NFL WEEK 3

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tampa Bay (2-0) at Minnesota (2-0)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Vikings by 4

Vs. spread: Bucs 2-0; Vikings 2-0.

Last week: Bucs beat Lions, 24-17. Vikings beat Bears, 27-24.

Worth watching: Tampa Bay rookie RB Warrick Dunn has been a surprise with 167 yards rushing in two games. The duel between Bucs DT Warren Sapp (NFL-high 3 1/2 sacks) and Vikings G Randall McDaniel, who has started the past eight Pro Bowls, could be a classic.

Outlook: The Bucs are continuing their momentum from the second half of 1996 and are one of the NFL's best early stories, but a 3-0 start? They're not ready for that. The Vikings have plenty of weapons, including the NFL's No. 2 rusher (Robert Smith, 254 yards) and No. 2 receiver (Cris Carter, 17 catches, two TDs).

Notable: The Bucs haven't been 3-0 since the 1979 season.

Injuries:

BUCS: Out: DE Eric Curry (knee). Questionable: G Frank Middleton (turf toe); WR Karl Williams (knee). Probable: DE Chidi Ahanotu (knee); DT Warren Sapp (finger-ankle); T Jerry Wunsch (elbow).

VIKINGS: Out: G David Dixon (knee). Questionable: P Mitch Berger (hip).

St. Louis (1-1) at Denver (2-0)

Time: 4 p.m., Ch. 45

Line: Broncos by 14

Vs. spread: Rams 1-1; Broncos 2-0.

Last week: Rams lost to 49ers, 15-12. Broncos beat Seahawks, 35-14.

Worth watching: Lawrence Phillips has rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams are 3-0 in games in which he has rushed for more than 100 yards.

Outlook: New coach Dick Vermeil has the Rams playing hard, but that's not enough against the Broncos, particularly at Mile High Stadium. Denver has picked up where it left off last Dec. 1, when it beat Seattle, 34-7, to clinch home field in the AFC playoffs. This season, the Broncos hope to carry their momentum far beyond that and now have unretired OT Gary Zimmerman to help.

Notable: The Rams' six interceptions and nine take-aways are both NFL highs.

Injuries:

RAMS: Out: RB Jerald Moore (elbow). Doubtful: C Mike Gruttadauria (ankle). Questionable: RB Lawrence Phillips (toe); G Zach Wiegert (thigh); S Toby Wright (hamstring). Probable: WR Isaac Bruce (hamstring).

BRONCOS: Questionable: DT Michael Dean Perry (knee).

Buffalo (1-1) at Kansas City (1-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 4

Vs. spread: Bills 1-1; Chiefs 1-1.

Last week: Bills beat Jets, 28-22. Chiefs beat Raiders, 28-27.

Worth watching: QB Elvis Grbac, who guided the Chiefs to a last-second, come-from-behind victory Monday night at Oakland. Buffalo's defense, which had eight sacks against the Jets, including three by LB Bryce Paup.

Outlook: These aren't the teams that met in the 1993 AFC title game. That was Jim Kelly vs. Joe Montana rather than Todd Collins vs. Grbac. The common denominator is the coaches, Buffalo's Marv Levy and Marty Schottenheimer, who always seem to keep their teams above .500.

Notable: The Bills are an NFL-best 23-6 in September in the 1990's.

Injuries:

BILLS: Out: C-G Dusty Zeigler (knee). Questionable: DE Phil Hansen (knee); RB Tim Tindale (knee). Probable: LB Damien Covington (knee); WR Andre Reed (hamstring); S Henry Jones (toe).

CHIEFS: Questionable: WR Lake Dawson (knee). Probable: RB Donnell Bennett (knee); CB Dale Carter (ankle); T Jeff Criswell (foot); LB Troy Dumas (hamstring); LB Donnie Edwards (thigh); S Kevin Ross (knee); LB Derrick Thomas (arm).

Miami (2-0) at Green Bay (1-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Packers by 13

Vs. spread: Dolphins 0-1; Packers 0-2.

Last week: Dolphins beat Oilers in OT, 16-13. Packers lost to Eagles, 10-9.

Worth watching: Is Miami QB Dan Marino heading toward a down season? He has completed less than half of his passes (34 of 69).

