For five playoff hopefuls, it's win and get in
There it is, within grasp, for a half-dozen teams: that coveted playoff berth.
The chore is simple for five of them. If the Saints, Eagles, Giants, Jets or Ravens win, they are in. Doesn't matter what anybody else does; no help required.
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Kansas City needs a victory and a loss by San Diego to capture the AFC West. The Chiefs host Tennessee, while the Chargers are at Cincinnati, and many expect that race to come down to the season finales.
"What you work and play all year for is to play after the regular season," says Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. "And that's what we plan to do."
New England, Pittsburgh and Atlanta already own post-season spots. The Saints get one if they win at Atlanta, which also would keep the defending Super Bowl champions in position to take the AFC South that the Falcons currently lead by two games.
The winner of that division figures to get a first-round bye.
"It's a huge advantage to have that bye and have that home game, but there's been teams that haven't had that luxury and moved on to do special things," says Saints linebacker Scott Shanle. "I won't deny that (playing on the road) does make your job harder. But it's not impossible."
The Eagles win the NFC East by beating Minnesota in the Sunday night game.
Also Sunday, the Giants are at Green Bay and the Jets visit Chicago. With wins at their NFC North opponents, both New York teams can secure wild cards. Baltimore travels to Cleveland with a chance to secure a post-season berth.
Miss. State loses first game since fight
Zane Johnson had 19 points and eight rebounds to lead Hawaii over short-handed Mississippi State 68-57 in the fifth-place game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Saturday, the first game for the Bulldogs since they suspended two players for fighting in the stands.
The Rainbow Warriors (9-3) controlled the inside and the game with the Bulldogs' top big men, Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey, suspended indefinitely. Sidney and Elgin were involved in a fistfight after the Bulldogs' game Thursday night. The altercation, captured by cameras, lasted for several minutes before being broken up by teammates and coaches.
With Bailey and Sidney out, Kodi Augustus and Wendell Lewis were the tallest players for the Bulldogs at 6-foot-8. Augustus had 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead Mississippi State (8-5), which shot 27 percent from the field and was outrebounded 41-36 by the small, finesse team.
Wooden's hometown gets memorabilia
Martinsville, Ind., officials have received a collection of memorabilia from the family of legendary college basketball coach John Wooden that will be placed on display. Wooden coached at Indiana State and UCLA, where he won 10 national championships. He died June 4 at age 99.
Wooden's family recently shipped two packages of memorabilia to Martinsville residents Elmer and Viola Reynolds for loan to the city where Wooden was a high school basketball star in the 1920s. The packages include more than two dozen trophies, plaques and certificates, several books and the Sachem Award given by Gov. Mitch Daniels. Wooden was the first person to receive the award in 2005.
"I can't think of a better Christmas present for the town of Martinsville," Elmer Reynolds told the Martinsville Reporter-Times. "I'm extremely thrilled that items connected to Coach Wooden were returned to his high school hometown."
City Councilman Eric Bowlen said a meeting would be held after the holidays to consider the next step in deciding where to display the memorabilia.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl a treat for FIU
Three years ago, one victory was cause for celebration at Florida International. Now, the Golden Panthers are enjoying something much more impressive — a trip to a bowl.
"It's really one of the best stories in college football," Coach Mario Cristobal said. "And I'd be saying it if it wasn't our team."
Three seasons after ending a 23-game losing streak, FIU will play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Sunday night against Toledo. It's the first bowl appearance for the program, which is in its sixth season in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The reward for FIU (6-6) is a matchup with Toledo (8-4) at Detroit's Ford Field.
The last word
Tennessee Titans receiver Randy Moss said he doesn't plan on ever playing outdoors in Minnesota:
"Just for the future when we play an outdoor game in Minnesota, I think they can have that game check that week. I'm not joking. I'm serious."