The best thing about the last week of the NFL regular season is all the, ‘If this, then that’, scenarios that usually surround the playoffs. But this year’s is a little more direct for four teams that are playing each other Sunday, the Broncos and the Raiders in the AFC West and the Cowboys and Giants in the NFC East, because whomever wins gets in and those make for exciting games.
It’s already great the four teams are already hated and heated rivals. But with a berth to the playoffs on the line, things get ratcheted up even more. After quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Darren McFadden went down, I was one that thought the Raiders were done. But the Raiders have played well enough to stay in it with Carson Palmer at quarterback and Michael Bush running the ball. The Broncos, well they are 7-2 under Tebow, and really that’s all you need to say about that.
The Cowboys have always been dysfunctional with Tony Romo under center, but have found ways to keep their playoff hopes alive year after year. On paper they never should have been in this position anyway and that’s even with all the injuries to the running backs and wide out Miles Austin. But as always the Cowboys find away to make it entertaining. The Giants, well honestly, the only reason they didn’t lock up the NFC East earlier was because running back Ahmad Bradshaw went down. He basically missed the entire month of November and the Giants went 1-3 with out him. They were 5-2 with him in the seven games before and are now 2-2 with him back. One guy can make the difference and Bradshaw is that guy for the Giants.
NBA off and running
The NBA got off to a fast with its Christmas Day games. Luckily the action has been so good that it almost makes you forget the NBA missed the first eight weeks because of the lockout. But just like with the NFL, I’ve forgiven the NBA and I’m just happy they’re playing again.
It already looks like the Miami Heat are in midseason form and are setting themselves up to be the team to beat in the East. There’s no doubt Chicago and Boston are going to be there at the end, too. I’m most curious about who’s going to get the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds between the Magic, Hawks and Knicks. Of course for the Magic, most of their success will hinge on how long they keep Dwight Howard in the middle, because he minute he’s traded Orlando is done. The Hawks, while good, just don’t scare anybody. The Knicks will be much better once Baron Davis and Mike Bibby are able to go and could be the surprise team in the East, in the since of competing for the conference championship with the Heat.
The West already seems so wide open. Dallas is just not the same team without Tyson Chandler or Caron Butler, and honestly it just doesn’t look like they’re going to repeat.
So does that mean it’s going to be an all Los Angeles’ race for the West? There’s no doubt in my mind that Kobe Bryant will have his Lakers in the mix. And equally, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin make the Clippers an exciting team and one that can punch its ticket to the playoffs already. But the West will come down to if the Oklahoma City Thunder can keep it together.
Thursday night Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook exchanged words and last year, they just didn’t mesh together while losing to the Mavericks in the West Finals. If Durant and Westbrook can keep it all in check, then the Thunders’ road will be easier to traverse. But there’s no doubt the L.A. teams are going to stay as close as they can. And for some reason, I still think the San Antonio Spurs will be in the mix, because you can never count out a former champion.
After a sub par 5-10 week last week, I rebounded in a major way and went 12-3, only missing on the wins by the Panthers, Vikings and Bills.
But now we’re down to the last week of the season and I plan to end on a good note. So I’m going to take Vikings over Bears, Saints over Panthers, Packers over Lions, 49ers over Rams, Texans over Titans, Patriots over Bills, Jets over Dolphins, Jags over Colts, Eagles over Skins, Chargers over Raiders, Broncos over Chiefs, Seahawks over Cards, Falcons over Bucs, Ravens over Bengals, Steelers over Browns, Giants over Cowboys.
About James D. Horne
James D. Horne began his writing career at the Carrollton Missouri Democrat in 1995, and was the assistant sports editor/writer for the Hammond Louisiana Daily Star for two years. In 1998, Horne became the Missouri Basketball beat writer for the Columbia Daily Tribune. He joined The Leaf-Chronicle in Oct. 2003 as the lead prep writer and became the Austin Peay beat writer in March of 2005. During his career he won a state association sports writing award at the Daily Star and two while at the Leaf-Chronicle.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, Horne earned his B.A in communications from Central Methodist University in Fayette Missouri.
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