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Kidding Aside, Giants Not Real Deal

Game of the week: N.Y. Giants at Jacksonville, Sunday, 1 p.m.

The Giants shocked Philadelphia in the opener with their Kiddie Corps and catch the Jaguars scrambling to put a sound quarterback on the field. Rob Johnson, subbing for an injured Mark Brunell, limped on a badly sprained ankle--because it was either that or play Steve Matthews--and defeated the Baltimore Ravens. Everybody defeats the Ravens. Johnson’s ankle was put in a hard cast and the team signed Jim Miller, Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback on opening day a year ago, but released before the start of this season. Matthews was with the Chiefs for three years and never took a snap.

The Giants are 4-2 on the road against AFC Central opponents and will rely heavily on rookie running back Tiki Barber, who had 120 yards from scrimmage last week. They wouldn’t have a prayer if Brunell were playing.

Key stat: The Jaguars have won six consecutive regular-season games.

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The line: Jacksonville by 4 1/2.

Super edge: to Jacksonville.

Five Things to Look For

1. Arizona and St. Louis have something in common: Each has lost 13 consecutive times to this week’s opponent. The Cardinals figure to fall again to Dallas, but the Rams catch the 49ers without wide receiver Jerry Rice and quarterback Steve Young. Thirteen consecutive losses is the fifth-longest futility streak in NFL history. Buffalo holds the mark for being the crummiest the longest, losing 20 times in a row to Miami in the ‘70s.

2. Barry Sanders started slowly last week, and he’s matched against Tampa Bay this week. While the Buccaneer defense has shown tremendous improvement under Coach Tony Dungy, Sanders has been at his best against them. In 15 games against Tampa Bay, Sanders has run for 1,763 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry and 117.5 a game.

3. Emmitt Smith can pass Chicago’s Walter Payton for second place on the NFL’s all-time rushing touchdown list with three against Arizona. Smith has 108, Payton 110, and then it will be time to chase down Kansas City’s Marcus Allen, who has 112. Maybe after halftime.

4. Philadelphia kicker Chris Boniol has made 28 consecutive field goals and needs four more to break Fuad Reveiz’s mark of 31 with the Minnesota Vikings.

5. New England punt returner David Meggett needs 18 yards to pass Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and become the NFL’s all-time punt return leader with 3,318 yards.

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ON TV

* San Francisco (0-1) at St. Louis (1-0), 10 a.m., Channel 11: The Rams are convinced that their destiny is to humiliate the 49ers in the Trans World Dome, and they look on San Francisco’s injuries as a sign from on high. They probably still lose.

Line: St. Louis by 1 1/2.

* Green Bay (1-0) at Philadelphia (0-1), 1 p.m., Channel 11: The Eagles are reeling, losers to the Giants, and have decided to stick with Ty Detmer as starting quarterback.

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Line: Green Bay by 7 1/2.

* Denver (1-0) at Seattle (0-1), 1 p.m., Channel 4: Warren Moon starts at quarterback for the Seahawks, who have apparently decided to play this week rather than fly off in embarrassment after being spanked by the Jets.

Line: Denver by 5 1/2.

* Dallas (1-0) at Arizona (0-1), 5 p.m., TNT: The Cowboys should be ripe for a letdown, but how hard do they have to play to take on the likes of Kent Graham and the Cardinals? Switzer is 6-0 against the Cardinals.

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Line: Dallas by 9 1/2.

SUNDAY’S OTHER GAMES

* Washington at Pittsburgh, 10 a.m.

Line: Pittsburgh by 6

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* Tennessee at Miami, 10 a.m.

Line: Miami by 6 1/2

* Carolina at Atlanta, 10 a.m.

Line: Carolina by 3

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* Minnesota at Chicago, 10 a.m.

Line: Minnesota by 1 1/2

* New England at Indianapolis, 10 a.m.

Line: New England by 5

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* Tampa Bay at Detroit, 10 a.m

Line: Detroit by 4 1/2

* Cincinnati at Baltimore, 10 a.m.

Line: Cincinnati by 1 1/2

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* Buffalo at N.Y. Jets, 10 a.m.

Line: N.Y. Jets by 4 1/2

* San Diego at New Orleans, 10 a.m.

Line: New Orleans by 1 1/2

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AROUND THE NFC

WEST

Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler was knocked down 22 of the 40 times he went back to pass. . . . There is a chance linebacker Sam Mills will miss Sunday’s game for the Panthers because of a sore ankle. “Sam Mills not being in there to make the [defensive] calls is kind of like saying Dom [Capers] is not going to be here Sunday. Sam’s the head coach of the defense, so to speak.” Said Capers: “I think Sam’s probably a lot more critical to this team than I am.” . . . Here’s a switch: Steve Young ran the scout team for the 49ers while Jim Druckenmiller settled in as the team’s starting quarterback. The last rookie to start at quarterback for the 49ers? Joe Montana--and in St. Louis--on Dec. 2, 1979, in a 13-10 loss in which he completed five of 12 passes for 36 yards.

Quote to ponder: Atlanta lost to Detroit by 11 points, but Falcon defender Lester Archambeau was feeling pretty good: “We made a statement that we don’t intend to be the same defense people have ripped for years. It makes you feel good to play this well.”

