Beleaguered Spurrier faces Parcells in Week Nine of NFL

Updated: November 1, 2003, 8:23 AM ET

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey -- Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier is feeling the heat. Playing Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday will only intensify the pressure.

Brian Griese starts his first home game for the Miami Dolphins, Tim Rattay and Marques Tuiasosopo make their first starts at quarterback for the disappointing Bay Area football teams and the New York clubs square off in Week Nine of the NFL.

The Kansas Chiefs (8-0), the league's lone remaining unbeaten team, enjoy a bye week.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is quite envious of Parcells' instant transformation of the Cowboys (5-2), especially since he was expecting the same from his ball coach.

But Spurrier is 10-13 with the Redskins after accepting a five-year, $25 million contract from Snyder. After a 3-1 start this season, Snyder was thinking playoffs. But a three-game losing streak has dropped the Redskins (3-4) behind the hated Cowboys in the NFC East heading into a meeting at Texas Stadium.

The bye last week gave Spurrier seven extra days to think about how much Snyder dislikes Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. A win in Dallas would go a long way toward easing some of the pressure.

Spurrier lost in Dallas last Thanksgiving, 27-20, giving the Cowboys 10 straight wins in the series. But Spurrier was able to snap the streak in the season finale last December 29 with a 20-14 home victory.

The Redskins have lost seven straight in Dallas dating to 1995.

While doubt is seeping through the cracks in Washington, the players in Dallas have the utmost confidence in Parcells' leadership because of his track record - three Super Bowl appearances and two championships.

The Cowboys were riding a five-game winning streak for the first time since 1994 before falling last week at Tampa Bay, 16-0.

The Dolphins (5-2) and Indianapolis Colts (6-1) each feature a premier running back. But the focus will be on the quarterbacks when the former AFC East rivals meet at Pro Player Stadium.

While the Colts have former Miami Hurricane Edgerrin James in their backfield, the Dolphins counter with Ricky Williams, the NFL's reigning rushing champion.

Indianapolis' Peyton Manning - the NFL's second-rated passer - has completed 69.1 percent of his passes and leads the league with 15 touchdown passes. He is third in the league in passing yards with 1,862.

Griese made a dazzling debut for the Dolphins, completing 20-of-29 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 26-10 victory over San Diego on Monday night. He was replacing Jay Fiedler, who will be out again with a sprained knee ligament.

Manning is the son of Archie Manning, who quarterbacked the New Orleans Saints in the 1970s. Griese is the son of Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese - one of the most popular players in Dolphins history who led the franchise to a pair of Super Bowl titles.

The San Francisco 49ers (3-5) will give Rattay his first NFL start when they host the St. Louis Rams (5-2) in a pivotal NFC West contest.

Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia has a partially torn ligament in his left ankle, prompting doctors to suggest he sit out a week. Unfortunately for the Niners, that week comes when they play the Rams, who are tied with the Seattle Seahawks (5-2) atop the division.

Rattay, a fourth-year player from Louisiana Tech, gets his chance after serving as a backup to Garcia for the last 56 games.

The Seahawks will host the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5), who have lost four in a row.

Reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Rich Gannon started 78 straight games, including postseason, since signing with the Oakland Raiders (2-5) in 1999. But Gannon is expected to miss two to three weeks with a shoulder injury suffered in the October 20 loss to Kansas City.

Gannon's injury gives Tuiasosopo, a 2001 second-round pick, his first NFL start. He came off the bench in a 17-10 loss to Kansas City two weeks ago and completed 16-of-29 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown.

At 2-5, the Raiders are off to their worst seen-game start since going 1-5-1 in 1964.

The Lions (1-6) have lost 14 of their last 15 games heading into Sunday's contest.

The New York football teams meet once every four years in the regular season. But the Giants (3-4) already have made a major impact on the Jets (2-5) in 2003.

In the annual preseason game on August 23, Jets quarterback Chad Pennington was tackled from behind by Giants linebacker Brandon Short and suffered a fracture dislocation of his left wrist whole trying to break the fall. Pennington missed the first six games before returning last week in a 24-17 loss at Philadelphia but harbors no resentment toward Short.

"I know that wasn't a dirty play," Pennington said. "He (Short) plays clean and he plays hard."

Ironically, Pennington will make his first start of the season against the Giants. In relief of Vinny Testaverde last week, Pennington completed 14-of-24 passes for 154 yards but threw a critical interception.

Both New York teams probably expected to have winning records near the midway point of the season. But the Jets, who won the AFC East title last season, are last this season behind New England (6-2), Miami (5-2) and Buffalo (4-4).

The Giants earned an NFC wild card with a 10-6 record in 2002 but are tied for last in the NFC East with Washington. They snapped a three-game losing streak with a 29-17 victory over the previously unbeaten Minnesota Vikings last week.

The Patriots, who have won four straight games, visit the Denver Broncos (5-3) on Monday night.

The Broncos are down to third-string quarterback Danny Kanell due to injuries to Jake Plummer and Steve Beuerlein. That is usually a recipe for disaster against Patriots coach Bill Belichick's complex scheme with multiple fronts and disguised coverages.

The Vikings (6-1) and Carolina Panthers (6-1) are tied for the best record in the NFC. The Vikings can take command of the NFC North with a victory over the Green Bay Packers (3-4). The Panthers visit former coach Dom Capers and the Houston Texans (2-4) in an interconference game.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3) trail the Panthers in the NFC South. They host the New Orleans Saints (3-5), who handed the defending Super Bowl champions two of their four losses last season.

In an effort to halt a six-game losing streak, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves benched his entire secondary for the matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles (3-4).

It is a rematch of Philadelphia's divisional playoff win last season, but the Falcons will be without star quarterback Michael Vick, who has been sidelined since the preseason with a broken leg.

In other games, the Baltimore Ravens (4-3) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6); the Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) visit the Arizona Cardinals (2-5); and the Chicago Bears (2-5) meet the San Diego Chargers (1-6).

The Chiefs, Tennessee Titans (6-2), Buffalo Bills (4-4) and Cleveland Browns (3-5) are in a bye week.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index