The way it looks now, the team that wins the Super Bowl will be the last team that has its quarterback standing.
Which probably is why the New Orleans Saints remain alive for a playoff berth. And why San Francisco may be a prohibitive favorite to win its third straight.On a day that Warren Moon of Houston and Troy Aikman of Dallas were knocked out for the regular season, the Saints beat San Francisco 13-10 - with Joe Montana in street clothes.
After the game, 49ers coach George Seifert said his Montana was bothered by a pulled abdominal muscle.
"I believe he could have played," Seifert said. "but it was just too much of a risk."
Indeed, the Saints sacked Young four times and linebacker Rickey Jackson said: "If Joe had been back there, he was going to take some good licks. As it was, Young took quite a few."
But Aikman and Moon didn't.
Aikman went down on the fifth play of Dallas' game at Philadelphia, separating his right shoulder and leaving the Cowboys with Babe Laufenberg to try to stand up to the Eagles. Laufenberg threw four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Eric Allen.
Moreover, unless Jimmy Johnson can figure out a way to coax 48-year-old Roger Staubach to return for the Atlanta game, the Cowboys will face their most important game in five years with Laufenberg, who has been released by the Redskins three times, the Saints and Chargers twice and the Chiefs once.
Moon's injury occurred with a minute-and-a-half left in Houston's 40-20 loss in Cincinnati when he dislocated his thumb on a Bengals' pass rusher. That leaves Cody Carlson the quarterback for Sunday night's game against the Pittsburgh, which the Oilers have to win to make the playoffs.
Overall, seven starting quarterbacks have gone down the past two weeks and 11 of the 28 teams will finish the season without the quarterback that started it.
Moreover, including Aikman, five playoff teams or contenders have lost their quarterbacks, although Moon, Jim Kelly of the Bills and Phil Simms of the Giants could be back for the playoffs.
One upbeat note for the two Texas teams - the two teams that lost quarterbacks last week got excellent performances from backups Sunday.
Frank Reich of Buffalo, replacing Kelly, was 15 of 21 for 234 yards and made only one mistake - an early fumble - as Buffalo clinched the AFC East and the AFC home-field advantage by beating Miami 24-14.
Jeff Hostetler of the Giants was 13 of 23 for 190 yards and rushed nine times for 31 yards, bringing a new dimension to an offense that's been dormant for four weeks. Hostetler threw a 44-yard TD pass to Mark Ingram and ran 4 yards for the touchdown that clinched the 24-21 victory and a first-round playoff bye for New York.
AND . . . WHY MOST OTHER NFL TEAMS DON'T LIKE THE EAGLES: "Only six? I thought it was eight," Jerome Brown said after Troy Aikman became the sixth quarterback injured by the Philadelphia defense.
"We still have a game to go, though, so you can never tell."
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Start with the NFC, because it's easy.And because it also demonstrates what adding a sixth team to the playoff roster in each division does - add mediocrity.
San Francisco (13-2) and the Giants (12-3) get yes and will host second-round games. Chicago, (11-4) will meet the last wild card, either Dallas or New Orleans.
Philadelphia and Washington (both 9-6) are in as wild cards and will play each other - in Philadelphia if their records are the seme; in Washington if the Redskins beat Buffalo and the Eagles lose in Phoenix next week.
If Dallas beats Atlanta next Sunday, it's in at 8-8, no matter what the Saints do Monday night at home against the Rams. If the Cowboys lose, the Saints can make it at 8-8 by winning.
If both teams win or both teams lose, Dallas is in - at 7-9 with Laufenberg.
Now the AFC.
Buffalo (13-2) has the home-field throughout the playoffs.
The other team with the first-round bye will be either the Los Angeles Raiders (11-4) or Kansas City (10-5). The Raiders get it if they beat San Diego in Los Angeles next week; the Chiefs get it if they beat the Bears Saturday and the Raiders lose because they beat the Raiders in both meetings.
Whoever loses the West will be a wild-card team - the Chiefs would visit Miami (11-4); if they lose to the Colts, the Dolphins would visit the Raiders because they lost their head-to-head meeting.
That leaves the winner of the Central and one more wild card to be decided.
Pittsburgh (9-6) wins the division if it wins at Houston (8-7) Sunday night with Cody Carlson at quarterback for the Oilers. The Oilers are guaranteed a playoff berth if they win - and win the division in the unlikely event that Cincinnati (8-7) loses at home to Cleveland (3-12) - but if they lose, they're out.
The Bengals win the division if they win and Houston beats Pittsburgh.
As for the wild card . . .
If Pittsburgh loses to Houston, it can be a wild card only if Seattle (8-7) and Cincinnati and Seattle loses at home to Detroit. If Pittsburgh wins, Cincinnati can be a wild-card only if it wins and Seattle loses.
The Seahawks make it if they beat the Lions and either Houston or Cincinnati lose and can also make it at 8-8 if they lose - as long as the Bengals and Oilers also lose.
Last season, Cleveland went to Pittsburgh, scored three touchdowns on turnovers, had six sacks and beat the Steelers 51-0. Overall, the Steelers had at eight turnovers, fivefumbles and three interceptions.
On Sunday, the Browns went to Pittsburgh, fumbled the ball on their first three plays from scrimmage, had nine turnovers overall. They trailed 35-0 and lost 35-0 because Steelers coach Chuck Noll was merciful.
NUMBERS: Keith Byars, Philadelphia, completed his fourth pass in four attempts this season against the Cowboys Sunday. All four have been four touchdowns.
- James Brooks, Cincinnati, 20 carries for 201 yards, including 40 on a Sam Wyche special on which he lined up under center, took a direct snap and rambled left, wishbone style.
- In two games against Chicago, Mark Carrier of the Bucs has caught six passes from Vinny Testaverde. His distant cousin, safety Mark Carrier of the Bears, has caught four and leads the NFL with 10 interceptions.
- Going into Sunday's game in Phoenix, fullback Maurice Carthon of the Giants had gained 61 yards this season. Against the Cards, he carried 12 times for 67 yards.
- Ken O'Brien of the Jets completed 11 of 12 passes against New England for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He was relieved by Tony Eason, who was one for one and Troy Taylor who was three for three, making the Jets' quarterbacks 15 of 16 for 226 yards.
QUARTERBACKS: With Troy Aikman out, the Cowboys could sure use Steve Walsh for the one win in Atlanta next Sunday they need to make the playoffs.
Walsh now plays for New Orleans, the team that can take Dallas' playoff spot if it beats the Rams and the Cowboys lose to the Falcons.
MORE QUARTERBACKS: Troy Taylor's 5-yard run for a touchdown against the Patriots Sunday was the first TD run by a New York Jets quarterback since Richard Todd did it in 1980. Pat Ryan scored in 1987, but it was as a holder on a fake field goal. Ryan also ran for a touchdown on a quarterback draw in the playoffs in 1986.
And . . .
In 18 quarters of play over seven seasons, Jeff Hostetler of the Giants has rushed for four touchdowns. In 137 games over 12 seasons, Phil Simms has rushed for five.
PATS-IES: In two games against the Jets, New England has been beaten twice and outscored 79-20.
Against the rest of the NFL, the Jets are 3-10 and have been outscored 311-200.