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MIKE PENNER

As NFL Season Fades Out, So Does the Fans' Interest

November 20, 1994|MIKE PENNER

Th is week in the NFL . . .

SAN FRANCISCO--The Rams play the 49ers at Candlestick Park at 5 p.m. today and does anybody really care anymore?

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LOS ANGELES--A league inquiry into the near-riot conditions at last week's Raiders-Rams game has determined that the eye-patched face on the side of the Raider helmet is either a season ticket-holding member of the "Hooligans For Hostetler" fan club or Al Davis inspecting the various outbursts of bloody face-bashing in the stands and winking.

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FOXBORO, Mass.--Two of the most prominent themes of this NFL season--"Why Can't Bill Parcells Run The Ball Anymore?" and "What Are The Chargers Doing At 8-2?"--are explored today as Marion Butts and Natrone Means compare statistics and thigh contusions at Foxboro Stadium. Butts, who gave the Chargers the best years of his life, is now a broken-down Patriot at 28, averaging barely 40 yards per game. Means, meanwhile, leads the AFC in rushing in his second season, carrying a workload that will turn him into Marion Butts by the 1998 season.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo.--The Leroy Hoard-led Cleveland Browns take an astounding 8-2 record into today's game with the Chiefs, making them, officially, the dullest 8-2 team in NFL history, edging out Chuck Knox's 1975 Rams.

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CHICAGO--Detroit visits Chicago with Barry Sanders on pace for 2,111 yards and the Lions on pace for 8-8. How is this possible? A statistical breakdown: Times Sanders has carried the ball in 1994--229. Times Sanders has carried the ball into the end zone in 1994--3. Times Sanders has rushed for more than 100 yards in 1994--9. Times Sanders gets the ball inside the opposition 10-yard line--almost never. Time for Detroit to change head coaches.

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PITTSBURGH--Dissension racked the Steeler camp this past week as more players said they'd rather see Mike Tomczak start at quarterback than Neil O'Donnell. When reached for comment, Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said he'd rather start Terry Bradshaw, or, failing that, Joe Gilliam.

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DENVER--The Atlanta Falcons face Denver today without the services of All-Pro wide receiver Andre Rison, who has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Under those provisions, NFL experts surmise that the Falcons will attempt to play the Broncos without any defensive players, either.

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.--Green Bay (6-4, same as Chicago and Kansas City) takes on Buffalo (5-5, same as Atlanta, Detroit, the Jets and the Raiders, and one game better than Denver, Indianapolis, New England, New Orleans, Arizona and the Rams), which means half the league is either at .500 or within one game of .500, which has made this season the best ever for long walks in the park with the dog on Sunday afternoons.

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CINCINNATI--The Bengals play host to Indianapolis today riding high, having won two games in a row, something the Rams haven't done since October, 1991, and using the same starting quarterback for the fourth game in a row, something the Rams haven't done since December, 1993.

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SEATTLE--The Tampa Bay Buccaneers go for their ninth loss today against the Seahawks amid reports that Peter Angelos is interested in buying the franchise and moving it to Baltimore. Angelos, who also has expressed interest in buying the Rams and moving them to Baltimore, will not attend the game as he has been ordered to round-the-clock care and observation by his physician.

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TEMPE, Ariz.--Rich Kotite brings his 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles, the only team to beat San Francisco in San Francisco this season, to Arizona to face Buddy Ryan's 4-6 Cardinals, who have lost to Rams and the Giants, needed overtime to get by the Redskins and plan to start Jay Schroeder and Mark Higgs in the offensive backfield today. Kotite is rumored to be out of a job come January while Ryan is as secure as a hog in slop, which goes to show the difference between coaching a football team owned by Jeffrey Lurie and one owned by Bill Bidwill.

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IRVING, Tex.--Barry Switzer went on record this past week to say that Jimmy Johnson took too much credit for the success of the Dallas Cowboys, that it doesn't take a genius to coach the Dallas Cowboys into the playoffs, and at 8-2, Barry Switzer is living proof of this.

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MINNEAPOLIS--Having blown a 20-0 first-half lead in a 26-20 loss at New England last week, the Minnesota Vikings are able to host the New York Jets today because the pilot of the team flight back to Minneapolis, unlike the balance of the traveling party, did not quit at halftime.

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HOUSTON--The New York Giants, losers of seven in a row, play the Houston Oilers, losers of nine out of 10, in a "Monday Night Football" game that will be remembered years from now by members of Jeff Fisher's immediate family and absolutely no one else, not even first cousins.

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