GAME OF THE DAY
San Diego (6-1) at Indianapolis (4-3), 10 a.m.
TV: Channel 39 (San Diego)
Could this be a preview of the AFC title game? The Chargers indicated they were legitimate by beating the Browns, and the Colts were surprisingly respectable before they got Eric Dickerson, who will start and share time with incumbent Albert Bentley. The Colts never have beaten the Chargers but the Charger regulars, who have done all their winning at home, must contend with a sold-out Hoosier Dome crowd hyped for Dickerson's home debut. Colt quarterback Jack Trudeau, filling in for injured Gary Hogeboom, hasn't thrown an interception in two games and is staking a claim to the job with solid play. The Chargers will have to do it with the passing of Dan Fouts.
OTHER AFC GAMES
Denver (4-2-1) at Buffalo (3-4), 10 a.m.
John Elway and Jim Kelly, two of the three highest-paid quarterbacks, will meet for the first time. The Broncos' Elway may be gunning at the weaker defense, but the Bills' Kelly has a stronger ground game to balance his offense.
Miami (3-4) at Cincinnati (2-5), 1 p.m.
TV: Channel 39 (San Diego)
Obviously, the Bengals aren't to be trusted with a lead in the second half. Despite out-gaining opponents, they have blown three in three weeks. Coach Sam Wyche is under fire, and quarterback Boomer Esiason, asked to explain the problem, said, "Maybe we need an exorcist." The Dolphins' sharpshooting Dan Marino is finally getting some help from the defense with the return of linebackers John Offerdahl and Hugh Green and punter Reggie Roby.
Pittsburgh (4-3) at Kansas City (1-6), 10 a.m.
Steeler Coach Chuck Noll made a bold move at quarterback this week. He decided to stay with Mark Malone, the lowest ranking passer in the league. The Chiefs will stick with Bill Kenney, who threw four touchdown passes against the Bears. Coach Frank Gansz continues to inspire his troops with lines like this: "(Sir) Edmund Hillary lost five of his comrades climbing Mt. Everest." This is the real Kansas City team's first home game since Sept. 13.
Chicago (6-1) at Green Bay (3-3-1), 10 a.m.
Was Coach Mike Ditka drunk on TV? "No," he said, "I was tired." Is quarterback Jim McMahon too beat up to play again? "No, his mobility may be limited by a pulled muscle, but he'll start." Is this sounding like '85 again? Yes. Without McMahon's miracles the last two weeks, it would be a better race in the NFC Central. Packer Coach Forrest Gregg yanked rookie quarterback Don Majkowski last week and will continue with Randy Wright. McMahon said on his radio show that the Pack has "gone downhill the last three or four years, and Forrest Gregg's got to be part of that." A foul by the Packers' Charles Martin--now gone--helped put McMahon out for the season last year. The Bears are 24-0 with McMahon starting, dating back to his last defeat as a healthy starter on Dec. 4, 1983--at Green Bay.
Washington (6-1) at Philadelphia (3-4), 10 a.m.
Throw out the strike games and these teams are both 3-1. "Hey, we've won three in a row," Eagle Coach Buddy Ryan says, ignoring the 0-3 strike team. New tight end Jimmie Giles, acquired from Detroit, will back up John Spagnola. The Eagle offense got a needed lift from the return of running back Keith Byars and the addition of rookie receiver Cris Carter.
Dallas (4-3) at Detroit (1-6), 1 p.m.
TV: Channels 2 and 8.
How far can the Cowboys go with their new gimmick, the Landry laundry? Coach Tom Landry got dunked with dry towels after last Monday's win over the Giants--a takeoff on the Gatorade showers Bill Parcells got last season. The Lions aren't having nearly as much fun, having lost eight straight in the Silverdome.
Tampa Bay (4-3) at St. Louis (2-5), 10 a.m.
The Cardinals will have the home-field disadvantage. Only 24,586 showed up last week as owner Bill Bidwill continued to shop the team around the country. If the Buccaneers, behind quarterback Steve DeBerg, have learned how to win on the road--they beat the Packers at Milwaukee last week--they're a bona fide playoff contender.
New England (4-3) at New York Giants (1-6), 5 p.m.
Everybody should have a backup quarterback like the Patriots' Steve Grogan to turn to. Giant Coach Bill Parcells wishes he did, too, but veteran Jeff Rutledge will have to do until Phil Simms' injured knee is healed. "Things don't look good," Parcells said. "It could get worse."
Houston (5-2) at San Francisco (6-1), 1 p.m.
No worries for the 49ers as they pass the halfway point of the season, but they could throw the AFC Central into chaos by cooling off the high-scoring, quick-striking Oilers. The 49ers' biggest problem is a makeshift offensive line.
Atlanta (2-5) at Cleveland (4-3), 10 a.m.
The Browns, whose defense is known as "the Dogs," have asked their fans to quit throwing dog biscuits since the Ram game, but the Falcons may be hungry. Atlanta's only goals now are to finish ahead of the Rams and get rookie quarterback Chris Miller ready for next year. Its defense, yielding an average of 40.1 points in non-strike games, should be fish in a barrel for Bernie Kosar, even if he isn't playing up to expectations.
Seattle (5-2) at New York Jets (3-4), 6 p.m.
TV: Channel 7
The Seahawks are Super Bowl material, no matter what Coach Chuck Knox says. The Jets are staggering. The pass rush is weak, being sacked 23 times in 4 games hasn't helped quarterback Ken O'Brien's fragile confidence, and running back Freeman McNeil has been benched in favor of Johnny Hector. Worth noting, however: the Jets are 5-0 on Monday night at home with upsets of the Patriots, Broncos and Dolphins the last three years.
NOTE: All times PST.