Nfl Week 4

September 21, 1997

Chicago (0-3) at New England (3-0)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Patriots by 12 1/2

Vs. spread: Bears 1-2; Patriots 2-1

Last week: Bears lost to Lions, 32-7; Patriots beat Jets, 27-24, in OT.

Worth watching: Talk about a tough spot: Rick Mirer gets first start at QB for Bears against Drew Bledsoe. Mirer was the second pick of the '93 draft behind Bledsoe, who leads the NFL in passing and has thrown an NFL-best 10 touchdown passes.

Outlook: Patriots have league's leading rusher in Curtis Martin (395 yards, 4.5 per carry), who had 199 yards on 40 carries in win over Jets. With their emotional game with New York behind them, look for the Patriots to get back to fundamentals and beat out the Bears in nearly every category.

Notable: It's New England's No. 1 offense vs. Bears' No. 25 defense.


BEARS: Out: WR Curtis Conway (collarbone); G Todd Perry (hamstring); S Marty Carter (elbow); RB Rashaan Salaam (ankle); C-G Chris Villarrial (leg). Questionable: T James Williams (ankle).

PATRIOTS: Out: DE Willie McGinest (knee). Questionable: WR Terry Glenn (ankle). Probable: RB David Meggett (groin).

Minnesota (2-1) at Green Bay (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Packers by 12

Vs. spread: Vikings 2-1; Packers 0-3

Last week: Vikings lost to Buccaneers, 28-14; Packers beat Dolphins, 23-18.

Worth watching: Vikings running back Robert Smith leads NFC with 308 yards rushing and is averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Green Bay's Dorsey Levens had a breakout game last week, gaining 121 yards in victory over Dolphins.

Outlook: Vikings will have a chance if they can exploit Packers injuries on defense. Defensive tackle Gilbert Brown (leg) and safety LeRoy Butler (arm) are questionable. Otherwise, Packers get 18th straight Lambeau Field victory.

Notable: Game features two of the NFL's top offenses: Vikings third, Packers fifth.


VIKINGS: Out: G David Dixon (knee). Doubtful: RB Leroy Hoard (hamstring). Questionable: T Todd Steussie (ankle). Probable: P Mitch Berger (hip); CB Leonard Wheeler (foot).

PACKERS: Doubtful: C Frank Winters (foot). Questionable: DT Gilbert Brown (knee); S LeRoy Butler (arm); T Earl Dotson (toe); LB Seth Joyner (knee). Probable: TE Tyrone Davis (hamstring).

Miami (2-1) at Tampa Bay (3-0)

Time: 8 p.m.

Line: Buccaneers by 3 1/2

Vs. spread: Dolphins 1-1; Buccaneers 3-0

Last week: Buccaneers beat Vikings, 28-14; Dolphins lost to Packers, 23-18.

Worth watching: Tampa Bay rookie Warrick Dunn (5.6 yards per carry) could have big day. With running game dead last in the NFL, Miami needs big game from Dan Marino, who has thrown only one TD pass.

Outlook: Consecutive road victories at Detroit and Minnesota have made the Bucs the NFC's only unbeaten team. This is an emotional battle-of-Florida game, but Bucs are at home.

Notable: Tampa Bay is second in the league in rushing offense and third in rushing defense, always a winning formula.


DOLPHINS: Out: RB Stanley Pritchett (knee). Questionable: S George Teague (ankle). Probable: RB Dewayne Dotson (knee); S Corey Harris (shoulder); WR Qadry Ismail (hamstring); P John Kidd (quadriceps).

BUCCANEERS: Out: DE Eric Curry (knee); LB Rufus Porter (shoulder). Questionable: DT Warren Sapp (ankle). Probable: CB Anthony Parker (hamstring).

Detroit (2-1) at New Orleans (0-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Lions by 6

Vs. spread: Lions 2-1; Saints 0-3

Last week: Lions beat Bears, 32-7; Saints lost to 49ers, 33-7.

Worth watching: Lions QB Scott Mitchell leads NFC with six TD passes and WR Herman Moore has six TD receptions in last seven games. The Lions' Barry Sanders' rushing average in last four road games is 134 yards. Sanders' average vs. the Saints is 48.5 yards.

Outlook: Mike Ditka is sticking with his hand-picked QB Heath Shuler, who has a subterranean passer rating of 24.1 (zero TDs, eight INTs). Unless Shuler figures it out today, Lions should romp.

Notable: Ditka's Saints are 26th in offense, 27th in rushing and 22nd in passing. One matchup worth watching will be Detroit receiver Moore battling Saints cornerback Eric Allen.


LIONS: Out: RB Terry Battle (knee); G Chris Harrison (knee); S Ron Rice (ankle). Doubtful: LB Ben Hanks (knee). Questionable: TE Eric Stocz (leg).

SAINTS: Out: TE Irv Smith (knee). Questionable: T Clarence Jones (knee). Probable: S Je'Rod Cherry (ankle); LB Ernest Dixon (knee).

Oakland (1-2) at N.Y.Jets (1-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Jets by 1 1/2

Vs. spread: Raiders 1-2; Jets 2-1

Last week: Raiders beat Falcons, 36-31; Jets lost to Patriots, 27-24, in OT.

Worth watching: After two close, painful losses, the Raiders managed to pull out a victory in Atlanta last week, and they look for more success against a team trying to recover from an emotionally draining defeat last Sunday night in New England. At least kickoff returner Desmond Howard probably won't burn Jets coach Bill Parcells again -- Parcells has kicker Jeff Hall, who owns an NFL-best 11 touchbacks on 19 kickoffs.

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