NFL Week 5: Today's Games

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Dallas (1-3) at Carolina (1-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Panthers by 6.

Vs. spread: Cowboys 2-2; Panthers 2-1.

Series: Tied 1-1.

Last meeting: Cowboys won, 27-20, on Oct. 11, 1998, at Dallas.

Outlook: The smart yet cold-hearted thing to do with a Cowboys offense that is melting down would be to bench QB Troy Aikman and start backup Randall Cunningham. Aikman is a champion and future Hall of Famer, and he deserves respect, but the harsh truth is the offense flows better with Cunningham at the helm. Carolina, after a disappointing start, is due for a breakout game.

Notable: With his next 100-yard rushing game, Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith will pass Eric Dickerson (64) for third on career list.

Injuries:

COWBOYS: Out-DE Ebenezer Ekuban (toe). Doubtful-WR Wane McGarity (ankle). Questionable-WR Raghib Ismail (ankle); DT Leon Lett (hamstring); LB Dat Nguyen (knee); C Mark Stepnoski (groin); CB Charlie Williams (knee).

PANTHERS: Out-DT Alvin McKinley (knee); DE Chuck Smith (knee). Questionable-T James Dexter (triceps). Probable-DT Sean Gilbert (groin); WR Karl Hankton (hamstring); LB Hannibal Navies (knee); P Ken Walter (shoulder).

San Diego (0-4) at St. Louis (4-0)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Rams by 17.

Vs. spread: Chargers 1-3; Rams 2-1.

Series: Tied 3-3.

Last meeting: Chargers won, 31-17, on Nov. 27, 1994, at San Diego.

Outlook: The numbers St. Louis is putting up are stunning. The offense has scored 30-plus points 10 straight games. The Rams have scored 160 points and are on pace for 640, which would shatter the league record set by Minnesota in 1998 by 84 points. With all due respect to the Chargers and their fine defense, they have no chance against that kind of firepower.

Notable: Chargers have scored one TD or fewer in 35 of past 52 games.

Injuries:

CHARGERS: Out-QB Ryan Leaf (wrist); S Jason Perry (knee-injured reserve). Doubtful-TE Reggie Davis (knee). Questionable-WR Curtis Conway (hamstring); S Michael Dumas (hamstring); QB Moses Moreno (shoulder). Probable-CB Fakhir Brown (shoulder); RB Robert Chancey (neck); WR Jeff Graham (hamstring/back); CB DeRon Jenkins (hamstring); T Vaughn Parker (shoulder); CB Scott Turner (hip).

RAMS: Out-DT D'Marco Farr (knee). Doubtful-RB Trung Canidate (foot); LB Todd Collins (ankle). Questionable-S Devin Bush (hamstring/toe); WR Ricky Proehl (hamstring). Probable-RB Marshall Faulk (knee); LB London Fletcher (ankle); CB Todd Lyght (hamstring); S Keith Lyle (hip); WR Chris Thomas (hamstring).

Indianapolis (2-1) at Buffalo (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bills by 1 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Colts 2-1; Bills 2-1.

Series: Bills lead 34-24-1.

Last meeting: Bills won, 31-6, on Jan. 2, 2000, at Indianapolis.

Outlook: With the pasting QB Peyton Manning and Indianapolis put on a pretty good Jacksonville team, the Colts made a major statement. They would make an even bigger one by beating the Bills on the road. The game should be close because Buffalo's defense has good cornerbacks and speedy linebackers, and the Bills have won eight of their past nine home games against the AFC East.

Notable: Colts RB Edgerrin James has 100 yards from scrimmage in 12 of his past 13 games.

Injuries:

COLTS: Doubtful-RB Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar (knee); WR Chad- Plummer (foot); LB Ratcliff Thomas (foot). Probable-WR Marvin Harrison (shoulder); DT Ellis Johnson (arm); DE Chukie Nwokorie (hand/ankle); DE Mark Thomas (knee).

BILLS: Out-LB Corey Moore (ankle); TE Jay Riemersma (knee). Probable-QB Doug Flutie (groin); LB John Holecek (ankle); G Joe Panos (foot); DE Shawn Price (knee); LB Sam Rogers (shoulder).

Minnesota (3-0) at Detroit (3-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Lions by 1.

Vs. spread: Vikings 2-1; Lions 3-1.

Series: Vikings lead 47-28-2.

Last meeting: Vikings won, 24-17, on Jan. 2, 2000, at Minnesota.

Outlook: Rookie QB Daunte Culpepper is for real. So are the Vikings. Their offense is clicking as usual, but it is their defense that is the surprise. Minnesota is allowing 300.3 yards per game. No, the Vikings aren't as mighty as the Bucs, but that number is down from 373.7 through three games last season. The Vikings' defense should keep the Lions in check today. Also, Minnesota coach Dennis Green getting a three-year contract extension gives the Vikings an emotional edge.

Notable: Lions lead the NFC with eight interceptions and Kurt Schultz leads the league with five.

