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Playoffs? For the Detroit Lions, a win will do it

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 10:59 p.m. MST

Coming off an impressive victory over Pittsburgh in prime time, the 49ers have another tough chore. On short rest, they travel to Seattle, which has won five of six and is in the wild-card chase. The Niners can't afford to stumble if they want to earn a first-round playoff bye, so don't look for them to rest many regulars.

Marshawn Lynch has been a terror in the ground game with touchdowns in 10 straight games and has gone over 1,000 yards rushing for Seattle, which needs lots of help along with two wins to make the postseason.

Jacksonville (4-10) at Tennessee (7-7)

If the Titans wind up 9-7 and a loss to the previously winless Colts costs them a playoff berth, they can write a country ballad wailing about their miseries and sing it at the Grand Ole Opry. Tennessee shouldn't struggle with another inept opponent, the Jaguars, but who knows after last week's flop?

"From the first play through the whole game, we had way too many mental mistakes to be going to the playoffs or having a shot at even going to the playoffs," receiver Nate Washington said.

Miami (5-9) at New England (11-3)

For those who criticize this version of the Patriots for being relatively defenseless and not up to the level of their past AFC East championship teams, remember if they win out, they have home-field advantage for the conference playoffs. With Tom Brady chucking the ball to Wes Welker, and with powerful TE Rob Gronkowski catching it, then running past or over people, the offense hasn't slowed.

After replacing Tony Sparano with Todd Bowles as coach last week, the Dolphins won at Buffalo. They are 5-2 in their last seven, so maybe Sparano knew what he was doing in getting them turned around before he was canned.

Minnesota (2-12) at Washington (5-9)

Coming off a lopsided victory over the Giants, the Redskins are trying to build something for next year, with rookie Roy Helu a major contributor at running back. The Vikings soon can start building, too, with a very high draft pick after what has been an extremely disappointing first full season for coach Leslie Frazier. DE Jared Allen is five sacks from Strahan's record.

Tampa Bay (4-10) at Carolina (5-9)

Tampa has gone from 4-2 and a contender to the bottom of the NFC South, jeopardizing coach Raheem Morris' job. Only Philadelphia has committed more turnovers than the Bucs' 32 and the defense has come unglued.

That bodes well for the improving Panthers, who have the playmakers on offense with Cam Newton, Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams and Greg Olsen to send Tampa to a ninth straight defeat.

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