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Week 12 Breakdown

November 22, 2002|Mike Penner | Times Staff Writer

BUFFALO AT NEW YORK JETS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: New York by 3

Quick slant: Meet the new Drew.

Plot: In the AFC East, it's all about the quarterbacks. A kid named Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl for New England, so the Patriots trade Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo, a move that instantly transforms the Bills into playoff contenders, forcing the Jets to keep up -- or at least roll the dice with Chad Pennington. Barring injury to Pennington, it's safe to say the Vinny Testaverde era is over. In six starts, Pennington is 4-2, completing 75.3% of his passes for a 107.5 quarterback rating. Each year, three AFC quarterbacks are named to the Pro Bowl. Two of them could be playing at the Meadowlands on Sunday.

Monday's headline: "Change Is a Good Thing, Jets Discover Again"

*

DETROIT AT CHICAGO

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Chicago by 5 1/2

Quick slant: In the Black and Blue Division, this is what the other guys look like.

Plot: Soldier Field isn't the only thing that has been torn down in Chicago this season. The Bears, playing every game on the road, have spread the dejection -- going 1-4 at their "home" field in Champaign, Ill., and 1-4 everywhere else. The Lions are 3-7, a great leap forward in Detroit. Rookie Joey Harrington is last in the NFC with a 61.2 quarterback rating, but with his next touchdown pass he ties the club rookie record, 11, shared by Charlie Batch, Jeff Komlo and Fred Enke. When the Bears look at Chris Chandler and Jim Miller, they look to next year's draft.

Monday's headline: "Only Temporary, They Know, But Bears Stop the Pain"

*

ST. LOUIS AT WASHINGTON

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 11.

The line: Off

Quick slant: Three cheers, St. Louis, for Warner's return. How about two? One?

Plot: Kurt Warner, one-time Super Bowl hero and two-time NFL MVP, returns to the Ram starting lineup this weekend, causing hearts to sink all over St. Louis. Did you see those beautiful spirals Marc Bulger reeled off during his 5-0 long-relief stint? Did you see those nervous wobblers Warner threw during the one series he played Monday night? With no margin for error as his team heads into its stretch drive, Ram Coach Mike Martz is turning the season over to Warner. Coaching isn't easy in this league. As Washington's Steve Spurrier is beginning to discover.

Monday's headline: "Warner's Wonder Wobblers Whip Washington"

*

SAN DIEGO AT MIAMI

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 2.

The line: Miami by 3

Quick slant: A couple of runs at history.

Plot: Is it any surprise that neither the Dolphins nor the Chargers have had a player lead the NFL in rushing? Too many big-armed quarterbacks -- Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, John Hadl. Too many good backs in Miami at the same time -- Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Mercury Morris -- and then none for years. Come 2002, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (1,053 yards) and Miami's Ricky Williams (913) are making a run at it, and Sunday they take their old Texas Christian-Texas rivalry to a new level. Subplot: Ex-Charger assistant Norv Turner tackles his greatest challenge: wringing another win out of Ray Lucas.

Monday's headline: "Dolphins Establish Superior Running Game"

*

ATLANTA AT CAROLINA

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Atlanta by 3 1/2

Quick slant: It must be the black cats on their helmets.

Plot: From the people who brought you Rae Carruth, the Panthers continue to spread joy and civic pride around Charlotte. In the last 17 days, Panther defensive linemen Julius Peppers and Brentson Buckner have tested positive for banned substances, offensive tackle Chris Terry failed to show up in court on domestic violence charges and wide receiver Steve Smith punched out teammate Anthony Bright so badly, Bright spent two nights in a hospital. Terry has since been cut, Smith and Buckner suspended with Peppers soon to join them. Sounds like a 3-7 team headed straight for 3-13.

Monday's headline: "Charlotte Fans Convinced Wrong Team Moved to New Orleans"

*

JACKSONVILLE AT DALLAS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Jacksonville by 2 1/2

Quick slant: Kids these days ...

Plot: In Dallas, Troy Hambrick is the future, Emmitt Smith is the past, but what about the present? That's been a bit of a problem, with Smith hanging on to break the all-time rushing record and Hambrick champing harder at the bit now that Emmitt's got his. "I just feel like it comes a time," Hambrick said last week. "It's not my call to say when it's time, but I'm a guy that wants to get my career off the ground and establish myself as a household name." Whatever happened to respecting your elders? For Cowboy Coach Dave Campo, that's a question to ponder as he makes his way out of town.

Monday's headline: "Future Is Now for Jaguars"

*

CINCINNATI AT PITTSBURGH

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Pittsburgh by 11

Quick slant: Kordell Stewart eases back against the Bengals. Uh-oh.

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