Looking to bust Broncos, Pats have point to prove Week 6 Preview

October 03, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Battle of the unbeatens.

That's a promo ABC-TV has never been able to use on "Monday Night Football" after the third week of the season.

When the 5-0 Denver Broncos play the 4-0 New England Patriots on Monday night at Mile High Stadium, it will be the first time two unbeaten teams have played after the first month of the season.

Not only is this likely to be a playoff preview, it's also the game that was expected to be the AFC championship matchup last year before Denver was upset by Jacksonville in the divisional round.

It's an interesting matchup because both teams have good quarterbacks (John Elway and Drew Bledsoe), running backs (Terrell Davis and Curtis Martin) and tight ends (Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coates).

But the Patriots are the team with something to prove in this game. They've never beaten Elway (he's 9-0 against them), haven't won in Denver since 1968 and were drilled, 37-3 and 34-8, by the Broncos the past two years.

"I think we match up very well against them," Patriots coach Pete Carroll said.

There are theories that the Denver defense plays well against an immobile quarterback such as Bledsoe and that the Patriots' undersized but quick defensive line doesn't match up well against Denver's offensive line.

Whatever it is, the Broncos amassed 825 total yards to New England's 547 the past two years, out-rushed the Patriots 319-98 and had a 73: 51-46: 09 edge in time of possession.

L It all means the Broncos come in feeling they have the edge.

Sharpe said: "I'll put it like this: They could have 12 of the greatest players in NFL history. If we keep No. 7 [Elway] upright, keep his jersey clean, and if we open holes for No. 30 [Davis], I like our chances against anybody."

Best of the rest

Bucs at Packers: It's not surprising that an unbeaten team is playing at Lambeau Field on the sixth weekend of the season. The surprise is that it's Tampa Bay, not Green Bay. The defending champions, riddled with injuries, have yet to recapture their Super Bowl form. Brett Favre is looking like a young %J gunslinger instead of a mature MVP, throwing an interception from his knees last week.

The Bucs are acting like the mature team, rallying to beat Arizona last week on a day when they weren't at their best. If the Bucs win this one, they'll have a three-game lead on the Packers and a fifth-place schedule that includes the Colts, Falcons, Bears, Giants and Jets. A loss in this game and the Packers will have to start thinking wild card.

Redskins at Eagles: The Eagles have won eight of the past nine meetings, but the victory margin in seven of them was between two and four points. It figures to be another close one because coach Ray Rhodes is back in a crisis mode with his team at 1-3. It might not help that quarterback Ty Detmer and running back Ricky Watters were screaming at each other on the sideline last week, but Rhodes likes that kind of fire on his team. He debated whether to pull Detmer for Rodney Peete, but decided to give Detmer one more shot.

The Redskins, who started 7-1 last year before collapsing, are 3-1 and appear to be improved because Cris Dishman has solidified their secondary.

Worth a look

Steelers at Ravens: This was quite a rivalry when it was Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland, but it lost a lot of passion when the Browns moved. Baltimore fans, who cheered the Steelers' win over the Redskins, aren't into it yet. Earnest Byner, who remembers the way it used to be, even had to remind the Ravens' newcomers Wednesday that it's a big game. And it's a pivotal one for both teams since each has two losses. Both have problems in the secondary -- although Eugene Daniel is likely to make a difference for the Ravens -- so getting heat on the quarterback will be critical.

Chiefs at Dolphins: The Dolphins, 7-1 after bye weeks, have beaten the Chiefs four straight times including a 1994 playoff game. But Miami is a troubled team in Jimmy Johnson's second year. Johnson has yet to develop a running game -- the Dolphins are ranked last running the ball -- and Dan Marino doesn't have a good receiving corps. The Chiefs are off to a surprising 4-1 start with Elvis Grbac leading the ninth-best offense and Marcus Allen showing he's not finished. But the Chiefs' defense is ranked only 26th overall -- 27th against the pass -- so Marino may be able to throw.

Saints at Bears: The teams are a combined 1-9, but this TNT Sunday night matchup will be wonderful theater. Mike Ditka, who also returned during the preseason, comes back to Soldier Field for the first time in a regular-season game to face embattled Bears coach Dave Wannstedt. Ditka and the Chicago fans will remember the way things were, and the heat will increase on Wannstedt if he loses and falls to 0-6.

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