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SPORTS WEEKEND | Week 6 Primer : Around the AFC

WEST / Bronco Offense Keeps Hitting Home Runs

October 09, 1998

How wide is the gap in the NFL between the Super Bowl contenders and those teams already jockeying for position at the top of next year's draft? The Broncos had 242 yards in offense last week in the first quarter against Philadelphia.

The Colts, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Giants, Eagles, Raiders, Seahawks and Cardinals failed to hit that mark in their games.

Denver running back Terrell Davis has gained more yards rushing than 27 of the 29 other teams in the league.

How heady are the Broncos getting? They are spending time now figuring out touchdown celebrations. A year ago Davis made the "Mile High Salute" famous after scoring, but tight end Shannon Sharpe said, "As much as we've scored this year, we're all generals now, so we don't have to do any more saluting. Now the receivers need to come up with our own thing. Maybe we'll do something that has to do with Sammy Sosa. We like Sammy, and we might do something in dedication to him and Mark McGwire." Can't wait.

The Chiefs went 3-1 with Rich Gannon subbing for injured quarterback Elvis Grbac, but now have switched back to Grbac because they need someone to put more points on the board. Since the start of last year, Grbac is 9-2, Gannon 8-2. Grbac has thrown 12 touchdown passes, with six interceptions. Gannon has eight touchdowns and three interceptions.

CENTRAL / Steelers Get Visited by a Familiar Face

Neil O'Donnell makes his first start against the Steelers since leading them to the Super Bowl and then jumping ship for the money. O'Donnell, who threw two interceptions to Larry Brown in Dallas' Super Bowl victory three years ago, signed a $25-million contract to play for the Jets, flopped and now directs the Cincinnati Bengals.

In another homecoming of sorts, former Steeler teammates' Yancey Thigpen and Rod Woodson go against each other. Thigpen now plays for the Oilers and Woodson will be covering him as a Raven.

"A lot of people were saying Rod Woodson was washed up," Thigpen said. "I think the guy was coming off a knee injury that hadn't totally healed and was causing him to not play as well as he had played in the past. I think he's 100% healed and he's playing extremely well."

The Oilers passed on Randy Moss to take another wide receiver, Kevin Dyson, who has yet to catch a pass.

"The situation is completely different and the real evaluation comes four or five years from now," Oiler Coach Jeff Fisher said. "Different people have different approaches to playing people, they have different reasons, different needs. I'm not worried about our decision, we'll never second-guess ourselves."

No, but we will.

EAST / Johnson Wants to Run Toward the Super Bowl

Why has Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson been so stubborn in demanding a running game, even though he has Dan Marino at quarterback? The Dolphins are 0-14 when they don't have at least 25 rushing attempts.

For the first time in Marino's career, he has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in four consecutive games. Marino, who has thrown for more than 50,000 yards in his career, has been to only one Super Bowl--and lost.

Maybe Johnson knows what he's doing after all.

Jet running back Curtis Martin has a sore thigh, but last week played on despite it, winning the praise of Coach Bill Parcells. "It's a pretty amazing thing," Parcells said. "He just wouldn't come out of the game." Martin ran for 108 yards against Miami, but may not be able to play effectively against the Rams. As if that's a big deal.

Parcells jerked wide receiver Wayne Chrebet from last week's game for running a poor pattern. Chrebet said he had slipped. Parcells said, "Well, slip over here for a while."

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