NFL WEEK 3

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Atlanta (1-1) at Carolina (1-1)Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Panthers by 6 1/2 .

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

Series: Tied 5-5.

Last meeting: Panthers won, 34-28, on Nov. 11, 1999, at Carolina.

Outlook: The Falcons have allowed 70 points in two games, and it probably won't get any better against the Panthers, who look like the second-best team in the NFC West. Carolina has invested heavily in its defensive line, and if the line can mount a decent rush, the Panthers should get to Atlanta QB Chris Chandler. RB Jamal Anderson has 115 yards on 31 carries for the Falcons, but he's still not close to 100 percent.

Notable: Falcons have averaged 35.3 points in their past three games vs. the Panthers.

Injuries:

FALCONS: Out-LB Chris Draft (hamstring); WR Tim Dwight (appendicitis); WR Jamie German (ankle). Doubtful-DT Ed Jasper (ankle); QB Danny Kanell (finger). Questionable-DT Shane Dronett (arm/knee); LB Mark Simoneau (groin).

PANTHERS: Out-T James Dexter (elbow). Doubtful-LB Hannibal Navies (knee). Questionable-DE Sean Gilbert (groin); WR Muhsin Muhammad (finger); DE Chuck Smith (knee). Probable-TE Kris Mangum (flu); LB Dean Wells (neck); LB Lee Woodall (flu).

Buffalo (2-0) at New York Jets (2-0)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 9.

Line: Jets by 1.

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

Series: Bills lead 44-34.

Last meeting: Jets won, 17-7, on Nov. 21, 1999, at New York.

Outlook: After home wins over the Titans and Packers, this will be the first road test game for the Bills, who have been winning behind an impressive young defense that hasn't missed DE Bruce Smith at all. They're second in the league against the run, led by LB Sam Cowart and linemen Ted Washington and Pat Williams, who combined carry almost 700 pounds. Jets QB Vinny Testaverde has looked rusty after missing all of last year. But he woke up with 10 minutes left against New England on Monday night, passing for two TDs to WR Wayne Chrebet that won the game.

Notable: Bills' Rob Johnson is 6-0 with a 121.3 QB rating (10 TDs, one interception) in his past six starts.

Injuries:

BILLS: Doubtful-G Joe Panos (foot); DE Shawn Price (knee). Questionable-QB Doug Flutie (groin); LB Sam Rogers (shoulder).

JETS: None reported.

Cincinnati (0-1) at Jacksonville (1-1)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 13.

Line: Jaguars by 13.

Vs. spread: Bengals 0-1; Jaguars 1-0.

Series: Jaguars lead 6-4.

Last meeting: Jaguars won, 24-7, on Jan. 2, 2000, at Jacksonville.

Outlook: RB Fred Taylor is out one more week for the Jaguars, and this is as good a week as any, facing the lowly Bengals. It wasn't a good week for the Bengals, who lost their opener in new Paul Brown Stadium to Cleveland; lost LB Brian Simmons, one of their best players, and are going against a team that will be hungry after blowing a 23-7 halftime lead against the Ravens. The Bengals must figure a way to stop WR Jimmy Smith, who has an NFL-high 21 catches and four TDs.

Notable: Jaguars have won 29 of their past 33 at home and 16 of their past 21 division games.

Injuries:

BENGALS: Out-RB Michael Basnight (wrist); LB Brian Simmons (knee). Questionable-TE Tony McGee (foot).

JAGUARS: Out-T Leon Searcy (leg). Doubtful-LB Brant Boyer (groin). Questionable-DT Emarlos Leroy (calf); RB Fred Taylor (knee); K Mike Hollis (back). Probable-C John Wade (foot).

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

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 5.

Line: Packers by 4 1/2 .

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

Series: Packers lead 21-9.

Last meeting: Packers won, 24-16, on Nov. 29, 1998, at Green Bay.

Outlook: The excitement over the Eagles has diminished after their beating by the Giants last week, but they remain a better team than last year. This would be an interesting game for QB Donovan McNabb to break out, because the Green Bay defense has been unimpressive. One good omen for the Packers was the 14 straight completions by sore-elbowed Brett Favre against Buffalo last week.

Notable: Eagles RB Duce Staley is tied for tops in the NFC with 331 yards from scrimmage.

Injuries:

EAGLES: Questionable-WR Na Brown (hand); WR Torrance Small (hamstring). Probable-QB Donovan McNabb (hip); C Bubba Miller (elbow).

PACKERS: Out-WR Corey Bradford (leg); T Earl Dotson (back); CB Mike McKenzie (knee); LB Brian Williams (knee). Doubtful-CB-S Antuan Edwards (knee); DE Billy Lyon (knee); RB Basil Mitchell (knee). Questionable-RB Dorsey Levens (knee). Probable-DT Santana Dotson (knee); QB Brett Favre (elbow); DE John Thierry (knee).

Pittsburgh (0-1) at Cleveland (1-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Steelers by 2 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Steelers 0-1; Browns 1-1.

