Thanksgiving games jumbled wild-card race
The NFL wild card race is getting, well, wild.
While only one division title has been settled heading into the 14th weekend of the season _ San Francisco owns the NFC West _ the requirements for winning each of those other races are clear. Nothing is so obvious where the wild cards are concerned.
If the Broncos, Jets and Steelers win out, they take each of the AFC sectors. Same for the Giants and Packers in the NFC.
But Tennessee’s 27-14 victory at Dallas and Detroit’s 55-20 triumph at Chicago Thanksgiving Day jumbled the wild-card chase. Both winners moved to 7-6 and put themselves in the thick of playoff consideration.
On Sunday, several of the stronger wild-card contenders have difficult games. Tampa Bay is at the Giants, Kansas City is home for San Francisco and Miami is at Oakland. On Monday night, Minnesota entertains Green Bay.
The Chiefs (9-3) are in the best position to make the playoffs without winning their division. They trail Denver by a game and a victory over the 49ers not only would solidify their wild-card situation, it would keep them close in the AFC West. The Broncos have a much easier matchup at San Diego.
``I’m not trying to be conceited,″ Chiefs cornerback Dale Carter said, ``but we’ve faced a lot of teams that are very good, and do things way better than the 49ers. We had Denver. Those guys are good, and we found some way to overcome those guys here at Arrowhead.″
The Niners are playing for home-field advantage for the entire NFC playoffs; they have a two-game lead over the Packers. They also want to keep sharp after seeing how the Broncos got stale a year ago following an early division clinching.
``The most important issues are ahead of us, not behind us,″ Steve Young said. ``Home field is not the end-all, but it’s very important, so we’re working for that. You also want to have momentum going at the end of the season.″
Also on Sunday, the Jets are at Buffalo, Pittsburgh at Arizona, Baltimore at Jacksonville, Cincinnati at Philadelphia, Indianapolis at New England, New Orleans at Carolina, St. Louis at Washington and Atlanta at Seattle.
The Bucs lost at Chicago last week, a big step backward in their chase for their first playoff berth since 1982. They make two trips to the New Jersey Meadowlands in three weeks, and have the Packers in between. The Bucs also haven’t won a game this season when the temperature was below 42 degrees, and it might not be that warm at Giants Stadium Sunday.
``We’re actually hoping it will be 38 or 39, so we can get that monkey off our back,″ coach Tony Dungy said. ``It seems that’s all people have wanted to talk about the last two weeks. Too much is made of that. I know we haven’t won in Giants Stadium, either.″
Miami (7-5) never has won at Oakland, going 0-8 there against the Raiders. This time, Miami will face the league’s worst defense, Oakland having allowed 377 yards per game. Oakland (4-8) is going to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
``We can’t be thinking about anything from the past,″ Miami coach Jimmy Johnson said about the Raiders’ home field domination. ``This Dolphins team hasn’t played there.″