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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 9 PRIMER

It's a Nightmare Come True

October 27, 2000|MIKE PENNER

Tennessee (6-1) at Washington (6-2).

Their nickname offends Native Americans. They had the nerve to charge fans to watch practice. They forced the Ravens to park their team busses in the back of the FedExField parking lot, at $40 a bus, requiring a golf cart to transport the Ravens' 75-year-old owner Art Modell to the entry gate. They were fined $20,000 for inciting the crowd and violating league noise-control rules in a home game against Tampa Bay. They employ a P.A. announcer who cheers big plays by the home team and taunts visitors by braying, "Ravens fans suck!"

The Rams are averaging 42 points a game, but the Redskins are the most offensive team in the league.

With the Ram defense a shambles, Tampa Bay in ruins and everybody in the NFL waiting for Daunte Culpepper to act his age, the Redskins are starting to look like the favorite to win the NFC title. And no one outside the Beltway wants that.

Tennessee, the defending AFC champion, comes in with a six-game winning streak, an ornery defense and, for one night anyway, the sentimental title of "America's Team."

The line: Washington by 3 1/2.

MOSS HYSTERIA

Minnesota (7-0) at Tampa Bay (3-4), 10 a.m. If you ask Randy Moss, no other team in the NFL can match Minnesota's 7-0 record because no other team in the NFL has Randy Moss. "I've always been a prime time player," he revealed the other day. "That's what my nickname's for, buddy. I mean, they call me 'Super Freak.' Ain't nobody out there that can really do it like myself." By sending long balls to Moss for two months, Culpepper has become the third quarterback to win his first seven NFL starts, but is handling his surprising success with more humility. For good reason. The other two quarterbacks to start 7-0? Mike Tomczak and Dieter Brock.

The line: Tampa Bay by 3.

PAPER LIONS, THE SEQUEL?

Detroit (5-2) at Indianapolis (5-2), 10 a.m. Team from Motor City comes to home of the Indy 500, gets hit head-on by creaking jalopy. "I'm an old '65 Buick that has a little rust and is missing some trim and leaks when it rains," Colts linebacker Cornelius Bennett says. "I'm just happy they let me play." The ghost of Wayne Fontes escorts the Lions to the RCA Dome: The Lions are 5-2, and no one has any idea how or why they got there. Is Bobby Ross really that good a coach? Or will Detroit, after back-to-back games against Indianapolis and Miami, be just another 5-4 team?

The line: Indianapolis by 7.

DON'T MENTION 'JETS' TO EITHER TEAM

Green Bay (3-4) at Miami (5-2), 10 a.m. While the Dolphins were blowing a 23-point lead and losing to the Jets in overtime Monday night, Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman was not flying back to Green Bay in time for the team's first workout after a bye week. Earlier this year, Freeman missed the first day of a mandatory April mini-camp because his flight was canceled and the first day of a June mini-camp for what the club described as "illness." No truth to the rumor Freeman uses the same travel agent as Isaiah Rider.

The line: Miami by 4 1/2.

BREAKDOWN RECOMMENDS THE SINGLE WING

Pittsburgh (4-3) at Baltimore (5-3), 10 a.m. Trent Dilfer, Tony Banks, Kent Graham, Kordell Stewart. Doctor, is there a quarterback in the house? Steeler Coach Bill Cowher, after a top-secret coin-tossing session, opts to start Stewart, but can't offer a better rationale than, "Right now, Kordell gives us our best opportunity to win." Raven Coach Brian Billick, meanwhile, has replaced Banks with Dilfer, mainly because the Ravens haven't scored a touchdown in 16 quarters and 49 possessions. Not that anyone in Baltimore is counting.

The line: Baltimore by 4 1/2.

COY BACON WOULD HELP, TOO

St. Louis (6-1) at San Francisco (2-6), 1 p.m, Ch. 11. So the Rams finally fell, scoring 34 points against Kansas City and still losing by three touchdowns, and are giving up an average of 33 points and 365 yards a game. But they're not panicking. No, they just decided this week to bench Pro Bowl defensive end Kevin Carter and bring Bud Carson, 69, out of retirement to co-coordinate the defense. Next move expected: Rams announce Jack Pardee is starting at linebacker. 49ers' Coach Steve Mariucci, meanwhile, held a team meeting to plot strategy for a long-time nemesis--yes, the Bay Area media. "Yeah, you bet we talk about how to handle the media," Mariucci said. "You guys are a rough crowd, you know."

The line: St. Louis by 7.

HE'S POLISH, CHARGERS ARE THE JOKE

Oakland (6-1) at San Diego (0-7), 5:15 p.m., ESPN. Sebastian Janikowski, an international incident waiting to happen? Wait no more. When news of Janikowski's game-winning field goal against Kansas City filtered back to his native Poland--It was longer than 40 yards!--the Warsaw newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza sent one of its sportswriters to Oakland to interview the homeland hero. "He's not well-known in Poland," the reporter told the Contra Costa Times. "That's because American football is not popular in Europe." Special section planned for Janikowski's next 45-yarder.

The line: Oakland by 7.

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