The story on the NFL playoff picture in Tuesday morning's paper revealed more than I wanted to know. Of all the postseason possibilities, the most intriguing had to do with Buffalo, New England and Cleveland in their struggles for the American Conference's last two spots.
"In the event of a Bills-Patriots tie (at Foxboro Sunday)," the writer observed, "both would go to the playoffs and Cleveland would be eliminated (if the Browns lose). If the Browns win at Pittsburgh, they're in. If they lose, they're still in--unless Buffalo and New England tie. Cleveland, at 4-5, would win a tie breaker over the Bills on conference record (4-3 to 3-3) and over the Patriots by a head-to-head record (10-7, Nov. 21, at Cleveland)."
What a wonderful way to end this ridiculous season. It's Sunday afternoon in New England. The Patriots and Bills can't get out of each other's way, but they look up at the scoreboard and coaches Ron Meyer and Chuck Knox see Cleveland being buried by the Steelers early in the second half.
Buffalo calls time. The score just happens to be 10-10.
The game ends without further scoring.
Meanwhile, Cleveland loses at Pittsburgh. The Bills make the playoffs. The Patriots make the playoffs. The Browns claim foul, but no one can prove collusion. The perfect ending to the worst season in pro football history.
I must admit I don't know exactly what's going on in the NFL this weekend. The playoff possibilities seem endless. Only the computer knows for sure, and it's too busy trying to beat the spread.
But I'll make one selection: Pittsburgh, giving 6 1/2 at home to Cleveland. The Steelers have little reason to be primed for this game. They're already in the AFC round of eight, and a victory over Cleveland won't gain them a home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
The Browns defeated the Steelers, 10-9, in the mud two weeks ago. They'll be going all-out to win, but maybe they'll be even more interested in monitoring the Buffalo-New England game, 'cause if somebody wins up there, Cleveland can't lose. I'll go with Bradshaw and the boys for an imaginary $250. They're the superior squad.
In other games, Las Vegas has Buffalo favored by 3 at New England, Atlanta 5 1/2 over New Orleans, Philadelphia 4 1/2 over the Giants, Green Bay 1 at Detroit, Tampa Bay 4 1/2 over Chicago, the Jets 5 at Kansas City, Cincinnati 10 at Houston, Miami 7 1/2 at Baltimore, San Francisco 9 1/2 over the Rams, San Diego 4 over the Raiders, Seattle 3 over Denver, Washington 4 over St. Louis and (Monday night) Dallas 5 at Minnesota.
Washington, San Diego and San Francisco are good teams that certainly won't lack for incentive. The Redskins can secure the home field for the National Conference playoffs if they can make their record 8-1. San Diego needs a victory to get itself back into a tie for the AFC lead at 7-2. And the 49ers probably can gain a spot in the Super Bowl scramble by beating the Rams, even though they'd be 4-5.
But I don't like the numbers on any of these three games. It's a little too high, in each instance, so proceed at your own risk. Remember, this is the year only three teams could do as well as 6-2 against the points over the first eight weeks. That's Washington, San Diego and Green Bay. And every team except Houston (1-7) covered at least twice during the shortened season.
Last Week Season Totals
Last week: Pittsburgh, giving 6, defeated New England, 37-14, plus $250; Miami, giving 3, defeated Buffalo, 27-10, plus $250.
Won-lost record: 16-9.