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Games to Watch – Week 17

Can you believe we’re here?  Week 17.  Our bellies are full of Christmas ham and chocolate footballs and we’re preparing for the final weekend of the regular season.  There are still a lot of playoff slots to fill so there’s plenty of good football to watch this weekend.  It doesn’t look like there are any head-to-head match ups for a particular spot, but keep an eye on that AFC North situation.  Someone’s going to win the division and someone’s going golfing next weekend.  Also keep in mind that we’ve got Saturday football but no Monday Night game this week.  Go ahead and grab another chocolate Santa and let’s see which games will put the finishing touches on the 2003 playoff picture…


Top Shelf


Pittsburgh at Baltimore                              Sun. December 28 @ 8:30pm ET on ESPN


Summary:  The final game of the 2003 regular season may have the biggest playoff impact.


Hot Tip:  Can’t go anywhere but Jamal Lewis with this one.  If you really need an explanation, read on…


This game has no shortage of story lines.  If Baltimore wins or Cincinnati loses, the Ravens win the North and the Bengals go home feeling like “we did a good job this year, guys.”  If the Bengals win earlier on Sunday, this game is huge.  In addition to that, this game also has the prospect of Jamal Lewis going over 2000 rushing yards for the year (with 48) and maybe even breaking Eric Dickerson’s all-time rushing record (with 153).  Pittsburgh can look for a steady dose of the big man and viewers can look forward to a very spirited game between these two division rivals.


Also on Tap


Philadelphia at Washington                       Sat. December 27 @ 8:30pm ET on ESPN


Summary:  Philadelphia’s second chance to wrap up the East and Bruce Smith’s last game.


Hot Tip:  You don’t see too many defensive players in this spot but we’ll give it up for Bruce Smith this week.  He’s on a mission to get that 200th sack so expect to see plenty of him in the backfield.


Philadelphia blew their chance to put the division to bed last week.  They lost an incredible overtime game to San Francisco, but that’s ancient history now.  If they beat Washington, they win the division.  They now need help from Detroit to get the top NFC spot (which is why their focus is on the division title!).  Andy Reid should have no trouble rallying the troops to put a beating on the Redskins.


Speaking of beatings, Bruce Smith has doled out more than a few over the course of his 19 year career.  He’ll be sure to get a few more licks in on Saturday before he rides off into the sunset.  Luckily for the horse, it’s not too far from DC to Canton, OH.


Indianapolis at Houston                             Sun. December 28 @ 1:00pm ET on CBS


Summary:  Can Indy rebound to win the AFC South?


Hot Tip: Peyton Manning will put this one on his shoulders and come out on top.


Indianapolis kept things interesting by putting in a pitiful performance against Denver last week.  They could’ve clinched the division and even gotten a first round bye with a win last week.  Now they’re still playing for the division but could also wind up in the #6 spot traveling to Nashville next weekend if they’re not careful.  For that reason, I’d expect to see the Colts put on a clinic this week.  We all know what they’re capable of and after their poor showing last week, they’ll be anxious to show everyone that they’re ready for some playoff football.  Meanwhile, after suffering a disheartening loss to Tennessee last week, the Texans have the misfortune of being the team Indy faces this weekend.  Regardless of the outcome, Houston has played some excellent football this year and has some exciting young talent to build on in 2004.

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