AFC notebook



Olindo Mare, a 5-foot-10 kicker from Syracuse, is the Dolphins' most valuable player through five games. Mare has made 19 of 20 field-goal tries this season, including the past 14 in a row. He needs to make the next three to break Garo Yepremian's club record of 16, set in 1978. He also has kicked at least four field goals in four straight games, an NFL record, and leads the league in scoring. He kicked six field goals in a 31-30 win over the Patriots last week, and through three seasons with the Dolphins has converted 69-of-83 tries. Here's why Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson likes QB Damon Huard as Dan Marino's eventual successor: "We can have a lot more boots and movement passes. A lot more things enter into it. And if they have it covered and the protection breaks down, Huard can scramble. Doug Flutie's made a living on this thing. Now Damon's not Flutie -- because he throws a lot better than Flutie." Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe leads the league in fourth-quarter passing yards (531) and third-down passing yards (558). Colts rookie RB Edgerrin James needs one more 100-yard rushing game to tie Marshall Faulk's club rookie record of four in 1994. With a career coaching record of 99-93, the Colts' Jim Mora is looking for No. 100 today against the Bengals. When the Jets placed CB Kevin Williams on reserve/non-football injury with an undetermined illness last week, he became the fifth player on the team lost for the season, joining QB Vinny Testaverde, RB Leon Johnson, CB Otis Smith and LB Chad Cascadden.


Off to their best start since 1991 -- when they were 7-1 as the Houston Oilers -- the 5-1 Titans have become a comeback team in Nashville. They trailed the Bengals by nine, the Jaguars and Saints by 10, the Ravens by 2, and won them all. Titans coach Jeff Fisher plans to reinstate QB Steve McNair as the starter for their Oct. 31 game against the Rams, providing he receives medical clearance and can get in enough practice time. The Titans, who have a bye today, are 4-1 under backup Neil O'Donnell, who has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,209 yards, 8 TDs and 4 interceptions. McNair threw for a career-high 341 yards in the season-opener, then needed disk surgery. The switch will be an adjustment for the Titans because the mobile McNair is a running QB, while O'Donnell hangs in the pocket. Steelers WR Troy Edwards leads all rookies with 25 catches, and is second in receiving yards with 285. The Steelers take an eight-game, 28-year winning streak over the Falcons into tomorrow's game. The Steelers haven't lost to the Falcons since Dec. 13, 1970. LB Takeo Spikes on the Bengals' 1-5 start: "The talent's here to win. We're just not doing anything with it." In the past two weeks, Bengals RB Corey Dillon has rushed for 246 yards on a 5.6 average carry to lead the league with 509 yards. The Browns have committed the fewest penalties (27) in the AFC; the Titans lead the league with 530 penalty yards. With the addition of RB Karim Abdul-Jabbar, the Browns say they may use starting RB Terry Kirby as a slot receiver, H-back or wide-out. They also say he could team up with Abdul-Jabbar in the backfield.


The Chargers' No. 1-ranked run defense has allowed an NFL-low nine red-zone penetrations, and given up just four red-zone touchdowns. The Chargers' offense, meanwhile, has scored just one touchdown in each of the past two games. QB Erik Kramer, making his third straight start for the Chargers, was 2-6 against the Packers while with the Bears. . . . The Broncos, who visit New England today, haven't lost to the Patriots since 1980, a streak that spans 11 games. The Broncos are 15-5 in October since 1994, and in their past four games, have given up an average of just 11 points a game. Raiders QB Rich Gannon is second in the AFC with 480 third-down passing yards. For the first time in their 40-year history, the Broncos had two 100-yard receivers (Ed McCaffrey, 116; Byron Chamberlain, 123) and a 100-yard rusher (Olandis Gary, 124) in the same game. Chargers coach Mike Riley said he'd consider sending QB Ryan Leaf, the second pick in the 1998 draft, to NFL Europe next season to get some playing time. That doesn't mean Leaf would go, however.

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