The New York Jets may have squandered their best shot at the playoffs when they lost last week to Buffalo. Then they began bickering about who to blame -- offensive coordinator Paul Hackett or quarterback Vinny Testaverde -- for a stupid play call late in the game.
Now the Jets go to Oakland to play the Raiders, who have lost three of five to endanger their chances of a first-round bye. They're bickering, too, as quarterback Rich Gannon claims the team lacks discipline.
"Rich Gannon can say what he wants to say," coach Jon Gruden says. "I respect his opinion, but his opinion isn't the only one on this football team."
The Raiders (10-5) will clinch a first-round bye with a win, as long as New England wins at Carolina (1-14) or Miami loses to Buffalo. If the Raiders lose, they'll probably have to play a first-round game.
The Jets (9-6) will make the playoffs if they win, but they should have done that against the Bills. If they lose and Seattle beats Kansas City at home, they're out, adding another late-season failure to the ones they've had under Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll, Bill Parcells and Al Groh.
If New York does miss out, it has more people to blame than Testaverde and Hackett.
Buffalo had won just two games going into last Sunday and has allowed the third most points in the league, 386 in 15 games. Yet the Jets, playing at home, got just three field goals.
In other words, it shouldn't have come down to the one play, on which Testaverde threw over the middle to Curtis Martin with the clock running down and no timeouts left. That left him time only to get off a futile desperation pass.
"The past is irrelevant," safety Victor Green said. "We made it hard for ourselves. Now we've got to go out there and play for a playoff spot."
This weekend was supposed to be Week 2, but was postponed when the league called it off following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Ten teams are assured playoff berths and the Jets, Baltimore and Seattle are competing for the final two AFC wild-card slots. The Ravens and Jets need only win, Seattle must beat Kansas City and hope New York loses or Baltimore loses at home Monday night to Minnesota.
There's also positioning to consider.
St. Louis can clinch home-field advantage in the NFC with a win at home against Atlanta. If the Rams lose, Chicago can catch them with a win over Jacksonville. If the Bears lose, Green Bay can win the NFC Central by beating the Giants in the Meadowlands.
New England, 5-11 last year, can clinch the AFC East with a win.
There's also an outside chance last season's two Super Bowl teams will miss the playoffs. The New York Giants were eliminated last week and Baltimore could miss out if it loses and Seattle and the Jets both win.
The rest of this week's schedule: Denver at Indianapolis; Dallas at Detroit; Arizona at Washington; Cleveland at Pittsburgh; Cincinnati at Tennessee; San Francisco at New Orleans; and Philadelphia at Tampa Bay.
San Diego is off. Coach Mike Riley was fired Monday after nine straight losses and a 5-11 season.
New England (10-5) at Carolina (1-14)
Buffalo (3-12) at Miami (10-5)
Kansas City (6-9) at Seattle (8-7)
The Patriots can clinch the AFC East with a win and can get a first-round bye if they win and Oakland loses. If New England loses, Miami can win the division by beating the Bills, although Buffalo proved last week it can be dangerous.
For the Panthers, the stakes are more embarrassing. They can become the first team to lose 15 straight games in a single season. They have a long way to go to reach the two-season record: Tampa Bay lost its first 26 as an expansion team in 1976-77, 14 games the first season and 12 the next.
Seattle has no walkover, because Kansas City has won three straight, something the Seahawks haven't done all season -- their longest winning and losing streaks are two games.
Atlanta (7-8) at St. Louis (13-2)
Jacksonville (6-9) at Chicago (12-3)- Green Bay (11-4) at New York Giants (7-8)
The NFC pecking order.
If St. Louis, Chicago and Green Bay all win, the Rams will be seeded first and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But Chicago can catch the Rams if they win and St. Louis loses. If the Bears lose and Green Bay wins, the Packers win the Central and the first-round bye that goes with it.
Most likely, nothing will change, although what happens to the Packers may depend on whether the Giants feel like playing after being eliminated in Philadelphia last week.
One incentive for New York is Michael Strahan's challenge to Mark Gastineau's single-season sacks record. Strahan enters the game with 21 1/2, just behind the 22 Gastineau had in 1984.
"I might give it to him early," Brett Favre says.
Minnesota (5-10) at Baltimore (9-6)(Monday night)
The Ravens should make the playoffs, but their chances of repeating aren't very good. Elvis Grbac was terrible in Tampa last week, the running game is nil and the 262 points allowed in 15 games is 97 more than in 16 games last season.
Daunte Culpepper? Cris Carter? Randy Moss? Matt Birk, the voluble center from Harvard, was the only Viking selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.
Philadelphia (10-5) at Tampa Bay (9-6)
This Sunday night contest is more like an exhibition than a regular-season game.
Whatever happens, these teams will meet in a playoff game next week in Philadelphia. Eagles coach Andy Reid says "we'll play to win, just like we do every game."
Note: There are 17 Bucs and 15 Eagles on the "injury" report.
Note: Teams playing regular-season and playoff games in consecutive weeks has happened before, although not like this. Last year, St. Louis and New Orleans played the final week in New Orleans, with the Rams winning to get into the playoffs. Then they lost to the Saints in the first round.
Dallas (5-10) at Detroit (1-14)
The major storyline involves Emmitt Smith, who needs 56 yards to become the first player with 11 straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Smith, who turns 33 next May, had a season-high 126 yards last week against San Francisco and is 616 yards behind Walter Payton's NFL record of 16,726.
Also of note: This is the final NFL game in the Silverdome. The Lions will move to a new stadium in downtown Detroit next season.
Cincinnati (5-10) at Tennessee (7-8)
This is likely to be the final game for Bruce Matthews, Tennessee's 41-year-old offensive lineman, who has played more NFL games than any non-kicker.
The Bengals are one of two teams (Atlanta is the other) without a Pro Bowler. Linebacker Takeo Spikes should have gone.
San Francisco (11-4) at New Orleans (7-8)
The 49ers' loss in Dallas last week leaves them facing a trip to Green Bay for a first-round playoff game. If they win and the Packers lose in the Meadowlands, the game will be in San Francisco.
The Saints, whose strength is supposed to be defense, have allowed 34, 48 and 40 points in their last three games, all losses that knocked them out of playoff contention. The 34 against offensive power St. Louis is understandable, the 48 and 40 against the mediocre offenses of Tampa Bay and Washington are not.
Cleveland 6-9) at Pittsburgh (12-3)
The Browns aren't satisfied with the way their season has ended, although they ended a four-game losing streak in Tennessee last week. Nonetheless, their six victories are one more than they had combined in their first two seasons back in the league.
The Steelers are annoyed with losing last week in Cincinnati, although they still clinched home-field advantage in the AFC when Oakland lost. Jerome Bettis should be back to tune up for the playoffs after missing four weeks with a groin problem.
Denver (8-7) at Indianapolis (5-10)
Two examples of what injuries can do to teams that began the season with high hopes, although the Colts' awful defense probably doomed them anyway. The league-worst 476 points the Colts have allowed (31.7 a game) is 62 points more than the next worst.
Arizona (7-8) at Washington (7-8)
The winner gets to .500, quite an accomplishment for both. The Redskins have bounced back from an 0-5 start. If the Cardinals win, it would be just their third year at .500 or better in the 14 seasons since they moved from St. Louis.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.