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September 13, 1987|RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writer

GAME OF THE DAY Seattle (10-6) at Denver (13-6), 1 p.m. John Elway meets "The Boz" in an immediate showdown between what appear to be the two strongest teams in the AFC West. Most people at sea level are picking the Seahawks to win the division over the defending AFC champions. The Seahawks' new crop of linebackers, including Brian Bosworth, strengthens a defense that was already solid, but quarterback Dave Krieg is hot and cold. Elway will unload with as many as four fast, deep receivers in the game at once. En route to the Super Bowl last season, the Broncos lost to the Seahawks in the last regular season game, 41-16. They won't meet again until the 14th week.

OTHER AFC GAMES San Diego (4-12) at Kansas City (10-7) TV: Channel 4, 10 a.m.

Rival coaches Al Saunders (S.D.) and Frank Gansz will be starting their first full NFL seasons. There are few reasons to expect the Chargers will be better than last year when Dan Fouts, 36, was a year younger and had more talented receivers available. Barry Redden, acquired from the Rams, is a backup, as always. The Chiefs don't even look like the same team that sneaked into the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. They now have a sound ground game, led by Herman Heard and rookies Christian Okoye and Paul Palmer, and quarterback Todd Blackledge is playing with more confidence without the pressure to complete every pass.

Miami (8-8) at New England (11-6), 10 a.m.

Dolphin Coach Don Shula starts his silver anniversary season with dim prospects for a grand climax. The Patriots, with perhaps the best talent in football, have him outmanned in every area except quarterback, where he has Dan Marino. But New England veteran Steve Grogan, starting in place of Tony Eason (groin), doesn't often embarrass himself. The Dolphins' soft defense is even worse off with linebackers John Offerdahl and Hugh Green out until midseason.

New York Jets (11-7) at Buffalo (4-12), 10 a.m.

The doormat Bills have a tough schedule but may be ready to surprise people, starting today. Quarterback Jim Kelly is a solid competitor, and if the defense is as improved as it appears to be, they could win some of those close games they lost last year. Nobody knows yet if the Jets can come back from the injuries that caused their second-half collapse and shattered quarterback Ken O'Brien's confidence last year.

Cincinnati (10-6) at Indianapolis (3-13), 10 a.m.

Which NFL team besides the Super Bowl-champion Giants won its last three games last season? Why, the lowly Colts, after Ron Meyer took over as coach from Rod Dowhower (0-13) at the end, but nine months is a long time to carry over momentum. Jack Trudeau starts at quarterback for Gary Hogeboom (thumb). The Bengals' offensive firepower may be muffled by the absence of All-Pro Anthony Munoz at left tackle. Munoz held out until signing Saturday.

NFC GAMES Philadelphia (5-10-1) at Washington (14-5), 10 a.m. The defenses are about equal in mediocrity, but the Redskins have all the offense. Quarterback Jay Schroeder, who brought the Redskins from behind to win nine games last year, rates a big edge over Randall Cunningham, who has to settle down. The '86 Eagles gave up a league record 104 sacks, and a lot of them were Cunningham's fault.

Atlanta (7-8-1) at Tampa Bay (2-14), 10 a.m.

New Buccaneer Coach Ray Perkins isn't rushing super-rookie quarterback Vinny Testaverde into an impossible situation, so old reliable Steve DeBerg will start another season looking over his shoulder. Marion Campbell's second coming as the Falcons' coach didn't excite anyone, but his secret may be having Dowhower and Jim Hanifan running the offense.

Dallas (7-9) at St. Louis (4-11-1), 10 a.m. Dallas is 22-4-1 in openers, best in the NFL, but this rivalry may wind up as a fight for last place when they meet again in the final week of the season. The Cowboys, plagued by bad drafts and wide receiver Mike Sherrard's badly broken leg, only hope they hit bottom last season. A rejuvenated Neil Lomax and a healthy Roy Green give the Cardinals a potent passing threat again, if the offensive line can block anybody.

Detroit (5-11) at Minnesota (9-7), 10 a.m. This starts the race for second place in the NFC Central. The Vikings need more defense to compete with the Bears, and their offense had a hiccup when quarterback Tommy Kramer, the NFL's top-rated '86 passer, had to spend three weeks in alcohol rehabilitation, then pinched a nerve in his neck. That leaves Wade Wilson in charge. On the other side, the honeymoon is over for quarterback Chuck (Third And) Long, who is expected to lead the Lions out of the wilderness.

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