NFL WEEK 5 : TODAY'S GAMES

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Atlanta (0-4) at New Orleans (1-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Saints by 4.

Vs. spread: Falcons 1-3; Saints 2-1.

Last week: Falcons lost to Ravens, 19-13, in OT. Saints lost to Bears, 14-10.

Series: Falcons lead 35-24.

Last meeting: Falcons won, 27-17, on Dec. 13, 1998, at New Orleans.

Outlook: Falcons coach Dan Reeves and Saints coach Mike Ditka are close friends, so they will likely commiserate about what has been an awful season, especially for the Falcons. Reeves is paying for what was a terrible mistake this off-season in not getting a qualified backup quarterback for the injury-prone Chris Chandler, who won't start again this week because of a hamstring injury. Tony Graziani will start, but he's coming off a concussion suffered against the Ravens.

Notable: Saints K Doug Brien has made 34 consecutive field-goal attempts of less than 40 yards.

Injuries:

FALCONS: Out: DT Ed Jasper (knee). Doubtful: QB Chris Chandler (hamstring). Probable: DE Lester Archambeau (shoulder); WR Tim Dwight (hamstring); LB Ruffin Hamilton (hamstring); RB Byron Hanspard (shoulder); LB Jessie Tuggle (quadriceps); G Gene Williams (virus).

SAINTS: Questionable: QB Billy Joe Hobert (neck); DE Troy Wilson (shoulder). Probable: RB Ricky Williams (elbow).

Dallas (3-0) at Philadelphia (0-4)

Time: 1 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: Cowboys by 10.

Vs. spread: Cowboys 3-0; Eagles 2-2.

Last week: Cowboys beat Cardinals, 35-7. Eagles lost to Giants, 16-15.

Series: Cowboys lead 47-29.

Last meeting: Cowboys won, 13-9, on Dec. 20, 1998, at Dallas.

Outlook: The Cowboys are off to their best start since going 4-0 in 1995, the season they went to Super Bowl XXX. They're sure to match that today, because Philadelphia won't put up much of a fight. The Eagles have a terrible offense -- they've gone 15 quarters without an offensive touchdown. Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith gains 109.3 yards a game against the Eagles, his highest average against any NFC East team. In this game, Smith is good for at least 120 yards.

Notable: Eagles' defense leads the NFL with nine interceptions, matching the team's 1998 total.

Injuries:

COWBOYS: Out: G Tony Hutson (knee-IR). Doubtful: CB Kevin Mathis (knee). Questionable: G Everett McIver (hamstring); CB Kevin Smith (back); S Darren Woodson (ankle). Probable: LB Randall Godfrey (knee); T Erik Williams (quadriceps).

EAGLES: Doubtful: T Jermane Mayberry (hamstring); RB Kevin Turner (neck). Questionable: LB James Darling (hand). Probable: TE Luther Broughton (hamstring); QB Koy Detmer (back); WR Dameane Douglas (quadriceps); DE Hugh Douglas (knee); DT Bill Johnson (ankle); WR Torrance Small (ankle); CB Troy Vincent (quadriceps).

San Diego (2-1) at Detriot (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Lions by 3 1/2.

Vs. spread: Chargers 2-1; Lions 2-1.

Last week: Chargers beat Chiefs, 21-14. Lions had a bye.

Series: Tied 3-3.

Last meeting: Chargers won, 27-21, on Nov. 11, 1996, at San Diego.

Outlook: The home team in this series has won all six meetings. If that isn't indication enough of a Lions win, coach Bobby Ross, who coached the Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX, and then was fired, is extra motivated to beat his old team. Plus, Detroit second-year QB Charlie Batch may have arrived; he's thrown for seven TDs in the first three games. San Diego won't make it easy since the Chargers rarely beat themselves. They have only three turnovers, tied for the fewest in the league.

Notable: Chargers have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in an NFL-best 22 consecutive games.

Injuries:

CHARGERS: Out: CB Charles Dimry (knee); WR Charlie Jones (hip); QB Ryan Leaf (shoulder). Doubtful: T John Jackson (back); WR Mikhael Ricks (neck); CB Terrance Shaw (ankle). Questionable: LB Michael Hamilton (hamstring). Probable: DE Al Fontenot (ribs); WR Jeff Graham (concussion); QB Jim Harbaugh (ribs-concussion); LB Eric Hill (elbow); RB Natrone Means (ankle); LB Junior Seau (hamstring).

LIONS: Out: DE Jared DeVries (foot); G Tony Semple (elbow); S Ryan Stewart (elbow). Questionable: WR Herman Moore (knee); DE Robert Porcher (ankle); CB Bryan Westbrook (hamstring).

