By Milt Northrop
The 1958 overtime classic between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants is supposed to be what captured the imagination of the nation and propelled the National Football League into a new era of riches and popularity.
Before that, though, there were the titanic struggles between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants. Ancient scholars of the sport remember Sam Huff against Jim Brown, clutch field goals off frozen sod at Yankee Stadium by Pat Summerall, Otto Graham, the Giants’ famed Umbrella Defense, Paul Brown against Steve Owen and Jim Lee Howell.
The rivals met 22 times in the ’50s with the Browns winning 11. One game ended in a 35-35 tie. They split a pair of playoff games to decide conference ties. Many were ugly defense struggles.
A winless Browns team visits MetLife Stadium to face the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. The fierce rivalry of long ago is largely forgotten. Like the Providence Steam Rollers and Canton Bulldogs it’s part of a different age.
Browns versus Giants is just a sidebar on a Week Five NFL schedule of 13 games — Dallas, Detroit, Oakland and Tampa Bay have the week off — today and Monday. Only one game of the 13 matches teams with winning records.
Game of the day
Eagles (3-1) at Steelers (2-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m., Ch. 29
The line: Steelers (-3½).
The scoop: Pittsburgh coming off bye, Philadelphia off narrow win over division-rival Giants. ... Keystone State rivals haven’t met since ’08 when Eagles won, 15-6, at Heinz Field. ... Steelers supposed to be getting LB James Harrison, S Troy Polamalu and RB Rashard Mendenhall back for this one. ... Pitt defense (291.3 yards allowed) will have to slow down Philadelphia offense (417.8).
Outlook: Like fact that Steelers have had extra week to go freshen up and get healthy. Pittsburgh 28-24.
Broncos (3-1) at Patriots (2-2)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-6½).
The scoop: There’s a lot of interesting angles to this one. Ex-Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels is back with Pats as offensive coordinator. Broncos are only team with winning record against Tom Brady (5-2 regular season, 1-1 postseason). Also, Bill Belichick has a losing record (4-10) against Denver, 4-6 with Patriots. Brady was 8-4 (1-1 postseason) against Peyton Manning in previous encounters.
Outlook: After taming Bills’ front four, it will be interesting to see how Pats deal with Broncos pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. ... Pats’ offense stays on roll. New England, 35-24.
Falcons (4-0) at Redskins (2-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Falcons (-3).
The scoop: Atlanta QB Matt Ryan off to tremendous start, leads league with 112.1 passer rating and has thrown for 11 TDs. Roddy White (27 catches) has taken over team lead in receiving from the talented Julio Jones. ... Rookie QB Robert Griffin III has thrown only one INT and has impressive 103.2 rating for over-achieving Redskins.
Outlook: Atlanta averted upset at home against Carolina last week. They have to be wary today. Falcons, 35-30.
Best of the rest
Bills (2-2) at San Francisco (3-1)
TV: Ch. 4, 4:25 p.m.
The line: 49ers (-9½).
The scoop: Niners are perhaps the best balanced team in the league with third-ranked defense, third-ranked rushing and strong kicking game with K David Akers and P Andy Lee (39.0 net average.). ... Lot of pressure on Mario Williams and Bills’ defense after second-half blowout versus Patriots. Missing OLT Cordy Glenn and RG Kraig Urbik doesn’t help matters. ... Last time Bills visited SF they routed Niners, 41-7 in 2004. ... If frantic play-by-play style and over-description by Kevin Harlan on CBS drives you crazy, tune in to John Murphy on radio.
Outlook: It would be a major surprise if the Bills compete with tough, physical Niners for more than a half. San Francisco, 35-17.
Dolphins (1-3) at Bengals (3-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Bengals (-3).
The scoop: Fish are 6-1 in Cincy since 1978. Miami lost last two games in overtime against Jets and Cardinals. ... Bengals have won last three since opening rout by Ravens. ... Bengals QB Andy Dalton has 103.0 passer rating. Second-year receiver A.J. Green tops the AFC with 27 receptions and is averaging 15.9 per catch.
Outlook: Bengals have given up most points (112) of the 10 NFL teams with winning records so far. Miami might be much better than we think, but ... Cincinnati, 24-17.
