Originally created 12/12/99

NFL previews



Carolina Panthers (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (7-5) 1 p.m.

Green Bay trails NFC Central co-leaders Detroit and Tampa Bay by a game and doesn't figure to let the Panthers mess up its postseason hopes. Packers have won three in a row by an average of 14 points. Figure it to be four. Worth watching: Brett Favre is 19-0 at home when temperature is 35 degrees or below. Carolina's Wesley Walls leads NFL tight ends with 10 touchdown receptions. Last meeting: Packers won, 37-30, at Carolina on Sept. 27, 1998. Key stats: It's Green Bay's No. 9 offense vs. Carolina's No. 26 defense. TV: FOX-54.

Atlanta Falcons (3-9) at San Francisco 49ers (3-9) 4:15 p.m.

San Francisco's offense came alive last week in a 44-30 loss at Cincinnati. But the 49ers haven't scored in double digits in their last four home games, and Atlanta's defense is a respectable 14th. Just think what this game might be like if San Francisco had Steve Young and Atlanta had Jamal Anderson. Worth watching: Ken Oxendine leads Atlanta with only 396 yards rushing (3.2 yards per carry). San Francisco's leading rusher is Charlie Garner (925 yards, 5.3 avg.). Last meeting: Falcons won, 31-19, at Atlanta on Nov. 15, 1998. Key stats: It's Atlanta's No. 27 offense vs. San Francisco's No. 29 defense. TV: FOX 54.

New England Patriots (7-5) at Indianapolis Colts (10-2) 1 p.m.

Colts are closer to the top seed in the AFC playoffs than anyone in the AFC East is to them. They can clinch a playoff spot with a win and some help. Patriots in a crowd in the middle of the AFC and still have a shot at the playoffs. Only a big game from QB Drew Bledsoe figures to save them here. Worth watching: Colts' Peyton Manning leads AFC with 91.6 passer rating (22 touchdown passes, 14 interceptions). Patriots' Bledsoe is at 79.6 with 17 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. Last meeting: Patriots won, 31-28, at New England on Sept. 19, 1999. Key stats: Patriots have beaten Colts seven straight. TV: CBS-Channel 12.

Arizona Cardinals (6-6) at Washington Redskins (7-5) 1 p.m.

Cardinals have jumped back into the playoff picture with a defense that has held opponents to 17.3 points per game in last four wins. But they could get knocked right back out this week. Redskins' No. 3-ranked offense has more weapons than the Cardinals are accustomed to seeing. Worth watching: Arizona defensive end Simeon Rice, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, leads NFL with 13 sacks. Rookie Champ Bailey, former Georgia Bulldog, leads Redskins with four interceptions, three in first game against Cardinals. Last meeting: Redskins won, 24-10, at Arizona on Oct. 17, 1999. Key stats: Cardinals have won four straight by a total of 22 points.

Baltimore Ravens (5-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) 1 p.m.

Steelers are a mysterious 1-4 at home this season, and to add to their bad fortune, they're catching the Ravens at the wrong time. Pittsburgh is sticking with Mike Tomczak at quarterback. Is Baltimore QB Tony Banks' hot streak a sign of things to come, or an aberration? Worth watching: Banks has thrown eight of his 10 touchdown passes in the past three games. Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis, averaging 3.6 yards per carry this season, has averaged 93 yards in last six games vs. Ravens. Last meeting: Steelers won, 23-20, at Baltimore on Sept. 19, 1999. Key stats: Ravens have averaged 32.7 points the last three games, winning two.

Cleveland Browns (2-11) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-10) 1 p.m.

With coach Bruce Coslet's job on the line, Bengals have played better in the second half of the season. They've won two in a row and figure to make it three unless Cleveland can come up with some big plays. Worth watching: Bengals' Jeff Blake has 15 touchdown passes vs. only eight interceptions. Browns' Tim Couch has 13 touchdown passes vs. 11 interceptions. Last meeting: Bengals won, 18-17, at Cleveland on Oct. 10, 1999. Key stats: It's Cincinnati's No. 10 offense vs. Cleveland's No. 31 defense.

New York Giants (6-6) at Buffalo Bills (8-4) 1 p.m.

Buffalo, which has won nine of its last 10 after its bye week, should be fresh and ready to get after the Giants. Buffalo's No. 2-ranked defense figures to leave the Giants scrambling. Worth watching: Giants' Joe Montgomery, a rookie from Ohio State, is coming off a 111-yard game in last week's victory over Jets. Bills' Doug Flutie has thrown a touchdown pass in 10 consecutive games. Last meeting: Bills won, 23-20, in OT at New York on Sept. 1, 1996. Key stats: It's Bills' No. 2-ranked defense vs. Giants' No. 18-ranked offense.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-10) at Dallas Cowboys (6-6) 1 p.m.

