Game of the Week You Will See
Indianapolis at Miami
(1 p.m., WUSA-9)
In the teams' last meeting (Oct. 10 in Indianapolis), Dolphins QB Dan Marino answered pointed public criticism by Coach Jimmy Johnson by throwing for 393 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 27 seconds remaining in a 34-31 come-from-behind victory. Marino is in a similar situation heading into today's game. He faces the possibility of being benched by Johnson if the 17-year veteran doesn't display better accuracy than he did in a career-worst, five-interception performance in a 20-0 loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving day. Marino's game against the Cowboys has left him open to speculation that he hasn't fully recovered from a pinched nerve in his shoulder (which kept him out of four full games earlier this season) or that the damage may be permanent. Marino attributed the struggles in his first game back to rust and resulting poor reads of Dallas's defense. Miami's defense has allowed only two 100-yard rushers this season, but both have come in the past three games. CB Terrell Buckley has four interceptions in three games against Colts QB Peyton Manning. Indianapolis (9-2) has won seven straight since that loss to lead the AFC East by one game over Miami (8-3). A victory would give the Colts -- who haven't beaten the Dolphins in three tries with Manning -- their first 10-win season since 1977. The game also marks a homecoming for Immokalee, Fla., native and former University of Miami star RB Edgerrin James, who leads the AFC with 1,080 yards rushing and has 914 yards from scrimmage in the past five games. WR Marvin Harrison has 12 touchdown receptions, two short of Raymond Berry's 40-year-old club record.
Game of the Week You Won't See
St. Louis at Carolina (1 p.m.)
The Rams' remarkable worst-to-first turnaround can be completed today against the Panthers, who must win to remain in the playoff picture. St. Louis, which just last season went winless in the NFC West for the third time this decade, needs a win or a tie to clinch the franchise's first division title since 1985 and its first playoff berth since 1989. The Rams are 6-0 in their division -- outscoring opponents by an average of 25 points -- and have won seven games by 20 or more points this season, as many as they won by that margin between 1990 and 1998. The Rams lead the league in points scored (366), have the NFL's most efficient passer (Kurt Warner, 111.0 QB rating) and kickoff returner (Tony Horne, averaging 36.9 yards per return). The St. Louis defense, second in the NFC with 147 points allowed, is led by DE Kevin Carter's 11.5 sacks. Since allowing 21 second-half points in a 31-27 loss to Detroit, St. Louis has outscored its past three opponents 52-0 after halftime. Carolina coaches accused the Rams of running up the score in a 35-10 win over the Panthers two weeks ago, when St. Louis starters were left in the game and scored a touchdown with 71 seconds remaining. There were plusses for Carolina, however. The Panthers outgained St. Louis 377-362 in offense without RB Tim Biakabutuka, who was nursing an ankle injury, but were undone by two turnovers, each returned for a touchdown. QB Steve Beuerlein has thrown for 2,844 yards and a career-high 19 touchdown passes. In the past two games he has five touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 128.7 QB rating.
GAMES WITHIN THE GAMES
A look at this week's best subplots
Saints RB Ricky Williams
524 yards rushing and two touchdowns in past five games.
Falcons RBs Ken Oxendine and Byron Hanspard
565 yards rushing and one touchdown combined this season.
Cardinals DE Simeon Rice
Standout at Chicago's Mount Carmel High School leads the NFL with 12 sacks.
Eagles QB Donovan McNabb
Fourth career start will be his first game against Rice, a former high school teammate.
Trying to win consecutive games for the first time since 1997. They play at home vs. San Francisco, losers of seven straight.
Bengals have lost 11 straight games at home, the third-longest streak of its kind in NFL history.
Packers QB Brett Favre
Green Bay is 22-6 in December since Brett Favre became starter in 1992.
No. 28 in the NFL in total yards allowed (353.7 per game) and No. 30 in passing yards allowed (242.6).
It's Good to Be King
Last season, QB Shaun King led Tulane University to its first unbeaten season in 67 years. This season, he is attempting to become the first rookie quarterback to lead his team to the NFL playoffs since Seattle's Kelly Stouffer in 1988. King, who hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL regular season game until last week, will make his first start Monday night in Tampa as the Buccaneers battle Minnesota for first place in the NFC Central. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native made his debut last week after starter Trent Dilfer broke his collarbone in the third quarter against Seattle. King directed Tampa Bay's first touchdown drive in eight quarters on the way to a 16-3 win. With the victory, the Buccaneers went 4-0 in November for the first time in team history and into a first-place tie in the division. Dilfer may miss the rest of the season and backup Eric Zeier is nursing sore ribs, so King starts Monday. "The thing was, I know I'm going to be a great quarterback one day," he told the St. Petersburg Times. "I just want to see if I'm ready right now to take this team where it's capable of going."
Tennessee G Bruce Matthews, a 17-year veteran, will play his 260th NFL game today in Baltimore, breaking the record for offensive linemen he currently shares with former Rams great Jackie Slater.... Green Bay QB Brett Favre needs 130 yards passing for his eighth consecutive season with 3,000 yards passing, one behind Dan Marino's all-time record.... Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith is 22 rushing yards away from joining Barry Sanders as the only players in NFL history with nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (Sanders had 10). Smith's next touchdown will give him 146 for his career, moving him past Marcus Allen into second place all-time.