NFL WEEK 17: TODAY'S GAMES

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Arizona (6-9) at Green Bay (7-8)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Packers by 7 1/2.

Vs. spread: Cardinals 6-9; Packers 6-8.

Last week: Cardinals lost to Falcons, 37-14. Packers lost to Buccaneers, 29-10.

Series: Packers lead 39-21-4.

Last meeting: Packers won, 24-21, on Nov. 18, 1990, at Arizona.

Outlook: Green Bay is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The Packers can make it in if they beat Arizona and the Giants beat Dallas at Texas Stadium. Then the NFC's final wild-card spot would come down to a tie-breaker -- net points in conference games -- between the Packers, Giants and, if they win today, the Panthers. Currently, Green Bay owns that edge.

Notable: Cardinals DE Simeon Rice has 4 1/2 sacks in past five games.

Injuries:

CARDINALS: Out: S Tommy Bennett (knee); G Lester Holmes (knee); DT Rashod Swinger (knee). Doubtful: RB Michael Pittman (toe); T L.J. Shelton (ankle); DT Eric Swann (knee). Questionable: DE Brad Ottis (knee); DE Andre Wadsworth (knee). Probable: T Anthony Clement (knee); CB Tom Knight (back); QB Jake Plummer (back).

PACKERS: Out: S Scott McGarrahan (hamstring-injured reserve); RB De'Mond Parker (knee-injured reserve). Questionable: DE Vaughn Booker (pneumonia); LB Anthony Davis (hamstring); T Ross Verba (knee). Probable: T Earl Dotson (back); TE Jeff Thomason (hamstring).

Indianapolis (13-2) at Buffalo (10-5)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Colts by 2.

Vs. spread: Colts 9-4; Bills 7-7.

Last week: Colts beat Browns, 29-28. Bills beat Patriots, 13-10 in OT.

Series: Bills lead 33-24-1.

Last meeting: Colts won, 31-14, on Sept. 12, at Indianapolis.

Outlook: Indianapolis has won the AFC East and clinched a first-round bye, but it is still fighting for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Colts thrashed the Bills in their first meeting, but have won at Buffalo only once since 1988. The Bills are in the playoffs, but they'll hit the road for a wild-card game whether they win or lose today.

Notable: If Peyton Manning gets 28 yards passing, the Colts will become the second team ever with a 4,000-yard passer, 1,500-yard rusher (Edgerrin James, 1,503) and 1,500-yard receiver (Marvin Harrison, 1,612).

Injuries:

COLTS: Questionable: DE Brad Scioli (groin). Probable: LB Michael Barber (knee); CB Tony Blevins (neck); TE Ken Dilger (neck); WR Marvin Harrison (elbow); QB Kelly Holcomb (virus); RB Edgerrin James (knee/ankle); QB Peyton Manning (ankle); CB Steve Muhammad (flu); WR Jerome Pathon (shoulder); LB Spencer Reid (knee); DE Mark Thomas (knee).

BILLS: Out: G Joe Panos (neck). Doubtful: G Jerry Ostroski (knee). Questionable: LB Dan Brandenburg (leg); RB Sam Gash (ribs); DE Phil Hansen (ribs). Probable: RB Jonathan Linton (lower back).

St. Louis (13-2) at Philadelphia (4-11)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Rams by 8.

Vs. spread: Rams 13-2; Eagles 9-6.

Last week: Rams beat Bears, 34-12. Eagles had a bye.

Series: Rams lead 15-13-1.

Last meeting: Eagles won, 17-14, on Dec. 3, 1998, at Philadelphia.

Outlook: The Rams already have won the NFC West, earned a first-round bye and clinched home-field advantage. So they'll use their regular-season finale as a final tune-up for the playoffs and a chance to pad their gaudy statistics. St. Louis has scored 495 points and needs 19 more to move into third place on the league's all-time list. With a bye last week, the Eagles have had plenty of time to prepare for the challenge. Philadelphia leads the NFC with 39 take-aways, including 24 interceptions.

Notable: Rams RB Marshall Faulk leads the league with 2,323 yards from scrimmage and needs 36 to break the NFL record.

Injuries:

RAMS: Out: S Keith Lyle (shoulder). Doubtful: LB Leonard Little (hamstring). Questionable: RB Amp Lee (hamstring).

EAGLES: Out: CB Bobby Taylor (jaw-injured reserve). Doubtful: DT Brandon Whiting (knee). Questionable: QB Doug Pederson (rib). Probable: RB Eric Bieniemy (knee); QB Donovan McNabb (knee).

