EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 27, 2012

Sports in a minute

Hector Longo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — WHO’S TRYING NOW?

The scenario, as it stands in the AFC, provides a double whammy for your New England Patriots.

The Pats, still alive for the bye and even the top seed in the AFC, have to play hard and go after the Miami Dolphins Sunday (4:20 p.m.) at Gillette Stadium.

Chances are, though, the effort will be for naught, and they’ll have to turn right back around and host an AFC Wild Card game just six or seven days later.

What makes this most likely?

Wins by Denver, at home against the 2-13 Chiefs and Houston, which is at Indy, lock the Pats into the No. 3 or 4 seed.

How tough a game do you think the Chiefs are about to put up, having to travel over the holidays? And if Indy even plays Andrew Luck and the starters this week, aren’t the Colts opening themselves up to gigantic criticism.

Headed to the playoffs, they’re going to allow J.J. Watt — in his bid for the sack record — tee off on Luck? Sorry, that’s not happening.

Honestly, it would take guts to do it, but if I was Bill Belichick I would seriously consider sitting all the regulars I possibly could.

THE REAL FUN

The best of the best comes from the NFC this weekend, where playoff positions are absolutely up for grabs.

Sunday night’s collision between Dallas and Washington will be for the NFC East title, a factor that makes it a huge take.

No freebies for Adrian Peterson, as he chases Eric Dickerson’s rushing record, and his Vikings, whose best scenario of making the playoffs is via the win. At 4:25, Minnesota hosts Green Bay with the Packers needing a win to lock down a bye.

Arizona and St. Louis have “spoiler” on their mind as they travel to San Francisco and Seattle, respectively, with the NFC West still up for grabs.

Fans of North Andover’s Zak DeOssie and the world champion Giants still cling to their playoff life. But the G-Men must win at home against Philly, then hope for Minnesota, Chicago and Dallas all to tumble.

It could happen, right?

MINCEY MEAT

Football fans in these parts love to speak of how their Patriots rarely if ever make personnel mistakes.

But in the spirit of ex-Pats DB Darius Butler, who just might make the Pro Bowl for the Colts this year, I have to bring up the game played Sunday by Jacksonville defensive end Jeremy Mincey, a 2006 sixth-round pick by New England.

Mincey had a pair of solo tackles against his old team, a sack, three quarterback hits and three passes broken up from his hybrid end/outside linebacker spot. The kid was everywhere.

BOWL BARRAGE

The college bowl season hits high gear today with three games, opening a burst of 11 bowls total between today and Saturday.

Today’s slate:

3 p.m. — Military Bowl at Washington, D.C. ... San Jose State vs. Bowling Green

6:30 p.m. Belk Bowl at Charlotte, N.C. ... Cincinnati vs. Duke

9:45 p.m. Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at San Diego ... Baylor vs. UCLA

Note: All three games will be on ESPN-TV.

ONE FOR JACK

I often wonder how many 40-or-50-something sports writers out there today were pointed to the business by the fictional character “Oscar Madison” in the classic 1970s TV Show, “The Odd Couple.”

Madison, the slob/star sports columnist in New York, was played perfectly by Jack Klugman, who passed away this week at age 90.

Who can forget the classic “Odd Couple” episodes, whether Oscar was shooting commercials with Deacon Jones, pestering the great Howard Cosell in the Monday Night Football box or even losing his roommate Felix in a bet with tennis hustler Bobby Riggs?

My favorite Odd Couple? It had to be when Oscar won a racing greyhound, “Golden Earring” in a card game.

Best line? When Felix professes the desire to put the greyhound on the national circuit and tells Oscar, “I want to race him.”

To which Klugman snapped, “You’ll probably beat him.”

Rest in peace, Jack. And thanks for making this job look so darn glamorous.