Outlook: Forget about the Packers' loss in Philadelphia last week, because they can be vulnerable in road games on artificial turf. They've won 16 straight at home. The Dolphins are improving, but they're not ready to ruin a Sunday for a whole state.

Notable: The Packers were held under 10 points last week for only the third time in the past four years.

Injuries:

DOLPHINS: Out: RB Stanley Pritchett (knee). Doubtful: S George Teague (ankle). Questionable: P John Kidd (hamstring). Probable: P John Kidd (hamstring); TE Frank Wainright (shoulder); C Tim Ruddy (ankle); S Shawn Wooden (thumb).

PACKERS: Doubtful: LB Seth Joyner (knee); C Frank Winters (foot). Questionable: G Joe Andruzzi (knee); TE Mark Chmura (knee); TE Tyrone Davis (hamstring); T Earl Dotson (turf toe); TE Jeff Thomason (ankle).

Carolina (1-1) at San Diego (1-1)

Line: Pick

Vs. spread: Panthers 0-1; Chargers 1-1.

Last week: Panthers beat Falcons, 9-6. Chargers beat Saints, 20-6.

Worth watching: Carolina RB Anthony Johnson continues to impress, averaging 5 yards a carry. San Diego is weak offensively (20 points in two games) and needs a solid game at quarterback from Jim Everett or Stan Humphries, who is probable with a shoulder injury.

Outlook: The Panthers haven't built on the momentum of last season's strong finish, but San Diego is a good place to start. Carolina is still going with QB Steve Beuerlein, although regular starter Kerry Collins, recovering from a broken jaw, may be in uniform as the emergency quarterback.

Notable: The Chargers have won four straight home openers.

Injuries:

PANTHERS: Out: LB Lamar Lathon (knee). Questionable: QB Kerry Collins (jaw). Probable: DE Mike Fox (chest); LB Sam Mills (ankle).

CHARGERS: Questionable: WR Tony Martin (hamstring). Probable: S Mike Dumas (chest); RB Carwell Gardner (knee); QB Stan Humphries (shoulder).

Seattle (0-2) at Indianapolis (0-2)

Time: 4 p.m., Ch. 4

Line: Colts by 2 1/2

Vs. spread: Seahawks 0-2; Colts 0-1.

Last week: Seahawks lost to Broncos, 35-14. Colts lost to Patriots, 31-6.

Worth watching: Colts WR Marvin Harrison had a career-high nine receptions in the loss to the Patriots and has caught at least one pass in his 18 career games.

Outlook: This isn't the Seattle team that new owner Paul Allen expected when he shelled out all that money for free agents and high draft picks. The problem is cohesion. RB Chris Warren, one of the league's best the past few years, isn't getting the carries he needs, being alternated with Lamar Smith.

Notable: The Colts have only two completions of 20 yards or longer and nothing longer than 22 yards.

Injuries:

SEAHAWKS: Out: QB John Friesz (thumb); DE Martin Harrison (knee); WR James McKnight (knee). Probable: CB Willie Williams (hamstring).

COLTS: Out: T Derek West (groin). Doubtful: S Derwin Gray (knee). Questionable: C Jason Johnson (hamstring); RB Roosevelt Potts (knee). Probable: WR Sean Dawkins (stomach); DT Ellis Johnson (leg); DT Tony McCoy (shoulder).

Detroit (1-1) at Chicago (0-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bears by 2 1/2

LTC Vs. spread: Lions 1-1; Bears 1-1.

Last week: Lions lost to Bucs, 24-17. Bears lost to Vikings, 27-24.

Worth watching: What's up with Barry Sanders? One of the all-time greats has only 53 yards rushing and isn't getting the ball as much as the Lions need. Can the Bears' Raymont Harris keep it up? He's averaging 9.5 yards a carry.

Outlook: Harris' emergence as the Bears' featured back gives them an edge. But the Bears will have problems if Lions QB Scott Mitchell suddenly turns it around, because WR Herman Moore will get open today.

Notable: The teams have split the series seven of the past eight years.

