This is the weekend that two teams with high promise at the beginning of the season - San Francisco and Chicago - virtually could be eliminated from playoff consideration with their sixth losses.

The 49ers finished with an 8-6 record in 1976 under coach Monte Clark. They were 6-2 at this phase of the season, are 3-5 and face the hot-and-cold Saints (2-6) at New Orleans.

The Bears finished with a 7-7 record in 1976. They were 4-4 at this phase and are 3-5 as they entertain Kansas City (2-6) in the Chicago.

Call it balanced competition or mediocrity in the AFC Central, with the possibility of all four teams being deadlocked at 5-4 at sunset and the prospect of a wild card becoming gloomier with Denver still making a run at Oakland in the AFC West and Miami and New England at Baltimore in the Eastern Division.

The Dolphins (6-2) have a slightly harder schedule than the Patriots (5-3) after their game today in Miami.

Miami next play Cincinnati and St. Louis before coming home to play Baltimore, then goes to New England before finishing at home against Buffalo.

The Patroits play Buffalo, Atlanta, and Baltimore on the road and Philadelphia and Miami at home.

The pressure is on St. Louis (5-3) to try to upset the Cowboys (8-0) in Dallas on Monday night in a tight race in teh NFC for a wild-card spot. The Redskins (4-4) in the East, Detroit (4-4) in the Central and Atlanta (4-4) in the West are a game behind the cardinals.

The Cowboys virtually can clinch the Eastern Division title by winning, and they are averaging 28 points on offense and allowing 13 a game.

Of the eight teams that qualified for the playoffs last year - Oakland, New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Dallas and Washington - only Dallas, Oakland and Baltimore appear to be in good position.

The new faces in the race, the Broncos, are the AFC wild-card favorites with a 7-1 record as they face the Charges (4-4) at San Diego.

Left on the Denver schedule will be visits to Kansas City, Houston and Dallas and games at home against Baltimore and San Diego.

Close competition is expected to result between Cleveland (5-3) at Pittsburgh (4-4); Cincinnati (4-4) at Minesota (5-3); Detroit (4-4) at Atlanta (5-3) and Washington (4-4) at Phildelphia (3-5).

In other contests, Oakland (7-1) plays host to Houston (4-4); Baltimore (7-1) is at BUffalo (2-6); Los Angeles (5-3) vs. Green Bay (2-6) at Milwaukee, the New York Giants (3-5) are at Tampa Bay (0-8)and Seattle (2-6) is at the New York Jets (2-6).