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GAME OF THE WEEK

Denver at Washington

1992 records: Denver 4-1, Washington 2-2.

The line: Washington by 9.

Game at a glance: Washington did something unthinkable last week, blowing an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead at Phoenix, and now Redskins fans are crying for somebody's scalp. And not just anybody's. Mark Rypien's. Still hearing boos over his holdout, Rypien had two fourth-quarter interceptions turned into TDs. Rypien's numbers have not been pretty _ four TDs, seven INTs _ but injuries to the offensive line have played a role in Washington's wobbles.

"I've taken this team to the big one before, and I don't think (the team and coaches) are going to bail out on me," Rypien said. "I'm not playing very well, and I understand that. But I've had to work through these things before."

More and more as the years roll by, Denver seems to rely exclusively on miracle man John Elway. But Elway's magic runs dry around the Redskins. The last time he was in Washington, for a 1989 Monday night game, Elway fell sick with the flu and watched Gary Kubiak lead the club to a win. In the teams' previous game, Elway was on the wrong side of the Super Bowl XXII blowout.

Banks' pick: Washington 24-16.

WORTH CHECKING OUT

Philadelphia at Kansas City

1992 records: Philadelphia 4-0, Kansas City 3-2.

The line: Philadelphia by 3.

Game at a glance: Elwayed last week at Denver, the Chiefs could be waylaid this week by the game's most dominating defense. Philadelphia, coming off an emotional win at home against Dallas, is ranked No. 1 in total defense and has given up just 34 points (8{ per game). Add to that mix the Eagles' great rush (15 sacks) against the Chiefs' porous pass protection (1 sack every 8 passes). History is of no help in this one. The teams have met just once before, and that came 20 years ago, when Pete Liske was flinging spirals for Philly. Still, Kansas City is always tough at Arrowhead, and usually responds well to tough losses. With Christian Okoye and Barry Word carrying the Chiefs' big-back offense, Kansas City would fit in quite nicely in the NFC East.

Banks' pick: Upset special, Kansas City 23-20.

Houston at Cincinnati

1992 records: Houston 3-1, Cincinnati 2-2.

The line: Houston by 7.

Game at a glance: Six weeks into the season, the Oilers finally will see the light of day with an outdoor game. And with Warren Moon casting an always-large shadow, there should be plenty of open receivers to spot. Cincinnati's NFL-worst passing defense is likely to draw a bit of attention from Houston's No. 1-ranked pass offense, which today debuts free-agent receiver Webster Slaughter. In eight of the last 15 meetings between these two, the 60-point barrier has fallen. As for Cincy's sputtering offense, you want to know who really misses Sam Wyche? Boomer Esiason. With seven interceptions and two touchdowns, Cincinnati's fair-haired boy and his league-low 46.8 QB rating is catching heat in the Queen City.

Banks' pick: Houston 31-20.

L.A. Rams at New Orleans

1992 records: L.A. 2-3, New Orleans 3-2.

The line: New Orleans by 9{.

Game at a glance: The Rams had to be heartened by quarterback Jim Everett's outing at San Francisco last week (20-of-24, 232 yards, 2 touchdowns). Everett, after leading L.A. to a near upset of the 49ers, sounded more confident than he's been in three years: "We're nobody's 16-point (under)dogs, I'll tell you that," he said. "We understand people aren't giving us much respect. We hope they continue with that approach." They have. L.A. is a 9{-point underdog this week. The Rams field the worst rushing defense in the league, so expect the Saints to follow their conservative instincts and try to plow their way to a 13-10 win. Saints linebackers Pat Swilling and Rickey Jackson usually eat Everett for lunch.

Banks' pick: New Orleans 13-10.

Atlanta at Miami

1992 records: Atlanta 2-3, Miami 4-0.

The line: Miami by 7{.

