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NFL: Head—to—head

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11 a.m.

For any number of reasons, Tennessee has dominated the Steelers, winning nine of the past 12, including playoffs. The only time they didn't was in 2001 when the Steelers won both regular-season meetings. The Steelers don't need to be reminded they lost both meetings last season, including the Music City Mulligan in the AFC playoffs, when Titans kicker Joe Nedney (Best Supporting Actor Dramatic Series) got to attempt a second field goal in overtime after a running into the kicker penalty against Dewayne Washington. The Titans are one of three teams against whom Steelers coach Bill Cowher does not have a winning record.

Prediction: Steelers, 31-24


11 a.m.

The distance between Cincinnati and Cleveland is 221 air miles. They're miles apart on the football field, too. The Browns are coming off their first victory of the season, a last-minute win in San Francisco. More important, they managed to correct the problems in their run defense, too. Good thing because Corey Dillon has averaged 117.6 yards rushing in nine games against the Browns, including four outings where he has rushed for more than 130 yards. Tim Couch replaces the injured Kelly Holcomb at quarterback for the Browns. Holcomb didn't exactly energize the Browns offense. In three games, the Browns managed just two touchdowns and 32 points.

Prediction: Browns, 20-7

EAGLES (0-2) AT BILLS (2-1)

11 a.m.

After playing back-to-back games in Florida — not always a good thing in September — Buffalo returns home to face Philadelphia, not always a good thing, either. The Eagles, predicted by many as to make the Super Bowl, are 0-2 and struggling to score points (10 in two games). More important, they don't want to fall any further behind in the NFC East, where the Giants look strong and the Redskins are much-improved. The Eagles had a bye last week, giving them an extra week to snap from their funk. The Eagles are 10-4 following a bye. Maybe a return to upstate New York will be a welcome change for quarterback Donovan McNabb, who played at Syracuse and is a member of the school's board of trustees. Then again, maybe not.

Prediction: Bills, 24-20


11 a.m.

This is Jacksonville's last road game until Nov. 2, which is either good or bad news, depending if you live in Jacksonville. Maybe it's a good thing the Jaguars are playing this one in Houston. They lost to the Texans last year — Houston's first road and divisional win as an expansion franchise. The Jaguars are expected to be without quarterback Mark Brunell, who hasn't thrown an interception in three games and leads the league in completion percentage (65.9). But Brunell has thrown only two touchdowns and his average gain is among the lowest in the league. His replacement is rookie Byron Leftwich, the Jags' No. 1 pick.

Prediction: Texans, 17-16

49ERS (1-2) AT VIKINGS (3-0)

11 a.m., Ch. 13

Minnesota is one of six teams who are unbeaten after three games. The NFL has never had six teams start a season 4-0, and the Vikings would like to do their part to keep that possibility alive. Already the Vikings have carved a piece of history, becoming only the 10th team since 1970 to start the season with three consecutive division victories (Packers, Bears, Lions). But the Vikings start has been a real pain in the back. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper has three broken bones in his back and is not expected to play. Wide receiver Randy Moss revealed this week he has been playing with back spasms. And people just thought he was a pain in the . . . well, never mind. The 49ers aren't as bad as they look, and they've looked bad. The Upset Special.

Prediction: 49ers, 24-23


11 a.m.

OK, let's see if we got this straight: The Cardinals used to be in St. Louis, before the Rams, who used to be in Los Angeles. But when the Cardinals picked up and moved to Arizona; St. Louis gave away the city treasury to lure the Rams from Los Angeles, which still doesn't have professional football. There is something of an identity crisis going on. For starters, the Cardinals are tied with the Rams and 49ers for second place in the NFC West. And they have a pair of rookie wide receivers, Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson, who might be the best first-year tandem since Lynn Swann and John Stallowrth.

Prediction: Rams, 31-21


11 a.m.

There have always been plenty of patriots in Washington, though the ones from New England haven't played there since 1981. Actually, they won't be playing in the nation's capital, either, because FedEx Field is in Landover, Md. After being shutout in the opener, the Patriots have bounced back to post impressive victories against the Eagles and Jets. The Redskins looked unbeatable, but they let the Giants defeat them in overtime. Nonetheless, they appear to have found a quarterback in Patrick Ramsey, who leads the NFL with a per-pass attempt of 8.31 yards. He will need every bit of that against New England.

Prediction: Patriots, 31-28

CHIEFS (3-0) AT RAVENS (2-1)

2:05 p.m.

