Extra points

Troubled times

Between Cincinnati's eight player arrests this season and the latest troubles of Chicago DT Tank Johnson, the NFL's Teflon coating against bad news is under siege. The image the league has carefully cultivated is taking a beating with all the off-field legal problems. It will be heightened if the Bengals join the Bears in the playoffs.


Jets taking flight

Maybe now we know why Patriots coach Bill Belichick was so upset losing Eric Mangini to the Jets in the offseason. Mangini has doubled last year's win total of four for the Jets and, with two weeks to play, has them poised to steal a playoff spot if the Jaguars continue to struggle. Turns out the Jets may be the bigger threat to the Patriots' dominance in the AFC East than the Dolphins.


Winning with Boller

Despite all the anxious moments, the Ravens actually could benefit from their struggle to beat the Browns. Winning the way they did - after letting the Browns come back for a 17-17 tie - should give them a comfort level, if not real confidence, that they can win with Kyle Boller at quarterback. There's no guarantee that Steve McNair can hold up physically through the playoffs, and Boller may have to play.

More on Owens

As tiring as Cowboys WR Terrell Owens is to management (and media), imagine how much he must wear on his teammates. By spitting in the face of Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall on Saturday night and then confessing on NFL Network in a post-game interview, he once again positioned himself apart - and ahead of - the team. And yet, without Owens, the Cowboys probably wouldn't have beaten the Falcons. It seems obvious coach Bill Parcells and Owens won't be able to co-exist another season.

Saints take South

The Saints lost to the Redskins yesterday but still clinched their first division title in six years in a week when every NFC South team was beaten. Losses by Atlanta and Carolina stamped the Saints' turnaround from 3-13 to 9-5 and division champ. The six-game swing is the best turnaround in the league right now. It should earn Sean Payton Coach of the Year honors.

Bad football

In one of the worst games of the season, the Packers and Lions combined for nine turnovers in Green Bay. That the Packers won, 17-9, despite five of their own shows how pathetic the Lions have become. They're actually worse than when GM Matt Millen was hired.


Mora's hot seat

Falcons coach Jim Mora has done a nice job keeping injury-decimated Atlanta in the playoff hunt, but he put himself in the eye of the storm by suggesting last week that he'd take the University of Washington coaching job if it were offered. It's hard to believe it was a joke - as he suggested later - given his ties to the Northwest. It's unlikely Mora will keep his job if the Falcons miss the playoffs, and he may not even if they make the postseason.