GAME OF THE DAY Seattle (8-5) at Chicago (10-3), 10 a.m.
TV: Channels 36 (Palm Springs) and 39.
First, it was a 41-0 humiliation by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night, after which Coach Mike Ditka passed out gum--used--to the 49er fans. Then most of the next day was spent in the San Francisco airport before the Bears could fly home. Then Jim McMahon aggravated his torn hamstring when he slipped on a patch of ice. So, this may not be a good time to drop in on the angry Bears. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they need only win one more game--it could be Kansas City next week--to reach the playoffs. The Seahawks don't figure to stop the Bears' ground game, and the Bears' pass rush will come hard after the flappable Dave Krieg. The Bears are 22-2 at home the last two years, but the Seahawks have won the last three meetings.
OTHER INTERCONFERENCE GAMES Washington (10-3) at Miami (7-6), 5 p.m.
The Redskins will have to get their pass rush in gear to control Dan Marino, who is back in top form and has been sacked only 10 times. The Dolphins, in the middle of the AFC East dogfight, also have been running the ball and playing defense lately. Redskin running back George Rogers didn't appreciate criticism from predecessor John Riggins, who said, "George doesn't want to run through that (inside) stuff." Retorted Rogers: "I think (Riggins) should keep his mouth shut."
New Orleans (10-3) at Cincinnati (4-9), 10 a.m.
The streaking Saints are no fluke. Solid, fiery and smart play has them on the league's longest roll, seven games, and they aren't letting up with an NFC West title still a possibility. The Bengals are playing like a team that isn't having any fun. Coach Sam Wyche, trying to protect his players, says, "I'm taking a lot of heat on purpose." Just don't let any escape on your way out the door, coach. Forecast: 36 degrees and rain.
Philadelphia (5-8) at New York Jets (6-7), 10 a.m.
A battle of the walking dead. The Eagles are out of it after losing four of five games, and the Jets have lost three of four and are just waiting for the coup de grace . The Eagles have two executioners, quarterback Randall Cunningham, their leading passer and rusher, attacking the Jets' makeshift secondary, and NFL sack leader Reggie White, who has 17, attacking Jet quarterback Ken O'Brien. The Jets are 0-5 in December the last two years.
AFC GAMES Indianapolis (7-6) at San Diego (8-5), 1 p.m.
TV: Channel 4.
The Chargers are 1-4 since beating the Colts, 16-13, on Eric Dickerson's fumble and Vince Abbott's last-second field goal. The offense has collapsed around Dan Fouts, who is all the opponents have to worry about. The Colts, however, haven't scored a touchdown in two games.
New England (6-7) at Buffalo (7-6), 10 a.m.
With Steve Grogan at quarterback again, the Patriots may be proving that it's never too late. They have beaten the inconsistent Bills nine straight but won't have receiver Stanley Morgan and linebacker Steve Nelson today. The Bills can win the AFC East title by winning their last two games--they play the Eagles next week--but they seem to win only the games they need to win.
Pittsburgh (8-5) at Houston (7-6), 10 a.m.
The Steelers must stay even with Cleveland to set up an AFC Central title match next week. That they are where they are with the league's worst-rated passer, Mark Malone, and the league's worst pass defense makes one wonder how important throwing the ball really is. The Oilers aren't out of it but need a steady effort from quarterback Warren Moon to exploit the Steelers' weaknesses.
NFC GAMES Atlanta (3-10) at San Francisco (11-2), 1 p.m.
TV: Channel 8 (San Diego).
The 49ers have had only six days to prepare for the Falcons but need less than that--just enough time to put on their uniforms, in fact. The Falcons practiced at the Raiders' camp in Oxnard all week, but the change of scenery won't help. They are still last in the NFL in points and yardage for and against--and here comes Jerry Rice, about to set a league record of 12 consecutive games with touchdown catches. Joe Montana is out with a torn hamstring, but Coach Bill Walsh should have given him the day off, anyway. Steve Young needs the exercise. Pointing to next year, when he may not be around, Falcon Coach Marion Campbell will give rookie quarterback Chris Miller his first pro start.
Minnesota (7-6) at Detroit (3-10), 10 a.m.
TV: Channel 2.
The Vikings need a better record than the St. Louis Cardinals to claim the NFC's second wild-card berth, so this is a "must." The two-quarterback system has gone sour. Tommy Kramer, bothered by a pinched nerve in his neck, has failed to finish his last five starts, and Wade Wilson hasn't been producing any miracles in relief. The Vikings' pass rush should give Lion quarterback Chuck Long some problems, and a half-empty Silverdome won't help the home team.
St. Louis (6-7) at Tampa Bay (4-9), 1 p.m.
Six weeks ago, the Buccaneers blew a 28-3 lead to the Cardinals in the last quarter and lost, 31-28, starting a six-game dive. But now the scheme is quarterback school for Vinny Testaverde, not revenge. "I don't think of myself and my players as revenge-type people," Coach Ray Perkins said. Perkins plans to retire some players from the NFL before next season. "If they can't make this team, how many can they play for?" he asks. With a few breaks and Neil Lomax staying hot, the Cardinals could grab a wild card at 8-7.
NOTE: All times PST. Statistical references exclude the three strike games. Standings, Page 20.