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Jumping ahead three weeks or so to February, what yesterday's results have done is greatly increase the likelihood that the New England Patriots will go 19-0.

The two biggest threats to New England running the table, Indianapolis and Dallas, were eliminated yesterday. On paper, the Patriots' toughest opposition would come from Green Bay (although I'm not forgetting the Giants had that 12-point lead in the third quarter in Game 16).

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Frankly, what I find amazing about the point spreads for next week is that the Patriots are only 14 1/2-point favorites over the Chargers. With all the injuries on the San Diego side, I figured that for 17 points. And it still may get there by the weekend. Along with everything else going for them, the Pats get an extra day of rest. Meanwhile, the Packers are 7-point favorites over the Giants.

We were 1-1 on picks against the spread here. The Jaguars covered for us. But in a selection that we lamented, the Cowboys' playoff hopes slowly set in the Sea of Cortez. Our season record is 29-25-2.

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But getting back to the Chargers. Norv Turner and Billy Volek. Oh, man. I say good for Turner. I've liked him ever since he saved Troy Aikman's life down in Dallas ... by that I mean Turner came up with the quick-drop, quick-release offense that came to define that offense in their Super Bowl years. Before Turner, Aikman was taking a shellacking. Granted, a lot of things came together ... particularly Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. But Turner drew up the blueprint. And since then, Turner has been a whipping boy for his miserable head coaching tenures in Washington and Oakland.

Now, Turner is a win-win. If he beats Bill Belichick's Patriots, he's brilliant. But after limping out of the RCA Dome yesterday, quarterback Philip Rivers thinks he'll be able to play. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson and tight end Antonio Gates are anyone's guess. So even if the Chargers are swept away, there'll be no shame in that. Just getting to the AFC championship buys Norv at least two more years of peace.

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