GAME OF THE WEEK
Tampa Bay at Minnesota. Are these teams for real? Some people think the Buccaneers are good enough to challenge the Packers. They ignore that Trent Dilfer plays quarterback for the Buccaneers. Some people think the Vikings' offense will leap over Green Bay. They ignore that Dennis Green is coaching. He's worse than Marty Schottenheimer in the playoffs.
UPSET OF THE WEEK
Baltimore over Pittsburgh. The Steelers have won nine of their last 10, but see what happens when you get rid of Vinny Testaverde? You have a chance to win. Jim Harbaugh and Ted Marchibroda were a dropped pass away from beating the Steelers and taking Indianapolis to the Super Bowl three years ago. Living in exile now--Baltimore--they triumph.
POTENTIAL STAR OF THE WEEK
Kansas City quarterback Elvis Grbac. This is known as striking gold in the NFL--playing against the Raiders' defense right from the start. A chance to take advantage of an eager and aggressive rookie cornerback in Charles Woodson. The ingredients are in place: The Raiders can't put any pressure on Grbac, and the Chiefs can't run.
POTENTIAL STIFF OF THE WEEK
New York Giant quarterback Danny Kanell. OK, so he's a stiff every athletic day of his professional life, but if the Redskins reverse form, somehow stop the run and make Kanell go to the air, don't be surprised--in a league that includes Trent Dilfer and Billy Joe Hobert--if he's not tops in interceptions after Week 1.
TREND OF THE WEEK
If the numbers hold up, Seattle Coach Dennis Erickson will run his opening-day record to 0-4 and Denver Coach Mike Shanahan will improve to 6-0, Dallas will improve on its .750 winning percentage in season openers (28-9-1) and Arizona will start the season with a defeat for the seventh consecutive time.
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT
The Saints open the season against the Rams in St. Louis. Makes you really long for the days when L.A. had the chance to host the dog of the day.
Detroit at Green Bay, 10 a.m., Channel 11
The pressure is on Lion quarterback Scott Mitchell to prove he can be a consistent winner, and an upset of the Packers would go a long way toward that goal.
Line: Green Bay by 9 1/2
Pittsburgh at Baltimore, 10 a.m., Channel 2
With Jim Harbaugh replacing Vinny Testaverde at quarterback, look for a more conservative Raven offense--at least as conservative as Ted Marchibroda can get.
Line: Pittsburgh by 3
New York Jets San Francisco, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 2
Jerry Rice makes another return from a knee injury.
Line: San Francisco by 7 1/2
Oakland at Kansas City, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Look for quarterback Elvis Grbac to hand the ball to . . . to . . . well, Marcus Allen retired and Greg Hill moved on so the feature back position goes--by default--to Donnell Bennett. Jeff Gruden makes his debut as Raider coach.
Line: Kansas City by 8
Washington at New York Giants, 10 a.m.
Line: Giants by 2 1/2
Jacksonville at Chicago, 10 a.m.
Line: No line
Atlanta at Carolina, 10 a.m.
Line: Panthers by 4
Seattle at Philadelphia, 10 a.m.
Line: Seahawks by 4
Tennessee at Cincinnati, 10 a.m.
Line: Bengals by 1 1/2
New Orleans at St. Louis, 10 a.m.
Line: Rams by 4
Arizona at Dallas, 1 p.m.
Line: Cowboys by 5 1/2
Buffalo at San Diego, 1 p.m.
Line: Chargers by 1 1/2
Miami at Indianapolis, 1:15 p.m.
Line: Dolphins by 3 1/2
New England at Denver, Monday, 5 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 7
TV games from Times wire servies
SIMERS' RANKINGS / Top 5
1. Kansas City
Chester McGlockton sits on Al Davis as part of opening-game ceremonies.
Draws Bears in the opener. Starters will be free to leave by halftime to check out Sosa.
Elway returns because Broncos needed someone to hand the ball to Terrell Davis.
4. San Francisco
NFL's Babes in Toyland: Steve Mariucci and Dwight Clark running 49ers.
5. Green Bay
Let's hope the Packers continue winning, thereby keeping Reggie White off lecture tour.
SIMERS' RANKINGS / Bottom 5
At the University of Tennessee, Manning couldn't beat Florida, so who does he open with? Miami.
27. San Diego
It's that time of year again: Guess how much money the city loses on the stadium deal.
28. St. Louis
How's this for irony: The Rams cut Ironhead Heyward, accusing him of being dead weight.
29. New Orleans
That's why the Saints always lose; they've been under the impression the season was a hazing ritual.
Rick Mirer was going to throw out the first ball, but brass feared for fans' safety and cut him.