Packers (3-1) at Colts (1-3)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Packers (-7).
The scoop: Aren’t Cheeseheads and their fans the NFL’s biggest crybabies? Simple facts are: Pack has no ground game (No. 25 in league) and seems to have lost the knack of finishing off an opponent easily. ... Colts were jolted this week by word that first-year coach Chuck Pagano has leukemia. Veteran assistant Bruce Arians has taken over as acting head man. Arians’ only head-coaching experience was six years at Temple in the 1980s. ... Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck will have to stand in against rush of Pack’s Clay Matthews. Should be revealing.
Outlook: Green Bay offense due for a breakout game. Packers 31-21.
Ravens (3-1) at Chiefs (1-3)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Ravens (-6½).
The scoop: After upset at New Orleans, Chiefs were abysmal at home last week against Chargers, turning ball over six times. ... Despite some poor games, Chiefs have good stats (No. 3 offense and No. 13 defense). ... Ravens labored to get by Browns (23-16) at home last week. Balto’s only loss was on the road at Philadelphia by a point.
Outlook: K.C. is an in-and-out bunch, but Ravens are sounder, more consistent. Baltimore, 27-20.
Titans (1-3) at Vikings (3-1)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Vikings (-5½).
The scoop: If QB Christian Ponder is real deal, Vikes have weapons to go with him in Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin. ... Titans QB Jake Locker is out after injuring left shoulder in loss at Houston last week. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck gets start today. Tennessee finally got some production from RB Chris Johnson (141 rushing yards).
Outlook: Vikes aren’t rolling over anybody, but they are getting it done. Minnesota, 24-13
Browns (0-4) at Giants (2-2)
TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.
The line: Giants (-8½).
The scoop: Big Blue better win this one because schedule is brutal rest of the way with four division games and Steelers, Bengals, Packers, Saints, Falcons and Ravens left on schedule. ... Hard-luck Browns have lost their last 10 dating back to last season with average margin of defeat only 6.6.
Outlook: Browns play everybody tough on the road. Giants, 20-12.
Seahawks (2-2) at Panthers (1-3)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Carolina (-3).
The scoop: It’s the first of four treks to Eastern Time Zone for Seahawks. ... Panthers are as inconsistent as their quarterback, Cam Newton. They’ve scored 35 and 28 points against Saints and Falcons but only 10 and 7 against Bucs and Giants.
Outlook: Expecting good day from Newton and RBs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Carolina, 20-14.
Chargers (3-1) at Saints (0-4)
TV: Ch. 2. 8:20 p.m.
The line: Saints (-3½).
The scoop: Saints and their fans should forget vendetta against Roger Goodell and get back to thinking about winning. ... New Orleans looked more like what you would expect in pushing Packers to limit last week on road. Chargers were handed gift win at K.C. by Chiefs turnovers.
Outlook: Saints can’t lose them all, can they? New Orleans, 33-21.
Texans (4-0) at Jets (2-2)
TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Texans (-8½).
The scoop: Houston leads league in total defense (273.0), but has been challenged by a top-flight offense only once — at Denver. They won’t be facing an offensive juggernaut today against Gang Green. New York was embarrassed at home, 34-0, by 49ers last week. ... Houston’s Matt Schaub has thrown for 7 TDs with just 1 INT and has 105.3 passer rating. Mark Sanchez of Jets, meanwhile, is 5-4 and 69.6.
Outlook: Jets’ opponents are averaging 4.9 per rush and New York has only five sacks. Rex Ryan gets his defense riled up for supreme effort. Houston 20-17.
Dog of the day
Bears (3-1) at Jaguars (1-3)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Bears (-5½).
The scoop: Chicago, coming off impressive win at Dallas, faces punchless Jaguars, who are last in the league in total offense (254.3) and scoring average (15.5). ... Bears CB Jim Jennings leads league with four INTs and team is plus-7 in turnovers.
Outlook: Don’t foresee Bears hibernating in Jax. Chicago, 27-13.
Last week’s results: 7-7 outright, 6-7-1 versus spread. Season’s record: 29-30 outright, 23-33-3 versus spread.