Times Staff Writer


Cincinnati (7-1) at Cleveland (5-3), 10 a.m.

The Browns will be the next AFC Central challenger with a starting quarterback returning in time to face the Bengals. Cincinnati took care of Houston and Warren Moon last week, 44-21, but Cleveland has more of a defense to go with Bernie Kosar. The Browns have allowed only 12 points a game in the last month. The Bengals beat the Browns without Kosar 5 weeks ago, 24-17, but the Cleveland quarterback seemed in midseason form a week ago, leading a 29-21 victory over Phoenix in his first week back. Boomer Esiason will test the Cleveland secondary, which has allowed only 2 touchdown passes and a 45% completion rate.



Chicago (7-1) at New England (3-5), 10 a.m.

The way the Bears have been playing defense, Doug Flutie can’t be looking forward to his first start against his former teammates. Flutie is 2-2 since taking over as New England’s quarterback. The Bears are playing the best defense in the league, having allowed only 83 points, and it’s a good thing because the offense is averaging fewer than 20 points a game.

Washington (5-3) at Houston (5-3), 5 p.m.



Coach Joe Gibbs will start Doug Williams again at quarterback after Williams led the Redskins past the Packers last week, although Mark Rypien, who leads the NFC in passing, has recuperated from bruised ribs. Perhaps Gibbs is going with experience as the Redskins approach the toughest part of their schedule--games in November against New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco and Cleveland. Houston has won 13 of its last 14 in the Astrodome.

Miami (4-4) at Tampa Bay (2-6), 10 a.m.

Dolphin Coach Don Shula will be facing a man who knows more about him than any other coach in the league, son Mike Shula, who coaches the Buccaneer quarterbacks. But the main characters figured to be quarterbacks Dan Marino and Vinny Testaverde until Testaverde injured his back last week. He may play, but veteran Joe Ferguson will start.

Green Bay (2-6) at Buffalo (7-1), 10 a.m.

The Packers signed Dale Dawson to replace kicker Max Zendejas, who missed 7 of 16 field goal attempts, including a 24-yarder against Washington last week that would have sent the game into overtime. However, the Packers have bigger problems against quarterback Jim Kelly and the Bills, who seem to be just hitting their stride on offense with 94 points in the last 3 games after winning with defense for the first 5 weeks. Green Bay has held its last 3 opponents to fewer than 21 points, and forced 21 turnovers.


Pittsburgh (2-6) at New York Jets (4-3-1), 10 a.m.

After 6 straight weeks of bad news, things are looking up for the Steelers, who knocked off Denver last week and will get quarterback Bubby Brister back to face the Jets. Brister is recovering from a broken finger. Coach Chuck Noll, totally out of character, pulled out all the stops last week against Denver with gadget plays, wide receiver reverses, a no-huddle offense and a new offensive backfield.


San Diego (2-6) at Seattle (4-4), 1 p.m.

TV: Channel 4.

The Seahawks will be without linebacker Brian Bosworth, their leading tackler, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Monday, but Seattle shouldn’t need him in trying to avenge a 17-6 defeat at San Diego earlier in the season. The Seahawks, coming off defeats to the Rams and New Orleans, also have lost 2 straight at the Kingdome, where they haven’t lost 3 in a row since 1980. The Chargers, who have been shut out twice in losing 4 straight, rank last in the AFC in offense.


Minnesota (5-3) at San Francisco (5-3), 1 p.m.

The 49ers fell to third place in the NFC West by losing 2 of 3 games, but Coach Bill Walsh says not to worry, San Francisco will make the playoffs if it wins 5 of its last 8. Joe Montana will not play because of bruised ribs and a sore elbow, and Walsh will start Steve Young at quarterback. Wade Wilson, who is injury free, got Minnesota’s offense back on track in a 49-20 victory over Tampa Bay last week. The Viking defense has 13 pass interceptions.

Atlanta (1-7) at Philadelphia (4-4), 10 a.m.

The Eagles have won 3 of their last 4 games, but they might have been better off than a game out of first place in the NFC East if they hadn’t been outscored in the first quarters of the last 6 games, 63-0. Atlanta Coach Marion Campbell has quarterback Chris Miller back after an ankle injury as the Falcons attempt to end a 5-game losing streak.


Phoenix (4-4) at Dallas (2-6), 10 a.m.

The demise of America’s team continues with a 2-6 start, the Cowboys’ worst in 25 years. The opinion that the game has passed Coach Tom Landry by and that it is time for him to step down is being heard around Dallas. The defense hasn’t been all that bad, but the Cowboys are scoring just 17 points a game and could be in trouble against Neil Lomax and the high-powered Cardinal offense, which ranks first in the league.

New York Giants (5-3) at Detroit (2-6), 10 a.m.

The Giants have stayed even with Washington atop the NFC East by winning 3 of 4 games with defense and kicker Paul McFadden, who helped win 2 games when regular kicker Raul Allegre was injured. The Giants beat the Lions 2 weeks ago, 30-10, and it shouldn’t be much different with former Raider Rusty Hilger as quarterback of a Detroit offense that has not scored more than 14 points since its opener.


Denver (4-4) at Indianapolis (3-5)

TV: Channel 7, 6 p.m.

Coach Dan Reeves promised to make changes in his starting lineup when the Broncos were embarrassed in Pittsburgh last week, and one will include John Elway, his injured ankle healed, at quarterback. It’s good news-bad news, though, for the Denver defense. Dennis Smith is back at safety, but Karl Mecklenburg will be out for 6 weeks with a broken thumb. The defense was the biggest culprit in Pittsburgh, allowing 256 yards rushing and 39 points. Indianapolis Coach Ron Meyer finally let Gary Hogeboom out of his doghouse because he was the last uninjured quarterback left when Chris Chandler got hurt. Hogeboom threw a touchdown pass to help beat San Diego but Chandler is expected to start.