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Wild-card Games Breakdown

January 12, 2002|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer


Tampa Bay at Philadelphia, today, 1:30 p.m., Channel 7

Subplot: Tony Dungy could be coaching his final game for Tampa Bay if the Buccaneers lose, as expected, at Philadelphia.

The St. Petersburg Times reported Friday that Buccaneer owner Malcolm Glazer is prepared to hire Bill Parcells should Dungy fail to reach the NFC championship game. Tampa Bay is 0-20 in games played in weather 40 degrees or colder--in other words, game-time conditions at the Vet today--and should the Buccaneers somehow escape Philadelphia with a win, a trip to St. Louis awaits them. So the prospects of Dungy posing for another team photo in Tampa Bay would appear to be bleak.

Compounding the situation are comments made by Parcells to Sports Illustrated last month suggesting that a third trip around the NFL was not out of the question for the Gray Tuna.

"Sometimes I miss 1 o'clock on Sundays," he said. "It was my life for a lot of years. But you can't do this forever, and guys like me aren't for everyone. I do feel this is it for me. If I get through January, I'll be in the clear forever."

Funny, right about now, Dungy is thinking the same thing.

The line: Philadelphia by 31/2.



New York Jets at Oakland, tonight, 5, Channel 7

Subplot: Jon Gruden could be coaching his final game for Oakland if the Raiders lose at home to the Jets, as they did last Sunday.

All is not well within Raider Nation, as the team's three-game losing streak and 2-4 finish might suggest. Gruden said no to his dream job at Notre Dame in November, when the Raiders were 8-2 and thinking about an all-L.A.-ex Super Bowl against the Rams. Now, it's early January and the oldest team in the league is showing its age and media reports claim that Gruden had his agent look into the University of Florida job just before the Gators got fed up with being snubbed and turned to somebody who had no reason to say no, Ron Zook.

Such media reports, most likely, did not amuse owner Al Davis, who doesn't like to lose, doesn't like the horizontal passing game Gruden and Rich Gannon have foisted on the Lamonica/Stabler/Plunkett legend and doesn't like coaches under contract looking to jump ship with a playoff game at hand and the greatness of the Raiders on the line.

Gruden could have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble by taking the Notre Dame job this first time around, but here we are, and there is George O'Leary, with a newly edited resume, in Minnesota as an assistant to Mike Tice.

The line: Oakland by 41/2.



San Francisco at Green Bay, Sunday, 9:30 a.m., Channel 11

Subplot: Steve Mariucci could be coaching his final game for San Francisco if the 49ers lose at Green Bay, where Brett Favre is 30-0 when the temperature is 34 degrees or lower.

(That, by the way, is one of the great stats in sports. Thirty-four degrees. What happens to Favre when the Lambeau thermometer hits 35? Does he go berserk, firing up interceptions like Ty Detmer in a wind tunnel, ignoring every other play sent in from the sideline, calling a running play in the huddle and then taking the snap and legging it himself right into the waiting arms of Michael Strahan? Crazy things like that?)

Mariucci has numbers on his side--namely, a 12-4 record after losing Jerry Rice and Charlie Garner to the other side of the bay--but he has two old coaches, Bill Walsh and Terry Donahue, sitting in the 49er administrative offices shaking their heads and saying they sure wouldn't do it that way.

According to the Washington Post, Mariucci is on the short list of coaching candidates Redskin owner Daniel Snyder is considering, even though Marty Schottenheimer hasn't been technically dismissed as Redskin coach.

The line: Green Bay by 31/2.



Baltimore at Miami, Sunday, 1 p.m., Channel 2

The only wild-card game in which neither coach is coaching for his job, which means, alas, the Baltimore media are stuck with Brian Billick news conferences for at least a few more months.

Billick, you must understand, is writing NFL history every time he picks up his whistle, and he wants it chronicled for future generations, which explains why he subjected his Super Bowl champions to the distraction of HBO's cameras following their every move for six weeks of summer camp.

"I realize a lot of coaches would not have done it," Billick says, "but it provided a great learning tool for us. I defy anyone to look at our training camp and equate anything that happened, good or bad, during the season to what happened during the summer."

All right then.

During the summer, HBO's cameras captured Jamal Lewis blowing out his knee without a decent replacement in sight, Elvis Grbac taking snaps without Trent Dilfer in sight and Raven defensive players carrying on like the 1976 Steelers when they were about to be schooled by the 2001 Steelers.

Equates to an error-riddled, 10-6 wild-card season and a potential playoff-ending trip to Miami.

The line: Miami by 21/2.


2002 regular-season opponents, D12

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