On a week that features six AFC-NFC matchups, including Jimmy Johnson's confrontation with his old team, and six games between division rivals, the best of the bunch finds Kansas City at Denver, where the Chiefs will try to keep the Broncos from pulling away from the rest of the AFC West.
This will not be an easy task for the Chiefs, who have to face the always-present NFL revenge factor. The Chiefs edged the Broncos, 17-14, when the longtime rivals met in Kansas City on Sept. 22. It was the Broncos' only loss of the season. On top of that, the Chiefs swept the Broncos last season.
This is a much better Broncos team than the one that lost those games last year. Quarterback John Elway is having a fine year and is guiding the No. 1 offense in the AFC. Terrell Davis is the AFC's top rusher. Shannon Sharpe is the No. 2 receiver. The Broncos' defensive stats slipped last week when Baltimore went to the no-huddle offense and scored six times in seven possessions during a 30-minute stretch.
You can be sure that quick, aggressive Broncos defense will be prepared this week if the Chiefs abandon their usual plodding offense for the hurry-up game. I'm sticking with the Broncos to top that three-point spread.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were getting to think they were invincible. They were on a five-game winning streak and were leading their only real challenger in the AFC Central, the Houston Oilers, well into the fourth quarter. Then everything fell apart. The Oilers came back to win and now share first place with the Steelers.
Meanwhile, in Dallas, the Atlanta Falcons were scaring the daylights out of the Cowboys and came within a heartbeat of pulling off an upset and winning their first game of the season. It wasn't meant to be. And this week the Falcons return home winless and bordering on hapless.
What a great spot for the Steelers to be in. Forget their 1-2 record on the road this season. They really are as good as they thought they were. But, like all other teams, they can't afford to lose focus. The Steelers will be focused this week, and what they will see is a Falcons team that hasn't come close to beating anybody at home.
The best news is that the Steelers are only a five-point favorite. Take the Steelers. You won't find any better bet all season.
Best of the rest
Speaking of revenge, the New England Patriots felt they should have beaten the Bills when they played in Rich Stadium. The Bills prevailed, 17-10, which is their biggest margin of victory this season. Things won't be easy in Foxboro, especially since the Patriots are coming off an impressive 27-9 whipping of the Colts in Indianapolis. A victory would put the Pats in a tie with the Bills, but the Bills are alive and kicking -- well, Steve Christie is. Take the Bills and the 4 points. This game will be decided by a field goal. . . . Revenge is an unlikely scenario for Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers lost to the Packers at home on opening day, 34-3, and will be lucky to be any closer this week in Green Bay. The Packers are 18-point favorites, but they have won five of their seven games by more than 18. Do the right thing. Run with the Pack. . . . Cincinnati gave the 49ers a scare in San Francisco last week, and then the Bengals' front office gave coach David Shula the boot. This week the Bengals play at home under new coach Bruce Coslet, probably my least-favorite all-time NFL coach. The visiting Jacksonville Jaguars will make it clear to the Bengals that changing horses in midstream is a sure way to drown. Take the Jaguars and you get a three-point bonus. . . . If Jimmy Johnson, who will have Dan Marino back, never wins another game, you can be sure he will lead his Dolphins ( 3 at home) to a victory against the Cowboys. Revenge, you know.