NFL Week 1: Today's games

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Arizona at Philadelphia

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Cardinals by 3.

Vs. spread (1998): Cardinals 6-11; Eagles 7-7.

Series: Cardinals lead, 49-48-5.

Last meeting: Cardinals won, 20-17, in OT on Dec. 13, 1998, in Philadelphia.

Outlook: QB Jake Plummer ripped the Cardinals' front office last week over how it was handling the holdout of star WR Rob Moore. Several days later, Moore was in camp. That is the growing influence of Plummer inside the organization, and it will soon be felt across the league. Plummer will play with a sore thumb and WR Frank Sanders has an injured ankle, but Arizona has more than enough firepower to beat one of the league's worst teams. Eagles QB Doug Pederson will make his first career start, and Andy Reid will make his NFL coaching debut.

Notable: Cardinals have lost seven consecutive opening games, the longest current streak of its kind in the NFL. RB Duce Staley led the Eagles in rushing yards (1,065) and receptions (57) last year.

Injuries:

CARDINALS: Out: DT Eric Swann (knee). Questionable: QB Jake Plummer (thumb); WR Frank Sanders (ankle). Probable: T Jon Clark (neck).

EAGLES: Questionable: QB Koy Detmer (back); DT Bill Johnson (ankle); CB Bobby Taylor (ankle). Probable: S Brian Dawkins (back); WR Brian Finneran (concussion); T John Welbourn (knee).

Cincinnati at Tennessee Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Titans by 9 1/2.

Vs. spread (1998): Bengals 4-11; Titans 8-8.

Series: Titans lead, 31-28-1.

Last meeting: Titans (then Oilers) won, 44-14, on Oct. 18, 1998, in Tennessee.

Outlook: In six career starts against Tennessee, Bengals QB Jeff Blake has an 11-to-1 TD-to-interception ratio and a 93.9 passer rating, but the teams have split the games. The reason: Titans RB Eddie George, who has rushed for 538 yards in that span and faces a Cincinnati defense that gave up 360.2 yards a game and did nothing in the off-season to improve. This is the Titans' first game at Adelphia Coliseum, which should provide some home-field edge after playing in three different stadiums the past three years.

Notable: Bengals have the NFL's second-worst record this decade at 48-96. Titans QB Steve McNair has no interceptions in five games vs. the Bengals.

Injuries:

BENGALS: Out: T Mike Doughty (foot). Questionable: RB Nick Williams (ankle). Probable: CB Artrell Hawkins (ankle); WR James Hundon (toe); DT Kimo von Oelhoffen (foot).

TITANS: Questionable: WR Isaac Byrd (groin); S Anthony Dorsett hamstring); TE Jackie Harris (rib); DE Kenny Holmes (knee); CB Steve Jackson (hamstring); G Jason Layman (finger); LB Jason Mathews (back); DT Joe Salave'a (concussion); LB Dennis Stallings (calf).

Oakland at Green Bay Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Packers by 8 1/2.

Vs. spread (1998): Raiders 7-9; Packers 6-8.

Series: Raiders lead, 5-2.

Last meeting: Packers won, 28-0, on Dec. 26, 1993, in Green Bay.

Outlook: After its run of three straight NFC Central titles was ended last year by the Vikings, Green Bay is counting on new coach Ray Rhodes to stir up a team that was distracted by Mike Holmgren's imminent departure. Having Brett Favre as your quarterback and playing at Lambeau Field will help, too. Favre is still the top passer in the game, and the Packers have won 30 of their past 31 home games. The Raiders' offense is still in the building stages, with new QB Rich Gannon trying to learn the system.

Notable: Raiders have the NFL's toughest schedule (opponents' 1998 winning percentage is .570). Packers' Antonio Freeman (Poly) has 26 TD catches over the past two seasons, the most by an NFL wide receiver in that span.

Injuries:

RAIDERS: Out: QB Scott Dreisbach (leg); T Matt Stinchcomb (shoulder). Doubtful: RB Zack Crockett (foot). Probable: QB Wade Wilson (finger).

