This week in the NFL

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

Green Bay 37, Washington 7. Last season, the Packers massacred the Redskins 37-0 on Monday night. This season, the Skins might slip up and score a touchdown, but only one. Patrick Ramsey got a nasty wake-up call last week from the New Orleans defense, who intercepted him four times. Now, he’s got to deal with a defense that shut down the high-powered New England offense last week. Brett Favre is 308 passing yards away from passing Joe Montana for sixth on the all-time list, and he had 236 in last year’s domination.

Atlanta 21, Carolina 10. After jumping out to a 3-0 start, the Panthers have staggered back to .500, and today they face a team that’s beaten them four consecutive times and in seven of the last eight. Chris Weinke will try to breathe some fresh life into the Panther offense, but he failed to light things up in last week’s loss to Dallas. Michael Vick may be tentative for Atlanta, but the Falcons can turn to Doug Johnson, who burned the Giant defense for 257 yards and two touchdowns last week.

Chicago 30, Detroit 21. This one should be fun to watch. Chicago’s defense has been taken down a notch by injuries, and Joey Harrington has thrown for 810 yards and five touchdowns for the Lions. But the Detroit defense has allowed 271.2 yards per game on the ground, so the Bears might have to win a high-scoring battle.

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Denver 21, Kansas City 7. Denver’s rushing defense is tops in the league, surrendering just 62 yards per game. Earlier this season, Marshall Faulk, LaDanien Tomlinson and Ricky Williams combined for just 116 yards against the Broncos. Priest Holmes, who leads the NFL with 653 yards, will be the biggest test yet. But the San Diego defense held him to just 63 yards last week, so Denver will be confident. The Broncos have a much bigger edge on offense, as the Kansas City defense is last in the league, giving up 32.2 points per game. If Holmes doesn’t get hot early, Denver won’t have a tough time of it.

Miami 36, Buffalo 28. Here’s another shootout. With Jay Fielder out with a broken thumb, Ricky Williams will have to carry the Dolphin offense today. The Bills are 3-3 because of their lack of defense, so Williams might be looking at a 150-yard game. Drew Bledsoe has thrown for an NFL-high 2,016 yards and 14 touchdowns, but the Dolphins have cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison, both of whom had interceptions against Denver last week.

New Orleans 30, San Francisco 23. The Saints had been showing explosive power on offense from Aaron Brooks and Deuce McAllister all season, but their defense and special teams tore it up against the Redskins last week. Terrell Owens and Jeff Garcia are far from indestructible, as shown in their 24-14 loss to Denver last September. If the Saints keep playing like they have been this season (not counting the Detroit fiasco two weeks ago), they’ll be playing in January.

Minnesota 7, N.Y. Jets 0. The &uot;Who Cares?&uot; game of the week. Both teams are looking for needles in haystacks to try to solve their problems, as the Jets have given up at least 28 points in every game and 200 rushing yards the past three games. The Vikings’ defense has been disappointing everyone for the past two seasons, but their offense is sixth in the league, due to Dante Culpepper. The Vikings will win, but no one outside of Minneapolis or New Jersey will give a rat’s Randy Moss.

St. Louis 28, Seattle 13. Who lit the inferno under the Rams in their domination of Oakland last week? Just when things looked bleakest for the defending NFC champions, they came out and showed football fans across the country the way the game should be played. With Marshall Faulk finally getting back to his game, St. Louis shouldn’t have much trouble against the Seahawks, who choked in last week’s 28-21 loss to San Francisco.

Jacksonville 14, Baltimore 10. Jacksonville gets the Pick to stay near the top of the AFC South, and to atone for their dismal showing against Tennessee last week. That, and the fact that they’re up against a team that’s beaten them four times in a row. Unfortunately, nothing about this game is going to matter come playoff time, so let’s just pick up and move on to the fun part of this column.

San Diego 20, Oakland 17. Game of the week, hands up and down.

After getting whomped by the Rams last week, the Raiders don’t know what to expect today, which is just what the Chargers hoped for.

At 5-1, they’re ready to prove that they can beat a top team, which they failed to do in a 26-9 loss to Denver on Oct. 6. Alex Molden and Ryan McNeil are two of the best cornerbacks in the league, but today they have to face Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Jerry Porter, a top one-two-three punch.

The Chargers have given up 16.3 points a game; the Raiders have scored 35. San Diego gets the Pick because of the versatility it showed last week against Kansas City; while the Chief defense focused on LaDanian Tomlinson, Drew Brees burned them for 319 yards and two touchdowns.

Philadelphia 33, Tampa Bay 17. If not for the above game, this would be game of the week. The Bucs are ticked at Philly for knocking them out of the playoffs the past two years, but Donovan McNabb, who threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns in those two games, will be thinking, &uot;Just bring it!&uot; The Eagles have allowed 19 sacks this season, but they’ve scored 33 points per game, so they get the Pick.

Cleveland 35, Houston 3. A group of players wearing the same pads and helmets isn’t necessarily a football team, which the Texans have found out in their nightmarish losses to Indianapolis, Buffalo, Philadel-phia, and San Diego. Tim Couch didn’t get back at the morons in Cleveland who booed him when he got hurt against Baltimore two weeks ago against Tampa Bay last week, so the Texans will be his hapless victims.

Arizona 16, Dallas 9. Emmitt Smith is 175 yards away from passing Walter Payton on the all-time rushing list, and but he probably won’t get it against a defense that’s allowed just 3.3 yards per carry this season. Not that the Cardinals are going to do anything special this season, but they should win this one, because the Smith is the only weapon the Cowboys have, and they can take care of him.

Indianapolis 26, Pittsburgh 19. The Steeler defense, once the bane of the AFC, has been embarrassed in recent weeks by New England and Oakland, and the Colts will show no mercy. Peyton Manning has thrown for 1,280 yards and nine touchdowns, but he can hand off to Edgerrin James, who has rushed for 428 yards. Jerome Bettis should make this interesting, since he’s going against a defense that has allowed 137 rushing yards this season. But Pittsbugh’s nine-game Monday night winning streak will come to an end tomorrow.