Nfl Week 17

December 21, 1997

Chicago (4-11) at Tampa Bay (9-6)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Bucs by 7 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Bears 7-8; Bucs 8-7.

Last week: Bears beat Rams, 13-10. Bucs lost to Jets, 31-0.

Worth watching: QB Erik Kramer is trying to finish the season with a strong showing so the Bears -- or someone else -- will anoint him a starter for next season. How much will Bucs RB Mike Alstott test his sore thigh in this game?

Outlook: The Bucs have lost three of their past four games and need a win to be assured of starting the playoffs at home; a loss means they might have to go to Detroit or Minnesota. The Bears, winners of three of their past four, will play with a nothing-to-lose attitude, which could make it close.

Notable: Bears' defense has held three of its past four opponents to 10 points or fewer.


BEARS: Questionable: LB Bryan Cox (back); LB Ron Cox (knee); Chris Penn (ankle); G Todd Perry (back). Probable: WR Bobby Engram (ankle).

BUCCANEERS: Out: TE Jackie Harris (hernia); DT Marcus Jones (ankle). Questionable: RB Mike Alstott (thigh). Probable: CB Anthony Parker (thigh); QB Trent Dilfer (ankle); LB Rufus Porter (neck); G Jim Pyne (groin).

N.Y Jets (9-6) at Detroit (8-7)

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

Line: Lions by 6 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Jets 8-7; Lions 8-5.

Last week: Jets beat Bucs, 31-0. Lions beat Vikings, 14-13.

Worth watching: Lions RB Barry Sanders, with a league-leading 1,869 rushing yards, needs only 15 for a career-high total and 131 to become the third player to rush for 2,000.

Outlook: Again, the Lions have gotten hot at the end of the season. In the first season under Bill Parcells, the Jets have matched the biggest one-season turnaround in NFL history (1-15 to 9-6). A win will give them a wild-card berth and first playoff appearance since 1991. QB Neil O'Donnell, who looked like a free-agent bust a year ago, gets the chance to prove his worth.

Notable: Lions have won four of their past five, losing only at Miami on a last-second field goal.


JETS: Out: DT Ernie Logan (leg-injured reserve). Questionable: QB Glenn Foley (knee); T David Williams (back).

LIONS: Probable: S Mark Carrier (back); CB Greg Jeffries (knee); QB Scott Mitchell (rib); WR Herman Moore (foot); T Larry Tharpe (groin).

Indianapolis (3-12) at Minnesota (8-7)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Vikings by 6 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Colts 7-7; Vikings 8-7.

Last week: Colts beat Dolphins, 41-0. Vikings lost to Lions, 14-13.

Worth watching: The Vikings need a big game from QB Randall Cunningham. Can Colts QB Jim Harbaugh put together two big games in a row? He threw for four TDs last week in Indy's stunning upset of Miami.

Outlook: The Vikings are capable of one of the all-time back-into-the-playoffs jobs. Even if they lose today, they would qualify if Washington loses to Philadelphia. The Colts have won two straight, but the home-dome advantage should save the Vikings.

Notable: Minnesota's five-game losing streak is the longest of the Dennis Green era.


COLTS: Questionable: WR Aaron Bailey (thigh); S Derwin Gray (knee); LB Scott Von Der Ahe (neck); RB Lamont Warren (ribs). Probable: LB Elijah Alexander (ankle); RB Marshall Faulk (knee); CB Carlton Gray (hand); LB Steve Morrison (knee).

VIKINGS: Questionable: DE Fernando Smith (knee-groin). Probable: DE Derrick Alexander (ankle-hip); CB Jeff Brady (neck); TE Hunter Goodwin (hamstring); WR Chris Walsh (thigh).

N.Y Giants (9-5-1) at Dallas (6-9)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Cowboys by 3 1/2 .

Vs. spread: Giants 8-6; Cowboys 3-10.

Last week: Giants beat Redskins, 30-10. Cowboys lost to Bengals, 31-24.

Worth watching: Will Giants QB Danny Kanell keep his momentum heading into the playoffs? Will Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith bounce back for one good game?

Outlook: The Giants are just trying to stay fresh for the playoffs, but they're a young team on the rise that wouldn't mind continuing to win. The Cowboys are old, and they're showing it.

Notable: Giants are the 11th NFL team since 1970 to go from last place to first.


GIANTS: Out: C Derek Engler (ankle); DE Cedric Jones (leg); LB Ryan Phillips (knee). Doubtful: CB Phillippi Sparks (knee). Questionable: CB Conrad Hamilton (knee-rib); S Brandon Sanders (groin); RB Tyrone Wheatley (ankle).

COWBOYS: Out: TE Eric Bjornsen (leg); RB Daryl Johnston (neck); CB Deion Sanders (rib); T Mark Tuinei (knees). Questionable: G Nate Newton (knee); CB Kevin Smith (back). Probable: DT Chad Hennings (hip); TE David LaFleur (hip); RB Emmitt Smith (shoulder); S Charlie Williams (foot); S Darren Woodson (shoulder).

Atlanta (7-8) at Arizona (3-12)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line: Falcons by 3.

Vs. spread: Falcons 7-4; Cardinals 7-7.

Last week: Falcons beat Eagles, 20-17. Cardinals lost to Saints, 27-10.

Worth watching: Cardinals rookie QB Jake Plummer has shown promise (73.2 passer rating). Falcons QB Chris Chandler has quietly had a big season, ranking second in the league with a 92.8 passer rating.

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