NFL Countdown

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Green Bay (8-6) at Minnesota (8-6) The line: Vikings by 3

The skinny: Today, 3 p.m. The Packers have clinched a playoff spot in the woeful NFC, but this game will decide the North Division title. Really, we all knew it would come down to this. Packers QB Brett Favre is 3-9 in the Metrodome. The last time these teams hooked up (Nov. 14 at Lambeau), they combined for 65 points in a game in which both QBs (Favre and Daunte Culpepper) tossed four TDs passes. If it's bombs away again and you're looking for a key to the outcome, take USA Today's suggestion and ask which beleaguered secondary will fall apart first.

Cody's call: Vikings 30-24

Oakland (5-9) at Kansas City (6-8)

The line: Chiefs by 7 1/2

The skinny: Tomorrow, 5 p.m. The Chiefs have averaged 39.4 points in their last four games (winning three of them), while the Raiders' 30th-ranked D has surrendered an average of 32 in the same span while going 2-2. Critical in K.C.'s recent rise is the emergence of running back Larry Johnson, a big-play dude who has galloped for 373 yards in his last three games. He'll start, USA Today is reporting, even if Derrick Blaylock (knee) is OK to go. Raiders QB Kerry Collins has a hot hand these days, throwing 14 TDs and just four picks in his last five games.

Cody's call: Chiefs 36-33

Denver (8-6) at Tennessee (4-10)

The line: Broncos by 3 1/2

The skinny: Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m. Billy Volek is amazing. As an injury sub for Steve McNair, the 28-year-old out of Fresno State has thrown for a combined 918 yards in his last two starts. In fact, in just seven starts, Volek has thrown for 2,305 yards, an NFL record. He will attack a Bronco secondary that is injury-plagued and prone to giving up big plays (surprisingly, Champ Bailey has been made to look like a chump far too often). Still, the Broncos do enough things well on both sides of the football to take down the Titans.

Cody's call: Broncos 24-20

Baltimore (8-6) at Pittsburgh (13-1)

The line: Steelers by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Ravens are the only team to beat the Steelers this season (30-13 in Week 2). In that game, Steelers QB Tommy Maddox was injured, opening the door for Big Ben Roethlisberger, whose team was down 20-0 when he came in. Neither Roethlisberger nor the Steelers have looked back since, winning 12 in a row. Both defences are extremely staunch -- the Steelers are No. 1 overall (and No. 1 versus the run, which may slow down Jamal Lewis), the Ravens No. 6. QBs facing the Ravens have a league-low 67.7 passer rating. Roethlisberger's rating is seventh-best in the NFL, 96.3.

Cody's call: Steelers 23-13

Chicago (5-9) at Detroit (5-9)

The line: Lions by 6 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. A frightening thought -- both teams can still make the playoffs. Let's hear it for the kickers, Paul Edinger of da Bears and Detroit's Jason Hanson. Neither team scores much, 18.4 points a game for the Lions and just 14.6 a game for the Bears, who have scored just eight points total in their last two games. Chicago has only 22 TDs this season, Detroit 29. Edinger has made just 62.5 per cent (15-for-24), worst of any regular kicker in the NFL. Hanson is right on the league average -- 81.8, connecting on 18 of 22.

Cody's call: Lions 27-21

San Diego (11-3) at Indianapolis (11-3)

The line: Colts by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The names on the marquee will be those of the opposing quarterbacks: Peyton Manning of the Colts and Drew Brees of the Chargers. Manning has thrown at least two TD passes in every game this season, except last week against Baltimore, when he was held to one. He's just one TD pass shy of Dan Marino's single-season record of 48. Also, he leads the NFL with 4,168 passing yards and a 123.9 passer rating. While Manning has been intercepted just nine times, Brees has a lower interception percentage -- 1.6 to Manning's 2.0.

Cody's call: Colts 33-27

N.Y. Giants (5-9) at Cincinnati (6-8)

The line: Bengals by 6

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Giants' front seven will have their hands full with Bengals running back Rudi Johnson. The Giants are ranked 29th against the run, giving up an average 139.1 yards a game. Johnson has already rushed for 1,324 yards, putting him on pace to break Corey Dillon's single-season team record of 1,435 yards (set in 2000). Giants running back Tiki Barber is second in the NFL with 1,857 yards from scrimmage (1,314 rushing, 543 receiving). This is Cinci's 14th straight season without a winning record.

Cody's call: Bengals 24-21

Houston (6-8) at Jacksonville (8-6)

The line: Jags by 7

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. Jags QB Byron Leftwich has been picked off once in 126 passes and will need to keep making good decisions against the ball-hawking Texans, who have 19 interceptions. Meanwhile, Houston running back Domanick Davis and Jacksonville's stellar defensive end Marcus Stroud, the lone Jag picked for the Pro Bowl, are sure to knock noggins. Davis has run for 11 TDs this season and leads AFC running backs with 515 receiving yards.

