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PRO FOOTBALL : Today's Games : Colts vs. Buccaneers Means Something in Wacky Season

December 27, 1987|From Associated Press

The last time the Colts made the playoffs it was 1977, they were based in Baltimore and Bert Jones was the quarterback. From then until this season, they won 38 games, lost 98 and tied 1.

Suddenly, all they have to do is beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today and they win the American Football Conference East title. The Buccaneers have lost seven in a row, Indianapolis is a double-digit favorite for the first time in anyone's memory and Coach Ron Meyer is playing things very low-key.

"Emotions can have a negative effect as well as a positive effect," Meyer said. "I like to see emotion build with good, solid execution during the game. We're not going to write a new fight song or cheer for this game in practice."

It's the pivotal game in the AFC, which entered the final weekend of games with 9 of its 14 teams alive for playoff berths. Three of the NFL's six division titles also remained unsettled with the Washington Redskins in the National Football Conference East, the Chicago Bears in the NFC Central and the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Central having clinched.

But things can be relatively simple.

San Francisco, New Orleans, plus the Bears and Redskins have already qualified in the NFC. Minnesota lost, 27-24, to Washington in overtime Saturday and can only gain a wild-card spot if Dallas beats St. Louis today. Denver and Seattle have clinched AFC playoff berths, and the Colts and Houston can make the playoffs with victories today.

Tampa Bay (4-10) has played in a state of shock since it blew a 28-3 fourth-quarter lead to St. Louis seven weeks ago, losing 31-28. The Buccaneers are officially playing for next year, having installed No. 1 draft pick Vinny Testaverde at quarterback.

What Testaverde, who won the Heisman Trophy while at the University of Miami, can do is one more favor for the Miami area by helping Tampa Bay knock off Indianapolis. That would leave the Colts alive for a wild-card spot but give the AFC East title to the winner of Monday night's game between the New England Patriots and the Dolphins at Joe Robbie Stadium.

The NFL's other games today include Buffalo at Philadelphia, Cincinnati at Houston, Detroit at Atlanta, Green Bay at New Orleans, the New York Jets at New York Giants, St. Louis at Dallas, Seattle at Kansas City, and San Diego at Denver.

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