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Week 4 Breakdown

September 27, 2002|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

DALLAS AT ST. LOUIS

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 11

The line: St. Louis by 11 1/2

Quick slant: Another must-win game against the Cowboys for the Rams. Only this time in September.

Plot: There is one word to describe the Rams, 0-3 with their backs scraping the wall on the last weekend of September: lucky. Lucky they are in the new NFC West, where they have to chase down only the 2-1 49ers, instead of the old NFC West, where they would already be three games behind the Saints and Panthers. Lucky that Marshall Faulk's neck injury turned out to be less serious than feared; he should play Sunday. Lucky they have this chance to salvage their season--a home game against the Cowboys--before next week's road adventure against San Francisco.

Monday's headline: "Better to Be Lucky Than Good, Say 1-3 Rams"

*

CHICAGO AT BUFFALO

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Buffalo by 3

Quick slant: The one that got away, one week after the one that got away.

Plot: Drew Bledsoe should have been quarterbacking the Bears by now. When it became obvious the Patriots were casting their lot with Tom Brady, Chicago was cited as Bledsoe's most likely next place of employment. But the Bears, dazzled by their freakish 13-3 finish of a year ago, convinced themselves they really could reach the Super Bowl with Jim Miller--which explains why Bledsoe now starts for Buffalo, why Chicago blew a 20-point lead at home last week to New Orleans and why the Bills, 3-13 last season, are favored by a field goal over the last champions of the NFC Central division.

Monday's headline: "Passed-Over Bledsoe Passes for Over 400 Again"

*

NEW ORLEANS AT DETROIT

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: New Orleans by 7 1/2

Quick slant: M&M, melting before our very eyes.

Plot: In 2001, the Lions made a run for the record book before stumbling into a victory after 12 consecutive losses. A year later, their story is one for the textbook, which from this day forward will forever read: Never try to rebuild by pairing a rookie coach with a rookie general manager. William Ford took that ill-conceived plunge with Marty Mornhinweg and Matt Millen, one plunge leading directly to another. The M&M regime is 2-17, going on 2-18 and over and out. The end is in sight, especially if the 3-0 Saints leave new Ford Field the kind of shambles everyone fully expects.

Monday's headline: "Matt to Marty: 'No, After You, I Insist' "

*

MIAMI AT KANSAS CITY

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

TV: Channel 2

The line: Miami by 3

Quick slant: Bride, Priest meet again.

Plot: Long before Ricky Williams wore a wedding gown on the cover of ESPN magazine (Chapter 487 in "Dark Days in Saint History"), he and Priest Holmes were teammates at the University of Texas. How Williams and Holmes got where they are today--1-2 among NFL rushing leaders--is a book in itself. Williams, having worn out his welcome in New Orleans in three years, has hit the turf running in Miami like no one before him. Holmes, deemed undersized surplus in Baltimore, is now an icon in Kansas City, bidding for his second NFL rushing title in as many years.

Monday's headline: "Holmes Comes Up Short in Longhorn Roundup"

*

CAROLINA AT GREEN BAY

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Green Bay by 7

Quick slant: The gig is up.

Plot: Somewhere over Wisconsin airspace, it will dawn on the Panthers, recently voted most likely to go from 3-0 to 6-10, and they will arrive in Green Bay realizing they are undefeated this late in the season only by a fluke of the schedule, that three victories scratched out at the expense of three winless opponents don't amount to much when Brett Favre is in the pocket and Lambeau Field is rocking and the Packers need an easy victory after three consecutive nervous breakdowns and the only thing breaking down Sunday is the house of cards masquerading as the Great Carolina Turnaround of 2002.

Monday's headline: "Panthers Lose; Planet Remains on Axis"

*

CLEVELAND AT PITTSBURGH

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Pittsburgh by 6

Quick slant: The 100th renewal of the glorious rivalry. Or the seventh.

Plot: Don't believe everything you read, especially if it's printed in the "NFL Record and Fact Book," where it suggests that Sunday's game at Heinz Field is the 100th meeting between these teams, with the Browns leading the series, 54-44. Not quite. These Browns, the current Browns, were formed in 1999 and have played the Steelers a total of six times, as opposed to the original Browns, who played 93 games against the Steelers before relocating to Baltimore and renaming themselves the Ravens. These are the kind of shenanigans that get the NFL into trouble, and retrials of lawsuits filed by Al Davis.

Monday's headline: "Different Browns, Same Old Story"

*

NEW YORK JETS AT JACKSONVILLE

Kickoff: Sunday, 10 a.m.

The line: Jacksonville by 3 1/2

Quick slant: So what's up with Paul Hackett?

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