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Take quarterbacks Jim Kelly from the Bills, Phil Simms from the Giants, Jim Harbaugh from the Bears, Steve DeBerg from the Chiefs and you have:

1. Unarmed, perhaps through the playoffs, four of the teams considered most dangerous to the San Francisco 49ers' chances of an unprecedented third straight Super Bowl championship.

2. Thrown the Super Bowl picture wide open by giving new hope to the second tier of challengers, such as the surging Eagles and Oilers.

This is fitting in a season full of plot twists in the NFL.

The Bills will go with Frank Reich instead of Kelly, out at least the rest of the regular season with a knee injury.

The Giants learned Monday they likely will be without Simms for their first playoff game because of the foot sprain he suffered in Saturday's loss to Buffalo.

Simms is expected to be sidelined from four to six weeks. Jeff Hostetler will replace him Sunday against Phoenix.

New York coach Bill Parcells said Simms is "90 percent certain" to miss the Giants' first playoff game, which probably will be Jan. 12 or 13. The Giants will clinch a bye in the first round, to be played Jan. 5-6, if they win once or Chicago loses once.

An examination Monday showed Simms suffered a badly sprained left foot when he was sacked by defensive end Leon Seals in the second quarter.

"I would say right now it's a very, very severe sprain of the mid-foot," Parcells said."He'll be in a cast for a period in excess of three weeks. The prognosis is four to six weeks, with a likelihood of plus four."

The Bears' Harbaugh is expected to be lost for the rest of the season because of a shoulder separation.

Harbaugh, who had started all 14 games, was to undergo an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam late Monday and is not expected to be able to throw lightly for at least three weeks. Trainer Fred Caito said more tests were needed to determine whether Harbaugh suffered any rotator cuff damage.

"I see him (Harbaugh) missing a minimum four, five, six weeks," Caito said.

Backup quarterback Mike Tomczak has a strained right Achilles tendon but is expected to start this week against Tampa Bay. He entered Sunday's game in the third quarter, completing four of nine passes against Detroit in his first extended action since Oct. 7.

If Tomczak can't play, rookie Peter Tom Willis will get the call. In a last-minute drive Sunday, Willis completed seven of eight attempts in an 84-yard drive, capped by an 8-yard TD throw. His only miss was to stop the clock.

"I don't know what to do at quarterback," coach Mike Ditka said. "If Mike is 100 percent, he'll start. I have great respect for Mike, but I'm intrigued by what I saw (of Willis)."

The Chiefs' DeBerg remained off picture
in a hospital while doctors worked to prevent infection in a painful injury he suffered Sunday to the little finger of his left hand.

DeBerg's status for this week's game at San Diego -- crucial to the Chiefs' playoff chances -- was in doubt.

"Last night, Steve DeBerg had a small pin inserted into the distal phalanx of the fifth finger of his left hand," Chiefs General Manager Carl Peterson said. "He remains in the hospital to protect against infection. His status for Sunday is questionable at this time."

DeBerg's backup is Steve Pelluer, who had thrown only one pass before replacing DeBerg in the third quarter of Sunday's 27-10 loss to the Houston Oilers.

Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer was not ruling DeBerg out.

"It was a bad weekend for quarterbacks," Schottenheimer said. "Ours is a lot less serious than the other teams. I've spoken to Steve this morning and he says, 'Don't count me out. I'll be ready to go in San Diego.' "

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