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Tip of the cap to Panthers' Fox

In case you haven't heard, the Carolina Panthers have won the right to make the first pick in the NFL draft next spring.

That presupposes the notion that there will be another NFL season and the excitement, such as it is, is based largely on the hope that Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is two things: not enrolled for his junior season at Palo Alto and somewhere close to as good as advertised.

At this point, Luck looks better than Halle Berry coming out of the water in that James Bond movie a few years back. But when a team is 2-13 with an offense that's as entertaining as Saturday night on C-SPAN, it's easy to get excited.

All you really want is hope. OK, you want a little more than hope but right now, the Panthers and their legion of PSL owners, will settle for hope.

It's too bad it had to end this way under John Fox, who brought the franchise its best days. It will be better again but Fox will be doing his work elsewhere. What he's done here has been appreciated and will be in the future.

In the meantime, next year starts at midnight. It seemed like it would never get here.

CAROLINA at ATLANTA: A tip of the cap to John Fox. Falcons 31, Panthers 20.

CHICAGO at GREEN BAY: It's simple for the Packers: win and they're in. Packers 28, Bears 24.

OAKLAND at KANSAS CITY: Playoff football in Kansas City again. If the Chiefs can do it, maybe the Cowboys can, too, next year. Chiefs 29, Raiders 24.

JACKSONVILLE at HOUSTON: The NFL equivalent of an awkward silence. Jags 31, Texans 24.

TAMPA BAY at NEW ORLEANS: The Saints remind Raheem Morris and his crew that they're much better than they were but still not good enough. Saints 30, Bucs 20.

MIAMI at NEW ENGLAND: The Dolphins' season ends. The Patriots' begins in two weeks. Patriots 17, Dolphins 6.

MINNESOTA at DETROIT: Evidence miracles exist: The Lions have won three in a row. Lions 27, Vikings 10.

NEW YORK GIANTS at WASHINGTON: The Giants are putting together the biggest tank job since the Atlanta aquarium opened. Redskins 27, Giants 20.

PITTSBURGH at CLEVELAND: The Steelers' game plan: Win and don't get anyone hurt. Steelers 20, Browns 10.

BUFFALO at NEW YORK JETS: The Jets are a better reality show than Super Bowl contender. Jets 24, Bills 17.

DALLAS at PHILADELPHIA: One is a model of coaching stability. The other is in Dallas. Eagles 44, Cowboys 14.

CINCY at BALT.: Paging Marvin Lewis ... your resumes are ready. Ravens 33, Bengals 10.

TENN. at INDY: Peyton Manning keeps finding a way to get it done. Colts 29, Titans 13.

ARIZONA at SAN FRANCISCO: How tough have their seasons been? Both lost to the Panthers. Cardinals 21, 49ers 14.

ST. LOUIS at SEATTLE: The Seahawks are 6-9, have lost their past three games by 58 points and a win puts them in the playoffs. Is this a great country or what? Rams 31, Seahawks 21.

SAN DIEGO at DENVER: Maybe Tim Tebow is excited. Broncos 35, Chargers 24.

Last week: 7-8

Season: 134-82

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