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Washington, Tennessee can clinch playoffs by beating division winners

Washington, Tennessee can clinch playoffs by beating division winners

Under normal circumstances, the Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins would face tough tasks against Indianapolis and Dallas, both division winners.
Instead, the Redskins and Titans seem in good shape to clinch the final National Football League playoff berths in their conferences Sunday against playoff-bound teams that have nothing to gain or lose and are likely to be resting starters.
"You play for your team, you coach for your team and you can't worry about anyone else," says Colts coach Tony Dungy, whose defending Super Bowl champions (13-2) have clinched the second seed in the AFC playoffs and can't go up or down.
So when the Colts host Tennessee (9-6) on Sunday night in the final regular-season game, Jim Sorgi is likely to be at quarterback instead of Peyton Manning for much of the night, and other substitutes will play a lot, too. That will make it easier for the Titans, who need a win to earn a spot in the postseason.
The weekend's biggest game is Saturday night, when New England seeks to complete a 16-0 regular season at the New York Giants. In an unprecedented move, it will be simulcast by the CBS and NBC television networks because the NFL Network cable channel, on which the game was scheduled to be shown, is available nationally in only 40 percent of homes with TVs.
In other Sunday games, Seattle is at Atlanta; Detroit at Green Bay; Cincinnati at Miami; New Orleans at Chicago; Jacksonville at Houston; Buffalo at Philadelphia; Carolina at Tampa Bay; Pittsburgh at Baltimore; San Diego at Oakland; Minnesota at Denver; St. Louis at Arizona; and Kansas City at the New York Jets.
Wade Phillips of Dallas will be without Terrell Owens, who sprained his ankle against Carolina last week. He hasn't been as forthcoming as Dungy about plans for other starters on his 13-2 team, which has clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. But it would be a surprise if he plays a lot of people for the entire game with the archrival Redskins (8-7), who have won their last two to get within a win of the playoffs.
Washington moved into this spot by breaking Minnesota's five-game winning streak last Sunday night. So while the Redskins and Vikings have the same record, Washington's 32-21 road win gives it the first tiebreaker, head-to-head play.
Tennessee moved to the brink by beating the New York Jets 10-6 after Cleveland was upset by Cincinnati. That gives the Titans the tiebreaker over the Browns because they have a better record against common opponents.
But if Tennessee loses, Cleveland gets in regardless of whether it wins or loses at home against San Francisco. The 49ers are an NFC team and the Browns (9-6) already have finished 7-5 against AFC opponents. If Tennessee loses, it would be 6-6 in the AFC and that tiebreaker takes priority.
"You can talk about it and all that, but it is what it is," Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. "We lost a golden opportunity."
Titans coach Jeff Fisher agrees, suggesting Dungy's decision to rest Manning and others is the way the last week has often been played.
"Cleveland would be sitting pretty good had they been able to win the game," he said. "They can't place any kind of blame or any hope on their future based on what an opponent is going to do or not do."


Updated : 2020-12-05 04:52 GMT+08:00