With the makings of a pretty fair all-star team nursing injuries, the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins meet today in a clash of AFC East archrivals coming off embarrassing losses in their season openers.
The game is expected to draw some 45,000 fans to the Memorial Stadium, far below capacity. And although the Colts have had trouble filling the home stands in recent seasons, their performance last week certainly didn't help ticket sales.
With third-stringer Mike Kirkland starting at quarterback in place of the injured Bert jones, Baltimore suffered its worst opening-game loss in 25 years, a 38-0 pasting by the Dallas Cowboys in the season's first Monday night game.
Jones, who injured his right shoulder in the preseason finale against Detroit again will be on the sideline. The Colts' quarterbacking is expected to be handled by Bill Troup, the usual second-stringer who missed the Dallas debacle with a shoulder injury.
The Dolphins, who lost to the New York Jets, 33-20, in their first game of the season, also have quarterback problems.
Bob Griese, who put on eyeglasses and led the Miami comeback last year, is out at least until the middle part of the season with an injured left knee that could require surgery.
Don Strock started at quarterback against the Jets and had his first pass intercepted. He finished with 10 completions in 23 throws for 108 yards, but as New York quarterback Richard Todd noted afterward, the Dolphins' problems were not just who was behind the center.
"Bob Griese," Todd observed, "does not play defense."
Miami, whose defense matureed late last season into one of the National Football League's strongest, gave up 377 yards to the Jets, who led, 10-0, before the Dolphins were able to cross midfield.
Baltimore's defense, also a strong point in three consecutive division titles, looked pathetic against the defending Super Bowl champion Cowboys, giving up 583 yards.
It, too, will be lacking its usual signal-caller today. Linebacker Stan White, the defensive captain, is expected to miss at least four weeks with strained knee ligaments. Also out of action will be safety Norm Thompson, who intercepted two Dallas passes, and All-Pro tackle George Kunz, who reinjured his back in the first-week loss.
In other matchups today, Cincinnati plays at Cleveland, Houston visits Kansas City, the New York Jets play at Buffalo, San Diego hosts Oakland, Seattle is at Pittsburgh, Atlanta plays at Los Angeles, San Francisco entertains Chicago, Dallas visits the New York Giants, New Orleans and Green Bay plays at Milwaukee, Philadelphia is at Washington and New England visits St. Louis.
Denver is at Minnesota Monday night.
Green Bay got five sacks from Ezra Johnson last Sunday. He'll be pursuing the Saints' Archie Manning today. The Pack will start quarterback David Whitehurst, still nursing a bruised shoulder, but signed veteran Bobby Douglass as backup protection.
Houston's Dan Pastorini is expected to miss the Oilers' game against the Chiefs because of bruised ribs. Rookie Gifford Nielsen is the likely replacement.