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Playoff jousting in NFC

By Ed Morrone

With this being the final NFL picks column, I think I'll just sit back and relax. Mr. McCord and Mr. Diamond will be duking it out this week to see who will succeed me as Chronicle picks champion while I lounge about in the rearview mirror. Plus, I've got bigger fish to fry, like the Eagles improbably re-entering the playoff picture in the dismal, awful, horrendous NFC with Jeff Garcia as their QB. Let's not waste any more time...here are the five things I learned from Week 13:

1) Did I mention how bad the NFC is? The team with the best record (Chicago) probably has one of the worst starting quarterbacks ever, while the best team right now (Dallas) is being led by a guy (Tony Romo) who got his first NFL start six weeks ago. From there, the playoff teams are the Saints (3-13 last year) and the Seahawks (still banged up) and then four 6-6 teams (Giants, Eagles, Panthers, Falcons) fighting for the two Wild Card spots. Wow.

2) The NFL is really strange this year. The Chargers are about the closest thing to a sure thing, and even there you have to be hesitant considering they are being guided by a first-year QB and a coach who constantly craps the bed in the playoffs. The Lombardi Trophy is up for grabs, who wants it? Anybody?

3) Criticize Vince Young's throwing motion till you're blue in the face-the guy is for real. He was a winner in college and he's a winner now. The Titans will make the playoffs next season.

4) The Jets, courtesy of one of the biggest creampuff schedules in league history, will probably represent the AFC in the playoffs.

5) After watching 13 weeks of football, I offer my playoff predictions to you. The AFC will be represented by the Patriots, Colts, Ravens, Chargers, Jets and Bengals, with the Chargers coming out on top. In the crapshoot NFC, I'll take the Cowboys, Bears, Saints, Seahawks, Panthers and be-grudgingly, the Giants. Right now, I'll go with the Chargers over the Cowboys in Super Bowl XLI. I don't care who wins it all to be honest, as long as Terrell Owens doesn't win a Super Bowl ring. Onto the Week 14 picks:

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Baltimore (9-3) +3 at Kansas City (7-5): The Chiefs shot themselves in the foot by losing to the Browns in OT and have to keep their playoff hopes alive against an angry Baltimore defense. Sorry Herm, not this time. Pick: Ravens

New Orleans (8-4) +7 at Dallas (8-4): Now that they have arrived sooner than anyone thought, people are severely underestimating this Saints team. With the NFC as bad as it is, why not these guys? Coach of the Year candidate Sean Payton would love to win one against his former boss. Pick: Saints

THE REST

Cleveland (4-8) +7.5 at Pittsburgh (5-7): Who would've thought that Pittsburgh would essentially have nothing to play for in December after winning it all last year? Still, they'll handle the Brownies. Pick: Steelers

Atlanta (6-6) -3 at Tampa Bay (3-9): The Bucs are mathematically still in the playoff picture at 3-9. The NFC, ladies and gentleman! Pick: Falcons

Indianapolis (10-2) -2 at Jacksonville (7-5): Jacksonville will give Indy all it can handle with their playoff hopes still alive, but after losing to the Titans, I sense a 400-yard, 5-TD performance in Peyton Manning's near future. Pick: Colts

Minnesota (5-7) +2 at Detroit (2-10): Whenever a guy I've never heard of might start for any team (as Tarvaris Jackson may for Minnesota), I go the other way. Pick: Lions

New England (9-3) -3.5 at Miami (5-7): Too little, too late for Miami, but would've thought that Joey Harrington would have almost saved the Dolphins' season? Pick: Patriots

N.Y. Giants (6-6) +3 at Carolina (6-6): Believe it or not, one of these teams will actually have to win this game. When in doubt, take the home team. Pick: Panthers

Oakland (2-10) +11 at Cincinnati (7-5): Chad Johnson may have 10 touchdowns in this game. Pick: Bengals

Philadelphia (6-6) -1 at Washington (4-8): Man I hope the Eagles somehow sneak into the playoffs, but with Garcia on the road, I can't pick them. Pick: Redskins

Tennessee (5-7) +1.5 at Houston (4-8): Vince Young = winner. Houston = losers. You do the math. Pick: Titans

Green Bay (4-8) +4.5 at San Francisco (5-7): Brett Favre, you are one of my favorite players ever, but please do us a favor and walk away after this season. It hurts me to see you do this to yourself. Pick: 49ers

Seattle (8-4) -3.5 at Arizona (3-9): Thank God for Seattle, because if Arizona would've won two in a row the world might have imploded. Pick: Seahawks

Buffalo (5-7) +3.5 at N.Y. Jets (7-5): Jets fans are enjoying it now, but they won't be when the first round of the playoffs roll around. Then, it'll hurt. Pick: Jets

Denver (7-5) +7.5 at San Diego (10-2): The AFC West games are usually close so Denver will cover in a tight loss. For the record, I think benching Jake Plummer was the wrong move. Pick: Broncos

Chicago (10-2) -6 at St. Louis (5-7): Let's see how many interceptions Rex Grossman throws against one of the NFL's worst defenses. I say two, one returned to pay dirt. Pick: Rams

The Saints hope to get Hofstra's own Marques Colston back from an injury.

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