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Race for this year's playoffs features several newcomers

If you like scoring, then you loved Week 10. In 13 games played, there were 607 points scored -- an average of 46.6 points per game. There were 50 or more points scored in seven of the 13 games, and 60 or more in two of them.

Not only were the games high-scoring, they were close. In six of the 13 games, the margin of victory was five points or less. The average margin of victory in those six games was 3.6.

Week 10 also had its share of records, starting with the one high-scoring game that was not close. The Jets' 47-3 win over the Rams provided the largest margin of victory in team history. Of course, it also provided a nice lead-in for Thursday's night's battle for first place in the AFC East between the Jets and Patriots on NFL Network. That game should be very interesting.

Other notable achievements:

»Sebastian Janikowski's two field goals gave him 865 career points, breaking the Oakland scoring record that had been held by Pro Football Hall of Famer George Blanda.

» Baltimore has scored 27 or more points in four consecutive games, which is a team record -- as well as a major turnaround. The Ravens scored 27 or more in just two games all of last season.

»Jared Allen of Minnesota tied a record for most safeties in a season with two (it's been done 14 times previous, most recently by Bryant Young of the 49ers in 1996).

» Donald Driver caught a pass in his 104th consecutive game, setting a new Green Bay record that had been held by Sterling Sharpe.

»Patriots receiver Wes Welker caught 10 passes, becoming the first player ever to catch at least six passes in each of the first nine games of the season.

So what have we learned after a week of high scoring, close games and record-setting performances? Well, if you haven't learned this already, it's pretty clear that the final seven weeks of the season are going to wild. And it's a safe bet that we will see some new faces in the playoffs.

If the season ended today, there would be six playoff teams that did not make the postseason last year: Arizona, Carolina, Chicago, Baltimore, Denver, and the New York Jets. Five of those six had losing records last year (Arizona was 8-8). Meanwhile, three teams that won 13 games a year ago -- Dallas, Green Bay, Indianapolis -- would be on the outside looking in.

As a fan, can you ask for anything more?

Here's a closer look at some of the Week 10 results:

The Giants had to hang on -- stopping the Eagles on third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 running plays in the final two minutes. In the first quarter, the Giants ran 25 plays from scrimmage, gaining 176 yards, compared to 12 yards on five plays for the Eagles. Eli Manning had completed 12 of 16 passes for 130 yards and two TDs before Donovan McNabb's first completion of the game. The Eagles' first first down didn't come until midway through the second quarter.

And still, Philadelphia was only down by three points at halftime, 20-17.

The Giants won a big third-quarter replay challenge -- when officials reversed a call in which Manning had been flagged for throwing a pass after crossing the line of scrimmage -- and that led to the go-ahead touchdown. But the real key to the game was ball control. Turnovers kept the Eagles in the game, but the Giants ended up controlling the ball for 39:10, running 76 plays from scrimmage. The Eagles ran 58 plays.

The Giants continue to look like the real deal. They are well coached, and very good in all phases of the game -- offense, defense, special teams.

They will need to continue to play that well, as the remaining schedule is pretty tough. Four of the last seven games are on the road, and all seven are against teams with winning records.

For the first time since Sept. 29, 1968 -- a span of 12 games in 40 years -- the Colts won a game in Pittsburgh. Two of the Colts' three touchdowns came following interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger -- one in the final two minutes of the first half, the other in the final four minutes of the second half. For the second time in three weeks, Pittsburgh has been beaten by a Manning, and both times on fourth-quarter comebacks.

This was a must-win game for Indianapolis as the Colts claw their way back into playoff contention. Four of their remaining seven games are at home, and the only game against a team that currently has a winning record is the regular-season finale against the Titans.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is tied with Baltimore for first place in the AFC North -- but holds the tiebreaker at this point. Four of the Steelers' last seven games are at home -- but the three road games are at New England, Baltimore and Tennessee, all in a four-week period. And the home date in the middle of that stretch is against Dallas.

The Steelers have many injuries, especially on offense, and they must lean on their defense if they are to return to playoffs. The AFC North race should be terrific. Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore end the season at home, and the race should come down to that final week.

Carolina has a one-game lead in the NFC South after surviving in Oakland. The Panthers got a win despite the fact that Jake Delhomme became the first quarterback since Ken Anderson in 1975 to complete less than 30 percent of his passes, throw four interceptions, and still win.

Because of the turnovers, Carolina had the ball for only 23 minutes, but somehow won the game. DeAngelo Williams had 140 rushing yards, including a 69-yard TD run that was the highlight of an otherwise ugly game.

Four of Carolina's last seven games are on the road against Atlanta, Green Bay, the New York Giants, and New Orleans. The final seven weeks in the NFC South should be interesting. It most likely will go down to the final week of the season, and it looks as if two teams could make the playoffs from this division.

The Vikings' win moves them into a tie for first in the NFC North with the Bears, though Chicago holds the tiebreaker at this point. Minnesota plays four of its last seven on the road, though two of those teams have losing records. The Vikings finish with home games against Atlanta and the New York Giants. For Minnesota to make the playoffs, I think they need to win the division; I don't see a wild card coming from this division.

Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson ran for more yards (192) than Green Bay had in total offense. The Vikings survived despite a defensive TD from Nick Collins and a 65-yard punt return TD by Will Blackmon -- who also had a 76-yard punt return when these teams met in Week 1.

This may have been Aaron Rodgers' poorest game of the year -- the Packers' quarterback threw for 142 yards and was sacked four times. In the end it was another classic Minnesota-Green Bay game, coming down to a missed 52-yard field goal attempt by Green Bay's Mason Crosby with time running out.

Extra points

You didn't see this coming before the season: The NFL announced that the Carolina-Atlanta game in Week 12 has been switched from a 1 p.m. ET start to a late afternoon start, making it the national game on FOX. ... Speaking of Atlanta, rookie QB Matt Ryan was 16-of-23 for 248 yards, two TDs and no INTs in the 34-20 win over the Saints, for a passer rating of 134. His rating for the season is 89.9, but it's 125.2 at home, and he has not thrown an INT in his four games at home. ... With his 78 yards rushing Sunday, Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson moved into 15th place all-time with 11,279 yards. ... Tennessee won its franchise-record 12th consecutive regular-season game. The previous 11-game win streak took place between Oct. 17, 1993 and Jan. 2, 1994, when Jack Pardee was the coach. ... Atlanta rookie Chevis Jackson (LSU) made his first-ever NFL interception a memorable one, returning it 95 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans. ... Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco has gone four games without an INT. ... If either Flacco or Ryan were to be named NFL MVP, they would be the first rookie QB to be so honored since Bob Waterfield of the Cleveland Rams in 1945. ... Seven of Tennessee's first nine possessions started from its own 45-yard line or better. ... Kansas City and Seattle both went for two-point conversions at the end of their games -- Kansas City to win, Seattle to tie -- but both failed. ... Atlanta, Miami, Baltimore and the New York Jets won a combined 14 games in 2007, and each of those teams chose among the first eight picks of the draft. So far this season, these four teams have combined to win 23 games.

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