The Red Zone, Week 17: Early Games.

Bears 33, Saints 25 – Add Sean Payton to the list of morons in the NFL who allow their kickers and punters to kick in Devin Hester’s general direction. The return specialist took another punt to the house 64 yards on top of the 55-yard bomb he caught from Kyle Orton for a two score game, and broke his own record for kicks/punts returned for touchdowns in a season. Kyle Orton got the win over Drew Brees in the battle of Boilermaker QBs, but Brees set the single-season completion record. Orton acquitted himself with 2 TDs and 190 yards to make himself at least sure of being in the talk about being the starter in Chicago next season (we put his chances at slim and none, but at least that’s an increase.)

Falcons 44, Seahawks 41 – Dumb, dumb, dumb on me. Never ever pick the Hawks when they go to the East Coast.  Chris Redman threw for 4 TDs (partially against scrubs) and Seahawks back-up QB Seneca Wallace cost his team the game with two fourth quarter turnovers.

Panthers 31, Buccaneers 23 – Matt Moore got more help than Luke McCown, basically — DeAngelo Williams ran all over the resting Bucs front line for 2 TDs and 121 yards on 20 carries.

Eagles 17, Bills 9 – Donovan McNabb throws for 345 yards and a TD in what might be his last game in Philly. Brian Westbrook now owns the team records for receptions and yards from scrimmage in a season, which speaks to both his Pro Bowl skills and the ills of the Philly offense (no wide receivers worth speaking of.)

Browns 20, 49ers 7 – Meaningless in the scheme of things, as Cleveland now has to watch and hope that Indy will run up the score on the Titans early and wind up beating them, but they polish off a regular season with a waxing of a weak 49ers team helmed by its 4th starting QB of the year in Chris Weinke. I’d like to re-state the complaint about kicking to Devin Hester now for the Browns’ Joshua Cribbs, as he took a punt to the opposing end zone.

Packers 34, Lions 13 – Brett Favre ran three straight TD drives and sat down. Even if they hadn’t scored any more, that would have been enough. We now anticipate the press release announcing Mike Martz’s firing in Detroit as O-coordinator.

Bengals 38, Dolphins 25 – Cam Cameron is likely to go the way of Rich Kotite, given this quote from the AP: “When rookie quarterback John Beck came off the bench for Miami in the third quarter, he dropped the snap on his first play, and the ensuing scramble ended with the Cincinnati Bengals scoring on a 54-yard fumble return. From a press box suite, Bill Parcells saw the whole thing unfold and sat speechless, his expression blank and slightly dazed. Watching the Dolphins tends to have that effect.”

Texans 42, Jaguars 24 – Congratulations, Houston, you now have a .500 football team, albeit one that achieved this while David Garrard, Fred Taylor, and Maurice Jones-Drew all sat out. Still, the AFC South winds up having all its teams finish .500 or better.

Photo: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

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