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THE NFL WEEK 4

Today's Games

September 21, 1997

BALTIMORE (2-1) at TENNESSEE (1-1)

* Kickoff: 10 a.m.

* Records: Ravens 2-1, Oilers 1-1.

* Storyline: Fans attending this game--seven at last count--will arrive in Mayflower moving vans, hopefully in time to catch a distant relative to Benedict Arnold conducting the coin flip ceremony. You can just feel the excitement in Memphis building for the arrival of Vinny Testaverde.

* The Line: Oilers by 3 1/2.

* The Pick: Oilers.

CHICAGO (0-3) at NEW ENGLAND (3-0)

* Kickoff: 10 a.m.

* Records: Bears 0-3, Patriots 3-0.

* Storyline: The Patriots had one of those "Old Man and the Sea" weeks wrestling with the Big Tuna. While they are ripe for an upset, they catch a break with the Bears, who are reluctantly turning to Rick Mirer, after Erik Kramer went 4-11 in his last 15 starts. Apparently, it doesn't matter that Mirer can't grasp what the Bears are doing offensively.

* The Line: Patriots by 13

* The Pick: Patriots.

DETROIT (2-1) at NEW ORLEANS (0-3)

* Kickoff: 10 a.m.

* Records: Lions 2-1, Saints 0-3.

* Storyline: The Lions have one of the worst defenses in the league, which shouldn't make a bit of difference to Heath Shuler and Danny Wuerffel, who just throw the ball up for grabs in the hopes that someone, anyone, might catch it. Shuler has eight interceptions and no touchdowns. And you thought Scott Mitchell was shaky. Barry Sanders could gain yardage at the height of Mardi Gras down Bourbon Street.

* The Line: Lions by 5 1/2.

* The Pick: Lions.

KANSAS CITY (2-1) at CAROLINA (2-1)

* Kickoff: 10 a.m.

* Records: Chiefs 2-1, Panthers 2-1.

* Storyline: The Chargers were gracious enough to let Kerry Collins work his way back into shape last week setting up this intriguing matchup between two teams with postseason aspirations. Quarterback Elvis Grbac looked his best under duress in Oakland, but that was against a three-man bland rush and the tricky Panthers will be coming at him with zone blitzes. Is it time for Greg Hill to bust out? Or, for the Panthers to continue to stagger home with a second-half stifling defense?

* The Line: Panthers by 5 1/2.

* The Pick: Panthers.

MINNESOTA (2-1) at GREEN BAY (2-1):

* Kickoff: 10 a.m.

* TV: Channel 11.

* Records: Vikings 2-1, Packers 2-1.

* Storyline: The Vikings catch a break after playing powerhouse Tampa Bay and draw the Packers. Green Bay has been getting nicked and has looked nothing like the team of destiny a year ago, but the Packers have been invincible at Lambeau Field, although two weeks from now the Buccaneers come to town. You don't think Green Bay is already looking ahead to Tampa Bay, now do you?

* The Line: Packers by 12.

* The Pick: Vikings.

OAKLAND (1-2) at NEW YORK JETS (1-2)

* Kickoff: 10 a.m.

* TV: Channel 4.

* Records: Raiders 1-2, Jets 1-2.

* Storyline: The Raiders had to struggle to beat the Falcons. If they get pressure from their defensive line, they can take the Jets, but without it, Neil O'Donnell can pick on a suspect Raider secondary. Isn't this fun, Joe Bugel?

* The Line: Jets by 1 1/2.

* The Pick: Jets.

ATLANTA (0-3) at SAN FRANCISCO (2-1):

* Kickoff: 1 p.m.

* Records: Falcons 0-3, 49ers 2-1.

* Storyline: The 49ers will play the game without any cornerbacks. Shoot, they could all take the day off and quarterback Chris Chandler would sprain an ankle tripping on the hash marks and then Billy Joe Tolliver would fumble the ball out of the end zone, giving San Francisco a 2-0 victory.

* The Line: 49ers by 14 1/2.

* The Pick: 49ers.

CINCINNATI (1-1) at DENVER (3-0)

* Kickoff: 1 p.m.

* TV: Channel 4.

* Records: Bengals 1-1, Broncos 3-0.

* Storyline: The Bengals squeaked by the Cardinals and were thrashed by the Ravens before taking a bye and a team vote to decide if they will play on. An up-and-coming Jeff Blake probably would love a shootout with John Elway, but is Ki-Jana Carter up to keeping pace with Terrell Davis? An upset possibility here, but would you take the Bengals looking like they have so far? No.

* The Line: Broncos by 11 1/2.

* The Pick: Broncos.

INDIANAPOLIS (0-3) at BUFFALO (1-2)

* Kickoff: 1 p.m.

* Records: Colts 0-3, Bills 1-2.

* Storyline: Guess how many times Jim Harbaugh gets sacked this week? Both teams have failed to establish any running game this season, and Todd Collins and Harbaugh aren't exactly challenging Dan Marino's record for most touchdown passes in a season. So look for Bruce Smith to pulverize Harbaugh and then fall on his fumble in the end zone.

* The Line: Bills by 6 1/2.

* The Pick: Bills.

N.Y. GIANTS (1-2) at ST. LOUIS (1-2)

* Kickoff: 1 p.m.

* Records: Giants 1-2, Rams 1-2.

* Storyline: Dick Vermeil isn't getting any younger, but fortunately Dave Brown isn't getting any better. The Rams tanked it against the 49ers, and were not ready for prime-time competition in Denver, but if they can't beat the Giants, it's time for team owner Georgia Frontiere to put her heels down and start calling the shots.

* The Line: Rams by 2 1/2.

* The Pick: Rams.

SAN DIEGO (1-2) at SEATTLE (1-2)

* Kickoff: 1 p.m.

* Records: Chargers 1-2, Seahawks 1-2.

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