Game at a glance: Miami made believers out of people last week _ especially the folks in Buffalo. Now the Dolphins get to see how they handle big expectations. With a schedule that reads Patriots, Colts, Jets, Colts the next four weeks, Miami is being counted on for a 9-0 record heading into its Nov. 16 rematch with the Bills. Win today and the Dolphins will be 5-0 for the third time in team history. The other two times, 1972 and 1984, the Fish went to the Super Bowl. With a defense ranked last in the NFL, not even Atlanta and its Red Gun offense will win a shootout with Dan Marino and friends. Be on the lookout for Deion Sanders. If he tries to pull a Braves-Falcons doubleheader, a helicopter landing at the 50 would be perfect.

Banks' pick: Miami 31-17.

KEEP AN EYE ON

Pittsburgh at Cleveland

1992 records: Pittsburgh 3-1, Cleveland 1-3.

The line: Pittsburgh by 3.

Game at a glance: Today's a homecoming of sorts for Steelers coach Bill Cowher, an ex-Brown linebacker (1980-82) and assistant ('85-88). Cowher, in fact, was interviewed but passed up when Cleveland owner Art Modell hired Bill Belichick. Cowher knows what the Browns-Steelers series has meant to these two cities over the years. But with Mike Tomczak (yawn) still at quarterback for the injury-riddled Browns, some of the luster will be missing. Expect the Steelers to plow straight ahead at the Browns, sending NFL rushing leader Barry Foster into the line until he's stopped.

Banks' pick: Pittsburgh 17-13.

Buffalo at L.A. Raiders

1992 records: Buffalo 4-1, L.A. 1-4.

The line: Buffalo by 7.

Game at a glance: Take a good look at the AFC East standings. For the first time since Week 2 of 1990, the Bills are not in first place. Speaking of 1990, it was that season's AFC title game that saw Buffalo squeak past the Raiders 51-3. This one will be closer, but Los Angeles can't be pleased that the Dolphins provided Buffalo with the big wake-up call last week. Raiders QB Todd Marinovich finally won in his fifth NFL start and afterward lauded the job of new play-caller Tom Walsh. Despite his struggles, Eric Dickerson needs 72 yards today to pass Tony Dorsett (12,739) and become the league's No. 2 career rusher.

Banks' pick: Buffalo 33-20.

IF YOU REALLY CARE

Phoenix at N.Y. Giants

1992 records: Phoenix 1-3, New York 1-3.

The line: New York by 7.

Game at a glance: Sorry Cards fans, but last week's upset of Washington was more gift than impending greatness. Phoenix, which hadn't won in 350 days, snapped a league-high 11-game skid and now faces a nine-year Giants Stadium losing streak. With Phil Simms out, the Giants are vulnerable to upset. But Jeff Hostetler can handle things. He's won New York's last five games against the Cardinals.

Banks' pick: New York 23-13.

Seattle at Dallas

1992 records: Seattle 1-4, Dallas 3-1.

The line: Dallas by 16.

Game at a glance: With the Cowboys battling a Monday-night hangover, along comes the NFL's version of a Bloody Mary _ the Seahawks. The Seahawks have scored just 43 points, fewer than any team but the Patriots. Why? Eleven Seahawks are on injured reserve, including five offensive starters. Seattle's 6-foot-8 QB Dan McGwire gets a start. His view will be of Dallas rolling to an NFL-high 10th straight home win.

Banks' pick: Dallas 37-10.

San Francisco at New England

1992 records: San Francisco 4-1, New England 0-4.

The line: San Francisco by 16.

Game at a glance: Nobody had the Patriots bound for the playoffs this year. But no wins, no first-half points, no field goals, and no 100-yard rusher? No way. Way. The most remarkable thing about this game is that the Patriots sold it out. The 49ers, making their third trek into the Eastern time zone this season, will only have to show up to win.

Banks' pick: San Francisco 30-13.

N.Y. Jets at Indianapolis

1992 records: New York 1-4, Indianapolis 2-2.

The line: New York by 2{.

Game at a glance: After Jeff George's second-half performance against Tampa Bay, nobody's laughing at the Colts this week. Three of George's seven career wins have come against the Jets. The Colts, however, remain woeful on the ground. With their 226 yards rushing, they trail 49ers QB Steve Young (228 yards). Against the Pats, the Jets finally protected Browning Nagle (no sacks last week), and it paid off.

Banks' pick: New York 24-20.

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