Thursday, December 31, 2009 by Online Sportsbook
Sportsbook Online : Jacksonville Jaguars vs Cleveland Browns

The Jacksonville Jaguars' playoff chances were in their own hands just three weeks ago. Three disheartening losses later, the Jaguars need what amounts to a minor miracle to qualify for the postseason -- and winning their finale is suddenly far from a sure thing.

The Jaguars look to bounce back from a four-touchdown defeat and give themselves a glimmer of hope Sunday when they visit the resurgent Cleveland Browns, who try to close with their first four-game winning streak in more than 15 years.

Jacksonville (7-8) opened with consecutive losses and endured a 41-0 drubbing at Seattle three weeks later, but five wins in its next seven games left coach Jack Del Rio's team in the driver's seat for an AFC wild card berth thanks to a 6-2 conference record.

The Jaguars were in a precarious position after consecutive home losses to Miami and Indianapolis in early December, and after visiting New England last Sunday, now find themselves on the brink of elimination. The Patriots held a five-touchdown lead one play into the fourth quarter, and David Garrard's fourth-quarter run was the only scoring Jacksonville could muster in a 35-7 loss.

"Blew it," said running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who leads the AFC with 15 rushing touchdowns and needs one rushing or receiving to tie Fred Taylor's single-season record (17) set in 1998. "That's pretty much what it came down to. We didn't do what we needed to do to win games. It wasn't really what other teams did to us, we just beat ourselves."

Jacksonville isn't eliminated, but needs to beat the Browns (4-11) and have a bevy of other results go their way. Five teams are ahead of the Jaguars in the wild-card race, meaning they need at least four losses among games involving Baltimore, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Denver and Houston to get in.

"For all that to happen it would be crazy," said linebacker Daryl Smith, the team's leading tackler. "That's not our focus. Our focus is on getting a win at Cleveland. The opportunities were there. Three straight home games and we just let it slip away."
Beating the Browns seemed like the least of Jacksonville's concerns a few weeks ago, but it now looks like quite a challenge.
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by Online Sportsbook
Sportsbook Online: Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills
After the Indianapolis Colts all but threw away their chance for an undefeated season -- creating a swirl of controversy in the process -- they have even less reason to play their starters in the regular-season finale.

Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts' stars will almost certainly see an abbreviated afternoon of action in Sunday's postseason tuneup against the host Buffalo Bills.

Leading 15-10 in the third quarter against the visiting New York Jets last Sunday, the Colts were in good shape to improve to 15-0 and win their 24th straight regular-season game until coach Jim Caldwell replaced Manning with rookie quarterback Curtis Painter.

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark and running back Joseph Addai were also removed, and Painter turned the ball over twice as the Jets surged to a 29-15 victory.

Team president Bill Polian had insisted all season that the Colts' lone goal is to win the Super Bowl, and with the top seed in the AFC already secured, they proved it by removing the three-time league MVP and his top weapons from harm's way.

"The perfect season was never an issue with us," Polian said. "We've said it time and time and time again. It's somebody else's issue, but not ours. That was of no concern. Football logic has to come into play, and that logic is it makes no sense to have guys out there with the potential for injuries."

The decision did not sit well with the team's fans, who booed as it became clear the Colts (14-1) would not become the first team to finish unbeaten since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

"Until any player in here is the head coach, you follow orders and you follow them with all of your heart," Manning said. "That's what we've done as players. We follow orders."

Besides earning critics, Caldwell's move also affected the AFC playoff race, giving the Jets the inside track on a wild-card berth following their victory. There won't be nearly as much controversy about Manning coming out early against the Bills, who are guaranteed to miss the playoffs for the 10th straight season.

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