This is the day for linebacker Steve Zabel of the New England Patriots to make good his boast that the Pats will kick the rumps of the Colts in full view of a sellout crowd in Baltimore.
He will carry the best wishes of the Miami Dolphins into the 4 p.m. game, because as a result of the Dolphins defeating the Buffalo Bills yesterday, a New England victory would certify Miami as the AFC Eastern Division champion in the National Football League.
For the Colts, the challenge is simple: All they have to do is win and they will have the title for the third straight season.
The Colts are favored by four points.
The AFC East winner will host the wild-card team, Oakland Saturday.
The Patriots have won four straight, the Colts have lost three straight.
The Patriots rank No. 1 in total defense in the AFC and No.2 against the rush and the pass.
The Colts rank third in the AFC in total offense, fifth in rushing and passing.
New England is fourth in total offense, third in rushing, and 11th in passing.
Baltimore is eigth in total defense, fourth against the rush and 11th against the pass.
After the Colts lost to Detroit last Sunday, it precluded the possibility of a three-way tie at 10-4 in the final standings.
In that case, the title would have been decided by determining the winner of the head-to-head, round-robin records of the three teams.
New England would have won that title with a 3-1 record, to Miami's 2-2, and Baltimore's 1-3.
By losing to Detroit, while Oakland was beating Minnesota last Sunday, the Colts lost any hope of a wild-card berth. The Colts also lost a chance to win the title to lay by mere title today by merely tieing the Patriots.
So much for the loss to Detroit "helping" the Colts.
The Chicago Bears (8-5) will most assuredly clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the New York Giants (5-8) in East Rutherford. N.J. It would be the Bears' first postseason appearance since they won the championship under the old NFL format in 1963.
The Cincinnati Bengals (8-5) can clinch the AFC Central title by beating the Oilers (7-6) in Houston, even if the Pittsburgh Steerlers (also 8-5) win at San Diego (7-6), because of a one-point advantage in head-to-head competition with the Steelers. The Steelers beat the Bengals, 20-14, then lost to them, 17-10).
But if the Bengals and Steelers both lose, Pittsburgh takes the title with a better division record (4-2 to 3-3).