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Nfl Previews

Sun., Oct. 5, 1997

Cincinnati at Jacksonville

Line: Jaguars by 7.

Last meeting: Jaguars won 30-27 at Jacksonville on Dec. 1, 1996.

Key stats: Both teams should be concerned about their running games: Cincinnati is 21st, Jacksonville, 25th.

Worth watching: How well can Bengals running back Ki-Jana Carter play? This is his first game since tearing a rotator cuff two weeks ago.

Outlook: After strong finish last season, Bengals are in danger of slipping out of contention early. They may play with a sense of desperation. But Mark Brunell should be able to operate against Bengals’ soft defense.

Dallas at New York Giants

Line: Cowboys by 7.

Last meeting: Giants won 20-6 at New York on Nov. 24, 1996.

Key stats: Cowboys have won eight of last 10 from Giants.

Worth watching: Dallas RB Emmitt Smith is in search of his first big game - he has only 355 yards. Giants need a boost from Rodney Hampton, who is recovering from knee injury.

Outlook: All of Dallas is fretting over the Cowboys’ 22nd-ranked offense and their struggles with blitzes. But the Giants are punchless, and Dallas does what it has to do to win.

Detroit at Buffalo

Line: Bills by 4.

Last meeting: Lions won 35-21 at Detroit on Nov. 24, 1994.

Key stats: Bills are 7-1 after off weeks.

Worth watching: After a 139-yard day in upset of Green Bay, Detroit’s Barry Sanders is going for his third straight 100-yard game. Buffalo rookie Antowain Smith averaging 5.9 yards a carry.

Outlook: Back to reality for Lions. Bills are 2-2 despite a minus-10 turnover differential. As long as they take care of the ball, they should be in charge.

Kansas City at Miami

Line: Dolphins by 3.

Last meeting: Dolphins won 13-6 at Miami on Dec. 11, 1995.

Key stats: Dolphins are last in the NFL in rushing.

Worth watching: The Chiefs are showing the good that can be done in the free-agent market. Elvis Grbac has six TD passes versus five interceptions and Andre Rison leads the team with 25 catches, two for touchdowns.

Outlook: The Chiefs have won four straight, two of them on the road (Oakland, Carolina). Jimmy Johnson’s rebuilding plan has hit a snag - no rushing game.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Line: Steelers by 2.

Last meeting: Ravens won 31-17 at Baltimore on Dec. 1, 1996.

Key stats: Steelers are second in the league in two of the most important team statistics: rushing offense and rushing defense.

Worth watching: Pittsburgh QB Kordell Stewart began to show what he can do last week, throwing for one TD and rushing for two in victory over Oilers. Steelers must block Baltimore defensive end Peter Boulware, who leads all rookies with four sacks.

Outlook: Despite loss last week at San Diego, Ravens are one of the NFL’s surprise teams. Vinny Testaverde has become a consistent passer (at least three TDs in nine of the last 17 games) and could exploit shaky Pittsburgh secondary.

Tampa Bay at Green Bay

Line: Packers by 8.

Last meeting: Packers won 13-7 at Green Bay on Oct. 27, 1996.

Key stats: Packers have won eight of the last nine from the Bucs.

Worth watching: Brett Favre must bounce back from an off week against the Lions and start playing like an MVP again. Tampa Bay’s Trent Dilfer must continue to prove that his turnaround is no fluke.

Outlook: Conventional wisdom holds that the Packers, back home after loss at Detroit, are a lock. Everything must end, and it’s time for Green Bay’s 18-game winning streak at Lambeau Field to go into the history books. Packers are slowly being beaten down by injuries, and Warrick Dunn’s game-breaking speed is a load for anyone to handle.

Washington at Philadelphia

Line: Eagles by 3.

Last meeting: Redskins won 26-21 at Philadelphia on Nov. 17, 1996.

Key stats: Eagles have won eight of the last nine from the Redskins.

Worth watching: Washington QB Gus Frerotte is proving the Redskins made the right choice in giving him a big contract. His three TD passes last week paved the way for victory over undefeated Jaguars.

Outlook: Eagles shaping up as one of the season’s big disappointments; Redskins, a big success story. Washington is allowing only 12.3 points per game, and Frerotte is running an efficient offense.

Minnesota at Arizona

Line: Cardinals by 1.

Last meeting: Vikings won 41-17 at Minnesota on Dec. 1996.

Key stats: It’s Minnesota’s No. 3 offense vs. Arizona’s No. 6 defense.

Worth watching: Cardinals’ Pro Bowl cornerback Aeneas Williams covering Vikings’ Pro Bowl receiver Jake Reed.

Outlook: Cardinals due for a breakout game. Their three losses have come by a total of 10 points, and only a missed field goal attempt by Kevin Butler kept them from upsetting the Bucs last week. Arizona’s defense, coached by former Bears linebackers coach Dave McGinnis, is sixth in the league.

New York Jets at Indianapolis

Line: Jets by 3.

Last meeting: Colts won 34-29 at Indianapolis on Nov. 17, 1996.

Key stats: Colts have won five straight over the Jets.

Worth watching: Jets’ Adrian Murrell is one of the NFL’s new stars, with 492 yards and a 4.4-yard average.

Outlook: Although Colts have handled Jets in the past, Bill Parcells has changed things quickly in New York. Plus, Colts’ offense desperately in search of a big-play performer; Jim Harbaugh has a passer rating of only 71.6 with only one TD pass.

San Diego at Oakland

Line: Raiders by 6.

Last meeting: Raiders won 23-14 at San Diego on Oct. 21, 1996.

Key stats: Visiting team has won seven of the last nine in this rivalry.

Worth watching: Two of the hottest receivers in football. Chargers’ Tony Martin emerged from season-long slump to catch three TD passes in victory over Ravens. He could keep it up vs. the league’s worst defense. Raiders’ Tim Brown has 37 catches, for four TDs.

Outlook: The passing of Jeff George and running of Napoleon Kaufman will provide plenty of Raiders scoring. But their defense will do the same for the Chargers. Another shot for Raiders to find a way to lose a close game.

New Orleans at Chicago

Line: Bears by 3-1/2.

Last meeting: Saints won 27-24 in New Orleans on Oct. 13, 1996.

Key stats: Bears offense has fallen to 28th in the NFL; they’re 29th in passing offense.

Worth watching: How long can Bears stick with Rick Mirer, who has failed to direct a TD drive in two games as the starter? How long can Mike Ditka stick with Heath Shuler, who has had only one good game all season and has just one TD pass vs. nine interceptions?

Outlook: At long last, a team that Bears can beat. Defense has kept them in last two games. Against Saints’ 27th-ranked offense, it may be able to win one all by itself. Offense should benefit from the return of guard Todd Perry.

New England at Denver

Line: Broncos by 4-1/2.

Last meeting: Broncos won 34-8 at New England on Nov. 17, 1996.

Key stats: Game features two highest-scoring teams in the NFL: New England 32.5, Denver 31.2.

Worth watching: Patriots’ Drew Bledsoe is first in the NFL in passing; Broncos’ John Elway is third.

Outlook: This is a matchup worthy of an AFC championship game; the winner becomes the favorite to lose the Super Bowl. Team matches overwhelming offenses and underrated defenses.


 
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