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The Football Fanatic

By O.B. Usmen

COLUMNIST

I’m not sure how the AFC got so jumbled, but what I do know is that almost any team could make the playoffs. Thirteen out of 16 teams are .500 or better, so barring an immediate stratification in the coming weeks, the playoff spots will be determined by a ton of tie-breaks.

The NFC playoff picture got a little clearer this week, with almost all of the top teams pulling out victories. In fact, as it stands now, unless a 5-7 team wins their remaining four games, the playoffs are pretty much set. The only team with a realistic chance of pulling off an unexpected playoff berth is the 6-6 NY Giants, who trail New Orleans (8-4) by two games for the last Wild Card spot.

The Packers (9-3) were guaranteed a spot in the playoffs with their 30-20 win this week over the lowly Bears (3-9). Chicago led 14-6 at half time, but the Green Bay defense was eventually too much, causing five turnovers and sacking Chicago quarterbacks three times.

Vick carries Falcons

Atlanta (8-3-1) pulled off a thrilling victory against the Vikings (3-9) winning in overtime 30-24. Michael Vick rushed for a quarterback record 173 yards including the game-winning 46-yard touchdown in overtime. Coupled with the his 173 passing yards, Vick accounted for 346 of Atlanta’s 379 total yards.

The biggest game of the week was between the Saints (8-4) and the Buccaneers (9-3). The Saints prevailed 23-20 to beat Tampa Bay for the second time this season. Simeon Rice continues to dominate, recording his fifth consecutive multiple-sack game, but it wasn’t enough to contain Aaron Brooks, who passed for two touchdowns. How far can Vick carry the Falcons?

Vick’s viability questionable

If you didn’t see Michael Vick’s incredible run in overtime against the Vikings, it’s definitely worth a look. Vick is perhaps the most gifted athlete in the NFL. His arm has drawn comparisons to John Elway, and his scrambling ability is beyond comparison. He has single-handedly made the Falcons a playoff team, and who knows what he can pull off in the playoffs. Still, while his talent may merit all the hype surrounding this second year quarterback, I am skeptical that he can keep it up.

In the NFL, quarterbacks throw the ball and running backs run the ball. Vick’s running has been winning games for Atlanta, but that will be only true until he gets flattened by a Ray Lewis or Warren Sapp, and then his career will never be the same. If Vick continues to run 10-12 times per game, he will not last very long in the league. The average career of a running back is less than three years, and that’s because very few people can withstand the pounding a running back endures. There’s no question Vick is a physical specimen; I just hope he learns to stay in the pocket long enough to make a career out of his potential.

Fantasy pick of the week: Emmitt Smith, runningback for the Dallas Cowboys. Since complaining he wasn’t getting enough carries, Emmitt has put up 73 and 144 yards in his last two games.