NFL PREVIEW Today's games



SEATTLE (4-9) at ATLANTA (8-4-1)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: Seahawks lead 5-2. Seahawks beat Falcons 30-10 on Dec. 3, 2000, at Atlanta.
Last week: Seahawks lost to Eagles 27-20; Falcons lost to Buccaneers 34-10.
Key matchup: Seahawks' run defense vs. Falcons QB Michael Vick. Against Minnesota in Week 13, Vick ran for 173 yards -- most by a quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. He leads NFL QBs with 663 yards rushing and eight TDs, and ranks in top 30 of all NFL rushers. Seahawks have NFL's worst rushing defense, allowing 168.2 yards per game nearly 30 yards more than second-worst rushing defense.
NEW YORK JETS (7-6)at CHICAGO (3-10)
Time: 1 p.m.
Radio: WBBW-AM (1240).
Series history: Bears lead 4-3. Jets beat Bears 17-10 on Nov. 26, 2000, at Jets.
Last week: Jets beat Broncos 19-13; Bears lost to Dolphins 27-9.
Key matchup: Jets WRs Laveranues Coles and Wayne Chrebet vs. Bears CBs Jerry Azumah and R.W. McQuarters. Last week, Coles became first Jet since 1999 to break 1,000 yards receiving in a season. In recent weeks, Jets' passing game has taken off with QB Chad Pennington at helm. Bears secondary must take away big passing plays to give anemic offense a chance.
OAKLAND (9-4) at MIAMI (8-5)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: Raiders lead 18-10-1. Dolphins beat Raiders 18-15 on Sept. 23, 2001, at Miami.
Last week: Raiders beat Chargers 27-7; Dolphins beat Bears 27-9.
Key matchup: Raiders' run defense vs. Dolphins RB Ricky Williams. Last week, Raiders held San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, NFL's third-leading rusher, to only 57 yards. Williams is NFL's leading rusher with 1,500 yards and comes off 216-yard, two-TD effort Monday night. Williams averages 115.4 yards rushing per game; Raiders allow 92.8 per game.
TAMPA BAY (10-3) at DETROIT (3-10)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: Lions lead 26-23. Buccaneers beat Lions 15-12 on Dec. 9, 2001, at Tampa Bay.
Last week: Buccaneers beat Falcons 34-10; Lions lost to Cardinals 23-20 in OT.
Key matchup: Bucs' defensive scoring vs. Detroit's offensive scoring. Lions have scored only 21 offensive TDs in 13 games, among lowest totals in the NFL. Bucs have scored six TDs on defense and special teams. If Detroit's defense can score some points, Lions might have chance, because Lions have second-worst NFL offense.
BALTIMORE (6-7) at HOUSTON (4-9)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: First meeting.
Last week: Ravens lost to Saints 37-25; Texans beat Steelers 24-6.
Key matchup: Ravens K Matt Stover vs. Texans K Kris Brown. In a matchup of two teams that average less than 20 points per game (Ravens 19.2, Texans NFL-low 13.9), kickers could be the difference. Stover is 15-of-19 on FGs and 26-of-26 on PATs, while Brown is 14-of-19 on FGs and 17-of-17 on PATs.
SAN DIEGO (8-5) at BUFFALO (6-7)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: Chargers lead 19-10-2. Chargers beat Bills 27-24 on Oct. 28, 2001, at San Diego.
Last week: Chargers lost to Raiders 27-7; Bills lost to Patriots 27-17.
Key matchup: Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Bills' run defense. Held to only 57 yards rushing by Raiders last week, Tomlinson still ranks third in NFL in yards rushing (1,375) and second in yards from scrimmage (1,807). Only Seahawks have worse rushing defense than Bills, who allow 138.7 yards per game on ground.
MINNESOTA (3-10)at NEW ORLEANS (9-4)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: Vikings lead 16-7. Saints beat Vikings 28-15 on Oct. 7, 2001, at New Orleans.
Last week: Vikings lost to Packers 26-22; Saints beat Ravens 37-25.
Key matchup: Vikings' run defense vs. Saints RB Deuce McAllister. McAllister leads NFC with 1,176 yards rushing and 13 TDs rushing. He has seven 100-yard rushing games, two shy of team record. Vikings allow 109.7 yards rushing per game, but have surrendered 15 TDs rushing (tied for fourth worst).
