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GAMES OF THE WEEK

Miami at Buffalo

1 p.m., Ch. 8

1992 records: Buffalo 4-0, Miami 3-0.

The line: Buffalo by 11.

Game at a glance: Here's one of the centerpieces of Showdown Sunday: five games pitting first-place teams against second-place division rivals. As it was last season, Buffalo has been a scoring machine early. With a league-high 153 points, 44 more than the next-best 49ers, the Bills have averaged 38.3 points per game and are on pace to finish with 612, wiping out the 1983 Redskins' NFL record of 541 points. In three of their wins, they have outscored inferior opponents 119-14.

The Bills have owned this series lately, winning four straight, 10 of 11, and the past five in Buffalo. The Bills need to pressure Dan Marino, but defensive end Bruce Smith has just 2{ career sacks against the Dolphins, none since 1987.

Miami's addition of tight end Keith Jackson likely won't pay instant dividends, but it did add to the ominous tone of pregame comments. "They just added another bomb," Bills linebacker Darryl Talley said. ""We're going to have our SWAT team there," countered Miami safety Louis Oliver. "We're coming out with Uzis, M-16s, automatic rifles and Gatling guns." Yow.

Banks' pick: Buffalo 34-24.

Dallas at Philly

1992 records: Both teams are 3-0.

The line: Philadelphia by 6.

Game at a glance: Along with Miami-Buffalo, this Monday-nighter features two of the last four unbeatens. The winner grabs the NFC East lead, but by no means sews anything up. The fun of it all should be watching Dallas' multifaceted offense collide with the Eagles' top-rated defense.

The last time Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman faced the fearsome Eagles rush, a 24-0 Philadelphia win at Dallas last year, he was sacked 11 times. But Dallas got revenge, winning 25-13 at Philly, a game that put the Cowboys into the playoffs and basically knocked the Eagles out. This year, Dallas has allowed a league-low two sacks.

Philadelphia QB Randall Cunningham, injured last season, is 7-0 as a starter against Dallas. Cunningham has completed 73.2 percent of his passes, and now he's getting help from former Cowboy Herschel Walker. Dallas, 3-0 for the first time in nine years, still must prove it can beat its rivals.

"We've beaten them seven of the last eight times," Eagles linebacker Seth Joyner said. "I know that has to stick in their minds. And there always has been the rivalry."

Banks' pick: Philadelphia 27-24.

WORTH CHECKING OUT

Indianapolis at Tampa Bay

1992 records: Indy 1-2, Tampa Bay 3-1.

The line: Tampa Bay by 9.

Game at a glance: Tampa Bay overconfident? Now there's a novel concern for Bucs fans to mull over. By all rights, overconfidence shouldn't be a factor for this franchise until 1995 or so. But the fact remains Tampa Bay won't truly be over the hump until this kind of game becomes an automatic win. Both teams have already matched their 1991 win totals. The Colts, ranked last in offense, finally are healthy and no doubt will get a boost from returning quarterback Jeff George. That won't matter if Vinny Testaverde and an emerging Bucs defense show up ready to work. Just to be sure, coach Sam Wyche went into his full-court motivational press this week.

Banks' pick: Tampa Bay 21-13.

Chicago at Minnesota

1992 records: Chicago 2-2, Minnesota 3-1.

The line: Minnesota by 4{.

Game at a glance: A Bears offense carrying a Bears defense? Mike Ditka has lived to see the day, and it's nearly killing him. Chicago won by outslugging the visiting Falcons 41-31 last week, but the 110 points given up by the Bears is 14 more than anybody. Chicago is on a pace to surrender a team-record 440 points. The Bears look to be in trouble this week. They rarely play well on turf, and Ditka hates the Metrodome. Then there's Minnesota's 42-point performance last week in Cincinnati. The Bears need this worse than the Vikings, but with a win Minnesota would go 4-1 for the first time since '77. It also would go two games up on a team it regards as the division favorite.

Banks' pick: Minnesota 30-20.

New Orleans at Detroit

1992 records: New Orleans 2-2, Detroit 1-3.

The line: Detroit by 1.

Game at a glance: Correctly figuring that they'll only go as far as Barry Sanders takes them, the Lions are returning to a four-wideout formation this week to open the running lanes better for their All-Pro tailback. The problem, however, is their tragedy-decimated offensive line. With three losses by a combined 10 points, Detroit has not been far from success. This week, with QB Rodney Peete hobbled, the Lions' one-game home losing streak could grow. New Orleans, playing in a dome for the fourth straight week, has given up way too much on the ground (144 yards per game, 68 more than its average last season). Bobby Hebert just isn't striking fear in a defense these days.

