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WITH BUDDY IN THE FOLD, CARDS AIMING HIGH

Buddy is back. And as Buddy Ryan stalks the sidelines at Anaheim Stadium today, he'll draw at least as much attention as his rebuilt Arizona Cardinals do on the field against the Los Angeles Rams.

Playing a team that's gone 19-45 over the past four seasons, the Cardinals have the perfect opportunity to get off on the right foot with their fiery and demanding coach."We're happy with the way the team has taken the challenge," Ryan said. "They adjusted the first day I got here. They called around the league, they know what to expect.

"We plan on winning the (NFC) Eastern Division. It's the toughest division in football and it has the Dallas Cowboys. But I have an excellent team."

The Cardinals won four of their last five games last season, finishing with a 7-9 record, but it wasn't enough to save Joe Bugel's job. Enter Ryan, who wore out his welcome in Houston where he slugged offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride last season.

In other games, it will be Dallas at Pittsburgh, the New York Jets at Buffalo, Philadelphia at the New York Giants, Minnesota at Green Bay, Kansas City at New Orleans, New England at Miami, Atlanta at Detroit, Houston at Indianapolis, Cleveland at Cincinnati, Tampa Bay at Chicago, Seattle at Washington and San Diego at Denver. The Los Angeles Raiders play at San Francisco on Monday night.

Facing slumping attendance, the Rams will try to snap a four-game losing streak in season openers. The past two years, they weren't even close, being outscored a combined 76-13.

And coach Chuck Knox's team lost all four of its preseason games.

"It's a big game for us," Knox said. "We are opening at home. It would be big to start 1-0, generate some interest here. We didn't play well in preseason, there hasn't been a lot for fans to get excited about. We need to go out there and do it."

Chris Miller will make his regular-season debut at QB for the Rams. Limited to 10 games over the past two seasons because of injuries, Miller will have to overcome Ryan's trademark defense.

"I'm concerned," Knox said. "We need to get some things tied together. I still feel we have a chance to be a good team. But we're going to have to prove it out on the field."

Even with their quest of a third straight Super Bowl title and an untested new coach, Dallas doesn't think it has anything to prove against the Steelers, even though they've never won an opener at Three Rivers Stadium.

Coach Barry Switzer said his team is so talented, "I can't screw this bunch up."

"They're confident and they've got a right to be . . . they're the defending champions," Pittsburgh's All-Pro cornerback, Rod Woodson, said.

Woodson will draw the coverage assignment on Dallas' deep threat, Michael Irvin.

Warren Moon, who used to be Houston's big threat, left the Oilers' run-and-shoot offense for coach Dennis Green's more conventional passing game at Minnesota. Moon will get his first regular-season test under the new system against the Packers, who are 0-4 against the Vikings since Green took over.