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No Question About It: Bills-Cowboys Big for Both Teams

Pro football: Broncos face key test against Chiefs. Maybe Giants or Jets will actually win.

September 22, 1996|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Week 4 and the questions:

1. When was the last time there were eight undefeated teams after the first three weeks of the season?

2. What's the biggest--not necessarily the best--but the biggest game of the weekend?

3. Why will Robert Irsay become a charter member of the Indianapolis Colts' new "Ring of Honor" Monday night?

4. Are the Denver Broncos for real?

5. What's the best chance for an upset this week?

And the answers:

1. Never. Including the bye era, which began in 1990.

2. The Dallas Cowboys against the Buffalo Bills. Both teams aspire for great things but are coming off losses, and instead of getting better, their problems are increasing. The Bills will be without quarterback Jim Kelly, and can the Cowboys afford to open the season 1-3?

3. There are two answers: 1) Robert Irsay will be honored for all the great things he has contributed to professional football; 2) Robert Irsay has been seriously ill, and his family wishes to pay tribute while it still can.

4. The Broncos have beaten three teams with a combined record of 0-9, and they have done it with defense and a running game. Today they take on the Kansas City Chiefs, the team they will have to defeat to win the AFC West title, and to do so they will probably have to turn the game over to John Elway. Nothing has changed; as Elway goes, so go the Broncos, and at age 36, today we find out what he has left.

5. Minnesota over Green Bay. The Packers have been comfortable at home and are coming off back-to-back big games and moving indoors onto artificial turf. Of course, if they are as good as everybody thinks they are, they shrug all that off and steamroller the Vikings, who aren't that good.

ON TV

* CREDIBILITY CHECK

San Francisco (2-0) at Carolina (2-0), 10 a.m., Channel 11: The 49ers have the No. 1 defense--No. 2 against the run and No. 1 against the pass--and Carolina has Steve Beuerlein at quarterback in place of Kerry Collins (knee). John Kasay, who has 10 field goals, goes for a record of 14 in a three-game span. It's not good when your most exciting player is a kicker.

--Say what? Carolina is giving up an NFL-high 5.5 yards per carry. Big deal; the 49ers have no running game.

--Player to watch: Carolina rookie running back Tim Biakabutuka's father will be at Ericsson Stadium to see his son play for the first time ever.

--Finally: San Francisco is 1-1 against expansion Carolina, 73-23 against the rest of the league since 1990. So much for expansion inflating one's stats.

* SAD SACK BOWL

San Diego (2-1) at Oakland (1-2), 1 p.m., Channel 4: The Chargers scored a total of 19 points against the Raiders in two games a year ago and still managed to win one. The Raiders are averaging 10.1 points per game this season. No-Doz, please, for those who show up.

--Say what? The Raiders' great concern every week is protecting quarterback Jeff Hostetler. Relax, as a team, the punchless Chargers have two sacks.

--Player to watch: Stan Humphries. The Charger running game is a shambles, and Humphries, who passed for 305 yards against the Raiders last year, is third in the AFC with 110 passing attempts. Besides, what does a team do when it falls behind? Pass, pass, pass.

--Finally: Cornerback Dwayne Harper had three interceptions in the last meeting with the Raiders; whom do the Chargers put on Tim Brown now that Harper is doubtful because of a hamstring injury?

* EARLY SUPER BOWL

Dallas (1-2) at Buffalo (2-1), 1 p.m., Channel 11: The Cowboys are still two games away from the return of wide receiver Michael Irvin and once again will not have the services of tight end Jay Novacek. Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly is off to the worst start of his 11-year career, and that's the good news. The bad news is he can't play because of a hamstring injury, forcing Todd Collins into the game. The best defense wins.

--Say what? Since 1991, Dallas is 16-5 against AFC opponents. Does that include Super Bowl victories?

--Player to watch: Running back Emmitt Smith, who once went 731 touches without a fumble, has fumbled once in each game this season. Just how long can Barry Switzer tolerate this?

--Finally: Dallas defensive end Charles Haley tried carrying the Cowboys on his back; now he has been advised to rest his ailing back for three weeks.

* WATTERS SWAMPS FALCONS

Philadelphia (2-1) at Atlanta (0-2), 5 p.m., TNT: The Falcons have the 24th-ranked defense, which suggests they better make Ricky Watters fumble. Watters is third in the NFC in total yards from scrimmage. The best thing going for the Falcons--they are 8-2 in the last 10 home games.

--Say what? Wide receiver Chris T. Jones has broken onto the scene for the Eagles with his first 100-yard game and now ranks second in the NFL with 266 yards.

--Player to watch: Jeff George. The Atlanta quarterback has thrown 14 touchdowns with four interceptions at home over the last two seasons.

--Finally: The Falcons have won 15 in a row when limiting opponents to 20 points or fewer. Fat chance here.

FOR ALL THE MARBLES

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