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Week 13 Breakdown

November 29, 2002|Mike Penner | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI AT BUFFALO

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Miami by 2 1/2.

Quick slant: Hard to beat a good team twice. But it's December in Buffalo.

Plot: Miami is 7-4 and leads the AFC East. Buffalo has lost three in a row and is 3-7 in its last 10 games against AFC East opponents. But Sunday is Dec. 1, known by Dolphin and Bill fans as the great equalizer. The Dolphins are 1-4 in their last five December visits to Buffalo -- and that has been with quarterbacks named Dan Marino and Jay Fiedler, not Ray Lucas, who had his infamous "worst game ever played" in a 23-10 loss to Buffalo on Oct. 20. Lucas, 2-2 since, gets one last chance before Fiedler and his healed broken thumb return to the lineup Dec. 9. Miami battle cry: One For The Thumb!

Monday's headline: "Bills All Thumbs As Dolphins Earn Split"

*

CHICAGO AT GREEN BAY

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 11.

The line: Green Bay by 9 1/2.

Quick slant: Packers officially caught looking ahead.

Plot: Bears-Packers used to be the fiercest rivalry in pro football, but the Packers have seen the Bears this season, and thus spent all week talking about Warren Sapp's season-ending hit on Green Bay offensive tackle Chad Clifton and what might happen to Sapp the next time the Packers play Tampa Bay. After Green Bay offensive line coach Larry Beightol phoned Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to warn that Sapp "could be cut-blocked next time we see him," Commissioner Paul Tagliabue issued a memo to cease and desist. An ideal upset opportunity for the Bears. Except, they're the Bears.

Monday's headline: "Bears Barely Register On Packers' Radar Screen"

*

TENNESSEE AT NEW YORK GIANTS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: New York by 3

Quick slant: Their own worst enemies.

Plot: Never mind what the marquee says. Sunday, it's the Titans against the Titans and the Giants against the Giants, same as it was last weekend, when the two playoff contenders took to the road to carbo-load for the stretch run -- and both went hungry. The Giants turned the ball over three times in a 16-14 loss to the expansion Houston Texans. The Titans outgained Baltimore, 402 yards to 199, but gave away the ball four times, along with the game, 13-12. Tennessee's Eddie George, three yards shy of Earl Campbell's franchise rushing record (8,574), could run wild against the Giants' injury-riddled defense.

Monday's headline: "Titans Try To Give It Away but Giants Refuse"

*

ARIZONA AT KANSAS CITY

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Kansas City by 9 1/2.

Quick slant: Hold that call.

Plot: The-dog-ate-my-playbook probably wasn't going to fool anyone, so credit Arizona running back Thomas Jones with creativity, if nothing else, for getting out of the rest of the season by claiming he broke his hand while attempting to answer the phone. Are the Cardinals really buying that one? Well, they've seen Jones handle the football, so, theoretically, such an accident is plausible. But the Cardinals won't be paying for it. The team has placed Jones on the reserve/non-football injury list, meaning they don't have to pay him for the last five games. Including the next Cardinal defeat, coming up on Sunday.

Monday's headline: "Cardinals Phone It In"

*

BALTIMORE AT CINCINNATI

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Baltimore by 3.

Quick slant: Lucky man, that Michael Westbrook.

Plot: Westbrook never fulfilled the promise he brought with him into the NFL in 1995, so his off-season signing with the Pro Football Hall of Underachievement, also known as the Cincinnati Bengals, seemed a perfect fit. Alas, the Bengals were too maddening for even Westbrook, who lobbied for and finally received his release from the team Wednesday. On the Bengals' Web site, Westbrook described the move as "a combination of them giving up on me and my heart not being into it. I don't know if I'll play again. I'm just going to go home and play with the kids and laugh about the situation."

Monday's headline: "Bengals Lose, Go Home, Laugh About The Situation"

*

CAROLINA AT CLEVELAND

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Cleveland by 7 1/2.

Quick slant: Dwayne Rudd rears his ugly helmet again.

Plot: Not to beat this into the ground or anything, but if Rudd hadn't beaten his helmet prematurely into the ground and negated a season-opening victory over Kansas City, the Browns would be 7-4 and alone atop the AFC North standings. As it is, Cleveland is a half-game behind Pittsburgh after putting together the league's quietest 4-1 run while averaging 26 points a game. Carolina, meanwhile, is 0-8 since being 3-0 -- the league's longest losing streak. Coach John Fox hasn't given up on the season, sticking with quarterback Rodney Peete. Which means he has given up on Chris Weinke.

Monday's headline: "Browns Wild-Card Worthy, but Don't Tell Anyone"

*

PITTSBURGH AT JACKSONVILLE

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Pittsburgh by 3

Quick slant: Is it Maddox or Stewart? Wouldn't the Jaguars like to know?

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