GAME OF THE DAY
NOTE: RECORDS ARE BEFORE STRIKE, DURING STRIKE, TOTAL
San Francisco (1-1, 3-0, 4-1) at New Orleans (1-1, 2-1, 3-2) Time: 10 a.m. TV: Channels 2 and 8.
This is for first place in the NFC West. The 49ers thrived on the strike after a stumbling start, and several key offensive regulars who crossed the picket line, including quarterback Joe Montana, had a tuneup last week. The Saints--ever-struggling to stay above .500--were playing solid ball before they walked out but may have lost their steam. Coach Jim Mora has moved some younger players into starting spots, perhaps figuring that they may be more enthusiastic and in better shape than the old guys after the four-week interruption. Non-union quarterback John Fourcade, assisted to stardom by the surrogate Rams, was kept on the roster to back up Bobby Hebert and Dave Wilson.
OTHER NFC GAMES
Chicago (2-0, 2-1, 4-1) at
Tampa Bay (1-1, 2-1, 3-2) Time: 10 a.m.
One of the results of the strike is that the Buccaneers are contending for first place in the NFC Central six games into the season. For Tampa Bay, though, the strike ended a week too early. They run right back into the Bears, who beat them in the last real game, 20-3. Worse, although Mike Tomczak will start, Jim McMahon appears ready to play quarterback for the first time since the 12th game of the 1986 season, which could be a psychological boost for Chicago. Buccaneer Coach Ray Perkins has tried to rev up his regulars with 3 1/2-hour practices. Quarterback Steve DeBerg recuperated from a knee injury during the strike and will continue to start ahead of Vinny Testaverde.
Dallas (1-1, 2-1, 3-2) at Philadelphia (1-1, 0-3, 1-4) Time: 10 a.m.
The Cowboys used a mixed team of union and non-union players to beat up the "Beagles" two weeks ago, 41-22, so the Philadelphians have more room for improvement, and Coach Buddy Ryan has motivation for a payback. Ryan's attitude has improved since he fired the entire strike team. Lingering animosities may not be a factor with the Cowboys, who haven't always been a happy family in the best of times. "You don't have to like each other," running back Herschel Walker said. "You can't expect that even if there was not a strike."
Green Bay (0-1-1, 2-1, 2-2-1) at Detroit (0-2, 1-2, 1-4) Time: 10 a.m.
The Lions' 19-16 victory over the Packers two weeks ago means nothing. These are two different teams, and the Packers looked a lot better before the strike, when they tied Denver, especially on defense. The Packers also seemed to hang together better, while most of the Lions went home and may be in terrible shape.
St. Louis (1-1, 1-2, 2-3) at N.Y. Giants (0-2, 0-3, 0-5) Time: 1 p.m.
Time runs short for the Giants to make a desperate run for the playoffs or write off the season as another post-Super Bowl bust. Remember, they did win their last 12 games, including the big one, last season. The rift between Coach Bill Parcells and General Manager George Young, who provided a third-rate strike force, won't be a game factor. Their best hope is that defenses will dominate physically in this first week back, while offenses will be out of sync. Under any circumstances, the Giants are still a better team than the Cardinals, who won only one strike game with 21 regulars.
Kansas City (1-1, 0-3, 1-4) at San Diego (1-1, 3-0, 4-1) Time: 1 p.m. TV: Channel 4.
What a difference a strike makes. "Those replacements did a good job," Charger assistant player representative Gill Byrd said. "They got us into first place." On the other side were the Chiefs, whose stand-ins took them out of contention. Also, Todd Blackledge was the Chiefs' starting quarterback before the strike but Bill Kenney is the man now because Coach Frank Gansz says he needs "big play" potential. The Chiefs won the season opener on Paul Palmer's 95-yard kickoff return, 20-13, and should be able to power the ball again with 253-pound rookie Christian Okoye.
Buffalo (1-1, 1-2, 2-3) at Miami (1-1, 1-2, 2-3) Time: 10 a.m.
Quarterback Dan Marino, a member of the union's executive committee, hasn't worked out much but should be sharp enough to pick apart the Bills' shaky secondary. The Bills have won at Miami only once in 18 years.
Cincinnati (1-1, 1-2, 2-3) at Pittsburgh (1-1, 2-1, 3-2) Time: 10 a.m.
The Steelers had their key ballhandlers playing together before the strike ended, while quarterback Boomer Esiason was under some strain as the player representative for the unified Bengals.
New England (1-1, 2-1, 3-2) at Indianapolis (0-2, 2-1, 2-3) Time: 10 a.m.
Forget Doug Flutie. He had his day last week. The Patriot quarterback picture returns to normal with Steve Grogan on the sideline because of a pinched nerve in his throwing shoulder and Tony Eason in the game. The Colts should have kept their strike team. Non-striking quarterback Gary Hogeboom suffered a broken rib and a punctured lung during the strike, so Jack Trudeau will start.
N.Y. Jets (2-0, 1-2, 3-2) at Washington (1-1, 3-0, 4-1) Time: 10 a.m.