PACKERS: Probable: G Joe Andruzzi (knee); WR Corey Bradford (shoulder); TE Mark Chmura (neck); CB Tod McBride (hamstring); WR Bill Schroeder (shin).

N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Buccaneers by 6.

Vs. spread (1998): Giants 8-8; Buccaneers 8-8.

Series: Giants lead, 8-5.

Last meeting: Buccaneers won, 20-3, on Oct. 4, 1998, in Tampa Bay.

Outlook: Two of the NFL's fastest, most well-coached defenses face off. The Giants always have a difficult time with Tampa Bay, losing two straight games. This occasion could be different. DE Michael Strahan leads the NFL with 29 sacks over the past two seasons and is determined to push the Giants deep into the postseason. He is good enough to carry the team on his back alone. Also, QB Kent Graham, because of what he perceives as a front-office snub with the signing of Kerry Collins, is out to prove he can be a top player in the league.

Notable: Buccaneers (558) and Giants (574) rank Nos. 1 and 2 in fewest points allowed in the NFC over the past two years. Giants had only six pass plays of 40 yards or more last season, but had eight in four preseason games this year.

Injuries:

GIANTS: Questionable: CB Conrad Hamilton (ankle); RB Joe Montgomery (hamstring); CB Jason Sehorn (hamstring). Probable: DT Robert Harris (ankle); C Brian Williams (knee).

BUCS: Probable: S John Lynch (neck); LB Shelton Quarles (ankle).

Buffalo at Indianapolis

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bills by 2 1/2.

Vs. spread (1998): Bills 10-5; Colts 7-9.

Series: Bills lead, 33-23-1.

Last meeting: Bills won, 34-11, on Nov. 22, 1998, in Buffalo.

Outlook: Coach Wade Phillips has used some interesting language in describing his quarterback situation. He calls Doug Flutie the starter but says backup Rob Johnson is a close second. Why Flutie just isn't the man is a mystery. It is as if the 5-foot-9 Flutie still suffers from vertical discrimination. Then there is Colts QB Peyton Manning, who should have a breakout season. The problem for Manning is that Buffalo has a far better defense. Either way, this could be a great game because the past nine meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer. Speaking of close games, the Colts played 10 last year that were decided by eight points or fewer, but were just 2-8 in those games.

Notable: Bills RB Antowain Smith has 408 rushing yards and seven TDs in his past four games against the Colts. Colts' offensive line allowed an AFC-low 22 sacks last season.

Injuries:

BILLS: Doubtful: G Joe Panos (neck). Probable: LB Dan Brandenburg (ankle).

COLTS: Out: Jeff Brady (ankle-knee); RB Darik Holmes (ankle); CB Paul Miranda (ankle).

Kansas City at Chicago Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 3.

Vs. spread (1998): Chiefs 7-9; Bears 10-6.

Series: Bears lead, 4-3.

Last meeting: Chiefs won, 14-10, on Nov. 17, 1996, in Kansas City.

Outlook: History says to bet on the Chiefs today. Their opening-day record in the 1990s is 8-1, tied with Miami for tops in the league. They're also an NFL-best 28-10 (.737) in September this decade. They started out well last year (4-1), but endured a six-game skid and suffered their first losing season since 1988. As a result, Marty Schottenheimer resigned as coach and was replaced by Gunther Cunningham, who spent five seasons as defensive coordinator. The Bears are going with Shane Matthews at quarterback, but new coach Dick Jauron has promised rookie Cade McNown will play a few series a week.

Notable: Chiefs WR Andre Rison has 23 catches, 300 yards and four TDs in three career games at Soldier Field. Bears have won 12 of their past 15 home openers.

Injuries:

CHIEFS: Questionable: TE Tony Gonzalez (knee); DT Chester McGlockton (hamstring); DE Dan Williams (thigh). Probable: LB Ron George (shoulder).

BEARS: Doubtful: K Jeff Jaeger (hip). Questionable: RB James Allen (hamstring). Probable: WR Macey Brooks (quadriceps); S Chris Hudson (hip).

Detroit at Seattle Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Seahawks by 9 1/2.

Vs. spread (1998): Lions 5-10; Seahawks 8-6.