N.Y. Giants (7-8) at Dallas (7-8)

Time: 4: 05 p.m., Ch. 45.

Line: Cowboys by 6 1/2.

Vs. spread: Giants 7-8; Cowboys 7-8.

Last week: Giants lost to Vikings, 34-17. Cowboys lost to Saints, 31-24.

Series: Cowboys lead 46-26-2.

Last meeting: Giants won, 13-10, on Oct. 18, at New York.

Outlook: The playoff race has become very simple for the Cowboys. Win and they're in. Lose and they're out. The Giants have one realistic playoff formula: a victory over Dallas combined with a Packers loss or tie. The Giants beat the Cowboys earlier this season at Giants Stadium when Brad Daluiso kicked a 21-yard field goal with one second left. Both teams have lost two consecutive games, but the Cowboys have been difficult to defeat at home, where they have won six of seven.

Notable: Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith has eight 100-yard rushing games, his most since 1995.

Injuries:

GIANTS: Out: TE Dan Campbell (hamstring); CB Jason Sehorn (leg). Doubtful: CB Phillippi Sparks (groin). Questionable: TE Pete Mitchell (ankle); RB Joe Montgomery (ribs); C Brian Williams (knee).

COWBOYS: Out: CB Kevin Mathis (knee). Questionable: WR Ernie Mills (quadriceps); CB Kevin Smith (hamstring). Probable: G Larry Allen (knee); RB Ryan Neufeld (ankle).

Cincinnati (4-11) at Jacksonville (13-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Jaguars by 9.

Vs. spread: Bengals 5-10; Jaguars 7-7.

Last week: Bengals lost to Ravens, 22-0. Jaguars lost to Titans, 41-14.

Series: Jaguars lead 5-4.

Last meeting: Jaguars won, 41-10, on Oct. 31, at Cincinnati.

Outlook: The Jaguars, coming off a humiliating loss to Tennessee, will try to bounce back and win the AFC Central without QB Mark Brunell, who suffered a knee injury last week. Jay Fielder gets the start. Jacksonville already has clinched a playoff berth. It can clinch the division crown and a first-round bye with a win or tie or a Tennessee loss or tie. The Bengals somehow saved coach Bruce Coslet's job, despite last week's loss to the Ravens.

Notable: Jaguars have an NFL-low 17 turnovers and are tied for tops in the NFL with 54 sacks.

Injuries:

BENGALS: Out: QB Akili Smith (toe). Doubtful: T Willie Anderson (ankle). Questionable: DE John Copeland (hamstring); RB Corey Dillon (knee); Rod Jones (knee).

JAGUARS: Out: QB Mark Brunell (knee). Questionable: WR Reggie Barlow (knee); LB Bryan Schwartz (hamstring). Probable: RB James Stewart (foot); DE Renaldo Wynn (thumb).

New Orleans (3-12) at Carolina (7-8)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Panthers by 8 1/2.

Vs. spread: Saints 4-10; Panthers 9-6.

Last week: Saints beat Cowboys, 31-24. Panthers lost to Steelers, 30-20.

Series: Panthers lead 5-4.

Last meeting: Saints won, 19-10, on Sept. 12, at New Orleans.

Outlook: Carolina is still alive but barely. First it needs to beat New Orleans. Then it needs either the Cowboys and Giants to tie or the Giants and Packers to win. In option No. 2, Carolina still would need to win the tie-breaker against the Giants and Packers -- most net points in NFC games. In his NFL debut last week, QB Jake Delhomme led upset of Dallas.

Notable: Panthers' Steve Beuerlein became only the 10th QB with 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns in a season (4,114 and 31).

Injuries:

SAINTS: Out: TE Cam Cleeland (ankle/shoulder). Doubtful: T Mike Halapin (knee). Probable: CB Ashley Ambrose (ankle); S Willie Clay (hamstring); Kyle Turley (hip); TE Josh Wilcox (ankle); RB Ricky Williams (virus).

PANTHERS: Out: CB Michael Swift (ankle-IR). Questionable: G Anthony Redmon (ankle). Probable: RB Tshimanga Biakabutuka (ankle); CB Eric Davis (stomach); RB William Floyd (knee); LB Kevin Greene (shoulder); RB Fred Lane (groin); CB Steve Lofton (flu); TE Kris Mangum (shoulder); WR Muhsin Muhammad (ankle); CB Rod Mullen (shoulder); S Mike Scurlock (back).

