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The Football Fanatic

By O.B. Usmen

COLUMNIST

Sorry for taking a bye last week, but if an NFL team needs a bye week, so does the football fanatic...

The playoff picture couldn’t be murkier in the AFC right now. Only two teams have six wins (San Diego and Denver) and only two teams have less than four wins (Cincinnati and Houston). That means, 14 teams are in the playoff hunt, with less than half the season remaining. This should make for some interesting games in the coming weeks, with playoff implications in almost every game.

With teams like the Packers (8-1), the Saints (7-2), the Buccaneers (7-2), and the 49ers (7-2) playing solid football, the NFC isn’t having nearly as tough a time determining which teams are playoff-bound. Green Bay established itself as a top team dominating Detroit (3-6) 40-14. Brett Favre outclassed the Lions’ young secondary with 351 yards passing.

San Francisco kept a lid on the explosive Chiefs’ (4-5) offense, and held on to win 17-13. The unheralded 49ers defense kept Priest Holmes to 51 yards rushing and their lowest point total of the season. Quietly, the Niners are making a case for themselves as serious contenders. The Raiders (5-4) finally ended their four-game skid with a 34-10 win over the Broncos (6-3) Monday night. Gannon passed for his seventh 300-yard game of the year, passing for 352 yards and three touchdowns. The ageless Jerry Rice continues to dominate; he caught nine passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns, effectively silencing all those who said he should have retired when he left the 49ers.

The game between the Falcons (5-3-1) and the Steelers (5-3-1) ended in a 34-34 tie. It was the first tie since 1997 and only the 16th tie in the history of the NFL. The game was a fierce offensive battle, as Tommy Maddox put up 473 yards passing, 253 of them to Plaxico Burress. Atlanta rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the game with less than a minute left in regulation.

The ol’ quarterback controversy

It wasn’t too long ago that Trent Green went down and a nobody named Kurt Warner stepped in and turned the St. Louis Rams (4-5) into a Super Bowl contender. All of a sudden the tables are turned. When Warner went down after the Rams lost their first five games, everyone pretty much wrote the Rams off. That was before they knew about Marc Bulger. With Bulger at the helm, they look like the Rams of old, winning four straight in impressive fashion. Now with Warner almost healed, the Rams have a controversy on their hands: keep with the hot hand in Bulger, or give the ball back to the starter?

Last season, the Patriots decided to ride the hot hand, and it landed them in the Super Bowl. Which is why I think the Rams should stick with Bulger. Warner is still recovering; no need to hurry him back. As long as Bulger keeps up his torrid pace, (he’s passed for 1,149 yards in four games, and a 107.4 passer rate,) he’s the one who should lead the Rams on their quest to regain the respect they held at the start of the season. Odds are, Bulger will falter, and Warner will get his job back naturally. That is far preferable to handing the job over to Warner, and breaking the momentum St. Louis has going into this week’s matchup against Chicago.

Fantasy Pick of the Week: The Rams should stick with quarterback Marc Bulger, who should have no problem carving up the struggling Bears secondary.