of bad draft choices – but hard to see Lions avoiding becoming first 0-16 team. They haven’t won at Green Bay since 1991.

Packers: Have something to play for – not being team that loses to Lions. After stunning array of close losses, Packers can control this one.

Fantasy outlook: Kevin Smith, averaging 4.2 per carry, has 7 rushing TDs. Aaron Rodgers closing out solid first year as starter with 25 TD passes vs. 13 INTs.

Injuries: Lions receiver Calvin Johnson has sore knee but may play.

Titans at Colts

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Titans by 3

Records: Titans (13-2); Colts (11-4)

Titans: Chance to rest up for AFC playoffs, where they’re the No. 1 seed. No reason to take risks or show much, as they could play Colts again in 2 weeks.

Colts: Peyton Manning may make only a cameo appearance as Colts go for ninth straight win. They’ll be expected to handle AFC West winner in first round, even though it’ll be on road.

Fantasy outlook: Titans TE Bo Scaife having career year with 57 catches, 2 for TDs. Reggie Wayne leads Colts with 81 catches, 6 for TDs.

Injuries: Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth (knee) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) are out; Colts receiver Marvin Harrison (knee) doubtful.

Giants at Vikings

Time: 10 a.m. TV: Fox 28

Line: Vikings by 7.

Records: Giants (12-3); Vikings (9-6)

Giants: With top seed in NFC wrapped up, Giants’ goal is to stay sharp and healthy. Big win over Carolina last week supplies momentum for playoffs.

Vikings: Must win to be assured of NFC North title because Bears have winnable game vs. Houston. Tarvaris Jackson remains starting QB.

Fantasy outlook: Eli Manning (21 TD passes) may have to go to air against NFL’s No. 1 rush defense; ex-Giant Visanthe Shiancoe has 40 catches, 7 TDs for Vikes.

Injuries: Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams (shoulder) is out.

Panthers at Saints

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Panthers by 1 1/2 .

Records: Panthers (11-4); Saints (8-7)

Panthers: Could have been top seed with win over Giants, now must make sure they wrap up No. 2 and bye with win or Falcons loss. They’ll just run the ball.

Saints: Drew Brees has thrown 19 TD passes vs. 4 INTs at home, where Saints are 6-1. But they’re out of playoff race.

Fantasy outlook: DeAngelo Williams has 18 rushing TDs, with 6 straight games of at least 1. Saints’ Pierre Thomas has all 9 of his rushing TDs in past 6 games.

Injuries: Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey (ankle) and offensive tackle Jammal Brown (ankle) are questionable.

Browns at Steelers

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Steelers by 11.

Records: Browns (4-11); Steelers (11-4)

Browns: Lack of offense has become offensive story in Cleveland. Injuries, ineptitude may lead to Romeo Crennel’s departure.

Steelers: Have won 11 straight, 15 of past 16 vs. Browns. They should have no trouble. They’ll do just enough to get ready for playoffs.

Fantasy outlook: Bruce Gradkowski starts at QB for desperate Browns; had zero TD passes in preseason with Rams. Willie Parker has 4 straight 100-yard games vs. Browns.

Injuries: Browns QB Ken Dorsey (ribs) is questionable; Steelers linebacker James Harrison (hip) is questionable.

Raiders at Bucs

Time: 10 a.m. Line: Bucs by 13.

Records: Raiders (4-11); Bucs (9-6)

Raiders: Another lost season, but at least they’re showing some life at end, scoring 53 points in past 2 games (1-1). All they can do is be spoiler.

Bucs: Need win plus Dallas loss to make playoffs, and Cowboys play later game. More motivation than Raiders.

Fantasy outlook: JaMarcus Russell showing signs of progress with 4 TD passes vs. 1 INT in past two games. Bucs’ Antonio Bryant finishing strong with 23 catches, 4 TDs in past 3 games.

Injuries: Bucs QB Jeff Garcia dealing with head injury; Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (neck) is questionable.

Dolphins at Jets

Time: 1:15 p.m. TV: CBS

Line: Jets by 3.

Records: Dolphins (10-5); Jets (9-6)

Dolphins: Amazing turnaround continues as ex-Jets QB Chad Pennington returns to New York with chance to win AFC East. They’ve won 4 straight on road and 8 of past 9.

Jets: Brett Favre, whose signing made Pennington expendable, needs big game after late-season slump (1 TD vs. 6 INTs in last 4). Jets have won past 5 meetings.

Fantasy outlook: Dolphins’ Ronnie Brown has run for 10 TDs, averaging 4.2 yards per carry; Thomas Jones has run for 13 TDs, averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

Injuries: Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder (knee) is questionable; Dolphins cornerback Will Allen uncertain with leg injury.

Cowboys at Eagles

Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Eagles by 1 1/2 .

Records: Cowboys (9-6); Eagles (8-6-1)

Cowboys: Despite 5-0 start, need win to make playoffs. Road division game is tough challenge.

Eagles: Will have emotional edge if early games leave them in playoff picture; Bucs and either Bears or Vikings must lose. Still need big game from Donovan McNabb.

Fantasy outlook: Cowboys’ Tony Romo had 3 TD passes in September win over Eagles (26 for season). Eagles’ Brian Westbrook has 516 yards from scrimmage, 6 TDs in last 4.

Injuries: Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (ankle) is questionable; Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter (knee) is doubtful.

Jaguars at Ravens

Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: Ravens by 11.

Records: Jaguars (5-10); Ravens (10-5)

Jaguars: Closing out disappointing season doomed by early injuries on offensive line. David Garrard finishing strong with 3 TDs, 1 INT in past 2.

Ravens: In playoffs with win or New England loss, but they have won 8 of past 10 and can take care of business themselves. NFL’s No. 2 defense should control Jaguars.

Fantasy outlook: Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew one of few dependable weapons with 14 TDs, but he has sore knee. In past 10, Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco has 13 TDs, 5 INTs.

Injuries: Ravens receiver Derrick Mason (knee) is probable.

Redskins at 49ers

Time: 1:15 p.m. Line: 49ers by 3.

Records: Redskins (8-7); 49ers (6-9)

Redskins: Fell out of playoff race by losing 5 of past 7. Off-season to-do list topped by offense that averaged 10 points in past 4 (1-3).

49ers: Winning 4 of past 6 means Mike Singletary-Shaun Hill partnership should be back in ’09. Fantasy outlook: Redskins TE Chris Cooley has 77 catches but only 1 TD; 49ers’ Isaac Bruce has 59 catches, 7 TDs.

Injuries: 49ers running back Frank Gore (knee) is questionable.

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