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Today's games

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 22, 2002

Bills (7-7) at Packers (11-3)

OF NOTE: How about those Bills? They pulled the upset of the day Dec.15, beating the Chargers. Maybe they could do the same thing against the hot Packers, who might overlook this game? Not a chance. The Bills won't find Lambeau Field to their liking, even though it'll be just as cold as Buffalo. Few teams beat the Packers at home, and even fewer losing teams do it. As long as the Packers and quarterback Brett Favre don't have a letdown after an emotional win over San Francisco, they should be fine. FRY'S PROMISE: Packers 28, Bills 21.

* * *

Lions (3-11) at Falcons (8-5-1)

OF NOTE: The Lions are due to pull a big upset. They won't finish 3-13, will they? Perhaps not, but winning today seems out of the question. Not only are the Falcons at home and chasing the playoffs, they probably are seething after an overtime loss Dec. 15 to the Seahawks. Look for them to take out their frustrations on the limping Lions, who find more ways to lose games than any other team except the Bengals. Expect another huge game from quarterback Michael Vick, who should zip through a Lions defense that lacks speed.

FRY'S PROMISE: Falcons 31, Lions 19.

* * *

Bears (4-10) at Panthers (5-9)

OF NOTE: Either team could win. The question is, does anyone care? Both are out of the playoff chase, rendering this game virtually meaningless. Still, you have to like the Panthers' chances. They've played noticeably better in recent weeks behind quarterback Rodney Peete. Granted, the Panthers are coming off a loss to the Steelers and the Bears are pumped after beating the streaking Jets, but the Panthers defense should be able to contain the weak Bears offense and get the win for the home fans.

FRY'S PROMISE: Panthers 16, Bears 14.

* * *

Saints (9-5) at Bengals (1-13)

OF NOTE: Playing at home should help the Bengals' chances, but keep in mind their only victory came on the road. The Saints, meanwhile, should be snarling after being stunned by the Vikes in the closing seconds Dec.15. The Saints need this one to possibly clinch a playoff berth and better their postseason position. And it's almost a certainty they'll get it. Count on QB Aaron Brooks, WR Joe Horn and RB Deuce McAllister having big days against a sometimes-porous Bengals defense (337.9 yards allowed per game).

FRY'S PROMISE: Saints 33, Bengals 24.

* * *

Giants (8-6) at Colts (9-5)

OF NOTE: Both teams looked good Dec.15 and are wrestling for playoff spots. The Colts are at home, where they have played some of their best games. They seem the natural choice, but don't be fooled. The high-flying Colts offense could get grounded by a Giants defense that ranks third against the pass. If the Giants take away WR Marvin Harrison, QB Peyton Manning may get frustrated and force a few mistakes. That would be all the Giants need to sneak away with the win and spoil coach Tony Dungy's day.

FRY'S PROMISE: Colts 20, Giants 17.

* * *

Titans (9-5) at Jaguars (6-8)

OF NOTE: What more can you say about quarterback Steve McNair? The guy is a warrior, which the Jaguars will find out firsthand today. Despite being banged up he continues to dazzle week after week. He should do the same today against a defense that's giving up 340.4 yards a game. And McNair usually has big games against the Jags. The Jags are coming off a victory over the Bengals, but the Titans are simply too hot. With AFC South title hopes dancing in their heads, the Titans won't let this one slip away.

FRY'S PROMISE: Titans 26, Jaguars 20.

* * *

Chargers (8-6) at Chiefs (7-7)

OF NOTE: What's the deal with the Chargers? After a strong start they've fallen into a funk, losing five of their past seven, including the past two. The Chargers are the better team, but this game is a toss-up. The scales tip toward the Chargers simply because the Chiefs will be without star RB Priest Holmes, who is a big part of the offense. Without him K.C. must rely more on its passing game, which plays into the Chargers' hands. Look for the Chargers to lean heavily on RB LaDainian Tomlinson and pull out of their funk.

FRY'S PROMISE: Chargers 33, Chiefs 27.

* * *

Texans (4-10) at Redskins (5-9)

OF NOTE: Only die-hard 'Skins fans will brave the chilly D.C. weather to watch this meaningless game. Steve Spurrier's boys have taken their lickings and could use a patsy. But the Texans aren't pushovers and will give the 'Skins a fight, at least for a while. The Texans defense is solid and will give rookie QB Patrick Ramsey problems. With RB Stephen Davis possibly out, the 'Skins will be too one-dimensional, which might be the edge the Texans need. A low-scoring game favors the Texans, who could pull off another shocker.

FRY'S PROMISE: Redskins 20, Texans 17.

* * *

Rams (6-8) at Seahawks (5-9)

OF NOTE: The Seahawks might have saved coach Mike Holmgren's job with an overtime stunner Dec.15 against the Falcons. It was no fluke: This club, when healthy, has some juice. The Rams, too, are playing better with Marc Bulger back at quarterback. They have won the past two meetings against the Seahawks. But the Rams must stop running back Shaun Alexander to give Bulger a chance to remain unbeaten as a starter. The Rams run defense is solid, so that matchup will go a long way in determing the outcome.

FRY'S PROMISE: Seahawks 24, Rams 23.

* * *

Broncos (8-6) at Raiders (9-5)

OF NOTE: This is a huge AFC West clash, which could determine who wins the division crown. The Raiders could clinch with a win. Thing is, neither team is really playing its best. The Broncos have been sluggish lately, and the Raiders were flat in a Dec.15 loss at Miami. One thing tips this game in the Raiders' favor: the Black Hole. Playing with the West Division title perhaps on the line, the home fans simply won't let the Raiders blow this chance to maintain their place as the AFC's top seed heading into the playoffs.

FRY'S PROMISE: Raiders 35, Broncos 24.

* * *

Browns (7-7) at Ravens (7-7)

OF NOTE: You could just as easily pick the winner of this one by flipping a coin. The Browns have won two of the past three meetings, but the Ravens are at home. This figures to be a shootout between Ravens QB Jeff Blake and Browns QB Tim Couch. Both have played well lately and are capable of putting up big numbers, even against good defenses. The Ravens, though, are perhaps more balanced on offense and sport a stronger defense (No.3 in the league in yards per carry allowed at 3.7). When in doubt, go with defense every time.

FRY'S PROMISE: Ravens 20, Browns 17.

* * *

Jets (7-7) at Patriots (8-6)

OF NOTE: The Jets had the wind knocked out of their sails Dec.15 against the Bears, who dashed New York's slim playoff hopes. It would be hard to imagine the Jets playing inspired. The Patriots, on the other hand, are very much in the AFC postseason picture and can ill-afford a slip here. The Pats defense has tightened in recent weeks, which means more trouble for the Jets, who have won four of the past six meetings. Beware: This one easily could turn into a blowout if the Jets aren't careful.

FRY'S PROMISE: Patriots 28, Jets 9.

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