Injuries:

VIKINGS: Questionable-CB Antonio Banks (knee); DE Michael Boireau (knee/hand); DT Tony Williams (groin).

LIONS: Questionable-LB Stephen Boyd (back); G Jeff Hartings (ankle); G Stockar McDougle (knee); G Tony Semple (ankle). Probable-CB Terry Fair (knee).

Pittsburgh (0-3) at Jacksonville (2-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Jaguars by 10 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Steelers 1-2; Jaguars 1-2.

Series: Jaguars lead 6-4.

Last meeting: Jaguars won, 20-6, on Dec. 2, 1999, at Jacksonville.

Outlook: Pittsburgh QB Kent Graham is hurting all over, dealing with all kinds of sore body parts, so expect to see backup Kordell Stewart at some point in the game. The Steelers will take advantage of the Jaguars' cornerbacks, playing the worst pass defense in the conference. But Jacksonville is dominant at home and should prevail.

Notable: Steelers have lost 10 of their past 11 games.

Injuries:

STEELERS: Out-T Marvel Smith (knee). Questionable-DT Kendrick Clancy (ankle); C Dermontti Dawson (hamstring); QB Kent Graham (hip); RB Richard Huntley (hamstring). Probable-RB Jerome Bettis (ribs); WR Hines Ward (groin); RB Amos Zereoue (knee).

JAGUARS: Out-K Mike Hollis (back); T Leon Searcy (leg); S Rayna Stewart (knee); C John Wade (foot-injured reserve). Doubtful-LB Brant Boyer (groin). Probable-CB Aaron Beasley (wrist); T Tony Boselli (tendinitis); QB Mark Brunell (calf); LB Lonnie Marts (abdominal); S Erik Olson (groin); DE Joel Smeenge (calf).

New York Giants (3-1) at Tennessee (2-1)

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

Line: Titans by 5.

Vs. spread: Giants 2-2; Titans 0-3.

Series: Giants lead 5-1.

Last meeting: Titans won, 10-6, on Nov. 9, 1997, at Tennessee.

Outlook: Titans QB Steve McNair has almost fully recovered from a bruised sternum and RB Eddie George is one of the most intimidating offensive players in football. But Tennessee makes its living running the ball, and the Giants have enough quickness and toughness to slow down George. And the Giants' weakest link, their secondary, won't be challenged by a passing offense in which the tight end is the leading receiver.

Notable: Titans have won past four games against NFC East foes.

Injuries:

GIANTS: Out-CB Ralph Brown (kidney). Questionable-CB Andre Weathers (knee). Probable-K Brad Daluiso (back).

TITANS: Out-WR Kevin Dyson (knee); DE Byron Frisch (ankle). Questionable-S Blaine Bishop (neck); LB Greg Favors (ankle); DE Kenny Holmes (back/ankle); DE Jevon Kearse (quad); QB Steve McNair (chest); QB Neil O'Donnell (neck); DT Joe Salave'a (neck); WR Yancey Thigpen (hamstring); TE Frank Wycheck (concussion).

Miami (3-1) at Cincinnati (0-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Dolphins by 7.

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

Series: Dolphins lead 11-3.

Last meeting: Dolphins won, 26-23, on Oct. 1, 1995, at Cincinnati.

Outlook: Cincinnati interim coach Dick LeBeau, a rookie head coach at the age of 63, has a lot of work to do with a Bengals team that is in total disarray after the resignation of coach Bruce Coslet. Miami has allowed just 22 total points while Cincinnati has scored a total of seven. This game could get ugly.

Notable: Dolphins are tied for AFC lead with 15 sacks and have an NFL-best nine interceptions.

Injuries:

DOLPHINS: Out-DT Daryl Gardener (back); CB Ben Kelly (knee-injured reserve). Doubtful-CB Ray Hill (ankle); RB Thurman Thomas (groin). Questionable-WR Tony Martin (foot); TE Ed Perry (shoulder); LB Zach Thomas (ankle); T Richmond Webb (knee/ankle). Probable-DE Lorenzo Bromell (wrist); TE Hunter Goodwin (toe); S Greg Jeffries (hamstring); RB Lamar Smith (ribs); CB Jerry Wilson (thumb).

BENGALS: Out-RB Michael Basnight (wrist); DE Vaughn Booker (head); C Rich Braham (knee); LB Brian Simmons (knee). Questionable-T Rod Jones (leg). Probable-QB Akili Smith (concussion); S Tremain Mack (ankle); Armegis Spearman (shoulder); LB Takeo Spikes (groin); DT Glenn Steele (concussion).

New England (0-4) at Denver (2-2)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Line: Broncos by 8 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Patriots 1-3; Broncos 3-1.

Series: Broncos lead 20-13.

Last meeting: Patriots won, 24-23, on Oct. 24, 1999, at New England.

Outlook: Denver QB Brian Griese has postponed possible shoulder surgery until the end of the season, and that's good news for the Broncos. That is, if the shoulder holds up. His backup, Gus Frerotte, is far below average. If Griese plays the entire game, Denver wins. If not, the Patriots will get a much-needed victory.