Seattle (9-6) at N.Y Jets (7-8)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Jets by 1 1/2.

Vs. spread: Seahawks 6-9; Jets 7-6.

Last week: Seahawks beat Chiefs, 23-14. Jets beat Dolphins, 38-31.

Series: Seahawks lead 8-6.

Last meeting: Jets won, 32-31, on Dec. 6, 1998, at New York.

Outlook: Seattle ended its four-game losing streak last week. Now the Seahawks can win the AFC West with a victory over the Jets or a Chiefs loss to the Raiders. If the Seahawks lose and Kansas City wins, then they're out of the playoffs. Unfortunately for Seattle, RB Ricky Watters sprained a ligament in his right knee last week and might miss today's game. Here's more bad news for Seattle: The Jets have won three in a row and seem to be relishing their role as spoilers.

Notable: Jets QB Ray Lucas, who has thrown one interception in his past 187 attempts, will face a Seattle team that leads the league with 28 interceptions.

Injuries:

SEAHAWKS: Questionable: S Brian Walker (hamstring); RB Ricky Watters (knee). Probable: G Brian Habib (knee); LB Anthony Simmons (ankle); S Darryl Williams (ankle).

JETS: Questionable: S Chris Hayes (shin).

San Diego (7-8) at Denver (6-9)

Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Broncos by 7.

Vs. spread: Chargers 9-6; Broncos 9-4.

Last week: Chargers beat Raiders, 23-20. Broncos beat Lions, 17-7.

Series: Broncos lead 43-35-1.

Last meeting: Broncos won, 33-17, on Nov. 7, at San Diego.

Outlook: The playoffs aren't an issue here, but both teams have a chance to end the season with a winning streak. Denver has won two in a row and San Diego has won three of its past four games. The Chargers, though, have lost five in a row to Denver, and they'll have to find a way to control rookie RB Olandis Gary. He has rushed for 1,121 yards in 11 games.

Notable: Broncos have averaged 33.4 points in past five games vs. Chargers.

Injuries:

CHARGERS: Out: QB Ryan Leaf (shoulder-IR); RB Natrone Means (knee). Questionable: LB Gerald Dixon (ankle); S Michael Dumas (foot/toe); S Rodney Harrison (shoulder); T John Jackson (neck); CB Darryll Lewis (knee/ankle); LB Junior Seau (abdomen). Probable: WR Chris Penn (knee).

BRONCOS: Out: T Tony Jones (elbow); QB Chris Miller (concussion); G Dan Neil (knee). Questionable: CB Dale Carter (thigh); DT Trevor Pryce (knee). Probable: QB Bubby Brister (rib); S George Coghill (shoulder); RB Olandis Gary (ankle); QB Brian Griese (shoulder); DE Harald Hasselbach (eye); S Darrius Johnson (shoulder); RB Derek Loville (hamstring); WR Ed McCaffrey (knee); C Tom Nalen (knee); RB Detron Smith (finger); DE Neil Smith (ankle); CB Chris Watson (ankle); LB Nate Wayne (hamstring).

Detroit (8-7) at Minnesota (9-6)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 5.

Line: Vikings by 7.

Vs. spread: Lions 7-8; Vikings 3-10.

Last week: Lions lost to Broncos, 17-7. Vikings beat Giants, 34-17.

Series: Vikings lead 46-28-2.

Last meeting: Lions won, 25-23, on Oct. 17, at Detroit.

Outlook: Both teams are in the playoffs, but only the Vikings still have a shot at winning the NFC Central. Minnesota can win the division and earn a first-round bye with a victory over Detroit and a Tampa Bay loss at Chicago. The Vikings have won two straight games and seven of their past nine, all with Jeff George at quarterback. During that span, they have averaged 28.3 points per game. The Lions are nose-diving with three straight losses, including defeats the past two weeks against sub-.500 teams. They can earn a wild-card home game with a victory.

Notable: Lions K Jason Hansen kicked six field goals, including a 48-yard game-winner, against the Vikings in Week 6.

Injuries:

LIONS: Doubtful: CB J.B. Brown (groin); WR Desmond Howard (ribs). Probable: DT Luther Elliss (knee/ankle); RB Ron Rivers (ankle).

VIKINGS: Probable: DT Jerry Ball (shoulder); WR Cris Carter (ankle).

