GAME OF THE DAY Chicago (9-2) at Minnesota (7-4), 5 p.m.
The only real difference in the NFC Central is that the Bears' strikebreakers beat the Vikings' strikebreakers, 27-7. Both are 7-1 in non-strike games. But the Vikings can look at the Bears' finishing schedule--San Francisco, Seattle and the Raiders--and see themselves very much alive in the division, if they win this one. The Bears may be ripe. Their offensive line is beat up, the defense is hurting and the Vikings have had 10 days off since a Thanksgiving victory at Dallas. Somehow, the Vikings continue to score points and win despite flip-flopping Tommy Kramer and Wade Wilson at quarterback. Kramer will start tonight. Bear Coach Mike Ditka hates the Metrodome, which he calls the Rollerdome. "I'll wear roller skates and a tuxedo and carry a whip," he said. He has been practicing on a pair Viking General Manager Mike Lynn sent him. Don't be surprised by anything.
OTHER NFC GAMES San Francisco (9-2) at Green Bay (4-6-1), 10 a.m.
The Packers' pass defense isn't bad, but they'll need a home-blizzard advantage to snuff the 49ers' laser light show--Joe Montana (27 touchdown passes) to Jerry Rice (14 touchdown catches, 6 in the last 2 games). Unfortunately, the forecast is only 35 and partly cloudy. Green Bay, with quarterback Randy Wright playing better, will try to keep up against a 49er defense that stopped Bernie Kosar cold in the second half last week.
Philadelphia (5-6) at New York Giants (3-8), 10 a.m.
The Giants can't use the strike as an excuse anymore. Their regulars are 3-5. The Eagles, however, haven't been overpowering anyone, either, and haven't scored a touchdown in Giants Stadium since 1984. Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor's pulled muscle may have healed enough for him to return.
Atlanta (2-9) at Dallas (5-6), 10 a.m.
Despite a recent 1-7 slump in Texas Stadium, the Cowboys expect to keep their fading playoff hopes alive, although they're really playing for next year. Quarterback Danny White, struggling all season with a lame wrist, will take over the clipboard from Steve Pelluer the rest of the season. Untested rookie Chris Miller may play for the Falcons, who have nothing to lose. "I want to get him in there, get him banged around,' Coach Marion Campbell said. Why not? Everybody else is. The Falcons are last in offense, last in defense, last in scoring, last in scoring defense and have staked a solid claim to being the worst team in the league.
Washington (8-3) at St. Louis (5-6), 10 a.m.
Doug Williams' back is OK, but Jay Schroeder stays at quarterback after leading the Redskins' comeback win over the Giants. These days, Neil Lomax and league-leading receiver J.T. Smith are putting on a show to keep the Cardinals close but, with little else going for them, they don't always win.
Tampa Bay (4-7) at New Orleans (8-3), 1 p.m.
TV: Channel 8 (San Diego).
The Buccaneers have lost four straight and show all the signs of a team going through the motions, but Coach Ray Perkins continues to play out the string with Steve DeBerg instead of Vinny Testaverde. Their best hope is that the Saints will take an emotional nose dive after clinching their first winning season.
AFC GAMES Indianapolis (6-5) at Cleveland (7-4), 10 a.m.
This qualifies as a big enough game to test the rising Colts' playoff potential. The seasoned Browns can be counted on for a solid effort after the San Francisco stunner and defensively will be looking at the less intimidating Jack Trudeau--Gary Hogeboom is hurt again--instead of Joe Montana. Eric Dickerson will be a more serious threat. The Browns will remember his 27-yard scoring run in a cameo appearance for the Rams Oct. 26.
San Diego (8-3) at Houston (6-5), 10 a.m.
TV: Channel 39 (San Diego).
Is this where the Chargers exit stage left? After winning eight in a row, their so-called improved defense has been riddled by Seattle and Denver, and they haven't scored more than 17 points in a month. The Oilers have been fading about as fast, getting outscored by Cleveland and Indianapolis the last two weeks, 34-91. Now Warren Moon is listed as doubtful with a shoulder injury, forcing a quarterback change. Ever hear of Brent Pease?
New England (5-6) at Denver (7-3-1), 1 p.m.
TV: Channels 4 and 39 (San Diego).
The Broncos have climbed all the way back through a tough schedule to set up next week's showdown at Seattle, but they have a little business to deal with first. The Patriots, who haven't won at Mile High Stadium since 1968, seem ill-equipped to handle red-hot John Elway and the Three Amigos--wide receivers Vance Johnson, Mark Jackson and Ricky Nattiel--with their weak pass defense. And they offer only Tom Ramsey's passing threat on offense.
Seattle (7-4) at Pittsburgh (6-5), 10 a.m.