Series: Seahawks lead, 4-3.

Last meeting: Lions won, 17-16, on Nov. 17, 1996, in Detroit.

Outlook: No Barry Sanders means few victories for Detroit. Ron Rivers just isn't quite the same player. The Lions plan to open up their passing game a little more this season out of necessity since Sanders is gone. And why not? Little else will work. The advantage clearly belongs to Seattle because the Seahawks will be able to pound the ball with RB Ricky Watters. This marks Mike Holmgren's first game as Seattle's coach, as he tries to bring success to a franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 1990.

Notable: Lions QB Charlie Batch ended 1988 by throwing 136 completions without an interception, tying Bernie Kosar's 1985 NFL rookie record. Watters' teams are 23-2 when he rushes for 100 yards or more.

Injuries:

LIONS: Out: C Mike Compton (knee); DE Jared DeVries (foot). Doubtful: T Tony Ramirez (ankle).

SEAHAWKS: Out: LB DeShone Myles (knee); WR Mike Pritchard (knee); S Brian Walker (knee). Questionable: RB Dustin Johnson (concussion); DE Lamar King (knee); TE Itula Mili (knee); LB Anthony Simmons (toe); CB Fred Thomas (quadriceps).

San Francisco at Jacksonville Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Jaguars by 5 1/2.

Vs. spread (1998): 49ers 7-10; Jaguars 9-8.

Series: First meeting.

Outlook: When San Francisco released S Merton Hanks last week, the significance of the move was missed by many. The 49ers are old and their stars, like Hanks, are losing their potency. Meanwhile, all around them, teams are getting younger. With DT Bryant Young still recovering from his broken leg, San Francisco has no one to stop the Jaguars' young stud, second-year RB Fred Taylor, who tied Vikings WR Randy Moss last year with a rookie-high 17 touchdowns. The Jaguars -- who've won 21 of their past 24 at home -- were picked by many to reach the Super Bowl this season. They can make a statement today with a big win.

Notable: 49ers' Steve Young is the NFL's career leader with a 97.6 QB rating and is most accurate passer in league history (64.5 percent). Jaguars K Mike Hollis is the NFL's all-time field-goal percentage leader at 81.6 (102-for-125).

Injuries: 49ERS: Out: TE Greg Clark (ribs). Questionable: RB Travis Jervey (ankle); DT Reggie McGrew (knee); G Phil Ostrowski (foot). Probable: C Chris Dalman (knee); T Dave Fiore (knee).

JAGUARS: Questionable: LB Bryce Paup (pectoral); LB Bryan Schwartz (hamstring). Probable: LB Brant Boyer (knee); RB Chris Howard (shoulder); CB Dave Thomas (quadriceps).

Carolina at New Orleans Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Saints by 3 1/2.

Vs. spread (1998): Panthers 7-7; Saints 10-6.

Series: Panthers lead, 5-3.

Last meeting: Panthers won, 31-17, on Nov. 1, 1998, in Carolina.

Outlook: New Carolina coach George Seifert has a sparkling 98-30 career NFL record, but he won't see much success this year because the Panthers are rebuilding. The Saints are counting on rookie RB Ricky Williams, but what he sees against Carolina is what he will see each week: seven- and eight-man fronts. QB Billy Joe Hobert starts for the Saints after missing 15 games last season with an Achilles' injury. Hobert scares no one, but he's probably good enough to pass this weak test.

Notable: Panthers' Steve Beuerlein ranked fifth in the NFC in QB rating (88.2) last year and was tied for the league lead with a 63.0 percent completion rate. Saints are 8-24 on opening day, the worst Week 1 record in NFL history.

Injuries:

PANTHERS: Out: LB Hannibal Navies (knee). Doubtful: RB Chris Hetherington (shoulder). Probable: RB Anthony Johnson (toe); S Rod Mullen (neck); TE Wesley Walls (knee).

SAINTS: Out: TE Cam Cleeland (Achilles). Doubtful: CB Earl Little (concussion). Questionable: C Tom Ackerman (ankle); S Je'Rod Cherry (ankle); DE Jared Tomich (calf). Probable: QB Billy Joe Hobert (ribs); CB Alex Molden (wrist).