Denver (0-4) at Oakland (2-2)

Time: 4: 15 p.m.

Line: Raiders by 7.

Vs. spread: Broncos 0-3; Raiders 3-1.

Last week: Broncos lost to Jets, 21-13. Raiders lost to Seahawks, 22-21.

Series: Raiders lead 49-26-2.

Last meeting: Broncos won, 40-14, on Nov. 22, 1998, at Denver.

Outlook: QB Bubby Brister finally gets the start over Brian Griese for the Broncos. Coach Mike Shanahan benched Brister in the preseason because he believed he was better coming off the bench. Now Shanahan gets to see if his theory was correct. But there is nothing Shanahan can do to overcome the loss of RB Terrell Davis to a season-ending knee injury. Meanwhile, Raiders RB Tyrone Wheatley is having the best season of his professional career. Denver won't be able to stop him and will drop to an unbelievable 0-5.

Notable: Broncos minus-7 turnover differential is worst in the AFC.

Injuries:

BRONCOS: Out: RB Terrell Davis (knee-IR); C K.C. Jones (knee). Questionable: S George Coghill (knee); RB Derek Loville (hamstring). Probable: LB Glenn Cadrez (shoulder); CB Dale Carter (eye); QB Brian Griese (finger); T Tony Jones (wrist); QB Chris Miller (elbow); G Dan Neil (elbow-wrist); DT Trevor Pryce (toe); G Mark Schlereth (back); WR Rod Smith (groin); DE Neil Smith (thigh); LB Nate Wayne (knee-hand); DE Alfred Williams (back).

RAIDERS: Questionable: QB Scott Dreisbach (leg); DE Lance Johnstone (shoulder); DT Darrell Russell (ankle).

Chicago (2-2) at Minnesota (2-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Vikings by 12 1/2.

Vs. spread: Bears 4-0; Vikings 0-3.

Last week: Bears beat Saints, 14-10. Vikings beat Bucs, 21-14.

Series: Vikings lead 41-32-2.

Last meeting: Vikings won, 48-22, on Dec. 6, 1998, at Minnesota.

Outlook: It's hard to tell which way the Vikings are headed. They had a nice 21-point, first-half spree last week against Tampa Bay, then were held scoreless for the rest of the game. So is the glass half full or half empty? Are the Vikings back on track or still having problems with their offense? Let's be optimistic and say Minnesota is due for a 30-point breakout against the Bears' porous defense. The Bears have shown some life on offense and have a weapon in WR Curtis Conway, but they'll need some big special teams plays and a more consistent running game than they've shown to pull off the upset.

Notable: Bears have limited WR Cris Carter to five TDs in 19 games, fewest of NFC Central teams.

Injuries:

BEARS: Probable: RB Ty Hallock (hamstring); TE Alonzo Mayes (shoulder).

VIKINGS: Out: DE Martin Harrison (knee). Questionable: DT Jerry Ball (hamstring); RB David Palmer (ribs); LB Kailee Wong (hamstring). Probable: WR Cris Carter (hip); CB Jimmy Hitchcock (knee); WR Robert Tate (quadriceps); WR Chris Walsh (ribs).

New England (4-0) at Kansas City (2-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 2 1/2.

Vs. spread: Patriots 1-2; Chiefs 2-2.

Last week: Patriots beat Browns, 19-7. Chiefs lost to Chargers, 21-14.

Series: Chiefs lead 14-8-3.

Last meeting: Patriots won, 40-10, on Dec. 11, 1998, at New England.

Outlook: The NFL keeps waiting for the Patriots to crash. It won't happen. This team is for real, mainly because QB Drew Bledsoe is playing great. He has a 93.6 rating and has thrown 120 passes without an interception. The Chiefs have recovered well from an opening loss to the Bears, but they'll be hard-pressed to keep the Patriots from going 5-0 for the first time since 1974. The game also matches two of the NFL's top receivers: Patriots' Terry Glenn leads the NFL with 32 catches, and the Chiefs' Derrick Alexander has 16 catches for a 22.1-yard average.

Notable: Patriots are 17-5, including 2-0 this season, when Bledsoe passes for at least 300 yards.

Injuries:

PATRIOTS: Out: LB Ted Johnson (biceps). Doubtful: RB Harold Shaw (quadriceps). Questionable: RB Kevin Faulk (ankle); CB Tebucky Jones (hamstring).

CHIEFS: Out: G-T Glenn Parker (elbow). Questionable: RB Bam Morris (hamstring); DT Ty Parten (shoulder);S Jerome Woods (thigh). Probable: C Tim Grunhard (hamstring); DT Chester McGlockton (shoulder); G Dave Szott (knee); WR Tamarick Vanover (foot); CB Eric Warfield (ankle).