Banks' pick: New Orleans 20-17.

Kansas City at Denver

1992 records: Kansas City 3-1, Denver 3-1.

The line: Denver by 1.

Game at a glance: Kansas City hasn't won in Mile High Stadium since 1982 _ a streak of nine losses. Kicker Nick Lowery is the only remaining Chief active from that last win. But this is K.C.'s best shot in some time. The Broncos rank 27th on offense and have gone touchdown-less in two straight games for the first time in their 33-year history. Kansas City has more points in the second halves of games (51) than Denver does overall (50). Look for the Chiefs to pound away inside at Denver's lightweight defenders, some of whom are hurting. Just remember, Marty Schottenheimer has beaten Denver once in six tries as Chiefs coach, and with Cleveland he lost two AFC titles to the Broncos.

Banks' pick: Upset special, Kansas City 20-16.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Green Bay at Atlanta

1992 records: Green Bay 2-2, Atlanta 1-3.

The line: Atlanta by 7.

Game at a glance: Atlanta's Favrerite son comes home. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre, traded away this spring after backing up Falcons starter Chris Miller, has Packer backers believing with two straight wins. The day's second-best subplot? Terrell Buckley gets his first start at cornerback and will match kick returns with his hero, friend and fellow jewelry collector Deion Sanders. After three straight losses, Atlanta's season hangs in the balance. Its defense was non-existent last week, but the offense returned when Andre Rison (10 catches, 177 yards) stopped complaining.

Banks' pick: Atlanta 34-21.

NY Giants at Raiders

1992 records: New York 1-2, Los Angeles 0-4.

The line: New York by 1.

Game at a glance: A meeting of two proud old franchises going nowhere. The last time the Raiders lost eight regular-season games in a row (1962), they didn't even wear silver-and-black uniforms. Since the start of the 1986 season, Al Davis' Pride and Poise Boys are one game under .500. At least the Giants have shown improvement, stringing together six straight impressive quarters. Against K.C., the Raiders couldn't stop the run (180 yards), which will be enticing to the rush-happy Giants. L.A.'s move to Todd Marinovich has produced nine sacks and five interceptions in two weeks.

Banks' pick: Los Angeles 17-13.

IF YOU REALLY CARE

Washington at Phoenix

1992 records: Washington 2-1, Phoenix 0-3.

The line: Washington by 10{.

Game at a glance: Phoenix hasn't won a game that counts in nearly a year _ Oct. 20, 1991. After the Redskins, the Cardinals are at the Giants, home for New Orleans, at Philadelphia, and home for San Francisco. Can you say 0-8? Washington's passing game is still not in synch, and quarterback Mark Rypien still is smarting from being booed at RFK three weeks ago. Good thing Earnest Byner is on.

Banks' pick: Washington 24-10.

L.A. Rams at San Francisco

1992 records: L.A. 2-2, San Francisco 3-1.

The line: San Francisco by 15.

Game at a glance: Don't let the records fool you. The point spread is no typo. This first-place versus (tied for) second-place battle lacks sex appeal. After a 2-2 month against AFC East teams _ which would be good for third place in that division _ the Rams will sink fast in the NFC West. The 49ers' win at New Orleans established them as the team to beat. So what's new?

Banks' pick: San Francisco 38-7.

New England at NY Jets

1992 records: New England 0-3, N.Y. 0-4.

The line: New York by 9.

Game at a glance: Ted Turner can't be happy with this Sunday-night TNT matchup. Patriots quarterbacks have accounted for more sacks (14) than points (13), and it took New England more than 2{ games (170 minutes) just to take a snap inside the opposition's 20. In New York, coach Bruce Coslet and quarterback Browning Nagle need any kind of win just to keep the wolves at bay.

Banks' pick: New York 24-10.

Seattle at San Diego

1992 records: Seattle 1-3, San Diego 0-4.

The line: San Diego by 3{.

Game at a glance: Remember the Don Coryell era in San Diego? All offense, no defense? In the Chargers' past five games, three quarterbacks have combined for two touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Not that we're counting, but the Chargers have gone 10 quarters, 32 series, and 169 offensive snaps without a TD. Seahawks QB Kelly Stouffer has the NFL's lowest completion rate (48.3).

Banks' pick: Seattle 16-13.

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