It isn't very often a team can say it's not disappointed to lose Priest Holmes. But that's the way Baltimore feels, and they're the team that cast him aside. The Ravens let Holmes go in 2001 because they had Jamal Lewis, whom they drafted with the first pick in 2000. And Kansas City couldn't be more thrilled. Holmes and Lewis were teammates in 2000 when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, and now they're among the top three rushers in the league, facing each other for the first time. Lewis needs 221 yards against the Chiefs to set an NFL record for most yards in three consecutive games, held by O.J. Simpson (647 in 1976). For the second week in a row, the Chiefs scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams.

Prediction: Ravens, 21-17


2:05 p.m., Ch. 2

Since starting the 2002 season 6-2, San Diego has gone on a free-fall. The Chargers are 2-9 in their past 11 games under Marty Schottenheimer, not the kind of mark you'd expect from a team with quarterback Drew Brees and running back La Dainian Tomlinson. Oakland is 1-2, the kind of mark you would expect with a 39-year-old quarterback and 40-year-old wide receiver. Rich Gannon hasn't thrown an interception this season, one of only three quarterbacks who can make that claim. But, to be intercepted, you have to at least throw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. Watching the Raiders offense is like watching a 5-year-old go swimming. He'll move around in the shallow end, but never thinks about going deep. The Raiders have won 9 of the past 11 versus the Chargers.

Prediction: Raiders, 24-14


2:15 p.m.

Last year, after a 3-0 start, Carolina was outscored in two games against Atlanta 71-0. This year, the Panthers hope to start 3-0 again, but they'll have to avoid another embarrassing loss to the Falcons to do so. The good news for the Panthers, of course, is Michael Vick is sidelined and his replacement, Doug Johnson, has thrown six interceptions in three games. But, against Carolina, the Falcons have to be more concerned about their kickers. The Panthers have blocked five kicks in two games (three FGs, 1 PAT, 1 punt), which means they are either well-coached or have a lot of good volleyball players. This should be a spike for Carolina.

Prediction: Panthers, 21-13

LIONS (1-2) AT BRONCOS (3-0)

2:15 p.m., Ch. 13

All of a sudden, Jake Plummer looked like John Elway, making plays with his arms and his feet. Jake the Snake has Denver keeping pace with Kansas City in the AFC West. Plummer never lost to Detroit when he was in Arizona (3-0), and he doesn't expect to start now, not with this supporting cast. The Broncos have not trailed in a game this season, including Monday night's 31-10 victory against the Raiders when they jumped to a 21-0 first-half lead. Last time these teams met (Christmas Day, 1999), running back Olandis Gary rushed for 174 of his 185 yards in the second half. Gary played for Denver then. Now he's with the Lions. Too bad.

Prediction: Broncos, 34-20

COWBOYS (1-1) AT JETS (0-3)

2:15 p.m.

Is it me or did Bill Parcells just make his return to Giants Stadium against his former team? Two weeks after doing it against the Giants, the bleached Tuna gets to do it again, facing the Jets in Giants Stadium or, as it's known for non-Giants games, the Meadowlands. Dallas hasn't played since its 35-32 overtime victory against the Giants. The last team to play back-to-back games in New York was New England in 1999, and the Patriots beat the Giants, 50-21, and the Jets, 27-20. The Cowboys will be fortunate to repeat that against a Jets team that desperately needs a victory. Parcells was successful in his first return. But, as Thomas Wolfe once wrote, you can never go home again.

Prediction: Jets, 28-17

COLTS (3-0) AT SAINTS (1-2)

6:30 p.m., ESPN

Indy quarterback Peyton Manning was born in New Orleans, son of a former Saints quarterback named Archie Manning. Papa Manning had 20 career 250-yard passing games with the Saints, which is one more than current Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks. Peyton Manning has the Colts aiming for their first 4-0 start since 1996, but it's not just Manning. Since Tony Dungy became head coach, the Colts have quietly learned to play defense, holding opponents to 13 points or less eight times in 19 games. The latest came in last week's 23-13 victory against the Jaguars. The Saints have started fast and faded quickly the past couple years. Maye they're just changing their approach.

Prediction: Colts, 24-21

PACKERS (1-2) AT BEARS (0-2)

Monday, 7 p.m., Ch. 4

After watching Kordell Stewart play two weeks ago, the question has to be asked: Haven't football fans suffered enough? Two games in a season is bad enough. But two games in two weeks is more than the human spirit can endure. Chicago has fallen mightily from its 13-3 season of 2001, indicating that was more aberration than reality. Now, the best part of the Bears season is the opening of refurbished Soldier Field, which looks about as much like Soldier Field as Michael Jackson looks like Michael Jackson. The new facility is spectacular in appearance, which is what you say about Shania Twain, not the Bears. Green Bay isn't much better. The only thing more overrated than Brett Favre are blueberry waffles. But the Pack has won nine in a row in Chicago.

Prediction: Packers, 30-27