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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 12 BREAKDOWN

Plenty of Spirit in St. Louis

November 17, 2000|MIKE PENNER

The Vikings and the Buccaneers will be interested to learn that this game has been billed as a preview of the NFC final. So will the Cardinals and the Panthers, who beat the Redskins and the Rams two Sundays ago.

Nevertheless, a story line is a story line, and as it is with all these NFC final previews, this one figures to be decided by intangibles.

Show-Them state: Mike Martz was the Redskins' quarterback coach and Trent Green a Redskin third-stringer in 1997. Since then, much has changed, as Martz and Green would like to remind the Redskins and a prime-time national audience. Edge: Rams.

Likability of owners: The Redskins' Daniel Snyder is an arrogant, haughty, bullying rich kid, but he never cynically ran a one-time NFL power into the ground to drive the home fans away and show the other owners how attendance had fallen in order to finagle a sweetheart deal with St. Louis. Edge: Redskins.

General vibe: Snyder would like to fire his coach, and his coach knows it. The St. Louis media would like to hug the Rams, and the Rams know it. Edge: Rams.

You make the call.

The line: St. Louis by 5.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, VINNY

New York Jets (6-4) at Miami (8-2), 1:15 p.m.: Vinny Testaverde turned 37 Monday, and what did the Jet quarterback get? A bunch of pointed questions about the Jets' three-game losing streak and Testaverde's league-high 15 interceptions and what exactly was the real problem with the Jets. "Let's say I did know," Testaverde told the New York press corps. "Why would I tell you?" Then they all put on funny hats and sang songs and ate cake and played Pin the Tail on the Testaverde. The line: Miami by 3 1/2.

BUFFALO BILL WARY OF CHIEFS' AMBUSH

Buffalo (6-4) at Kansas City (5-5), 10 a.m.: Less than thrilled by being reinstalled as the Bills' starting quarterback, Rob Johnson fears he is being set up for a fall. After watching Doug Flutie pad his won-lost record against Chicago and New England, Johnson is immediately tossed into the grinder: road games at Kansas City and Tampa Bay. "I don't know if this quarterback controversy is going to end," Johnson says, fearing the worst. "We've got two tough games here on the road. We'll see what happens, you never know." Standing on the Bills' bench, Flutie's already looking over his shoulder. The line: Kansas City by 2 1/2.

COMMITMENT TO TURBULENCE

Oakland (8-2) at New Orleans (7-3), 10 a.m., Channel 2: A never-ending barrel of laughs, those Raiders. When their team flight from Denver began with the pilot hurtling down the runway and then slamming on the brakes, defensive end Regan Upshaw and linebacker Travian Smith tried to comfort white-knuckled teammates by yelling, "Mayday! Mayday! We're going down!" Oh, that Raider humor. "I don't think some of the guys appreciated it," Upshaw noted. "We stopped because there probably would have been too many people to fight." The line: Oakland by 3.

HE HOPES TO GIVE 120%

Indianapolis (7-3) at Green Bay (4-6), 10 a.m.: Knocked out of Sunday's game because of a sprained foot, Packer quarterback Brett Favre said his chances of starting against the Colts are "70-50." Whatever that means, the Packers are hopeful Favre will be able to extend two personal streaks: 135 consecutive games started, a record for NFL quarterbacks, and 24-0 in games played in weather 34 degrees or colder, a record kept only in Green Bay by people with too many frozen brain cells. The line: no line.

COMING UP ON HBO: 'SIRAGUSA RAW, UNCENSORED'

Dallas (4-6) at Baltimore (7-4), 1:15 p.m., Channel 11: Raven defensive tackle Tony Siragusa had them rolling in the aisles this week at a promotional gig for the NFL Players Assn.'s annual Super Bowl party. Siragusa told reporters in Tampa that Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp would need to escort Buccaneer teammates to the party the night of the Super Bowl because he was going to be too busy celebrating the Ravens' victory over Tampa Bay. Siragusa also said, "I think we're on a roll now." And, "We feel if we can score 14 or 17 points, we can be unstoppable." I tell ya, he had a million of 'em. The line: Baltimore by 7.

SO GOOD OF HIM TO CLEAR THAT UP

Detroit (6-4) at New York Giants (7-3), 10 a.m.: Barry Sanders, the J.D. Salinger of the NFL, emerged from seclusion this week with his own web site, where he informed anxious fans: "People still want to know if I will ever play football again, so let me clear it up for you. No, I won't play in 2000, and I don't ever see myself playing again. . . . Would I play if Detroit traded me? Probably not." Fans responded by setting up their own web site to discuss "What Did Barry Mean by 'Probably?' " The line: Giants by 5.

SAME THING APPLIES TO HIS ALMA MATER

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