Series: Browns lead 53-41.

Last meeting: Browns won, 16-15, on Nov. 14, 1999, at Pittsburgh.

Outlook: This rivalry is certainly not what it used to be. The second-year Browns are bad, yet they might be better than the Steelers and Bengals, whom they beat last week, 24-7. Pittsburgh was shut out, 16-0, at home by the Ravens in their opener and then got a week off, presumably to figure out that having two mediocre quarterbacks (Kent Graham and Kordell Stewart) is like having none at all.

Notable: Browns' defense is tied with the Bucs with an NFL-high 11 sacks.

Injuries:

STEELERS: Out-DE Kendrick Clancy (ankle); S Lee Flowers (groin). Questionable-WR Troy Edwards (hamstring); LB Levon Kirkland (ankle). Probable-RB Jerome Bettis (knee); WR Plaxico Burress (back); RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (hamstring); QB Kent Graham (hand); DE Kevin Henry (groin); DE Chris Sullivan (back).

BROWNS: Out-WR JaJuan Dawson (clavicle). Questionable-T Roger Chanoine (neck). Probable-CB Lewis Sanders (finger); G Steve Zahursky (eye).

San Francisco (0-2) at St. Louis (2-0)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 45.

Line: Rams by 17.

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

Series: Rams lead 50-48-2.

Last meeting: Rams won, 23-7, on Nov. 21, 1999, at San Francisco.

Outlook: The Rams beat the 49ers by a combined 65-27 last year. But they still remember 17 straight losses inflicted on them for nearly a decade by the Joe Montana-Steve Young teams. The Rams' problem is defense - 70 points allowed, tied for second worst in the NFL. "I know what the problem is, and I think it's going to be resolved this week," coach Mike Martz said. "We just got a couple of guys on defense trying to do a little more than they need to."

Notable: 49ers WR Jerry Rice has 149 catches for 2,312 yards and 20 TDs in 28 career games vs. the Rams.

Injuries:

49ERS: Out-RB Paul Smith (calf). Questionable-S Zack Bronson (neck); CB Monty Montgomery (leg); LB Ken Norton, Jr. (back). Probable-DE John Engelberger (Achilles); S Lance Schulters (ankle). LB Jeff Ulbrich (shoulder).

RAMS: Out-DT D'Marco Farr (knee). Questionable-S Devin Bush (toe); RB Trung Canidate (foot); LB Leonard Little (ankle); WR Ricky Proehl (hamstring). Probable-CB Dexter McCleon (clavicle).

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

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bucs by 3.

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

Series: Lions lead 25-19

Last meeting: Bucs won, 23-16, on Dec. 12, 1999, at Tampa Bay.

Outlook: The Lions have managed to start 2-0 without an offensive touchdown. The Bucs used to be a similar team, winning games without offense, but their 41-0 blowout of Chicago last Sunday heralded the birth of a two-way powerhouse. What makes this game more crucial for the Lions is that it's the first of five straight division games. Chicago, Minnesota and Green Bay are next, and after a bye, there's a trip to Tampa.

Notable: Bucs are 26-2 under coach Tony Dungy when leading after three quarters.

Injuries:

BUCS: Questionable-S David Gibson (foot). Probable-G Kevin Doggins (foot); QB Joe Hamilton (tonsillitis); CB Dexter Jackson (ankle); S John Lynch (thigh); G Frank Middleton (knee); TE Todd Yoder (hamstring).

LIONS: Doubtful-LB Clint Kriewalt (ankle); G Stockar McDougle (knee); G Tony Semple (ankle). Questionable-LB Stephen Boyd (back). Probable-LB Barrett Green (ankle).

Denver (1-1) at Oakland (2-0)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Line: Raiders by 3.

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

Series: Raiders lead 49-28-2.

Last meeting: Broncos won, 27-21, in OT on Nov. 11, 1999, at Denver.

Outlook: It has taken just two weeks to determine that these are probably the best teams in the AFC West, which looked at the start of the season like it had five potential 8-8 finishers. Two plus factors for the Broncos - Brian Griese's passer rating (120) is the best in the NFL, and they're still pulling late-round running backs out of hats. The latest is Mike Anderson, a 27-year-old ex-Marine who ran for 131 yards last week.

Notable: Raiders are looking to start 3-0 for the first time since 1990.

Injuries:

BRONCOS: Out-T Trey Teague (knee-injured reserve); K Jason Elam (back). Questionable-TE Byron Chamberlain (hamstring); RB Terrell Davis (ankle). Probable-DE Lester Archambeau (thumb); WR Ed McCaffrey (groin); G Dan Neil (foot); CB Deltha O'Neal (thigh); DE Kavika Pittman (neck); LB Al Wilson (shoulder).

RAIDERS: Questionable-LB Eric Barton (hamstring); S Marquez Pope (groin); DT Austin Robbins (ankle). Probable-S Anthony Dorsett (chest).

San Diego (0-2) at Kansas City (0-2)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Line: Chiefs by 5.

