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Division races tighten up

Sunday was a big day for division clashes, but what's left behind are division races as muddled as they were before.

Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Green Bay, Denver and Seattle all won against teams battling for their division lead. Indianapolis, Cleveland, Cincinnati and New Orleans all lost divisional games, leaving them in the hunt but injuring their title hopes.

With seven or eight games remaining on every team's schedule, the biggest lead is the 1{-game advantage Oakland (6-2) has on Denver and San Diego (both 5-4) in the AFC West. Even the streaking Rams (7-1) are only a game ahead of the 'Niners (6-2) in the NFC West.

More crucial division games loom this week, with the Bears (6-2) at the Bucs (4-4), the Jets (6-3) at the Dolphins (6-2), the Browns (4-4) at the Ravens (5-3 before Monday night) and the Chargers (5-4) at the Raiders (6-2).

TRIVIA QUESTION: Vikings receiver Randy Moss had seven catches for 95 yards Sunday. How many 100-yard games has he had this season?

ARE THE NATIVES RESTLESS YET?: After the bashing the Panthers took from the Rams, how much longer before folks in Charlotte start calling for coach George Seifert's head? Nobody's saying he's not a good coach, but when you've lost eight in a row and you get gashed 48-14, something drastic has to be done, right?

DID YOU KNOW?: Halfway through the season, the Falcons (4-4) have matched their win total from last season when they were 4-12.

ROAD KILL: Minnesota's implosion against the Eagles shouldn't have come as a big surprise. The Vikings are 0-4 on the road and, after Sunday, have lost their past two by a combined score of 89-31.

"We can't do anything on the road at all," Vikings defensive end Lance Johnstone said. "It's been bad all season."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Raiders coach Jon Gruden on Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, who had 266 rushing yards against Oakland.

"I don't know if that was Alexander or Jim Brown out there today."

HAUNTING MEMORIES: Ricky Williams had a big day running and catching the ball, but Saints fans probably won't soon forget that fourth-quarter fumble and that dropped touchdown pass with eight minutes left, two plays that seemingly cost the Saints the game in a 28-27 loss.

Nobody's saying rookie LaDainian Tomlinson (14 carries for 75 yards) is a flash in the pan, but after going for more than 100 yards in three of his first four games, the rookie has yet to get 100 since.

STILL GOT IT: The Bears didn't pull off another miracle finish, but they still had magic moments. They made a field goal when the ball bounced off the cross bar and fell through the uprights. And safety Mike Brown, who made overtime interceptions the past two weeks, had another pick Sunday.

VERMEIL'S SOFT SIDE: Geez, that Dick Vermeil is either winning games or crying. Sunday, it was the latter.

Vermeil, who coached first-year Jets coach Herman Edwards as a player, had his first meeting with Edwards before the Chiefs-Jets game and the encounter left Vermeil in tears.

"I told him I loved him and I'm proud of him," Vermeil said.

Somebody get this guy a tissue endorsement.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Sunday was a huge offensive day around the league. Twelve running backs had more than 100 yards; seven topped 140. And eight receivers had 100-yard receiving days, and two more had more than 90.

GLAD TO BE OF HELP: Miami should have given the game ball to defensive end Lorenzo Bromell. If he doesn't knock Colts quarterback Peyton Manning out of the game, backup Mark Rypien maybe doesn't fumble the exchange with Dominic Rhodes and the Dolphins maybe don't get a chance for that winning drive.

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Can we stop being surprised when we see Vikings receivers Cris Carter and Moss bickering on the sideline with teammates and coaches? They've been doing it all season.


_ Information from other organizations was used in this report.