Get them over early. That seems to have been the NFL's thinking, because many division rivalries are finished just eight weeks into the season.

Because of what one general manager called "goofy" scheduling, instead of looking forward to a New York-Washington game toward the end of the season, fans will get to see a matchup between the Giants and New England Patriots.

Nine division series have been completed. Although no official records are kept on the subject, a spokesman for the Elias Sports Bureau, the league's official statistics service, said it probably has never happened before.

Of the nine series, four were played within a three-week span -- three by the end of Week 4, one by the end of Week 5. A pattern emerged: The team that won the first game won the second each time.

No one seems to know why the schedule-makers had such a lapse in logic, but it appears to be the result of a combination of things. An NFL spokesman said that since the television contracts were not signed until early March, there was less time to put together a schedule. Also, the insertion of 16 Sunday night games and one Thursday night game, the league said, threw kinks into the process.

A list of the division series that have been completed, with the winner appearing first: New York-Washington, Buffalo-New York Jets, Miami-New England, Chicago-Green Bay, Washington-Phoenix, New York-Dallas, San Francisco-Atlanta, Los Angeles Raiders-Seattle, Tampa Bay-Detroit. 'Renegade' No More

There is a growing impression that, as great a linebacker as Lawrence Taylor is, his days of what he calls "renegade football" are over. No longer does Taylor perform one-man dissections of an offense. Teams aren't letting him.

Taylor has only 4 1/2 sacks this season, a pace that would give him nine by the end of the regular season, a five-year low. In 1985 he had 13 1/2 sacks, in 1986 20 1/2, in 1987 12, in 1988 15 1/2 and, last season, 15.

"The days of renegade football are over for him," said Giants Coach Bill Parcells, "because that's been decided for him. Teams are no longer going to let him ruin them."

Said Taylor: "Things have changed. . . . I'm not as young as I used to be."

Teams are using the usual double- and triple-teams to stop Taylor, but two things are different this year. One is Taylor's age -- 31. The other is his conditioning. He admitted last week missing all of training camp because of a holdout may have hurt his fourth-quarter efforts.

"The game has changed," Taylor said. "It's that simple. Teams are doing a lot of different things against me. It's not the double-teams that bother you. I'm not into all that pounding and stuff. I want to use some moves. It sort of goes back to conditioning. I've always had good conditioning in the fourth quarter, but this year my conditioning isn't as good." Home Sweet Home

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Eddie Brown nicknamed his team's five-game road trip -- which ended on Sunday with a 38-17 loss to Atlanta -- "Magical Mystery Tour." It was really more brutal than magical.

Because of the World Series, the Bengals' Oct. 14 home game had to be played in Houston. Cincinnati has played in every region in the country except the Northeast during its trek, which began Oct. 1 in Seattle, moved to Southern California for the Rams, the Southwest for Houston, the Rust Belt for Cleveland and the South for Atlanta. The Bengals finished the stretch 2-3.

Only once since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 has a team faced a longer road trip than the one Cincinnati endured. The 1973 New York Jets opened the season with six road games, but never went farther west than Milwaukee in compiling a 2-4 record.

"And I thought you had to join the Navy to see the world," said rookie running back Harold Green. Playing the Game

Mel Blount, the Steelers' Hall of Fame cornerback and one of the most hard-nosed and talented players in the history of the game: "No one wants to play football anymore. Everyone wants to be a movie star. 'Neon' Deion {Sanders}, Bo Jackson, everyone wants to be Mr. Hollywood. Why don't they just stop acting and play?" . . .

The New England Patriots opted for a defensive move yesterday, signing cornerback Mickey Washington after cutting running back Don Overton. . . .

Finally, we go to California, where it seems the San Francisco 49ers are becoming a trifle full of themselves. One can't blame them, though. Besides winning back-to-back Super Bowls, the 49ers are owners of a 7-0 record this season and haven't lost a game in almost a year. That's right, a year -- Nov. 19, 1989, to Green Bay, 21-17 -- which is a streak of 15 games.

"The only team that can beat us is ourselves," said 49ers tight end Brent Jones. "As many games as we've won over the years, I don't think a team is going to come in and just beat us. If we lose, it can be traced back to us. Nobody is going to come in and overpower us."

Offensive tackle Bubba Paris appears to be almost mentally bypassing San Francisco's next four games and looking to a showdown with the now 7-0 New York Giants Dec. 3 in Candlestick Park.

"The race now becomes a conference race," Paris said. "We have a team staying neck-and-neck with us and that's the New York Giants. If you have two great teams in a conference, you know that only one can go to the Super Bowl. We have to get better every week so we can be ready for our showdown with the Giants." Upset Pick

The Indianapolis Colts will beat the New York Giants on Monday night, mainly because Eric Dickerson will rush for 150 yards.