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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Today’s Nfl Matchups

Terry Bannon, Chicago Tribune

Ravens at Redskins

Line: Redskins by 6.

Last meeting: Redskins won 42-17 over Browns at Washington on Oct. 13, 1991.

Key stats: It’s Ravens’ No. 1 passing offense vs. Skins’ No. 1 pass defense.

Worth watching: Can Washington QB Gus Frerotte shake doldrums (only 10 TDs vs. nine interceptions)? Ravens QB Vinny Testaverde leads NFL with 1,987 passing yards. He has thrown 14 TD passes vs. nine interceptions.

Outlook: Redskins likely to be without Terry Allen (doubtful with a knee injury). But Redskins are 3-0 at new Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, and Ravens have lost three in a row.

Bengals at Giants

Line: Giants by 5-1/2.

Last meeting: Giants won 27-20 at New York on Dec. 11, 1994.

Key stats: Giants are up to fourth in the NFL in rushing defense.

Worth watching: Danny Kanell has established himself as Giants’ No. 1 QB with efficient work and some big plays. Bengals need Jeff Blake (5 TD passes) to start showing up.

Outlook: Giants have won three straight to take over first in NFC East and shouldn’t get much of a challenge from Bengals, who have been outscored 179-74 during six-game losing streak.

Cowboys at Eagles (10 a.m., Fox)

Line: Pick ‘em.

Last meeting: Cowboys won 21-20 at Dallas on Sept. 15, 1997.

Key stats: It’s Eagles’ No. 1-ranked offense vs. Cowboys’ No. 2 defense.

Worth watching: Cowboys’ Deion Sanders may be NFL’s top coverage CB. This week, he gets Eagles’ top receiver, Irving Fryar (40 catches, 4 TDs).

Outlook: Is Cowboys’ magic gone? Their NFC East rivals seem to think so - Dallas is 0-3 in divisional road games this season. Eagle Ricky Watters has averaged 5 yards a carry in last two Dallas games. Cowboy Emmitt Smith finally got his first rushing TD of the season last week, but he’s averaging just 3.9 yards a carry.

Broncos at Bills (10 a.m., NBC)

Line: Broncos by 7.

Last meeting: Broncos won 22-7 at Denver on Sept. 3, 1995.

Key stats: Bills have won three of last four from Denver.

Worth watching: Denver’s Terrell Davis leads NFL with eight rushing TDs and is second in the NFL with 861 yards rushing (5.0 average). Bills aging end Bruce Smith leads NFL with nine sacks, including 2 last week against Colts.

Outlook: Two of AFC’s traditionally strong teams, and it’s the Bills who have more incentive because they’re in fourth place in AFC East despite 4-3 record. But with Davis, Broncos will be able to run and prevent Smith from putting too much pressure on QB John Elway.

Chiefs at Rams Line: Chiefs by 5-1/2.

Last meeting: Rams won 16-0 at Kansas City on Sept. 25, 1994.

Key stats: It’s Rams’ 29th-ranked offense vs. Chiefs’ No. 26 defense.

Worth watching: Can Rams WR Isaac Bruce, finally healthy, improve on last week’s six-catch, 68-yard performance? Chiefs getting a big year out of Andre Rison (41 catches, 5 TDs).

Outlook: Chiefs’ Elvis Grbac (10 TD passes vs. five INTs) continues to direct efficient offense. Rams’ offense is 29th on merit, but coach Dick Vermeil is sticking with slumping QB Tony Banks. Chiefs have won five of last six.

49ers at Saints

Line: 49ers by 14.

Last meeting: 49ers won 33-7 at San Francisco on Sept. 14, 1997.

Key stats: 49ers have won six straight, all against NFC West rivals.

Worth watching: Can Saints rookie QB Danny Wuerffel be any worse than he was in his first start (13 of 32, two INTs)? Garrison Hearst, averaging 4.6 yards a carry, gives 49ers a running threat.

Outlook: San Francisco has scored at least 30 points in its last five games. Steve Young leads NFL with a passer rating of 115.8. Saints’ third-ranked defense may slow 49ers, but Saints vulnerable against NFL’s No. 1 defense.

Vikings at Bucs

Line: Bucs by 3.

Last meeting: Bucs won 28-14 at Minnesota on Sept. 14, 1997.

Key stats: Bucs have won four of last six from Vikings.

Worth watching: Minnesota QB Brad Johnson is third in the NFL and first in the NFC with 15 TD passes. Bucs rookie Warrick Dunn has four TD runs of 50 yards.