Injuries:

LIONS: Out: G Chris Harrison (knee). Doubtful: S Ron Rice (ankle). Questionable: RB Terry Battle (knee); DL Shane Bonham (ankle); LB Ben Hanks (knee); S Van Malone (ankle); LB Matt Russell (abdomen); TE Eric Stocz (quadriceps). Probable: DE Robert Porcher (ankle).

BEARS: Out: WR Curtis Conway (collarbone); G Todd Perry (hamstring); C-G Chris Villarrial (fibula). Doubtful: FB Tony Carter (knee). Questionable: WR Fabian Bownes (knee). Probable: DT Chris Zorich (thumb).

Oakland (0-2) at Atlanta (0-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Raiders by 4

Vs. spread: Raiders 0-2; Falcons 0-1.

Last week: Raiders lost to Chiefs, 28-27. Falcons lost to Panthers, 9-6.

Worth watching: Will Raiders QB Jeff George feel the pressure? He returns to Atlanta, where he helped cause the downfall of coach June Jones. His passer rating of 89.4 ranks him eighth in the NFL.

Outlook: The Raiders could be psychologically wounded, coming off a last-second loss to the Chiefs. Atlanta may be the NFL's worst team, but this would be the ideal time for Jamal Anderson to start running like he did last season. Atlanta QB Chris Chandler is coming off a concussion.

Notable: The Raiders are 3-14 in their past 17 games decided by seven points or fewer.

Injuries:

RAIDERS: Questionable: S Lorenzo Lynch (hand); WR Olanda Truitt (hamstring). Probable: LB Rob Fredrickson (shoulder).

FALCONS: Out: G Scott Davis (chest); LB Ruffin Hamilton (hamstring); DE Anthony Pleasant (knee). Questionable: RB Jamal Anderson (ankle); CB Ronnie Bradford (abdomen). Probable: CB Michael Booker (shin); S William White (knee); G Gene Williams (ankle).

New Orleans (0-2) at San Francisco (1-1)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line: 49ers by 11

Vs. spread: Saints 0-2; 49ers 1-1.

Last week: Saints lost to Chargers, 20-6. 49ers beat Rams, 15-12.

Worth watching: Can Saints rookie RB Troy Davis get it going? He has rushed for only 64 yards and lost three fumbles in his first two games. Garrison Hearst (5.2 yards per carry) has given the 49ers a running game.

Outlook: QB Steve Young, recovering from his latest concussion, has received clearance to play. The 49ers' offense is struggling, having gained just 419 yards two games, so San Francisco will lean on its defense, which got Jim Druckenmiller through his NFL debut last week by setting up both touchdowns.

Notable: The 49ers are 23-10-1 in games started by backup quarterbacks since 1985.

Injuries:

SAINTS: Out: TE Irv Smith (knee). Probable: LB Mark Fields (ankle); C-G Andy McCollum (ankle); RB Ray Zellars (knee).

49ERS: Out: T Harris Barton (knee); CB Marquez Pope (foot); WR Jerry Rice (knee). Questionable: QB Jeff Brohm (finger); LB Kevin Greene (toe). Probable: LB Gary Plummer (hip); TE Brent Jones (groin).

N.Y. Jets (1-1) at New England (2-0)

Time: 8 p.m., TNT

Line: Patriots by 10

Vs. spread: Jets 1-1; Patriots 2-0.

Last week: Jets lost to Bills, 28-22. Patriots beat Colts, 31-6.

Worth watching: New England LB Chris Slade, an emerging star, is eager to show ex-Patriots coach Bill Parcells that he should have played every down. Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe is the NFL's top passer, throwing eight TD passes in the first two weeks.

Outlook: It's too bad for Parcells that he did such a good job rebuilding the Patriots. He didn't get along with owner Bob Kraft, so he bolted. But he left one of the NFL's most talented young teams behind. Parcells' Jets are young, too, and they'll play hard for him, but they're no match for New England's defending AFC champions.

Notable: Jets QB Neil O'Donnell is 2-0 against the Patriots with four TDs and one interception.

Injuries:

JETS: Questionable: DE Hugh Douglas (groin).

PATRIOTS: Questionable: LB Todd Collins (hamstring); WR Terry Glenn (ankle); CB Steve Israel (knee); LB Willie McGinest (hamstring); RB David Meggett (hamstring); C Dave Wohlabaugh (ankle).

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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