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Key substitution: Terrell Owens replaces Jerry Rice as the 49ers’ starting wide receiver and must also pick up the slack for J.J. Stokes, who has yet to catch a pass. Last week Young threw to Stokes in the fourth quarter with the 49ers losing by four, and the ball bounced off his chest and was intercepted. Stokes drew criticism for not putting his hands out for the ball.

CENTRAL

The Bears got a big game out of running back Raymont Harris against the Packers on Monday night and will now be playing the Vikings, who allowed a league-high 4.2 yards per carry last season. . . . Tampa Bay beat San Francisco and became the focus of Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday and CNN. “It’s kind of like cologne,” Tampa Bay Coach Tony Dungy said. “If you splash it on, it makes you feel good. If you drink it, that’s when it becomes a problem.”

Quote to ponder: The Lions’ offense played poorly, wide receiver Herman Moore said. “You’ve got colleges and high school teams looking at us--at all the things not to do. You know what it’s like in Pop Warner?”

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Key substitution: Look for Rick Mirer to start warming up for the Bears, because Erik Kramer might not be standing long. Kramer, who called his performance against the Packers his worst ever, will have to rely on second-year center Chris Villarial to fill in for injured guard Todd Perry and stop Minnesota’s quarterback mugger John Randle.

EAST

Troy Aikman will start his 115th game for Dallas, passing Roger Staubach for most starts by any Cowboy quarterback, and he will be doing so against the Cardinals, against whom he has thrown 15 touchdown passes, more than against any other team. . . . Arizona, in addition to losing 13 in a row to Dallas, has also dropped nine consecutive home openers.

Quote to ponder: The Cardinals blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead to lose to Cincinnati. “It makes you want to throw up,” defensive coordinator Dave McGinnis said.

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Key substitution: Stephen Davis will replace Washington running back Terry Allen this week, and Allen is upset, although he has a broken thumb. Allen said he could play and carry the ball. “I’ll keep it in one hand the way Emmitt does.” Davis, punched out by Michael Westbrook earlier, gets the first start of his career.

AROUND THE AFC

WEST

Seattle Coach Dennis Erickson needs to figure out a way to get his team out of the gate. The Seahawks are 0-3 in openers, and 0-2 so far in Week 2 games for Erickson. . . . Denver has defeated Seattle in seven of its last nine meetings. . . . Kansas City has not opened a season 0-2 since 1988--one year before Coach Marty Schottenheimer’s arrival. . . . Oakland quarterback Jeff George visited Kansas City in the off-season, but the Chiefs opted to sign quarterback Elvis Grbac instead. “I knew I wasn’t going to Kansas City,” George said. “Once Oakland came into the picture, I told my agent [Leigh Steinberg], ‘Get me to Oakland.’ ”

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Quote to ponder: Seattle linebacker Chad Brown, while playing for Colorado, lost to Nebraska, 52-7. In his debut with the Seahawks, the Jets won, 41-3. “At a couple of points, I thought about Nebraska,” Brown said. “And I was like, ‘OK, this is all a dream, this is all a dream. We’re going to wake up and it’s not going to be real.’ But it was definitely for real, definitely.”

Key substitution: Jim Everett starts for the Chargers in place of Stan Humphries (separated left shoulder) against the guy who cut him, New Orleans Coach Mike Ditka. The Chargers are 3-8 in games Humphries does not start.

CENTRAL

Tennessee lineman Bruce Matthews will have the longest streak of consecutive starts at 150 now that 49er receiver Jerry Rice is sidelined. . . . Baltimore has been unable to sell out Sunday’s game against Cincinnati, prompting a local TV blackout. The Ravens moved to Baltimore only a year ago. . . . With Rice and Young sidelined, Cincinnati’s combination of Jeff Blake and Carl Pickens becomes the most explosive. Blake and Pickens have teamed up for 38 touchdowns with Young and Rice working together for 74. . . . Jacksonville tackle Leon Searcy said the Jaguars have some special feelings for this week’s opponent, the New York Giants. “There’s some bad blood from the preseason. Some things were said on both sides of the ball.”

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Quote to ponder: The Bengals are 8-2 since Bruce Coslet replaced David Shula as head coach. “That made a big difference in team morale,” defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson said. “We had a team full of guys who couldn’t stand Coach Shula. I didn’t really respect him too much. Now we’ve got a coach you like and respect and knows what he’s talking about. You can’t have a guy in there running whatever because of his last name.”

Key substitution: Steve Matthews replaces Rob Johnson if Johnson’s sore ankle prevents him from playing as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback.

EAST

New England has defeated Indianapolis in five of their last seven games. . . . New England has scored 40 or more points in four of its last 13 games. . . . Buffalo running back Thurman Thomas has averaged 4.7 yards a carry against the Jets--his best mark against any team. Buffalo is 8-1 against the Jets when Thomas gains at least 100 yards. . . . Wide receiver Wayne Chrebet caught 16 passes in two games against the Bills last season.

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Quote to ponder: Jet Coach Bill Parcells was asked if he’s worried that his team might be overconfident after drilling Seattle in the opener: “Overconfidence?” Parcells said. “It’s one lousy game.”

Key substitution: Patriot wide receiver Terry Glenn, who played only eight snaps against the Chargers before injuring his ankle, remains on crutches and will be replaced by Troy Brown.


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