Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 18 News List

NFL postseason berths up for grabs

AFP , Washington

There are still two weeks left in the 2003 National Football League season but it will be a playoff atmosphere this weekend as six postseason spots are still up for grabs.

The half dozen spots are being sought by 11 clubs and 14 games this weekend have playoff implications in the next-to-last week of the season.

"It's tournament time," says the head coach of one of those vying clubs, Bill Parcells of the Dallas Cowboys.

Four division titles have to be determined and in one of those divisions the leader has a two-game cushion. In another a club has a one-game lead while two divisions are deadlocked at the top.

"I don't care if you've been in the league one year or 20 years," says Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. "If you don't make the playoffs, it's not fun. That's the bottom line."

In a switch from the previous weeks, there are three games slated for today, including Michael Vick's Falcons wading into Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers.

New York' Curtis Martin faces his former team today when the Jets host the New England Patriots in a battle of AFC East rivals.

Division champions for the second time in the last three years under coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have established a franchise record with 12 wins.

They extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 27-13 victory over Jacksonville last week.

New England can clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with wins in its last two games. The Pats host Buffalo in their season finale on December 27.

Last week, Martin became the second player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first nine seasons.

Martin dashed through the snow for 174 yards in the Jets' 6-0 win over Pittsburgh, giving him 1,127 yards for the season.

Since joining the Jets in 1998 after three years with the Patriots, Martin has rushed for more yards (7,689) than any other back in the NFL and is 11th all-time with 11,488 yards.

Riding a nine-game winning streak, the Philadelphia Eagles are in the driver's seat for homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Their opponent tomorrow, the San Francisco 49ers have yet to win on the road this season.

The teams meet with the Eagles on the verge of clinching their third straight NFC East title and the 49ers eliminated from the playoff race.

Philadelphia has a two-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys in the division with two to play.

The Cowboys will host the New York Giants tomorrow. The Eagles close the regular season at Washington.

The St. Louis Rams are tied with Philadelphia for the best record in the NFC, but the Eagles will get home field throughout the playoffs with wins in their final two games on the basis of a better conference record.

The Eagles didn't even need star quarterback Donovan McNabb when they rolled to a 38-17 rout of the Niners last season. But they're happy to have him back.

After struggling for most of the first half of the season, McNabb has returned to his Pro Bowl form.

He has thrown for 1,749 yards, nine TDs and only two interceptions in the last seven games, and was the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month in November.

Peyton Manning appears to be making the most of an opportunity to prove he is the league MVP.

Manning's Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos engaged in one of the best games of the 2002 season.

The teams meet again tomorrow in what could be a prelude to the playoffs.

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