Cody's call: Jaguars 23-17

Atlanta (11-3) at New Orleans (6-8)

The line: Saints by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 1 p.m. The Falcons have clinched the NFC South and a first-round playoff bye. The Saints have tons at stake, namely a playoff berth. Falcons QB Mike Vick (questionable, shoulder) leads all QBs with 889 yards rushing and needs just 80 to break bandy-legged Bobby Douglass's 22-year-old record for most in a season. Saints wideout Joe Horn leads the NFL with 1,248 yards receiving and is second with 85 snags. The Saints are just 2-5 at home.

Cody's call: Falcons 27-17

Buffalo (8-6) at San Francisco (2-12)

The line: Bills by 11

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. With running backs Willis McGahee (knee) and Travis Henry (ankle) likely on the shelf, the Bills' attack will have to revolve around its inconsistent (26th-ranked) passing game. Opponents have completed 62.4 per cent of their passes (fifth-most in the league) against a Niners secondary that lost opening-day corners Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph for the season in Week 6. Bills rookie wideout Lee Evans has had more than 100 receiving yards in two of his last three games. Since their 0-4 start, the Bills have won eight of 10.

Cody's call: Bills 24-14

New England (12-2) at N.Y. Jets (10-4)

The line: Patriots by 3

The skinny: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. If the Pats win, they clinch a first-round playoff bye. If the Jets win, they lock up a playoff berth. Teams (even Miami last week) have been picking on the Pats' makeshift secondary, but things may be better Sunday with the expected return of Ty Law (ankle). Tom Brady matched a career high with four interceptions in the Pats' embarrassing 29-28 loss to the Dolphins on Monday. His ultimate brain cramp was an off-balance, ill-advised dump pass that found its way to Miami linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and gave the Dolphins a first down at New England's 21 with 1:45 left. Three plays later, the Dolphins scored the winning touchdown. It's a tough way to learn a lesson, but may make the Pats better in the end.

Cody's call: Patriots 24-20

Arizona (5-9) at Seattle (7-7)

The line: Seahawks by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. The inconsistent Seahawks can lock up a playoff berth with a win and the NFC West title with a win and a Rams' loss. To keep their slim postseason hopes alive, the Cardinals' defensive front seven has to win the war against Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, who leads the NFL with 16 TDs, including a dozen on the run. The Cards have allowed just nine rushing TDs and in a 25-17 win over the Seahawks on Oct. 24, held Alexander to 57 yards (34 on one play).

Cody's call: Seahawks 27-23

Carolina (6-8) at Tampa Bay (5-9)

The line: Bucs by 2 1/2

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Both teams are still alive in the NFC. Panthers wideout Muhsin Muhammad is on fire, snagging 10 TD passes in his last eight games. He has 12 on the season, third in the NFL, and will draw close attention from Bucs corners. Keary Colbert bears watching, too. Third among rookies with 711 receiving yards, he caught the game-winning pass with 20 seconds left Nov. 28 versus the Bucs.

Cody's call: Panthers 20-17

Washington (5-9) at Dallas (5-9)

The line: Redskins by 1

The skinny: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. Both teams are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt. Running back Clinton Portis should be the focus of the Cowboys' D, which is led by middle linebacker Dat Nguyen (98 total tackles). The Redskins are 5-0 when Portis gains 100 yards. He's third in the NFL with 1,283 yards rushing and needs 217 in his final two games to become the first player in NFL history with three straight 1,500-yard seasons to kick off his career.

Cody's call: Redskins 23-21

Cleveland (3-11) at Miami (3-11)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. (TSN) These guys are playing for pride. The Dolphins are 2-3 under head coach Jim Bates, who replaced Dave Wannstedt on an interim basis last month. Now, apparently, owner Wayne Huizenga wants Louisiana State coach Nick Saban. I feel for Bates, who calmed a troubled situation and deserves a chance to hang around.

Cody's call: Dolphins 20-14

Philadelphia (13-1) at St. Louis (6-8)

The line: None offered

The skinny: Monday, 9 p.m. (ABC) With Terrell Owens likely out for the season, the Eagles have to replace his 1,200 yards (almost a third of Donovan McNabb's 3,859 passing yards). Enter running back-flanker Brian Westbrook (second on the Eagles with 703 receiving yards) and wide receiver Todd Pinkston (third with 676 yards). The Rams have the NFL's worst turnover differential at minus 21.

Cody's call: Eagles 27-23

Season record

Straight up

Last week: 10-6; overall: 147-77

Spread

Last week: 3-6; overall: 96-99


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