Linebacker LaMarr Woodley predicts the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals will "lay down" for their virtually meaningless games Sunday because they don't want the Super Bowl champion Steelers to make the playoffs.
The Steelers (8-7) would reach the postseason for the fifth time in six seasons if they beat Miami, the Patriots defeat Houston, and the Bengals beat the New York Jets. There are other combinations that would get them in, but all include either a New England or Cincinnati victory.
Pittsburgh's problem: The Patriots (10-5) and Bengals (10-5) have little at stake other than which team will be seeded No. 3 in the AFC. With a wild-card playoff game awaiting both teams next week, New England and Cincinnati are expected to rest some starters.
New England coach Bill Belichick hasn't revealed who will play. Woodley, last week's AFC Defensive Player of the Week and a Pro Bowl alternate, thinks he knows already.
"All of them lay down," Woodley said Wednesday. "No one wants to see Pittsburgh in it. That's just how it is. Everybody knows we're a dangerous team once we get into the playoffs, no matter how we played the whole year. Once we get into the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers is a playoff team."
LABOR CONTRACT:Miles Austin of the Cowboys, Brandon Marshall of the Broncos and six other Pro Bowl picks are among more than 200 NFL players who would lose their status as unrestricted free agents this offseason if the league and its union can't agree on a new labor contract. According to a list obtained by the Associated Press, 212 players would be considered restricted free agents - instead of unrestricted - if there is no salary cap in 2010.
Pro Bowl RostersAFC
Quarterbacks - Tom Brady, New England; Peyton Manning, Indianapolis; Philip Rivers, San Diego
Fullback - Le'Ron McClain, Ravens
Centers - Nick Mangold, N.Y. Jets; Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis
Cornerbacks - Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland; Champ Bailey, Denver; Darrelle Revis, N.Y. Jets
Strong safety - Brian Dawkins, Denver
Free safeties - Jairus Byrd, Buffalo; Ed Reed, Ravens
Punter - Shane Lechler, Oakland
Kick return specialist - Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland
Placekicker - Nate Kaeding, San Diego
Special teamer - Kassim Osgood, San Diego
Fullback - Leonard Weaver, Philadelphia
Centers - Andre Gurode, Dallas; Shaun O
Hara, New York Giants
Strong safety - Adrian Wilson, Arizona
Punter - Andy Lee, San Francisco
Kick return specialist - DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia
Placekicker - David Akers, Philadelphia
Special teamer - Heath Farwell, Minnesota