Saints at Falcons. Are the 1-2 Falcons really birds of a respectable feather, or just the ones who have lost four in a row at home to New Orleans by an average of 15 points? This is the kind of game that Atlanta has to win to even start thinking of making the playoffs. It is a biggie for the Saints, too, because it is the first game of the Steve Walsh Era. Which reminds us of what John Fourcade, the quarterback whom Walsh will soon replace, said two weeks ago amid rumors that the Saints were close to acquiring Walsh from Dallas. "I don't care if they bring Joe Montana in," said Fourcade. Walsh will do just fine, no doubt.
Forty-niners at Oilers. In the endless search to find a ray of hope for those who must play the two-time defending Super Bowl champions—San Francisco is 27-3 in its last 30 games and winner of 14 in a row on the road—let's look at the Niners' recent dome-field record. Nope. Nothing there. Since 1987, the 49ers are 7-0 indoors.
Browns at Broncos. "A year ago, we beat the Broncos [in Cleveland], and I thought our team had been exorcised," says Browns executive vice-president Ernie Accorsi. "Then the AFC Championship Game happened." In that one, a 37-21 Bronco victory, Denver beat the Browns for the seventh straight time at Mile High Stadium and for the third straight time in the AFC title game. Accorsi says the noise and intensity generated by the Denver crowd make it hard to play at Mile High during the season and even more difficult in a playoff there. "You not only can't hear much of the time," Accorsi says, "but the the crowd is so close to the field that it can really affect how you play." The way the 1-3 Browns are playing, their streak in Denver looks safe.