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

Series: Chiefs lead 41-36-1.

Last meeting: Chiefs won, 34-0, on Oct. 31, 1999, at Kansas City.

Outlook: The Chiefs lost painfully to good teams - Indianapolis at home and last week in overtime in Tennessee - leaving coach Gunther Cunningham frustrated. QB Ryan Leaf, ineffective in the first two games after a strong preseason, will not start for the Chargers. His replacement will be Moses Moreno, who has one career start as a rookie with Chicago in 1998.

Notable: Chargers' past six games have been decided by six points or fewer.

Injuries:

CHARGERS: Out-S Jason Perry (knee). Questionable-CB Fakhir Brown (shoulder); WR Jeff Graham (hamstring/back); CB DeRon Jenkins (hamstring). Probable-RB Kenny Bynum (shoulder); CB Tony Darden (quadriceps); DE Al Fontenot (calf); C Kendyl Jacox (ankle); CB Darryll Lewis (ribs).

CHIEFS: Out-G Dave Szott (arm); DE Ty Parten (knee). Questionable-RB Donnell Bennett (foot); DE Duane Clemons (hip); TE Jason Dunn (shoulder); RB Dante Hall (back); CB James Hasty (toe); CB Eric Warfield (back). Probable-DT Chester McGlockton (shoulder).

Minnesota (2-0) at New England (0-2)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line: Patriots by 1 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Vikings 1-1; Patriots 1-1.

Series: Patriots lead 4-3.

Last meeting: Vikings won, 23-18, on Nov. 2 1997, at Minnesota.

Outlook: A major test for QB Daunte Culpepper, who's had two good games indoors for the Vikings. Now he's outdoors against a team coached by Bill Belichick, who's sure to come up with defensive alignments that Culpepper has never even dreamed about. The Patriots have to dream about touchdowns. They lost, 20-19, to the Jets on Monday night because they kept settling for field goals in scoring range.

Notable: Vikings are 10-3 in interconference games since 1997, but the Patriots have never lost to Minnesota at Foxboro Stadium.

Injuries:

VIKINGS: Doubtful-DT Tony Williams (groin). Questionable-DE Michael Boireau (knee/hand); G Chris Liwienski (knee); Probable-DE John Burrough (knee); DE Gabe Northern (groin); RB David Palmer (knee).

PATRIOTS: Out-S Larry Whigham (knee). Questionable-G Max Lane (hand); T Greg Robinson-Randall (neck); C Damien Woody (neck).

New Orleans (1-1) at Seattle (0-2)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line: Seahawks by 6.

Vs. spread: Saints 1-1; Seahawks 1-1.

Series: Saints lead 4-2.

Last meeting: Saints won, 20-17, in OT on Nov. 16, 1997, at New Orleans.

Outlook: The Seahawks bounced back from a shutout in Miami with 34 points against the Rams last week. Unfortunately, the Rams scored 37. The Saints' Jim Haslett, whose defense has allowed the fewest yards in the league, is getting what he can out of a team still very short on offense. The 28-27 win in San Diego last week was the Saints' first road win in 15 games.

Notable: Seahawks have won four of their past six interconference matchups in September and have won 12 of their past 18 home games.

Injuries:

SAINTS: Out-S Rob Kelly (fibula). Doubtful-LB Charlie Clemons (calf); CB Fred Thomas (knee). Questionable-LB Darrin Smith (hamstring). Probable-C Jerry Fontenot (eye); RB Ricky Williams (foot).

SEAHAWKS: Questionable-DE John Hilliard (groin); WR Derrick Mayes (ankle). Probable-RB Reggie Brown (neck); TE Christian Fauria (hamstring); G Floyd Wedderburn (elbow).

New York Giants (2-0) at Chicago (0-2)

Time: 4:15 p.m., chs. 45, 5.

Line: Bears by 2 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Giants 1-1; Bears 1-1.

Series: Bears lead 25-16-1.

Last meeting: Bears won, 27-24, on Nov. 26, 1995, at New York.

Outlook: This is a sandwich game for the Giants, who play Washington next week. The Bears were embarrassed in Tampa Bay last week, and this is their home opener. But New York vows not to overlook Chicago. "We know their media is getting all over them and they'll be fired up," says Keith Hamilton, one of the Giants' defensive tackles who helped limit Philadelphia's Duce Staley to 11 yards in seven carries last week after he got 201 the first week.

Notable: Giants' offense is averaging 391 total yards and 195 rushing after two games, compared with 240 and 55.5 after two games in 1999.

Injuries:

GIANTS: Questionable-CB Andre Weathers (knee). Probable-S Sam Garnes (concussion); TE Pete Mitchell (knee); DE Jeremiah Parker (neck).

BEARS: Out-WR Marty Booker (shoulder); LB Rosevelt Colvin (knee); LB Ty Hallock (abdominal); S Shawn Wooden (hamstring). Questionable-LB Barry Minter (back); S Frankie Smith (ankle). Probable-TE John Allred (shoulder).

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