New England at N.Y. Jets Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 9.

Line: Jets by 7 1/2.

Vs. spread (1998): Patriots 7-8; Jets 13-5.

Series: Jets lead, 42-34-1.

Last meeting: Jets won, 31-10, on Dec. 27, 1998, in New York.

Outlook: When it comes to Bill Parcells, coaching against Pete Carroll is no contest. Parcells is 3-1 against him the past two seasons, mainly because Parcells knows the New England personnel as well or better than Carroll does. Throw in the fact that the Jets have won five of their past seven home games against New England, and the Jets should win with ease. But it will be close, since Parcells' teams usually play average football the first few games, then take off. With their running game suspect, the Patriots will lean heavily on QB Drew Bledsoe. He has seven 300-yard passing games vs. AFC East foes, but none against the Jets.

Notable: Bledsoe has connected with TE Ben Coates for 43 TDs, the second-best total among active duos. In two seasons under Parcells, the Jets have allowed 553 points, fewest in the league during that span.

Injuries:

PATRIOTS: Questionable: S Tony George (knee).

JETS: Out: WR Wayne Chrebet (foot); CB Otis Smith (shoulder). Probable: DT Ernie Logan (calf).

Minnesota at Atlanta Time: 4: 15 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: Vikings by 4.

Vs. spread (1998): Vikings 12-5; Falcons 12-6.

Series: Vikings lead, 12-6.

Last meeting: Falcons won, 30-27, in OT on Jan. 17, 1998, in Minnesota in NFC championship game.

Outlook: The Falcons are at it already, saying they are getting no respect despite making the Super Bowl. The Vikings are favored in one of the most intriguing opening-day matchups in years. But they should be. Atlanta will see that life without star WR Tony Martin, whose speed softened defenses, will be much more difficult. And Vikings WR Randy Moss will do more than run deep routes. He is now a complete receiver. Minnesota's defense will be much better than expected.

Notable: Vikings K Gary Anderson needs 158 points to pass George Blanda to become the NFL's career scoring leader (2,002). Falcons (plus-20) and Vikings (plus-14) led NFL in turnover differential.

Injuries:

VIKINGS: Out: WR Matthew Hatchette (ankle). Questionable: CB Antonio Banks (quadriceps). Probable: DE John Burrough (ankle); RB John Henry Mills (quadriceps); WR Jake Reed (hamstring); RB Moe Williams (hamstring).

FALCONS: Out: CB Michael Booker (quadriceps); DT Ben Huff (foot). Probable: CB Ray Buchanan (knee); WR Chris Calloway (neck); S Marty Carter (quadriceps); T Ephraim Salaam (knee).

Pittsburgh at Cleveland Time: 8: 20 p.m., ESPN.

Line: Steelers by 6.

Vs. spread (1998): Steelers 5-10; Browns N/A.

Series: Browns lead, 52-40.

Last meeting: Steelers won, 20-17, against old Browns on Nov. 17, 1995, in Cleveland.

Outlook: The fact that football is back in Cleveland is a good thing. That is the fun part. Reality will hit the city sometime around the second quarter. The Browns will be contenders in time because of Carmen Policy's leadership, but for now this is not a good team. Ty Detmer is the quarterback, rookies will start at wide receiver and cornerback, and Chris Palmer is in his first year as a head coach. The only wild card: Steelers RB Jerome Bettis is questionable with a knee injury.

Notable: Steelers' 141.9-yard rushing average since 1996 is second in the NFL only to Denver's 150.2. Steelers coach Bill Cowher was a player (1980-82) and assistant coach (1985-88) with the old Browns.

Injuries:

STEELERS: Out: LB Mike Vrabel (arm). Doubtful: RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (ankle). Questionable: RB Jerome Bettis (knee). Probable: WR Courtney Hawkins (foot); G Brenden Stai (back).

BROWNS: Questionable: DE Roy Barker (shoulder); G Alex Bernstein (neck). Probable: T Lomas Brown (groin); T Marcus Spriggs (shoulder).

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