AFC notebook

October 31, 1999|By Ken Murray

East

The most tantalizing matchup of today's Colts-Cowboys game pits Indianapolis WR Marvin Harrison against Dallas CB Deion Sanders. Harrison has caught 15 touchdown passes from QB Peyton Manning in 18 career games. The Colts lead the NFL with 277.2 passing yards per game. The first indication that Jets coach Bill Parcells will return next season came in this comment about the team's QB situation: "At some point in time, I have to find out if Rick Mirer or Ray Lucas -- I know it's not going to be [punter Tom] Tupa -- can be Vinny Testaverde's backup for next year." Parcells brought in free-agent QBs Jeff Brohm and Jake Delhomme last week, but signed neither. At the request of agent Ray Anderson, the Patriots are trying to reach agreement on a long-term contract extension for SS Lawyer Milloy before Nov. 7, a date with salary cap implications. The two top-paid safeties in the league are the Packers' LeRoy Butler ($4.57 million a year) and the Jaguars' Carnell Lake ($4.5 million a year). With Dan Marino out at least two more weeks, Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson signed former Terp Scott Zolak as third QB, passing over Craig Erickson, who was cut in camp. Another big Week 8 matchup sends Dolphins CB Sam Madison against Raiders WR Tim Brown.

Central

Conservative play-calling by head coach and offensive coordinator Tom Coughlin has contributed to the Jaguars' offensive malaise. The Jags have run on 112 of 181 first downs, 61.88 percent, second highest in the league. Although the Jags are third in the NFL in rushing, they're 19th passing. Opposing defenses have presented soft coverages to take away the deep game. With RB Fred Taylor (hamstring) missing all or part of five games, the Jags have just two gains of longer than 40 yards this season. The Steelers (4-3) have generated one touchdown drive -- 11 yards -- in three home games. Their four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 4-23. The 1-6 Bengals appear to have serious morale problems. A week after QB Akili Smith said some teammates weren't studying enough, RB Corey Dillon questioned the desire of some starters and pulled himself out of a game after suffering a gash in his arm that required five stitches. Said Dillon: "They weren't running the ball and they weren't going to. I'm not going back in there and get something else injured. For what?" Coach Bruce Coslet said he pulled Dillon because he was ineffective. The Bengals' next three opponents (Jags, Seahawks, Titans) have a combined record of 14-4. Browns QB Tim Couch lost his cool in a 34-3 loss to the Rams. After an interception, he bumped CB Dexter McCleon, who shoved Couch back. McCleon later accused Couch of head-butting him.

West

For the fifth straight season, Chargers RB Natrone Means will lose time to an injury. Means had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee on Monday and will miss two to four weeks. He hasn't played a full 16-game season since 1994, when he rushed for a franchise-record 1,350 yards in San Diego's Super Bowl campaign. Means was averaging just 2.6 yards a carry this season on 89 carries. He'll be replaced by Kenny Bynum, who was the second-leading rusher in NFL Europe behind Lawrence Phillips last summer with 960 yards. Chargers QBs Erik Kramer (nine) and Jim Harbaugh (five) have combined for 14 interceptions this season, one more than Ryan Leaf and Craig Whelihan threw at the same juncture last year. When Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren returns to Green Bay for tomorrow night's game against the Packers, he'll bring the AFC's top-rated QB in Jon Kitna (92.4 passer rating). His old QB, Brett Favre, ranks 10th in the NFC with a rating of 78.1. The Seahawks haven't scored a rushing touchdown. Broncos CB Dale Carter is the brother of Vikings WR Jake Reed, and they figure to run into one another in today's game. The players have the same parents, but Reed, 2 years older, carries his mother's maiden name. Playing his way into shape, Chiefs RB Bam Morris has gained 45 yards (on 15 carries) and 70 yards (on 16 carries) the last two weeks against the Patriots and Ravens. If starter Rashaan Shehee (bruised hip) can't go today, Morris will face the Chargers' defense, which is allowing 76.5 yards a game, 2.9 a carry.

Pub Date: 10/31/99

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