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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 11 PRIMER

Rams Caught in Time Warp

November 10, 2000|MIKE PENNER

The Rams' starting quarterback is out with a broken finger, their top running back just underwent knee surgery, their defense is surrendering 31 points a game, they just released their kicker and they have lost two of their last three games.

Where exactly are we again? St Louis 2000 . . . or Anaheim '94?

The Rams, whose fleece lost its golden sheen somewhere between Kurt Warner's injury and Marshall Faulk's arthroscope, head to the Meadowlands on Sunday for a matchup of division leaders--although the condition could be temporary.

If the Rams lose on the road, as they did three weeks ago in Kansas City, and New Orleans defeats Carolina, as the Saints did four weeks ago, there will be a tie atop the NFC West standings.

The Giants, also known as the Anti-Redskins, have gone 7-2 with a bunch of players Daniel Snyder has never heard of. Their biggest name player is a rookie, 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, the methodical linchpin to their no-frills offense.

The line: Rams by 2.

SUGGESTIONS BY VIKINGS DIDN'T MAKE IT PAST THE CENSORS

Green Bay (4-5) at Tampa Bay (5-4), 1:15 p.m.: Now that the Packers have unveiled the Brett Favre-to-Cris Dishman-to-Antonio Freeman's head/shoulders/hands and get-back-on-your-feet scoring pass play, what are they going to call it? Early suggestions have included the Freeman Flip, Antonio's Miracle, the Viking Vanquisher, the Supine Surprise, the Improbable Bobble, the Green Bay On-His-Backer, Antonio's Lyin', A Better Freeman Than Cathy, Boyd Dowler Never Did This, Cheez Whiz, They Won't Have To Fine Antonio This Week and Let's See Randy Moss Try It. The line: Buccaneers by 9.

HOWEVER, STEVE DIDN'T COME UP A YARD SHORT IN BIG ONE IN '89

Baltimore (6-4) at Tennessee (8-1), Ch. 2, 10 a.m.: Jeff Fisher coached in the last Super Bowl, he coaches the winningest team in pro football, and yet ESPN, which has made its name and fortune by strip-mining the NFL every Sunday, cannot get his name right. "Steve Fisher" is how Dan Patrick mistakenly referred to the Titan coach last weekend. "Is Steve Fisher still coaching?" the man they don't call Jeff wanted to know. Yes, he is, if coaching hoops at San Diego State counts. (That one is still under review.) USC fans can tell the difference: Jeff Fisher is the former Trojan who never should have gotten away. The line: Titans by 4.

CAN THEY OUTSCORE THE PHILLIES AND THE PIRATES?

Philadelphia (6-4) at Pittsburgh (5-4), 10 a.m.: The Steelers have not given up a touchdown in 20 quarters, the league's longest streak since Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense logged 22 touchdown-free consecutive quarters in 1976. History, then, is at hand; the Eagles haven't scored more than 16 points in any of their last three games and their leading rusher is second-year quarterback Donovan McNabb, whose 377 net yards are more than twice as many as runner-up Darnell Autry's 181. The Steelers are quarterbacked by Kordell Stewart, meaning more history is at hand. There hasn't been a 0-0 game in the NFL since 1943. The line: Steelers by 3 1/2.

KRIS HEPPNER, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS UNEMPLOYED

New York Jets (6-3) at Indianapolis (6-3), ESPN, 5:30 p.m: As the Redskins spent their bye week looking for another kicker,the Colts officially put a price on high-grade field-goal precision: $7.75 million. That's what the Colts will pay kicker Mike Vanderjagt over the next five years, something of a step up from the league-minimum $358,000 tender he signed before this season. Vanderjagt, who has converted 46 of his last 48 field-goal attempts, believes it is money well-spent. "Now I'm the highest-paid kicker in the league and everybody knows it," he says. "You're expected to kick that way, but I do it anyway." The line: Colts by 6.

MOST WEEKS, HE CAN JUST ASSUME IT

New Orleans (6-3) at Carolina (4-5), 10 a.m.: The Saints might be in second place, but the Panthers are the only NFC West team to have beaten the Rams in two seasons. For Carolina's Joe Nedney, whose last-minute field goal defeated the Rams last week, his 46-yard kick was a life-altering experience. "It feels good," Nedney said, "until a 320-pound guy decides to jump on me." Panther defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, a former Anaheim Ram, wondered what the big deal was. "Man, I don't keep up with the tabloids," Gilbert said. "I guess I didn't know nobody gave us a chance." The line: Saints by 1 1/2.

BETTER THERE THAN HERE

Arizona (3-6) at Minnesota (7-2), Ch. 11, 10 a.m.: In another election shocker, Cardinal quarterback Jake Plummer went door to door asking residents to vote yes for Proposition 302--and the measure still passed. That means Cardinals fans will soon have a new $331-million stadium, where they will be able to go and boo Plummer in state-of-the-art comfort. The line: Vikings by 13 1/2.

HALFTIME SHOW TO FEATURE GLADIATORS WITH PITCHFORKS

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