Sun, Jan 02, 2005 - Page 22 News List

Panthers, Saints battle for playoff slot

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passes the ball against the Giants at Giants Stadium on Dec. 18. Pittsburgh (14-1) faces Buffalo (9-6) today.

PHOTO: AP

The Carolina Panthers (7-8), the defending NFC champions, are trying to become the first team to make the playoffs after starting its season 1-7. They have won six of their last seven, including a 32-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints (7-8) on Dec. 5.

To get to the postseason both Carolina and New Orleans need a victory plus a Vikings or Rams loss or a Seattle victory. New Orleans has won its last three games, but has yet to beat the Panthers since the former Saints back-up and Louisiana native Jake Delhomme took over at quarterback for Carolina.

New York Jets (10-5) at

St. Louis(7-8)

The Jets have looked mediocre since their 5-0 start, but for the fourth time in five years a victory in their regular season finale will get them into the postseason.

The Rams have won only two of their last six games but a victory against the Jets combined with a Seahawks loss would give them the NFC West title. The Rams could also get a wildcard berth with a victory combined with a Vikings loss or with a tie in the Saints/Panthers game.

The Jets can still make the playoffs if they lose and either Buffalo or Denver loses as well.

Pittsburgh (14-1) at Buffalo (9-6)

Despite an 0-4 start, the Bills, who have won six in a row and eight of their last nine, could get into the playoffs with a victory combined with a Jets or Denver loss.

The Bills catch a break this week as the Steelers have locked up home-field throughout and may rest many of their starters.

The rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is doubtful with a rib injury.

Buffalo's first-year coach Mike Mularkey and Bills offensive coordinator Tom Clements were both on the Steelers coaching staff last season.

Indianapolis (12-3) at Denver (9-6)

Denver has the luxury of controlling its own fate. A victory for the Broncos, and they are in the playoffs. They may end up traveling to the RCA Dome to play the Colts next week in the first round of the playoffs.

Last season the Colts rolled over the Broncos in the first round, 41-10. Denver can also get into the playoffs with a loss, but would need a lot of help.

The Colts have locked up the third seed and may give many of their regulars much of the day off.

Minnesota (8-7) at

Washington (5-10)

Minnesota started 5-1, but has lost six of its last nine games and needs a victory this week to make the playoffs. They also could get in with a loss ifeither a St. Louis or Carolina lose.

Green Bay (9-6) at Chicago (5-10)

Green Bay won the NFC North with a victory last week in Minnesota and have little to play for.

The Bears are only 1-5 over their last six games, but did defeat the Packers earlier this season.

Cincinnati (7-8) at Philly (13-2)

The Eagles will continue to rest up for the playoffs, while the Bengals are trying to put together consecutive .500 seasons.

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