GAME OF THE DAY New Orleans (5-3) at San Francisco (7-1), 1 p.m.
TV: Channel 2.
Joe Montana has been hot--13 touchdown passes in the last four games--and the 49ers lead the league in passing. But kicker Ray Wersching will have a new holder and the 49ers probably will have a new quarterback for a week since Wersching kicked Montana in the hand in practice. Steve Young will take over both jobs. That may be all the Saints need to break up the 49ers' waltz through the NFC West and bring back the "Who Dat?" fever of 1983. The Saints lead the league in defense and rushing, and in last week's rout of the Rams they discovered a triple-threat running back, Dalton Hilliard, to go with Rueben Mayes, who gained 144 yards against the 49ers three weeks ago. Agile quarterback Bobby Hebert could be effective against the weak 49er pass rush. But who dat say the Saints ain't a playoff contender? Why, Coach Jim Mora.
Career backup Jeff Rutledge will start at quarterback for the Giants again, but Phil Simms' knee is well enough for him to be in uniform. The Eagles, 4-1 in non-strike games, have beaten everybody in the NFC East except the Giants. The Giants are impossible to run against, but it won't matter. Eagle quarterback Randall Cunningham, once wildly erratic, is picking his spots, finding receivers--and leads the team in rushing.
Detroit (2-6) at Washington (6-2), 10 a.m.
The Lions can't run and can't stop anybody from running--two facts that should dictate strategy and give slumping Redskin quarterback Jay Schroeder a breather, while the Redskin defense tees off on Chuck Long.
Tampa Bay (4-4) at Minnesota (4-4), 10 a.m.
The Buccaneers, on the road for the third straight week, may be ready to scuttle the ship. Their offense isn't as good as their record and they may still be in shock after letting the Cardinals get away last week in league-record style. Tampa Bay led, 28-3, in the last quarter but lost, 31-28. Coach Ray Perkins refutes theories that his 3 1/2-hour practices are a factor as ridiculous. Viking Coach Jerry Burns, complaining that quarterback questions were bugging him, waited until late Friday to say Wade Wilson will start after relieving Tommy Kramer in the latter's one-half comeback against the Raiders.
AFC GAMES Indianapolis (4-4) at Miami (4-4), 10 a.m.
Can Eric Dickerson offset Dan Marino? The Colts' defense has kept Tony Eason, Ken O'Brien and Dan Fouts under control the last three weeks, and they hope a ball-control game will keep Marino off the field. The Dolphin defense is soft against the rush. A healthy Gary Hogeboom reclaims the Colt quarterback spot from capable Jack Trudeau. The Colts have lost 14 straight at Miami.
Buffalo (4-4) at Cleveland (5-3), 1 p.m.
Robb Riddick, the Bills' all-purpose back and league leader with eight touchdowns, is gone with a broken collarbone, replaced by Ron Harmon, but rookie Cornelius Bennett looks like a big addition to the defense. In a shoot-out between former Miami U. quarterbacks Bernie Kosar and Jim Kelly, the latter has a good track record in bad weather, which is often a factor in Cleveland.
Houston (5-3) at Pittsburgh (5-3), 10 a.m.
The Steelers have the only passing game worse than the Rams' but can move the ball on the ground. The Oilers may miss running back Mike Rozier, who has a sore foot, but Warren Moon could take up the slack throwing against the Steelers' gambling pass defense. The Oilers have lost nine straight in Three Rivers Stadium.
N.Y. Jets (4-4) at Kansas City (1-7), 10 a.m.
Joe Klecko, the Jets' best defensive lineman, returns from a long injury absence, but Monday night's upset of the Seahawks cost them a lot of offense. Wide receiver Wesley Walker, tight end Mickey Shuler and running back Johnny Hector all are out. Chief quarterback Bill Kenney has a hairline fracture of the left wrist. Coach Frank Gansz has shelved ex-starter Todd Blackledge and put unused free agent Frank Seurer next in line.
INTERCONFERENCE GAMES Dallas (4-4) at New England (4-4), 10 a.m.
Herschel Walker may get his--and general manager Tex Schramm's--wish and settle in at tailback ahead of an ineffective Tony Dorsett, taking advantage of the Patriots' beat-up linebacker corps. Schramm also suggested on his radio show that Coach Tom Landry should bench quarterback Danny White. "I guess I'll have to start listening to Tex's show," Landry said.
Green Bay (3-4-1) at Seattle (5-3), 1 p.m.
The Kingdome is a tough assignment for the young Packers after last week's heartbreaking loss to the Bears--a 52-yard field goal on the final play--but Coach Forrest Gregg is realistic. "The Seahawks won't feel sorry for us," he said. The Pack will have a new kicker, Max Zendejas, instead of Al Del Greco. The Seahawks should be aroused after Monday night's loss at New Jersey.
Cincinnati (2-6) at Atlanta (2-6), 1 p.m.
TV: Channels 4 and 39 (San Diego)
Trouble on both sides, but the Bengals seem to have the tools to fix theirs. Although they keep blowing late leads, General Manager Mike Brown says time hasn't run out yet on Coach Sam Wyche. Even quarterback Boomer Esiason, who has feuded with Wyche, says, "Firing Sam isn't the answer." Falcon owner Rankin Smith is threatening to fire the club president and executive vice president, who happen to be his sons. The defense has given up 126 points since the strike. No. 1 draft pick Chris Miller signed last month and could play quarterback any time.
MONDAY NIGHT Chicago (7-1) at Denver (4-3-1), 6 p.m.
TV: Channels 7 and 10 (San Diego).
The Bears are cruising in the NFC Central and playing just well enough to win, not blowing people away as they did in '85. They might be 4-4 without the late heroics of Jim McMahon and the defense, which has allowed one touchdown in the second half the last three weeks. Now they're without defensive tackle Dan Hampton and linebacker Otis Wilson for a while. The Broncos are more desperate. Quarterback John Elway will check out the Bears' suspect cornerbacks.