Odds of going 16-0 in final week are very slim

TREVOR BUNKE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

With so many teams (i.e. good ones) having nothing to play for this weekend, the lines are skewed beyond belief. With the exception of the Patriots, who are playing the rancid 49ers, all other playoff-bound teams that are locked into their post-season position are underdogs this weekend.

So the 14-1 Steelers, 12-3 Colts, 11-4 Chargers, 13-2 Eagles, 11-4 Falcons and 9-6 Packers are all getting points in the season's final week.

What you have to determine is which of those clubs will keep their starters in the longest.

For instance, if the Eagles, who are three-point 'dogs at home to the Bengals, play their starters for three quarters, there's a good chance they'll win.

If they do what they did on Monday vs. the Rams, which was start QB Donovan McNabb and score an opening-drive touchdown, then shut down their starters, they'll probably lose.

Also to consider is what happens following the early starts.

Let's say Buffalo beats Pittsburgh, then Jacksonville is eliminated from the playoff race and may not start banged-up QB Byron Leftwich and/or RB Fred Taylor.

There is plenty to be aware of as we head into this final weekend, including this: In order to finish above .500 this season, I need a 16-0 week.

Quit giggling.

San Francisco (+13.5) at New England: Even with just one or two series from Tom Brady at QB, the Patriots should crush the league's worst team. PATRIOTS

Pittsburgh (+9) at Buffalo: The Bills should win this game, maybe even handily, but that gnawing little voice reminds me that the Steelers have won 13 straight games for a reason. They won't be pushovers, even if most of their starters rest. STEELERS

Miami (+11) at Baltimore: The Ravens have to win, then hope for a slew of losses, to make the post-season. The win part will happen, but against the suddenly inspired Dolphins, it won't be by a huge margin. DOLPHINS

Minnesota (-4) at Washington: I've been told by more than one Vikings fan that what I predict (guess?) will happen to Minnesota, the exact opposite happens. In that case, welcome to the playoffs, Minny. REDSKINS

Cincinnati (-3) at Philadelphia: Even if the Eagles lose, can it be by more than three points? EAGLES

Green Bay (+3) at Chicago: If the Packers don't rest some players, they're really stupid. BEARS

New Orleans (+8) at Carolina: A game that actually means something. The Panthers -- from coaching to QB to uniforms -- are vastly superior. PANTHERS

Detroit (-3) at Tennessee: Titans QB Billy Volek has got to win a game eventually. TITANS

NY Jets (-3.5) at St. Louis: The Jets won't be pulling an "Eagles" this week for the Rams. RB Curtis Martin should have no problems running the ball vs. St. Louis' feeble defensive line. JETS

Cleveland (+9.5) at Houston: With a victory, the Texans will wrap up their third season as a .500 club. Against the Browns, that's a gimme. TEXANS

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Arizona: There won't be an NFC West crown for the Cardinals like I predicted (Quit giggling), but there still is some pride. I'll take Arizona's young up and comers over Tampa's geezers on the outs. CARDINALS

Atlanta (+5) at Seattle: The Seahawks will know whether they need to win before kickoff to clinch the NFC West, but with Falcons QB Michael Vick likely seeing little playing time, Seattle should prevail easily. SEAHAWKS

Indianapolis (+9) at Denver: If the Colts lose, they will more than likely face the Broncos in the first round of the playoffs next week. Last year in the first round of the playoffs, Indy rocked Denver 41-10. So, obviously, it's the playoff matchup the Colts covet. That being said, Indy QB Peyton Manning has an NFL-record 49 TD passes and would love to add to that total. Even if the Colts lose, it will be a close game. COLTS

Jacksonville (-1.5) at Oakland: The Jaguars will be eliminated by kickoff. There is nothing else to say. RAIDERS

Kansas City (-3.5) at San Diego: The Chargers will likely go with most of their starters for three quarters, if only to erase the bad taste of last week's loss in overtime to the Colts. And they'll score on the Chiefs' brutal defence. CHARGERS

Dallas (+2.5) at NY Giants: If the trend of the past few weeks continues, the Giants will be close until the very end ... when it counts. COWBOYS

Last Week: 7-8-1.

Season: 109-124-7.

Best Bet: Houston.

Best Bets: 9-7 after the 8-point favourite Kansas City only beat Oakland 31-30.

Suicide Pick: New England.

Suicide Picks: 13-3 after Buffalo beat San Fran 41-7.


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