NFL rankings:

San Francisco (3-1) at St. Louis (3-0)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Rams by 3 1/2.

Vs. spread: 49ers 2-2; Rams 3-0.

Last week: 49ers beat Titans, 24-22. Rams beat Bengals, 38-10.

Series: Tied 48-48-2.

Last meeting: 49ers won, 38-19, on Dec. 27, 1998, at San Francisco.

Outlook: Incredible as it may seem, the Rams are in first place in the NFC West. But for St. Louis, this is the first big test. The 49ers have always dominated the Rams, winning 17 of the past 18 meetings, including 12 straight on the road. The last time San Francisco lost to the Rams on the road was 1986. That is a daunting history to overcome, even against a backup QB like Jeff Garcia. Maybe St. Louis QB Kurt Warner can pull off another surprise. The former Arena Football player leads the NFL with nine TD passes and a 125.0 passer rating.

Notable: Rams have scored 35 points or more in consecutive games for the first time since 1987.

Injuries: 49ERS: Out: DT Reggie McGrew (arm-IR); LB Anthony Peterson (groin). Questionable: C Chris Dalman (knee); RB Travis Jervey (ankle); CB Darnell Walker (hamstring); QB Steve Young (concussion). Probable: DE Charles Haley (back); T Tyrone Hopson (shoulder).

RAMS: Questionable: WR Torry Holt (ankle); RB Amp Lee (knee). Probable: DT D'Marco Farr (knee); T Fred Miller (knee).

Miami (2-1) at Indianapolis (2-1)

Time: 4: 15 p.m., Ch. 9.

Line: Dolphins by 1.

Vs. spread: Dolphins 1-2; Colts 3-0.

Last week: Dolphins lost to Bills, 23-18. Colts had a bye.

Series: Dolphins lead 39-19.

Last meeting: Dolphins won, 27-14, on Nov. 8, 1998, at Miami.

Outlook: Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson took some serious shots at his offense and QB Dan Marino after their average performance against Buffalo on Monday night. How the Dolphins respond will be interesting to watch. More importantly, OT Richmond Webb is doubtful with a bruised knee, and that could affect the immobile Marino's performance. The Colts could soar behind their trio of exciting skill-position players: WR Peyton Manning, RB Edgerrin James and WR Marvin Harrison.

Notable: Marino has 21 career wins and plus-33 TD-to-interception differential vs. the Colts, his best against any team.

Injuries:

DOLPHINS: Out: G Mark Dixon (groin); LB Anthony Harris (groin). Doubtful: T Richmond Webb (knee). Questionable: WR Yatil Green (hamstring); DE Kenny Mixon (ankle). Probable: T James Brown (thumb); LB Robert Jones (shoulder); CB Patrick Surtain (wrist).

COLTS: Out: CB Chad Cota (ankle). Questionable: WR Lake Dawson (ankle); WR E.G. Green (knee); LB Scott Greene (hamstring); RB Darick Holmes (ankle). Probable: LB Jeff Brady (knee-ankle); T Adam Meadows (knee).

Cincinnati (0-4) at Cleveland (0-4)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bengals by 3.

Vs. spread: Bengals 1-3; Browns 1-2.

Last week: Bengals lost to Rams, 38-10. Browns lost to Patriots, 19-7.

Series: Browns lead 27-24.

Last meeting: Browns won, 26-10, on Dec. 17, 1995, at Cleveland.

Outlook: Someone please put Bengals coach Bruce Coslet out of his misery. It is only a matter of time before he is fired. If his team loses to the expansion Browns, that day will come sooner rather than later. Coslet made the smart move to start rookie QB Akili Smith, who is still angry at the Browns for misleading him during draft-day contract talks. So Smith will want to prove the Browns made a mistake in drafting Tim Couch over him. Cleveland has won five straight home games against the Bengals, but that was the old Browns. Even Coslet can't mess this game up.

Notable: Browns WR Kevin Johnson leads all rookies with 224 receiving yards and three TD catches.

Injuries:

BENGALS: Out: CB Rico Clark (ankle). Questionable: RB Nick Williams (ankle). Probable: S Myron Bell (toe); QB Jeff Blake (ankle); DE John Copeland (knee); WR James Hundon (back).

BROWNS: Out: DE Hurvin McCormack (knee); G Steve Zahursky (knee). Questionable: TE Irv Smith (knee). Probable: QB Tim Couch (thumb); CB Antonio Langham (thumb); WR Leslie Shepherd (hamstring).

NFL rankings:

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Buffalo (3-1)

Time: 1 p.m., chs. 13, 9.

Line: Bills by 6.

Vs. spread: Steelers 1-2; Bills 3-1.