Oakland (7-8) at Kansas City (9-6)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 4 1/2.

Vs. spread: Raiders 7-8; Chiefs 8-7.

Last week: Raiders lost to Chargers, 23-20. Chiefs lost to Seahawks, 23-14.

Series: Chiefs lead 40-36-2.

Last meeting: Chiefs won, 37-34, on Nov. 28, at Oakland.

Outlook: Oakland's slim playoff hopes died last week, but the Chiefs still are very much alive. They can clinch the AFC West with a win and a Seattle loss or tie against the Jets. Even if Seattle wins, Kansas City can earn a wild-card berth with a victory. The Raiders haven't defeated the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium since 1988. Kansas City has won five straight in this series and 18 of the past 20.

Notable: Chiefs QB Elvis Grbac has never lost a start to the Raiders (4-0).

Injuries:

RAIDERS: Out: DE Tony Bryant (ankle); T Mo Collins (knee-injured reserve); S Eric Turner (calf-injured reserve). Doubtful: T Lincoln Kennedy (calf). Questionable: S Anthony Newman (thumb). Probable: WR Terry Mickens (neck).

CHIEFS: Probable: CB Cris Dishman (knee); LB Donnie Edwards (ankle); LB Ron George (ankle); QB Elvis Grbac (shoulder); C Tim Grunhard (thigh/arm); CB James Hasty (calf); DE Eric Hicks (shoulder); TE Mitch Jacoby (ankle); T Glenn Parker (back); G Dave Szott (illness); G Ralph Tamm (knee); S Reggie Tongue (shoulder).

Tampa Bay (10-5) at Chicago (6-9)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Buccaneers by 3 1/2.

Vs. spread: Buccaneers 9-4; Bears 11-4.

Last week: Buccaneers beat Packers, 29-10. Bears lost to Rams, 34-12.

Series: Bears lead 30-13.

Last meeting: Buccaneers beat Bears, 6-3, on Oct. 24, at Tampa Bay.

Outlook: The Bucs clinched a playoff berth last week, but they have more work to do. They can win the NFC Central with either a win or a tie or a Vikings loss or tie. They also can clinch a first-round bye with either a win or a tie or a Vikings loss or tie and a Redskins loss or tie. The Bucs have defeated the Bears four straight times. The Bears are playing strictly for pride.

Notable: Bears' 19 fumble take-aways lead the NFC.

Injuries:

BUCCANEERS: Out: RB Rabih Abdullah (thumb); G Ken Blackman (knee); QB Trent Dilfer (shoulder). Probable: WR Reidel Anthony (ankle); DT Brad Culpepper (foot); WR Jacquez Green (foot); T Paul Gruber (shoulder); CB Brian Kelly (back); C Tony Mayberry (neck).

BEARS: Out: RB Curtis Enis (shoulder). Doubtful: CB Walt Harris (hamstring). Questionable: QB Cade McNown (side); WR Marcus Robinson (quadriceps); G Chris Villarrial (hamstring). Probable: DE Van Tuinei (hip); T James Williams (knee).

Tennessee (12-3) at Pittsburgh (6-9)

Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Titans by 3 1/2.

Vs. spread: Titans 9-5; Steelers 5-9.

Last week: Titans beat Jaguars, 41-14. Steelers beat Panthers, 30-20.

Series: Steelers lead 35-23.

Last meeting: Titans won, 16-10, on Nov. 21, at Tennessee.

Outlook: Tennessee is riding high after last week's rout of Jacksonville. The Titans have clinched a wild-card berth. They can clinch the AFC Central title and a first-round bye with a win and a Jacksonville loss. Tennessee has defeated Pittsburgh four straight times. The 9 Steelers, though, played spoilers last week against Carolina when Jerome Bettis rushed for 137 yards.

Notable: Steelers have won four of past five home games against Titans.

Injuries:

TITANS: Out: S Marcus Robertson (face laceration). Questionable: S Blaine Bishop (thumb); DE Kenny Holmes (ankle); T Jason Mathews (back); TE Mike Roan (neck); WR Yancey Thigpen (ankle).

STEELERS: Out: TE Mark Bruener (foot); WR Courtney Hawkins (ankle); TE Mitch Lyons (knee); DT Joel Steed (knee). Probable: RB Jerome Bettis (ankle); C Roger Duffy (knee); RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (hand); RB Richard Huntley (foot); S Chris Oldham (groin); QB Kordell Stewart (flu).

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