GAME OF THE WEEK YOU WILL SEE
Buffalo at Seattle
(4 p.m., WUSA-9, WJZ-13)
The Bills, 4-2 and tied with New England for second place in the AFC East, are looking for much improvement in order to avoid a second straight loss. QB Doug Flutie must rebound from last week's three-interception performance -- his worst of the season -- in Buffalo's 20-14 home loss to Oakland. Complicating Flutie's job will be the loss of his favorite target, WR Eric Moulds (29 catches, three TDs), who will miss three to four weeks with a hamstring injury. Rookie WR Peerless Price will get his first start of the season. Bills Coach Wade Phillips (4-0 against Seattle) expects a return to form for the defense, which had allowed an NFL-low 62.4 yards rushing per game before giving up 195 rushing yards against the Raiders.
Buffalo may get some help from Seattle -- in third place in the AFC West at 3-2 -- where consistency has been a problem. Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren has expressed frustration over the team's offense, which lacks punch and clearly misses holdout WR Joey Galloway more each passing week. The Seattle offense went from fair in its first four games to woeful last week in a 13-10 loss at San Diego. The Seahawks' defense intercepted Chargers QB Erik Kramer on four straight possessions to start the second half, but the offense scored just seven points off those turnovers. While the Seahawks' defense is ranked 22nd overall, giving up 333 yards per game, it has intercepted 11 passes, tied with the Bills for most in the AFC. Seattle's 85 points allowed is third-best in the conference. DEs Michael Sinclair and Cortez Kennedy combined for five sacks in their last game against the Bills.
GAME OF THE WEEK YOU WON'T SEE
Green Bay at San Diego (4 p.m.)
It's a showdown between first-place teams. The AFC West-leading Chargers are trying to prove that their 4-1 record is not a fluke. The Packers are tied for the NFC Central lead, but they're coming off a blowout loss in Denver. Green Bay's 31-10 loss wasn't even that close. The Packers were outgained 514 yards to 133 in total offense, had just five first downs and allowed Denver to control the ball for more than 45 minutes. QB Brett Favre had his worst statistical performance (7 for 23, 120 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions) as a pro, and Green Bay seems to rise or fall with his fortunes. Favre was excellent in rallying Green Bay late in each of its three victories this season (four fourth-quarter touchdowns vs. no fourth-quarter interceptions). But in the Packers' two losses, Favre has thrown four interceptions and completed 42 percent of his passes. RB Dorsey Levens remains effective, and is second in the NFC in combined rushing and receiving yards with 631. One bit of good news for Green Bay: Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, it has won five of six meetings with San Diego.
In spite of a four-interception performance against Seattle and not having thrown for a score since Oct. 3, QB Erik Kramer has led the Chargers to three straight wins and will start again today. San Diego has the NFL's worst rushing offense (67.8 yards per game) and the 24th-ranked passing offense (183.8 yards per game). Fifty-five of San Diego's 107 points have come as a result of turnovers. Of course, the Chargers' stellar defense is the reason the team is in first place. San Diego is giving up 66 yards rushing per game -- best in the league -- and hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 24 games. Opposing offenses have gotten inside the Chargers' 20-yard line just nine times. Other than LB Junior Seau and S Rodney Harrison -- who is doubtful for today's game with a bruised left shoulder -- it is still a largely unknown group, but DT Norman Hand is enjoying a breakthrough season.
GAMES WITHIN THE GAMES
A look at this week's best subplots
Starting CBs Darnell Walker and R.W.
McQuarters are 5 feet 8 and 5-9,respectively; team has given up NFL-high 15 touchdown passes.
Vikings' wide receivers
6-3 Cris Carter, 6-3 Jake Reed and6-4 Randy Moss have combined for 81 catches, 1,210 yards and 7 touchdowns this season.
Dolphins PK Olindo Mare
58 points in last four games.
48 points in last four games.
Broncos RB Terrell Davis
1998 league MVP had 67 carries for 211 yards, two touchdowns and an 0-4 Denver record before his season-ending knee injury.
Broncos RB Olandis Gary
Rookie third-stringer became starter because of injury, has 57 carries for 188 yards, one touchdown and 2-0 record.
Panthers RB Tim Biakabutuka
Once-maligned first-round "bust" now second in the NFC with 449 yards rushing, and leads NFL with an average of 8.3 yards per carry.
Lions QB Gus Frerotte
Once-maligned Redskins castoff replaced injured starter Charlie Batch last week vs. Vikings, went 15 for 24 with 140 yards as Lions came back from a 19-0 deficit to win. Frerotte most likely will start today.
Diamonds in the Rough
Once a team finds a successful formula, other teams will often try to duplicate it. The run-and-shoot and West Coast offenses enjoyed runs around the league, as did the zone blitz defense. Rams QB Kurt Warner may have sparked the latest, and possibly strangest fad. Warner emerged from stints in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe to become the NFL's best early season story by leading St. Louis to a 5-0 record. Former NFL Europe quarterbacks went 5-1 last week, highlighted by Jacksonville's Jay Fiedler (formerly of the Amsterdam Admirals) and Miami's Damon Huard (Frankfurt Galaxy) coming off the bench to rally their teams to wins. Warner (Amsterdam), the Redskins' Brad Johnson (London Monarchs) and Doug Pederson of Philadelphia (Rhein Fire) also were victorious. Seattle's Jon Kitna (Barcelona Dragons) was the lone loser. Tuesday, Sherdrick Bonner, a former quarterback for Arena Football's Arizona Rattlers, was signed by the Arizona Cardinals after a finger injury sidelined starter Jake Plummer.
Steelers C Dermontti Dawson's streak of 170 consecutive starts, the second-longest in the NFL, is in jeopardy. The five-time all-pro is listed as questionable for Monday night's game against Atlanta after pulling a hamstring against Cincinnati last week. If Dawson misses the game, backup Roger Duffy will become just the fifth center to start for the Steelers since 1967. Ray Mansfield -- who holds the franchise record with 182 consecutive starts -- Jim Clack and Mike Webster, who started 177 games in a row, preceded Dawson.
Rice Likes Vikes
San Francisco WR Jerry Rice's record-breaking career began with his first reception on Sept. 7, 1985, against the Vikings. He set a personal best on Dec. 18, 1995, when he had 269 yards receiving against Minnesota. In nine games against the Vikings, Rice has 50 catches, 874 yards and 10 TDs. His first reception against Minnesota today would make Rice the first player to record a catch in 200 consecutive games.