Dallas has lost two of its last three, but the last quarter of the season is Cowboys-friendly. After the Eagles it's Jets, at Saints and Giants. With that incentive, Cowboys should roll on. Worth watching: Cowboys' Emmitt Smith, who has rushed for 1,000 yards for an NFL-record ninth straight season, has 1,053 yards and a 4.0-yard average. Eagles rookie Donovan McNabb has completed 59.3 percent of his passes with four TDs and only one interception. Last meeting: Eagles won, 13-10, at Philadelphia on Oct. 10, 1999. Key stats: Dallas has won seven straight at home, five this season.

St. Louis Rams (10-2) at New Orleans Saints (2-10) 1 p.m.

St. Louis can wrap up a first-round bye and home-field advantage with a victory and a Washington loss or tie. The Rams' challenge then will be to stay sharp until their first playoff game the weekend of Jan. 8-9. Saints' latest losing streak about to hit four. Worth watching: After fighting injuries in recent years, Rams' Isaac Bruce has caught 11 touchdown passes among his 67 receptions. Saints' top receiver is Eddie Kennison (45 catches, two touchdowns). Last meeting: Rams beat Saints, 43-12, at St. Louis on Nov. 28, 1999. Key stats: Rams are 7-0 vs. NFC West opponents.

Miami Dolphins (8-4) at New York Jets (4-8) 4:05 p.m.

The Jets, who have won their last two meetings with Dolphins, have another chance to play the spoiler's role. Miami's defense is coming off its worst game of the season. Jets' best chance is to spring Curtis Martin (1,046 yards, 4.0 avg.) for a 100-yard game. Worth watching: Tony Martin leads Miami with 51 catches, four for touchdowns. Jets top receiver is Keyshawn Johnson, who has 66 catches, five for touchdowns. Last meeting: Jets won, 21-16, at Miami on Dec. 13, 1998. Key stats: Jets are 9-6 vs. Dolphins at Meadowlands.

San Diego Chargers (5-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-4) 4:05 p.m.

Seattle's offense has gone into a slump, scoring only 24 points as the Seahawks lost two in a row (Tampa Bay, Oakland). But Chargers aren't likely to provide much of a threat -- they had lost six in a row before beating Cleveland last week. Worth watching: Seattle's Sean Dawkins has 16 catches, three for touchdowns, in the last four games. San Diego's Jeff Graham also has 16 catches in the last three games. Last meeting: Chargers beat Seahawks, 13-10, at San Diego on Oct. 17, 1999. Key stats: Seahawks have won five of last six from Chargers.

Detroit Lions (8-4) at Tampa Bay Bucs (8-4) 4:15 p.m.

Warren Sapp (10 sacks) leads a suffocating defense that has made the Bucs a surprise first-place team. With a 27th-ranked rushing game, the Lions will be forced to throw, which will turn Sapp and friends loose. Bucs' defense again will make it easy on Bucs rookie Shaun King. Worth watching: The quarterbacks: Lions backup Gus Frerotte has played so much in relief of injured Charlie Batch that he's eligible for the passer rankings, and he's second in the NFC at 97.5 because of eight TD passes and only two interceptions. Bucs' King tries to repeat his Monday night heroics, when he threw two touchdown passes to beat Vikings. Last meeting: Lions won, 20-3, at Pontiac on Oct. 31, 1999. Key stats: Detroit leads the NFC with a turnover differential of plus nine.

Minnesota Vikings (7-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) 8:20 p.m.

Minnesota, a game off the NFC Central lead after Monday's loss at Tampa, must bounce back in one of NFL's toughest venues for visitors. Vikings' defense is vulnerable, so look for Chiefs quarterback Elvis Grbac to make some big plays. Worth watching: Vikings' Cris Carter leads NFC with 81 catches and leads NFL with 12 touchdown receptions. Chiefs' top receiver is tight end Tony Gonzalez (49 catches, six for touchdowns). Last meeting: Chiefs won, 21-6, at Minnesota on Nov. 3, 1996. Key stats: Kansas City leads NFL with turnover differential of plus-17. TV: ESPN.

Monday nightDenver Broncos (4-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (11-1) 9 p.m.

Jacksonville can wrap up a playoff berth with a win and some help. But with a two-game lead over Tennessee in the AFC Central, the Jaguars' goal is to stay a game ahead of Indianapolis in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Now that their offense is averaging 30 points per game -- as it has the last three weeks -- the Jaguars should handle the Broncos. Worth watching: Jaguars' Jimmy Smith has caught 29 passes, three for touchdowns, in the last three games to take the league lead with 85 receptions. Rod Smith leads the Broncos with 53 receptions. Last meeting: Broncos won, 37-24, at Denver on Oct. 25, 1998. Key stats: Jacksonville has won 26 of its last 30 at home. TV: ABC-Channel 6.