Last week: Steelers lost to Jaguars, 17-3. Bills beat Dolphins, 23-18.

Series: Bills lead 8-7.

Last meeting: Steelers won, 24-6, on Sept. 16, 1996, at Pittsburgh.

Outlook: The Bills might be a tired group following their emotional Monday night victory at Miami, which was one of the team's most important triumphs in years. But the Bills will be ready. In the 1990s, they are 13-5 after games on Monday night. And QB Doug Flutie continues to be impressive as a starter for the Bills, going 10-4. Pittsburgh again has offensive woes -- QB Kordell Stewart has a dismal 57.6 rating -- and won't be able to keep up with Flutie and the Bills.

Notable: Except for a 43-0 opening win vs. the Browns, the Steelers have scored just two offensive TDs in seven games dating to last year.

Injuries:

STEELERS: Out: DE Nolan Harrison (pectoral); LB Mike Vrabel (arm). Questionable: S Travis Davis (knee); G Alan Faneca (ankle). Probable: WR Will Blackwell (hamstring); T Chris Conrad (knee); S Lee Flowers (ankle); TE Bobby Shaw (hip); DT Joel Steed (concussion); WR Hines Ward (hamstring).

BILLS: Out: G Joe Panos (neck); RB Thurman Thomas (liver contusion). Questionable: G Ruben Brown (hamstring); QB Rob Johnson (head); TE Jay Riemersma (groin); DT Ted Washington (chest). Probable: CB Antoine Winfield (leg).

N.Y. Giants (2-2) at Arizona (1-3)

Time: 4: 05 p.m.

Line: Cardinals by 3.

Vs. spread: Giants 2-2; Cardinals 1-3.

Last week: Giants beat Eagles, 16-15. Cardinals lost to Cowboys, 35-7.

Series: Giants lead 73-37-2.

Last meeting: Giants won, 23-19, on Dec. 6, 1998, at Arizona.

Outlook: Both teams have good defenses. The Giants are ranked third in the conference, and the Cardinals are fourth. But both offenses have struggled. For the Giants, don't expect QB Kerry Collins, subbing for the injured (and ineffective) Kent Graham, to be a savior. The true savior, in addition to DE Michael Strahan and LB Jessie Armstead, may be WR Amani Toomer. He is blossoming into a quality player, and the Giants plan to get Toomer even more involved in the offense.

Notable: Cardinals' Jake Plummer's 31.8 quarterback rating is lowest in the NFC.

Injuries:

GIANTS: Doubtful: RB Sean Bennett (knee); QB Kent Graham (concussion). Questionable: CB Conrad Hamilton (knee). Probable: C Brian Williams (thumb).

CARDINALS: Out: TE James Dexter (arm). Doubtful: WR Rob Moore (hamstring); DT Mark Smith (knee). Probable: S Tommy Bennett (knee); CB Corey Chavous (knee); WR Mac Cody (hip); QB Chris Greisen (Achilles); WR Andy McCullough (hamstring); TE Johnny McWilliams (wrist); DT Eric Swann (knee); DE Andre Wadsworth (knee).

Tampa Bay (2-2) at Green Bay (2-1)

Time: 8: 20 p.m., ESPN.

Line: Packers by 6.

Vs. spread: Bucs 1-1; Packers 1-2.

Last week: Bucs lost to Vikings, 21-14. Packers had a bye.

Series: Packers lead 25-14-1.

Last meeting: Bucs won, 24-22, on Dec. 7, 1998, at Tampa Bay.

Outlook: It is in big games like this one where Tampa Bay has a dramatic disadvantage. Two words: Trent Dilfer. Or those two words could be Brett Favre. One is a dud, the other a difference maker. The Bucs do have a tremendous defense, anchored by DT Warren Sapp, who returns after missing last week with an injured hand. Tampa Bay still has not allowed a rushing TD. But as long as Dilfer is the quarterback -- especially when he goes against Favre -- the Bucs will not take that big step forward.

Notable: Favre has a 102.6 fourth-quarter QB rating this season, with three TDs and no interceptions.

Injuries:

BUCS: Out: LB Mitch Palmer (knee-IR). Questionable: TE Patrick Hape (concussion); T Jason Odom (back); DE Steve White (ankle); CB Floyd Young (hamstring). Probable: LB Don Davis (hamstring); WR Bert Emanuel (hamstring); WR Jacquez Green (foot); WR Darnell McDonald (leg); DT Anthony McFarland (ankle); DT Warren Sapp (hand); QB Eric Zeier (knee).

PACKERS: Questionable: DT Santana Dotson (neck). Probable: T Earl Dotson (back); QB Brett Favre (thumb).

Pub Date: 10/10/99

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