Nfl Week 15

December 07, 1997

Buffalo (6-7) at Chicago (2-11)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bills by 1.

Vs. spread: Bills 6-7; Bears 5-8.

Last week: Bills beat Jets, 20-10. Bears lost to Lions, 55-20.

Worth watching: Bears DE Alonzo Spellman plays for the first time since injuring his shoulder Sept. 21 and getting suspended by the club for refusing to have surgery. Bills DE Bruce Smith is second in the NFL with 14 sacks.

Outlook: The Bills are a long, long shot to make the playoffs (they finish vs. Jacksonville and at Green Bay). But they still have that hope to keep them motivated. How hard the Bears play in their home finale today may have a lot to say about whether coach Dave Wann stedt can keep his job.

Notable: Bears have allowed a league-high 377 points (29.0 per game), two short of the club record.

Injuries:

BILLS: Out: CB Marlon Kerner (knee-injured reserve); RB Tim Tindale (knee-injured reserve). Questionable: CB Raymond Jackson (hip). Probable: TE Robert Coons (ankle); LB Bryce Paup (foot).

BEARS: Questionable: WR Bobby Engram (ankle); TE Keith Jennings (shoulder). Probable: WR Fabien Bownes (hip); DE Alonzo Spellman (shoulder).

Denver (11-2) at Pittsburgh (9-4)

Time: 1 p.m., chs. 11, 4.

Line: Steelers by 1 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Broncos 8-5; Steelers 6-5.

Last week: Broncos beat Chargers, 38-28. Steelers beat Cardinals in OT, 26-20.

Worth watching: Broncos RB Terrell Davis leads the NFL with 1,647 rushing yards; the Steelers' Jerome Bettis is third with 1,460.

Outlook: The Broncos -- who've lost to the only winning team they've faced on the road (Kansas City) -- need this one to stay a game ahead of the resilient Chiefs in the AFC West. The Steelers are tied with Jacksonville for first in the AFC Central and finish the season with two road games. Intangibles give the edge to Steelers.

Notable: Bettis has nine 100-yard games this year, 30 in his career.

Injuries:

BRONCOS: Out: G Mark Schlereth (back). Probable: G Brian Habib (back); CB Randy Hilliard (eye); WR Ed McCaffrey (hamstring); DT Maa Tanuvasa (ankle); DE Alfred Williams (elbow).

STEELERS: Out: LB Greg Lloyd (ankle-infection). Doubtful: TE Kirk Botkin (knee). Questionable: TE Mark Bruener (foot). Probable: RB Jerome Bettis (back); WR Will Blackwell (ankle); T John Jackson (knee); S Carnell Lake (hamstring); WR Yancey Thigpen (knee).

Indianapolis (1-12) at N.Y. Jets (8-5)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line: Jets by 6 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Colts 5-7; Jets 7-6.

Last week: Colts lost to Patriots, 20-17. Jets lost to Bills, 20-10.

Worth watching: The game matches two quarterbacks who have struggled but returned to their starting jobs: Colts' Jim Harbaugh and the Jets' Neil O'Donnell.

Outlook: The Jets' loss at Buffalo last week put them in a position to have to win two of their final three to make the playoffs, so they can't afford to blow this one. The Colts, however, are particularly tough at the Meadowlands, going 9-4 all-time against the Jets there, including seven wins in the past eight meetings.

Notable: Jets coach Bill Parcells has a 31-18 record in December.

Injuries:

COLTS: Out: QB Paul Justin (knee); CB Dedric Mathis (knee). Doubtful: RB Lamont Warren (ribs). Questionable: LB Elijah Alexander (ankle); WR Aaron Bailey (thigh); S Robert Blackmon (thigh); LB Stephen Grant (neck); CB Carlton Gray (hand); Probable: S Ray McElroy (shoulder).

JETS: Out: T Jumbo Elliott (Achilles'-injured reserve); T David Williams (back). Doubtful: QB Glenn Foley (knee). Questionable: CB Aaron Glenn (knee). Probable: DT Jason Ferguson (shoulder).

Green Bay (10-3) at Tampa Bay (9-4)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Packers by 3 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Packers 3-9; Bucs 8-5.

Last week: Packers beat Vikings, 27-11. Bucs beat Giants, 20-8.

Worth watching: Packers RB Dorsey Levens (1,237 yards) is on a pace to erase Jim Taylor's team rushing record (1,474 yards in a 14-game schedule in 1962). The Bucs need RB Warrick Dunn to rush for 120 yards, as he did last week against the Giants.

Outlook: Green Bay reminded everyone on Monday who is the defending Super Bowl champion, routing the Vikings in Minnesota. There's always the possibility of a letdown after a big road victory, but they're trying to catch the 49ers to gain home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Notable: Bucs can clinch their first playoff appearance since 1982 with a victory today.

Injuries:

PACKERS: Questionable: DE Paul Frase (back); WR Terry Mickens (knee); TE Jeff Thomason (ankle). Probable: DT Gilbert Brown (ankle).

BUCS: Questionable: WR Horace Copeland (ankle); LB Rufus Porter (neck); G Jim Pyne (groin). Probable: RB Mike Alstott (shoulder); WR Robb Thomas (hamstring).

N.Y. Giants (7-5-1) at Philadelphia (6-6-1)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 5.

Line: Eagles by 5.

Vs. spread: Giants 6-6; Eagles 5-7.

Last week: Giants lost to Bucs, 20-8. Eagles beat Bengals, 44-42.

Worth watching: Giants QB Danny Kanell is on notice to produce or head back to the bench. The Eagles' Bobby Hoying has a quarterback rating of 98.4, which would be second in the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.

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