THE TRUTH ABOUT BARRY
The Detroit franchise, Barry Sanders, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Thanksgiving, but the reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. Look for him to return on either Dec. 19 against the 49ers or the following week at Chicago. "Seeing him in the locker room, you wouldn't know he was hurt," coach Wayne Fontes said on Monday afternoon.
The Lions without Sanders aren't exactly the Bulls without Jordan, but it's close. At the age of 25, after only 73 NFL games, Sanders has already amassed 6,789 rushing yards. He has accounted for an average of 112 yards of offense in each game during his five seasons, and now it's Fontes's job to convince his team that it can beat Minnesota and Phoenix without Sanders. "A lot of people are counting us out," Fontes said. "But we've won without [tackle] Lomas Brown, [wide receiver] Herman Moore, [linebacker] Pat Swilling. We can win without Barry." Those other guys aren't the best in the league at what they do. Sanders is.
STATS OF THE WEEK
•The Vikings have lost three straight home games for the first time since the bleak (3-13) season of 1984.
•On Nov. 21 Raider kicker Jeff Jaeger made four field goals as L.A. beat San Diego 12-7. On Sunday, Jaeger missed four field goals, and the Raiders lost to Cincinnati 16-10.
•The Dolphins are 11-0 against NFC teams at Joe Robbie Stadium since 1987, the year the stadium was opened.
The struggling Buffalo offense failed to score more than one touchdown for the seventh time this season in Sunday's 23-7 thumping in Kansas City. Buffalo's problem is that theirs was a speed offense built by Ted Marchibroda around weapons like James Lofton, Keith McKeller, Don Beebe and Andre Reed. The Bill philosophy remains the same, but, with the exception of Reed, the cast has changed: Lofton has been waived, McKeller is out with a knee injury and Beebe has a bum hamstring. Tight end Pete Metzelaars is productive but slow, and wideout Billy Brooks is more a possession receiver than a speed burner....
The Bengals are close to completing a deal with the city of Cincinnati that would add at least 50 luxury boxes and 5,000 seats to Riverfront Stadium and would keep the team in Cincinnati until at least 2010....