There's no denying that it has been an intriguing season, with all the upsets and fantastic finishes, but there just aren't many division races that turn me on. The Redskins, who can't stop anybody, and the Giants, who can't move the ball, lead the NFC East. In the NFC Central the Lions have shown some class, but there's nothing else to get excited about unless you believe Jeff George will fix everything in Minnesota. The NFC West? St. Louis and the Four Stooges. AFC West? Can you really see a serious challenger to the Seahawks now that wideout Joey Galloway has said he's coming back? AFC Central? Oh yes, the division has two good ones, the Jaguars and the Titans, but we're going to have to wait until the day after Christmas before they face each other again. In the meantime, those two teams will feast on a diet of Bengals, Browns and Ravens.
So what's left? Ah, we've finally found the division that's got all the action. The AFC East has four good teams—the Dolphins, Colts, Patriots and Bills—and seven of the final eight weekends feature a game between two of them. O.K., maybe we'll get tired of hearing how each matchup is a must-win game, but right now the prospect of all that competition is intriguing.
This week Miami at Buffalo is the best game on the board. The Bills got a pair of Pro Bowl players, guard Ruben Brown and deep threat Eric Moulds, back on Sunday and demolished the Redskins. Buffalo upset Miami last month by turning its blitzers loose on Dan Marino, which prompted that nasty confrontation between Jimmy Johnson and his quarterback. Remember? But Buffalo will be going against another signal-caller this time, as Marino rehabs.
Damon Huard, who earned his promotion to the varsity by playing for Frankfurt of NFL Europe, stood up very well under the heat that the Titans put on him. He's just what Johnson likes, a control-passing, safety-first quarterback. Huard also ranks with Earl Morrall as the only quarterback in club history to win his first three starts. But if it's a windy day in Buffalo, as so many of them are at this time of year, look out. Teams that dedicate themselves to stopping Miami's running game—Tennessee held Miami to 52 yards on 27 carries—can do just that. Then it's time for the Dolphins to put it up, and Huard will find his passes doing tricks in those nasty gusts. So let's call it a windblown victory for the Bills.
I only see one upset on the board- Kansas City over Tampa Bay. Granted, the Chiefs will have trouble getting their power running game going against that defense, but the K.C. defenders can get after people, too, especially a team that runs an attack as predictable as Tampa Bay's.
Loser of its last seven games in Dallas, Green Bay will drop its eighth straight at Texas Stadium—or maybe you don't believe that the Packers' slide is for real. Washington has dropped seven of its last eight in Philadelphia, but that trend ends on Sunday. A respectable offense can turn any game against the Skins into a shootout, but the Eagles' attack doesn't qualify. Look for the defenseless Skins to outscore the punchless Eagles.
In the Monday-nighter the Patriots will take the Jets lightly, but the New York defense will be a considerable annoyance. The game will be closer than people expect, and I see the Patriots pulling it out at the end.
The Giants had the bye week to cook up something special for the Indianapolis firm of Manning, Harrison & James, and they've got the kind of defense that can give anyone a rough time. Remember what New York did to Denver in the Meadowlands last year. Do I have the guts to pick an upset? Almost, but not quite. I like the high-flying Colts in a squeaker.