GAME OF THE DAY Denver (9-2) at New York Giants (9-2), 10 a.m. The Broncos return to the Meadowlands, where they lost a Monday nightmare to the Jets a month ago, 22-10. The Giants have won four straight by a total of 15 points. Both sides stuff the run and pillage the passer. The Giants have sidelined the last three quarterbacks they've faced, and Lawrence Taylor is on a tear with a career-high 16 1/2 sacks. Although Giant quarterback Phil Simms emerged from his slump last week, the Broncos have more offensive potential with John Elway.
OTHER INTERCONFERENCE GAMES Kansas City (7-4) at St. Louis (2-9), 1 p.m. The first revival of this cross-state rivalry since 1983 means little because the Cardinals have cashed in the season, their worst in 27 years, while the Chiefs are still hunting for a wild card. The impotent Cardinals have been outscored, 58-6, in the first quarter and just lost kicker John Lee for the season.
Minnesota (6-5) at Cincinnati (7-4), 10 a.m. The Bengals' offense has had trouble keeping up with their generous defense--271 points for, 278 against--but the bench treatment seemed to bring Boomer Esiason out of his slump. Viking Tommy Kramer's air show may be restricted by a jammed passing thumb. He caught it in Lawrence Taylor's face mask last week.
Philadelphia (3-8) at Seattle (5-6), 1 p.m. The Eagles, according to Coach Buddy Ryan, "set pro football back 200 years" last week in a 13-11 loss to Detroit. Quarterback Randall Cunningham became the team's first player to rush for three figures in a game--113 yards, mostly improvised--but the Lions also caught him for 11 sacks. The Seahawks' offense has been even less productive in losing four straight.
NFC GAMES Atlanta (5-5-1) at San Francisco (6-4-1), 1 p.m. The 49ers were stifled at Washington but could have a field day against the fast-fading Falcons. Atlanta's Gerald Riggs can't find running room, and quarterback David Archer is gone with a shoulder separation. His replacement, Turk Schonert, will face a defense that leads the league with 26 interceptions. His counterpart, Joe Montana, the lumbar wonder, has little to fear. The Falcons haven't sacked a quarterback in four weeks. Their 0-4-1 dry spell started with a 10-10 tie against the 49ers.
Dallas (7-4) at Washington (9-2), 1 p.m. The Cowboys bushwhacked the Redskins in Irving, Tex., 30-6, but may be headed for the last roundup in the NFC East. Quarterback Steve Pelluer has been sacked 18 times in two weeks. No doubt Dexter Manley will try to "ring his clock," or maybe clean his bell. The Cowboys also have beaten themselves with penalties and turnovers. Redskin quarterback Jay Schroeder complained of a stiff back after the Monday-Tuesday game, but so did everybody who watched it.
Green Bay (2-9) at Chicago (9-2), 10 a.m. The Bears have been given permission to print playoff tickets. The Packers don't remember what one looks like. Jim McMahon will return at quarterback for Chicago. Without him, the Bears have produced a league-low 11.8 points a game and won with defense. With him starting, they have won 22 in a row. "There's a magic when he's on the field," tight end Emery Moorehead says. Was that McMahon buzzing the Packers in a low-flying airplane last week?
Detroit (4-7) at Tampa Bay (2-9), 10 a.m. Buccaneer Coach Leeman Bennett says, "We're all in this together," which is the owner's cue to say, "Not for long, Leeman." Nine weeks ago, when they still had hope, the Buccaneers beat the Lions at the Silverdome, 24-20. Now Tampa Bay quarterback Steve Young is running for his life. Lion Coach Darryl Rogers doesn't concede that his season is also shot. It's time for future quarterback Chuck Long to play, but Buffalo retread Joe Ferguson will probably start.
AFC GAMES Buffalo (3-8) at New England (8-3), 10 a.m. The Patriots beat the Rams without a ground game, so the Bills should be no problem. Razor-sharp Tony Eason will leave their soft zone defense bleeding uncontrollably, and the Patriots haven't given opponents much chance to get lucky with a league-low 14 turnovers. Bill quarterback Jim Kelly despairs: "Some guys around here have the losing habit."
Indianapolis (0-11) at Houston (2-9), 10 a.m. The Colts are the NFL's losingest and lowest-scoring team, at 11.5 points a game. Even the ever-rebuilding Oilers have too much firepower for them. Colt owner Bob Irsay is looking for loopholes in Coach Rod Dowhower's five-year contract.
Pittsburgh (4-7) at Cleveland (7-4), 10 a.m. The Browns have a chance to sweep the season series for the first time since 1969. But somehow, Coach Chuck Noll has inspired his feeble Steeler forces to win three of the last four and sees this as a "payback" for the one the officials stole earlier. Cincinnati Coach Sam Wyche, looking at the Browns' weak schedule in the AFC Central race, says their remaining foes "will have quit," but this isn't one of them.
MONDAY NIGHT New York Jets (10-1) at Miami (5-6), 6 p.m. The highlight of the Dolphins' miserable season wasn't one of their wins over the Colts (twice), Bills (twice) or Oilers, but their 51-45 loss to the Jets, when Dan Marino threw for 448 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Jets, lacking a serious pass rush, seem even less equipped to deal with him now. Mark Gastineau, with an injured knee, has joined the rest of the defensive line on the sideline, leaving the secondary to scramble like the Keystone Kops. But how can the Dolphins, giving up 26.4 points a game, hope to contain quarterback Ken O'Brien and the Wesley Walker-Al Toon receiving show?