Green Bay (7-3) at Minnesota (9-1). The Vikings this week can put to rest the Packers and their own reputation for collapsing down the stretch, or begin to slide toward wild-card status for the playoffs. The Vikings, who travel to Dallas on Thanksgiving, are 5-1 in the last six games in the Metrodome against Green Bay.
Upset of the Week
Green Bay over Minnesota. Viking Coach Dennis Green has taken the tack with his players this is not a big game because after it’s over, they’ll still be in first place. Who’s he kidding? It’s the biggest game of the year to date, and that’s what Mike Holmgren is telling the Packers, who know what it’s like to play in big games. Record: 3-8.
Potential Star of the Week
Bill running backs Thurman Thomas and Antowain Smith. Buffalo likes the little guy at quarterback, but if the Bills are going to push forward into the playoffs, they understand they must take advantage of the region’s bad weather and run the ball. The Bills ran over the Colts in a previous meeting and should do so again.
Potential Stiff of the Week
Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch. The rookie had been outplaying Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning early on, and having the opportunity to turn and hand the ball to Barry Sanders contributed to that, but at some point Sunday he’s going to have to make a play to beat Tampa Bay. Against the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense, it won’t happen.
THIS WEEK’S TREND
The 49ers should bounce back because they’re playing a team coached by Mike Ditka. Ditka, while coaching for Chicago and New Orleans, compiled a 3-8 record against San Francisco and averaged 6.6 points a game. In three losing tries, Ditka’s Saints have been outscored, 87-7.
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT
They say if you can’t run the ball in the NFL you can’t win, which explains why the Panthers are 1-9. Carolina’s 71.1-yard rushing average is last in a league in which the average is 112.2. Carolina is on pace to have the second-worst rushing attack in the ‘90s behind only the ’92 Colts, who averaged 68.9 yards a game. “I guess we’re really bad,” said Panther offensive lineman Frank Garcia.
No team playing its home games under a dome has ever made it to the Super Bowl, though in the NFC now, the two best teams are dome teams. The Vikings are 9-1 and currently in position to host the NFC championship game; right behind them sits Atlanta, which is not only 8-2 but plays its final six games indoors.
* Seattle at Dallas, 10 a.m., Ch. 2
Seahawks have a shot--if the Cowboys are looking ahead to the Vikings on Thursday.
The Line: Cowboys by 5 1/2
* Green Bay at Minnesota, 10 a.m., Ch. 11
The Vikings romped last month at Green Bay.
The Line: Vikings by 3
* Oakland at Denver, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 2
With Elway back, Broncos continue to roll.
The Line: Broncos by 10 1/2
* New Orleans at San Fran., 5:15 p.m., ESPN
The 49ers suffered a rare NFC West loss last week at Atlanta. It won’t happen Sunday.
The Line: 49ers by 12 1/2
* Arizona at Washington, 10 a.m.
The Line: Redskins by 1 1/2
* Chicago at Atlanta, 10 a.m.
The Line: None
* Detroit at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m.
The Line: Buccaneers by 6
* Indianapolis at Buffalo, 10 a.m.
The Line: Bills by 7 1/2
* Jacksonville at Pittsburgh, 10 a.m.
The Line: Steelers by 2 1/2
* Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants, 10 a.m.
The Line: Giants by 5 1/2
* Carolina at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
The Line: Rams by 1 1/2
* Kansas City at San Diego, 1:15 p.m.
The Line: Chiefs by 3
* N.Y. Jets at Tennessee, 1:15 p.m.
The Line: Oilers by 2 1/2
* Baltimore at Cincinnati, 1:15 p.m.
The Line: Bengals by 1 1/2
* Miami at New England, 5:15 p.m., Mon.
The Line: Patriots by 3
SIMERS’ RANKINGS / TOP 5
Broncos play the Raiders, Chargers next two weeks. Exhibition games in the middle of the season?
Everyone in Minneapolis has Purple Pride towels, which double as mufflers when temperatures drop, Vikings lose.
Jaguars can put away Steelers this week. Didn’t Kordell Stewart do that weeks ago?
Jimmy Johnson has made the Dan Marino Dolphins dull. So Jerry Jones really was the brains in Dallas.
5. GREEN BAY
Packers are desperate. They lose to Minnesota and have to live in Green Bay with nothing to play for.
Ravens couldn’t beat the Chargers. They should announce immediately they will play no more games.
Redskins have won two of three games. They don’t want to be in position to better themselves via the draft.
Justin starts over O’Donnell this week. That ought to get the fans excited.
29. ST. LOUIS
Vermeil says the Rams stink as if he just noticed. They’ve reeked for almost a decade now.
Jerry Richardson owns the worst team in the league, and he’s leading the group to pick owner for expansion team.
TV game comments from Times staff