One more time. One more weekend of NFL replacement players before the real thing.
The third weekend of replacement-ball and competitive inbalance because of teams who have more picket line crossers than others, figures to be a little different than the past two.
There are some familiar faces -- 89 regulars -- who returned on Wednesday, the deadline to be eligible for this weekend's games under NFL rules imposed during the 24-day strike that ended Thursday.
Yet, there is expected to generally small attendances again before all the regulars return for the Oct. 24-25 games.
Some of the deadline-beaters who will be back today include linebacker Lawrence Taylor with the New York Giants, wide receiver Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks, tight end Ozzie Newsome of the Cleveland Browns, Doug Flutie of the New England Patriots and Jim Everett of the Rams.
Everett's presence gives the Rams 11 regulars for their game in Atlanta. The Falcons have only one regular and are trying to end an 0-2 strike skid.
Atlanta Coach Marion Campbell said he doesn't call it replacement ball. He prefers to call it "uneven ball."
The Raiders also figure to benefit with the return of quarterback Rusty Hilger, linebacker Jerry Robinson and kicker Chris Bahr in time for their game at San Diego, which will have the same old replacement Chargers.
Nine Browns, including backup quarterback Gary Danielson, came back this week compared with the Cincinnati Bengals, who have only two players regulars.
None of the Washington players crossed, leaving the Redskins vulnerable for Monday night's game in Dallas against the Cowboys, who have 11 regulars.
In today's other games, it is Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, Seattle at Detroit, Miami at New York Jets, New England at Houston, Philadelphia at Green Bay, New Orleans at Chicago, Minnesota at Tampa Bay, Giants at Buffalo, Denver at Kansas City, and St. Louis at San Francisco.
The Super Bowl champion Giants have the biggest ground to make up. They were 0-2 before the strike and 0-2 with the fill-ins. In addition to NFL MVP Taylor, New York should be improved with backup Jeff Rutledge at quarterback.
Buffalo, also 0-2 during the strike, got some help in running back Robb Riddick and Brian McClure, the former Bowling Green passing whiz.
"Yes, we're improved," said Buffalo Coach Marv Levy. "But the others are improving, too, and we're improving from not being very good."
Chicago, 4-0, is the only undefeated team in the league but Coach Mike Ditka said the Saints present a problem.
"They are a better team on the field that are," Ditka said. "They have better people. They have 12 people on their squad who went through camp and will be playing in the game. That's one-third or one-fourth of a football team."
The Jets now have their entire defensive line and quarterback Pat Ryan available for Miami.
"I don't know about the experience edge," Jets Coach Joe Walton said."A lot of teams had the so-called advantage and didn't do well ... New England had it over Cleveland and St. Louis had a distinct edge over the Redskins and they lost. It's hard to predict."
Pittsburgh got a big boost with a host of returnees this week, including wide receiver John Stallworth and safety Donnie Shell. Indianapolis, 2-0 during the strike, won't have No. 1 quarterback Gary Hogeboom, sidelined with damaged ribs.
In addition to Largent, Seattle returns center Blair Bush, placekicker Norm Johnson, quarterback Jeff Kemp and linebacker Fredd Young. Detroit relies on Gary Hons at quarterback.
Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett and Flutie, acquired from Chicago Tuesday, join veterans in Raymond Clayborn, Tony Collins, Sean Farrell, Tony Franklin and Ron Wooten. Houston, 2-0 since the strike, has gotten solid efforts from fill-ins QB Brent Pease and receiver Leonard Harris.
Green Bay, relying on replacements, lost in overtime to Detroit last Sunday. The Eagles, not close in two strike games, have only one veteran, linebacker Ron Moten.
Minnesota, which went the 2-0, 0-2 route, goes with the same replacements, no veterans. Tampa Bay, 1-1 during the strike, has Dan Turk back to hike the ball.
Kevin Ross, Kansas City cornerback, the only veteran who will play against Denver, which has eight healthy veterans, including offensive linemen Bill Bryan, Winford Hood, Keith Kartz, and Dave Studdard.
San Francisco looks solid with Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and Joe Cribbs on offense, Dwaine Board, Eric Wright and Pete Kugler on defense. St. Louis has wide receiver Roy Green, safety Leonard Smith, linebacker E. J. Junior and running back Earl Ferrell, all veterans.