WASHINGTON (5-8)at PHILADELPHIA (10-3)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: Redskins lead 73-57-5. Eagles beat Redskins 37-7 on Sept. 16 at Washington.
Last week: Redskins lost to Giants 27-21; Eagles beat Seahawks 27-20.
Key matchup: Redskins PR Champ Bailey vs. Eagles PR-KR Brian Mitchell. One will be looking for restitution, one for revenge. Last week, Bailey fumbled punt that led to key TD for Giants. Mitchell, who played for Redskins from 1990-99, needs nine yards to become NFL's No. 2 leader in combined yards.
JACKSONVILLE (5-8)at CINCINNATI (1-12)
Time: 1 p.m.
Series history: Jaguars lead 9-5. Jaguars beat Bengals 14-10 on Dec. 9, 2001, at Cincinnati.
Last week: Jaguars lost to Browns 21-20; Bengals lost to Panthers 52-31.
Key matchup: Jaguars P Chris Hanson vs. Bengals P Nick Harris. With two sloppy offenses, both punters could be on field often. Hanson has punted 66 times for 38.2-yard net average (third best in NFL) and a 44.9-yard gross average (second best). Harris has 53 punts for 31.8-yard net average and 41.2-yard gross average.
KANSAS CITY (7-6) at DENVER (7-6)
Time: 4:05 p.m.
TV: KDKA (2).
Series history: Chiefs lead 48-37. Broncos beat Chiefs 37-34 in OT on Oct. 20 at Kansas City.
Last week: Chiefs beat Rams 49-10; Broncos lost to Jets 19-13.
Key matchup: Chiefs RB Priest Holmes vs. Broncos defense. Holmes, NFL's second leading rusher, averages 111.8 yards per game on best rushing unit in league (161.2 yards per game). Broncos defense allows only 83.4 yards rushing per game, also best in NFL, and has not allowed 100-yard rusher in 22 consecutive home games. Holmes is also receiving threat, having caught 68 passes for 650 yards. Broncos will need to focus all aspects of defense on containing Holmes, the NFL's leading scorer with 24 TDs.
DALLAS (5-8)at NEW YORK GIANTS (7-6)
Time: 4:15 p.m.
Series history: Cowboys lead 48-30-2. Giants beat Cowboys 21-17 on Oct. 6 at Dallas.
Last week: Cowboys lost to 49ers 31-27; Giants beat Redskins 27-21.
Key matchup: Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith vs. Giants SS Shaun Williams. With 100 yards rushing, Smith will have NFL record 12th consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season and will tie Walter Payton for most 100-yard games. Of Smith's 76 career 100-yard rushing games, eight came against Giants. He has 19 career TDs against Giants, his third most vs. any club. Williams, who leads Giants with 62 tackles, will need to contain Smith and force Cowboys rookie QB Chad Hutchinson to pass through the cold, swirling wind at the Meadowlands.
GREEN BAY (10-3)at SAN FRANCISCO (9-4)
Time: 4:15 p.m.
TV/radio: WYFX (17/62), WJW (8), WPGH (53), WBBW-AM (1240).
Series history: Packers lead 29-26-1. Packers beat 49ers 25-15 on Jan. 13 at Green Bay in NFC wild card playoff.
Last week: Packers beat Vikings 26-22; 49ers beat Cowboys 31-27.
Key matchup: Packers' hobbled secondary vs. 49ers WR Terrell Owens. Three Packers DBs are slowed with injuries but probable for the game: CB Tod McBride (thigh), S Darren Sharper (hamstring) and CB Tyrone Williams (hamstring). They will need to be at 100 percent to stop Owens, who leads NFL with 12 TD catches and tops NFC with 92 receptions for 1,225 yards.
ARIZONA (5-8) at ST. LOUIS (5-8)
Time: 8:30 p.m.
TV/radio: ESPN, WBBW-AM (1240).
Series history: Rams lead 25-21-2. Rams beat Cardinals 27-14 on Nov. 3 at Arizona.
Last week: Cardinals beat Lions 23-20 in OT; Rams lost to Chiefs 49-10.
Key matchup: An expected 5-8 record vs. an unexpected 5-8 record. As defending NFC champions, Rams were expected to compete for division title and perhaps return to Super Bowl. Instead, they are eliminated from postseason contention with three games left. Arizona's record is more predictable -- Cardinals have not finished over .500 since 1998.
-- Associated Press

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