Outlook: Winner assured of a share of first place in NFC Central at midseason. Bucs have lost two straight in NFC Central (Green Bay, Detroit) and struggled the previous week vs. Arizona, and need to get QB Trent Dilfer playing the way he was early in the season. However, Vikings have won three straight.

Oilers at Cardinals

Line: Cardinals by 1-1/2.

Last meeting: Cardinals won 30-12 at Houston on Oct. 4, 1994.

Key stats: Oilers rank high in two key stats, rushing offense (No. 2) and rushing defense (No. 6).

Worth watching: Cardinals turn to rookie QB Jake Plummer, who completed 5 of 9 for 98 yards and guided them to game-tying TD in eventual loss to Eagles.

Outlook: Oilers have won two in a row, both with Eddie George rushing for 100 yards and Steve McNair throwing zero INTs. George should do it again against the NFL’s No. 21 rushing defense. Jinxed Cardinals (two OT losses, three others by a combined five points) may find another way to lose.

Colts at Chargers

Line: Chargers by 6.

Last meeting: Chargers won 26-19 at Indianapolis on Nov. 3, 1996.

Key stats: Colts’ last four losses have been by a total of 11 points.

Worth watching: Colts are going with Paul Justin at QB in place of injured Jim Harbaugh (ankle). Chargers’ QB Stan Humphries, expected to start after suffering a concussion last week, is 4-0 vs. Colts.

Outlook: Colts coming off heartwrenching 9-6 loss to Bills Monday night, but their offense still hasn’t shown up. Chargers are third in NFL in defense against rush. San Diego offense may not do much, but it won’t have to.

Jaguars at Steelers

Line: Steelers by 3.

Last meeting: Jaguars won 30-21 at Jacksonville on Sept. 22, 1997.

Key stats: Jacksonville tied with Green Bay and San Francisco for best record in last 12 regular-season games (10-2).

Worth watching: Jacksonville’s Jimmy Smith had a career-high 10 catches in September victory over Steelers. Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis has scored five TDs and is coming off a 135-yard game against Bengals.

Outlook: First place in AFC Central at stake in Three Rivers. Steelers averaging a gaudy 32.3 points in four-game winning streak (Tennessee, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati) and Jacksonville will go without linebacker Kevin Hardy (knee). Steelers keep finding ways to be a playoff team.

Falcons at Panthers (5 p.m., TNT)

Line: Panthers by 8-1/2.

Last meeting: Panthers won 9-6 at Atlanta on Sept. 7, 1997.

Key stats: Panthers are 2-0 vs. Falcons at home.

Worth watching: Atlanta RB Jamal Anderson has had his two best career days vs. Carolina, rushing for 109 and 108 yards against them last season.

Outlook: Panthers got well with 13-0 victory over Saints last week, but these are two struggling teams. Falcons’ best hope for road upset is to run against NFL’s No. 26 rushing defense.

Bears at Dolphins (Monday)

Line: Dolphins by 9-1/2.

Last meeting: Bears won 17-14 at Miami on Nov. 13, 1994.

Key stats: Bears are averaging 23.7 points when Erik Kramer plays entire game (three times this season).

Worth watching: Raymont Harris is Bears’ only legitimate Pro Bowl candidate, ranking third in the NFC in rushing (638 yards) and first in rushing touchdowns (six). Dolphins hope to control the ball with Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who had 108-yard, three-TD game in last week’s victory over Baltimore.

Outlook: Bears coach Dave Wannstedt goes against his mentor, Jimmy Johnson, for first time in regular season. With Kramer throwing to Curtis Conway and the offensive line recovering from injuries, Bears have a chance to win by controlling the ball with Harris. But in the last few weeks, Dan Marino has returned to his early-‘90s form.

Packers at Pats (6 p.m., Mon., ABC)

Line: Patriots by 2.

Last meeting: Packers beat Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.

Key stats: Packers have won eight of last nine against the AFC, including three of last four on the road.

Worth watching: Green Bay DT Gilbert Brown, the game’s pre-eminent run-stopper, is expected back from knee injury. Patriots need big pass rush from LB Chris Slade (six sacks).

Outlook: The Super Bowl was last season. This is now. Patriots have lost two of their last three (Broncos, Jets), but both were against solid teams on road. Packers are not same team on road, where they are 1-2, the only win being 1-pointer vs. Bears two weeks ago.

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