Oilers QB Chris Chandler vs. Tampa Bay: With today's start, the former Buc will have faced Tampa Bay as a Colt, a Cardinal, a Ram and an Oiler. Chandler, 0-6 as a starter in his 16-game 1990-91 tenure with Tampa Bay, hasn't been associated with a victory in a game involving the Bucs since he led the Colts to a 35-31 win in 1988.
He faced Tampa Bay twice in 1992 with Phoenix, with the Bucs winning the opener and the finale. When the Rams started Chandler at Tampa last December, they lost 24-14. This season, however, he has completed 63.8 percent of his passes (118 of 185), producing 1,266 yards and eight TDs.
Bucs rushing game vs. Oilers rushing game: Can't anybody run the ball? The Bucs rank 28th in the league in rushing with 84.9 yards per game. The Oilers are 27th with 88.3. Making matters worse for Tampa Bay, running back Errict Rhett's role today may be somewhat limited by a thigh bruise, and the offensive line will be missing starting RG Ian Beckles (knee). C Tony Mayberry (thumb) likely will push his team-high starting streak to 72 games, but he may rotate with backup Mike Sullivan.
Third-round draft choice Rodney Thomas leads the Oilers with 287 yards rushing and has 22 receptions. FB Marion Butts joined the team four weeks ago and leads the AFC in third-and-1 rushing, having converted 6 of 7. RB Gary Brown is questionable.
Oilers kick returner Mel Gray vs. Bucs kick returner Bobby Joe Edmonds: The most prolific return specialist in NFL history, Gray had a career full of career days against the Bucs in his six years as a Detroit Lion. After a slow start, he is heating up for Houston. In his past three games, Gray has had kickoff returns of 48, 52 and 54 yards. He is sixth in the AFC in kickoff returns (22.8) and eighth in punt returns (8.5).
Edmonds, who twisted an ankle in Wednesday's practice, is doing just fine for himself with his second career in Tampa Bay. His 11.3 punt-return average is on pace to set a team record and is second in the NFC. Edmonds' 21.1 kickoff-return average ranks 11th in the conference.
_ DON BANKS
At 0-3 in the Astrodome, the Oilers are the only NFL team without a win at home. After a 2-2 start, Houston has lost three straight by a combined 10 points. Four of the Oilers' five losses have been by a combined 17 points.
Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer hasn't thrown an interception in five games. His 123 consecutive passes without a pick is the league's third-longest active streak, behind those of Dallas' Troy Aikman (160) and K.C.'s Steve Bono (124), and is just 14 shy of Doug Williams' 1982 team record.
The game is a pick-'em in Las Vegas, but the Oilers are a good bet to score 20 points. Houston has played host to Tampa Bay three times, winning 20-0 in the Bucs' inaugural game in 1976, 20-14 in 1980, and 20-17 in 1989. Tampa Bay's only win in the series came in 1983, when both teams entered 1-11. The Bucs won the "Repus Bowl" 33-24.
If he finds the end zone today, Tampa Bay running back Errict Rhett will set a club record with six straight games with a touchdown. A rushing touchdown from Rhett also would set the team record for consecutive games with a rushing score (six).
Tampa Bay's defense has allowed only two rushing touchdowns. The Bucs' record for a 16-game season is 12, set in 1978. Tampa Bay is on pace to allow just four.
It's homecoming week for Bucs RDT Santana Dotson, who played high school ball at Houston's Yates High and attended Baylor University. Dotson purchased about 40 Bucs-Oilers tickets for friends and family. Houston rookie RB Dennis Lundy was a standout at Tampa's Chamberlain High.
_ DON BANKS
BLAME IT ON THE CROWD NOISE
Maybe going on the road today isn't such a bad idea for the Bucs? Consider. The last 10 games the Bucs have played in Tampa Stadium in front of crowds of 60,000 or more _ including both large-crowd games this season, against Chicago and last week against Atlanta _ they have posted a 1-9 record. After the 25-6 loss to Chicago in Week 3, played before a sellout crowd, it took four straight wins to get the home crowd back over 60,000 against the Falcons. Maybe it's just too darned loud.
DATE OPPONENT CROWD OUTCOME SCORE
10-95 Atlanta 66,135 L (21-24)
9/95 Chicago 71,507 L (6-25)
12-94 Green Bay 65,076 L (19-34)
11-94 Chicago 60,821 L (6-20)
9-93 Kansas City 63,378 L (3-27)
11-92 Chicago 69,102 W (20-17)
11-91 N.Y. Giants 63,698 L (14-21)
9-91 Chicago 65,625 L (20-21)
11-90 Chicago 68,555 L (6-26)
10-90 Dallas 68,315 L (13-17)