Notable: Broncos have won 10 of their past 11 games vs. Patriots and have not lost to them in Denver since 1968.

Injuries:

PATRIOTS: Doubtful-S Larry Whigham (knee). Questionable-LB Matt Chatham (shoulder); WR Shockmain Davis (shoulder); G Max Lane (hand); DE-LB Willie McGinest (leg).

BRONCOS: Out-K Jason Elam (back). Doubtful-WR Robert Brooks (hamstring); S Kenoy Kennedy (knee). Questionable-QB Brian Griese (shoulder); DT Trevor Pryce (knee); DT Montae Reagor (ankle). Probable-CB Ray Crockett (knee); RB Terrell Davis (ankle); RB Howard Griffith (neck); CB Darryl Pounds (shoulder).

Arizona (1-2) at San Francisco (1-3)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line: 49ers by 3 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Cardinals 1-2; 49ers 1-2.

Series: 49ers lead 11-9.

Last meeting: 49ers won, 24-10, on Sept. 27, 1999, at Arizona.

Outlook: 49ers WR Terrell Owens says he was praying when he twice ran to midfield last week after scoring touchdowns. Lame excuse. Owens' hot-dogging overshadowed the 49ers' biggest development: QB Jeff Garcia is playing well and has four multi-touchdown games in his past five, plus a passer rating of 100.6, second-best in the conference.

Notable: 49ers' offensive line has allowed NFL-low two sacks, none in the past two games.

Injuries:

CARDINALS: Out-DE Andre Wadsworth (knee). Doubtful-DE Thomas Burke (groin). Probable-WR David Boston (hamstring); LB James Folston (back); LB Rob Fredrickson (hip); G Matt Joyce (elbow); CB Tom Knight (foot); WR Frank Sanders (shoulder); T L.J. Shelton (knee); LB Ray Thompson (groin); LB Zack Walz (knee).

49ERS: Out-DT Junior Bryant (neck). Doubtful-S Zack Bronson (neck); LB Jeff Ulbrich (shoulder). Probable-RB Fred Beasley (ankle); RB Travis Jervey (back); DE Chike Okeafor (hamstring).

Chicago (0-4) at Green Bay (2-2)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line: Packers by 5 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Bears 1-3; Packers 1-3.

Series: Bears lead 82-70-6.

Last meeting: Packers won, 35-19, on Dec. 5, 1999, at Chicago.

Outlook: The problem with the Bears is that they don't know what they want to do offensively. The scheme sometimes resembles that of a Division I-AA college - lots of misdirection and trick plays. In other words, it is a pubescent West Coast offense. In eight career home games against Chicago, Packers QB Brett Favre is 166-for-256 with 16 TD passes, a 97.3 rating and a 6-2 record.

Notable: Clubs have met in an NFL record 158 regular-season games.

Injuries:

BEARS: Out-LB Rosevelt Colvin (knee); C Olin Kreutz (knee); S Frankie Smith (hamstring); S Shawn Wooden (hamstring). Questionable-T Blake Brockermeyer (arm).

PACKERS: Out-WR Corey Bradford (leg); T Earl Dotson (back); DE Vonnie Holliday (hamstring); CB Mike McKenzie (knee). Doubtful-DB Antuan Edwards (knee). Questionable-DE Billy Lyon (knee); DT Chuck Osborne (groin); LB Brian Williams (knee); C Frank Winters (ankle). Probable-TE Tyrone Davis (shoulder); WR Antonio Freeman (back); RB Ahman Green (groin); RB Dorsey Levens (ankle); LB Nate Wayne (hip).

Atlanta (2-2) at Philadelphia (2-2)

Time: 8:35 p.m., ESPN.

Line: Eagles by 3.

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

Series: Tied 9-9-1.

Last meeting: Falcons won, 17-12, on Sept. 13, 1998, at Atlanta.

Outlook: Two of the NFL's least predictable teams in football meet, although the Eagles' victims are Dallas and New Orleans. Of note: 201 of Duce Staley's 316 rushing yards came against Dallas, which gave up 201 more to Charlie Garner last week. Falcons RB Jamal Anderson has been better than expected carrying the ball, but he hasn't held onto it - he leads the league in fumbles with five.

Notable: Eagles' Brian Mitchell needs one punt return for a TD to tie for first on NFL's career list.

Injuries:

FALCONS: Doubtful-T Ephraim Salaam (knee). Questionable-S Ronnie Bradford (stomach); DE Brady Smith (neck). Probable-WR Tim Dwight (appendicitis); LB Jeff Kelly (knee).

EAGLES: Out-S Brian Dawkins (appendectomy). Doubtful-WR Alex Van Dyke (hamstring). Questionable-G Jermane Mayberry (toe). Probable-LB Carlos Emmons (quadriceps); WR Torrance Small (hamstring); T Tra Thomas (knee); G John Welbourn (ankle).

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