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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 5 PRIMER / T.J. SIMERS

This Weekend: How the West Will Be Won, Chapter One

September 26, 1997|T.J. SIMERS

The 49ers have skated through the early part of the season, beating the Rams, Saints and Falcons. So how good are they? They couldn't beat the expansion Panthers a year ago, but now Carolina looks vulnerable, unimpressive on offense and old and slow on defense.

Carolina will have the benefit of a pumped-up Monday night audience, but can Kerry Collins find a way to score against the 49ers' outstanding defensive unit? Maybe on a freak play, and anyone who has watched Monday night games recently knows that is more than likely. Edge to Carolina.

5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR

1. The first guy to score a touchdown for the Chargers gets cut. It's the only logical explanation for the team's move this week to release running back Erric Pegram, who had scored the Chargers' only rushing touchdown this season.

"I do think it's a mistake," Pegram said. "[Coach Kevin Gilbride has] been a little hasty in his decisions. It's four games into the season and he hasn't left me in a game long enough to know whether he should cut me. And you can quote me on that."

That glow in the San Diego sky is Pegram's burning bridges.

2. Given the start of Denver's Terrell Davis, what are his chances of becoming the third back in NFL history, along with O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson, to run for 2,000 yards in a season? Davis has to average 123 yards a game the rest of the season--so far he's averaging 131.5 yards.

"He's going to end up in the Hall of Fame," former Denver runner Otis Armstrong said. "I really think that will happen."

3. If Rick Mirer struggles against Dallas--and it gets cold in Alaska during the winter, doesn't it?--will we see Erik Kramer come on for the Bears?

"I expect [Mirer] to make improvement starting this week," Coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He needs to come out and play better. He knows it."

Against Dallas--right.

4. Detroit's Barry Sanders should run well against the Packers. Sanders has averaged 103.4 yards in 17 games against Green Bay, including going over the 160-yard mark four times.

5. Look for the Giants to lose to whomever they are playing. Since winning their final six games of the 1994 season, the Giants have lost 24 of 36.

Scratch all that--they're playing the Saints.

AROUND THE NFC

WEST

After losing to San Francisco, Atlanta running back Jamal Anderson said it best: "Right now, we are El Stinko." The Falcons have no chance to win because quarterback Chris Chandler can't avoid injury and Billy Joe Tolliver is not going to scare any defense. . . . The Panthers were 9-0 at home last season but are now 0-2, in part because they refused to pay linebacker Kevin Greene, who returns Sunday with his new team, the 49ers. Greene, a pro wrestler in the off-season, said he will "absolutely" love being hated by the fans upon his return. . . . New Orleans Coach Mike Ditka did not wear a headset during his team's win over Detroit, so he will continue to remain out of touch with his coaches in the press box. "I wore headsets in Chicago in the old days, in the beginning," Ditka said. "Then I remembered why I took them off. Because I couldn't call plays because the guys upstairs were telling me what to do." Come on, no one tells Ditka what to do. . . . Steve Young has five touchdowns and one interception in his last two games against Pop Warner foes Atlanta and New Orleans. Against those two wretches he was sacked seven times. . . . Rookie Orlando Pace makes his first start for the Rams in place of Wayne Gandy, who had made 36 consecutive starts there. Wow, stop the presses.

Did you know: When New Orleans' Heath Shuler and Mario Bates each ran and passed for touchdowns, it was only the second time in NFL history that feat has been accomplished. Green Bay's Zeke Bratkowski and Donny Anderson pulled it off in a loss to the Lions on Oct. 10, 1971. More important, did you care?

Sidelights: Hard to believe, but Ram fans were booing Sunday when the Rams beat the Giants at home. "Hey, this place is a pussy cat compared to Vet Stadium," said Coach Dick Vermeil, who coached in Philadelphia previously.

CENTRAL

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