NFL WEEK 1

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Detroit at Miami

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Dolphins by 8.

Key stat: Miami has won 15 straight regular-season home games in August and September.

Worth watching: Quarterback Jay Fiedler has won 22 of 32 starts for Dolphins. Can Lions' Mike McMahon play well enough to keep first-round pick Joey Harrington on the bench for a few weeks?

Outlook: Dolphins have the swagger of Super Bowl contenders, while Lions seem destined for last place in the NFC North. Detroit's only hope is to generate a running game with James Stewart. It won't matter in the opener.

New York Jets at Buffalo

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Jets by 3.

Key stat: Past three meetings have been decided by six points or fewer.

Worth watching: Drew Bledsoe, who lost his starting job in New England last season, debuts as Bills quarterback. In past three games vs. Buffalo, Jets' Vinny Testaverde has completed 66.3 percent of his passes with six TDs and two interceptions.

Outlook: How long will it take for the Jets' revamped defense to come together? Bledsoe had a solid preseason for the Bills, who may profit from the emotional opening-day atmosphere.

Atlanta at Green Bay

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Packers by 7.

Key stat: Packers were 7-1 at home last season - and the only loss was to Atlanta.

Worth watching: Michael Vick opens the season as Falcons starting quarterback. Packers need big things from ex-Patriot Terry Glenn.

Outlook: Last season would have played out much differently if the Packers hadn't blown the Falcons game, which Brett Favre has been reminded about endlessly. This year the Packers have a revamped receiver corps and a beefed-up defense.

Minnesota at Chicago

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Bears by 4 1/2 .

Key stat: Bears won both meetings with Vikings last season.

Worth watching: Vikings' Randy Moss is under pressure to improve on his 82-catch, 10-TD season of last year. Can Bears' Anthony Thomas do more than 1,183 yards rushing?

Outlook: Bears begin their season in Champaign, Ill., against one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL. Will a secondary with two new starters, cornerback Jerry Azumah and safety Mike Green, be up to the challenge? As long as the rest of the defense does its share.

Philadelphia at Tennessee

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Titans by 1.

Key stat: Titans have won 10 of past 11 vs. NFC teams.

Worth watching: Can Eagles' Donovan McNabb improve on a 25-TD, 12-interception season? Can Eddie George bounce back from a disappointing 2001 (939 yards, 3.0 average)?

Outlook: The Eagles have Super Bowl aspirations, while the Titans are one of the league's enigmas. Tennessee is coming off an injury-marred season but still boasts starters like George, QB Steve McNair and DE Jevon Kearse. An opening loss to Miami doomed the Titans last season, so emotion is on their side.

San Diego at Cincinnati

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Bengals by 2 1/2 .

Key stat: Chargers have won five of past six vs. Bengals.

Worth watching: Second-year QB Drew Brees takes over as Chargers starter. Bengals are led by running back Corey Dillon, who has rushed for at least 1,100 yards in each of his first five seasons.

Outlook: The Bengals' annual quarterback search produced well-traveled Gus Frerotte, who is no doubt being told to simply get the ball to Dillon. The Bengals' defense gives them a chance to move up in the AFC North, and the starting-over Chargers don't figure to give Cincinnati too much trouble.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Colts by 3 1/2 .

Key stat: Jaguars have won six straight openers.

Worth watching: The injured running backs: Colts' Edgerrin James and Jaguars' Fred Taylor both missed much of last season.

Outlook: The Jaguars are paying off their salary-cap bills and trying to stay respectable at the same time. This AFC South opener will show that they can't. Look for Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison to have big days.

Kansas City at Cleveland

Time: 1 p.m. today.

Line: Browns by 1.

Key stat: Browns led NFL with 33 interceptions in 2001.

Worth watching: Cleveland first-round pick William Green makes his debut. Chiefs have NFL's leading rusher, Priest Holmes (1,555 yards).

Outlook: The Chiefs have become a trendy pick to make a playoff run this year, but quarterback Trent Green will have to suddenly blossom for that to happen. Green should provide a spark for the NFL's worst rushing offense of last season. Unless Tim Couch's sore arm acts up, the Browns should score just enough.

St. Louis at Denver

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

Line: Rams by 3.

Key stat: Under Mike Shanahan, Broncos are 7-2 in openers.

Worth watching: After under-using Marshall Faulk in the Super Bowl loss to New England, the Rams figure to rely on him more than ever. Can Denver's Rod Smith repeat his league-leading 113-catch season?

Outlook: Tough opener for defending NFC champion Rams, who aren't quite as tough outdoors. The Broncos are always tough at home, but they're searching for a running game.

Seattle at Oakland

Time: 4:15 p.m. today.

Line: Raiders by 7.

Key stat: Raiders have won past four meetings in Oakland.

Worth watching: Raiders' Tyrone Wheatley averaged 111 yards rushing in last three games vs. Seahawks. Seahawks' Shaun Alexander rushed for 266 yards in last meeting vs. Raiders.

Outlook: The Seahawks have moved to the NFC, but this will feel like another chapter in an AFC West rivalry that ran 25 seasons. The aging Raiders debut under new coach Bill Callahan. The Raiders have too much offense for Mike Holmgren's team to handle.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

Time: 4:15 p.m. today.

Line: Bucs by 6.

Key stat: Saints led the NFC in sacks the past two seasons.

Worth watching: Deuce McAllister, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry in limited action last year, takes over as Saints' running back. Bucs will try to boost running game with Michael Pittman, signed away from Arizona.

Outlook: Jon Gruden's mission is to maintain the Bucs' tradition of tough defense and build an offense. So the Bucs have five new starters on offense, though Brad Johnson remains the quarterback. That should be plenty enough in the opener.

Dallas at Houston

Time: 8:30 p.m. today, ESPN.

Line: Cowboys by 8.

Key stat: Expansion teams are 1-10 in their openers.

Worth watching: Cowboys' Emmitt Smith could pile up the yardage as the closes in on Walter Payton's NFL rushing record - he needs 540 yards to pass Payton. Rookie quarterback David Carr has been everything the Texans hoped for in training camp.

Outlook: Will the Texans be competitive immediately like Jacksonville and Carolina, or will they struggle like Cleveland? They picked up an unusual amount of veteran talent, but their offensive line is a mess, which is a problem for Carr. Looks like they'll be more like the Browns.

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