- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008

STORY OF THE WEEK

NOTHING SORTED OUT IN NFC SOUTH

Tampa Bay (9-3), Carolina (9-3) and Atlanta (8-4) all kept pace with wins against New Orleans, Green Bay and San Diego. If the playoffs started today, all three would be in the postseason. Things get interesting this weekend when Atlanta plays at New Orleans and Tampa Bay travels to Carolina.

The common theme among the teams’ wins was the running game. Tampa Bay outrushed the Saints 149-44, led by Carnell “Cadillac” Williams’ first touchdown in more than a year. Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams scored four 1-yard touchdowns, including the winner with 1:30 remaining. Atlanta won its second straight road game by getting 120 yards from Michael Turner.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers continue to prove they will be a force in the AFC, throttling New England 33-10 for their fourth consecutive road win.

Pittsburgh (9-3) is the front-runner for the conference’s second seed, which comes with a first-round bye. Against the Patriots, the Steelers forced five turnovers and sacked Matt Cassel five times. If the Steelers can figure things out in the red zone - Jeff Reed kicked field goals of 20, 25 and 20 yards - they could win at Baltimore and Tennessee in Weeks 15 and 16.

FIVE THINGS LEARNED IN WEEK 13

1. Home-field advantage is overrated. It was bad to be the home team Sunday. In 12 games, only Tampa Bay and Minnesota defended their respective home fields, tying a single-day record (with a minimum of seven games). Road underdogs Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Carolina and Kansas City all won. Cleveland lost its fourth straight home game. The Redskins, Buffalo, Oakland and St. Louis suffered a third consecutive home defeat.

2. San Diego might have kept the wrong running back. In the offseason, the Chargers made no effort to keep Michael Turner, who signed with Atlanta and is third in the NFL with 1,208 rushing yards and tied for first with 13 touchdowns on the ground. Maybe San Diego should have shopped LaDainian Tomlinson, whose fall has been remarkable. He rushed 14 times for 24 yards in a loss to Turner’s Falcons; his 3.7-yard average is second lowest among players with at least 200 carries.

3. Chicago is still the NFC North favorite. Despite getting blown out at Minnesota 34-14 to fall to 6-6 and a game behind the Vikings, the Bears have the easier remaining schedule. The Bears play host to Jacksonville, New Orleans and Green Bay and finish up at Houston. The Vikings have games at Detroit and Arizona and home games against Atlanta and the New York Giants.

4. New England left tackle Matt Light is atrocious. He was exposed in last year’s Super Bowl loss, and his struggles continued against Pittsburgh. James Harrison posted nine tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

5. Plaxico Burress is the clubhouse leader for NFL moron of the year. Awarded a new contract hours before the season opener, the Giants receiver has been nothing but a headache since, culminated by his self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday night. Before he faces penalties from the law and the NFL, expect Burress to be released by the Giants.

NEXT MAN UP

Big injuries from Week 13:

WR Wes Welker, New England (undisclosed): The league’s receptions leader did not return after getting leveled by Steelers safety Ryan Clark.

QB Derek Anderson, Cleveland (knee): Back as the starter in place of Brady Quinn, Anderson is out for the rest of the season. Ken Dorsey is next in line.

TE Kellen Winslow, Cleveland (ankle): Winslow went down on the opening play of the third quarter and did not return.

QB Trent Edwards, Buffalo (groin): Edwards’ miserable second half continued with a loss to the 49ers when he was injured and replaced by J.P. Losman.

DT Dusty Dvoracek, Chicago (arm): A week after the Bears lost cornerback Nathan Vasher, Dvoracek suffered what coach Lovie Smith called a “serious” injury in a loss to the Vikings.

NUMBERS GAME

Interesting stat about Week 13:

99 Yards gained on a pass play for the 11th time in NFL history. After the Vikings stopped the Bears on fourth down, quarterback Gus Frerotte connected with Bernard Berrian for a touchdown.

HOT SEAT

Whose performance in Week 13 puts him in the spotlight for next week:

TONY ROMO

He has the Cowboys clicking offensively, but Dallas remains on the outside of the NFC playoff picture. Romo’s next challenge is Pittsburgh, which is ranked No. 1 in rushing, passing, scoring and total defense.

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