Oct 14, 2003 10:17 AM

Carolina, Minnesota and Kansas City remain unbeaten heading into this week’s NFL action.

The surprising Panthers knocked off previously unbeaten Indianapolis in overtime on the road to keep pace with Minnesota at the top of the NFC. The Chiefs also needed overtime, coming back from 17 down to win at Green Bay and maintain the top mark in the AFC.

None of last season’s eight division winners is in first place. In fact, of the six AFC teams to make the playoffs last season only Indianapolis and Tennessee currently have winning records. In the NFC only Tampa Bay, at 3-2, has a winning record among the six teams that made the playoffs. That’s parity.

There is an excellent chance the two teams to meet in Super Bowl XXXVIII will have missed last year’s playoffs. Here’s a preview of the 14 games to be played this weekend with Arizona, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh enjoying bye weeks.

Redskins (NL) at Bills: Washington has the better offense, Buffalo the edge on defense. Buffalo’s lack of a running game enables foes to focus on stopping the pass. The Bills rank last in total offense but are second in pass defense. UNDER.

Eagles (+2½) at Giants (38½): Both are disappointments primarily because of poor production from the offense. Philly rates the edge in the ground game on both sides of the ball and has won three of the last four against New York. EAGLES.

Cowboys (-3½) at Lions (38½): Dallas has feasted on weak teams thus far in winning four of five games. The Cowboys rank third overall in both total offense and total defense. Detroit is rested after a bye and should show improvement. UNDER.

Chargers (+6) at Browns (42): Winless teams are dangerous following bye weeks as the Jets showed last week. Cleveland rarely blows out foes and has struggled to put forth consistent efforts. CHARGERS.

Ravens (-2½) at Bengals (37½): Cincinnati is rested following its bye and has shown to be much improved under new coach Marvin Lewis, especially on defense. Baltimore still has a strong running game and solid defense. RAVENS.

Broncos (NL) at Vikings: Minnesota is unbeaten and Denver’s only loss was by one at Kansas City. Both teams have solid running games and much improved, though not outstanding, defenses. The status of Broncos QB Jake Plummer is up in the air. Both teams have big play capabilities. OVER.

Titans (NL) at Panthers: Carolina RB Stephen Davis was injured last week in the win at Indianapolis, but backup DeShaun Foster played well. Tennessee QB Steve McNair is having an MVP season but will be tested by the Carolina defense. UNDER.

Saints (NL) at Falcons: Atlanta played Monday night in St Louis and will still be without starting QB Mike Vick. New Orleans continues to struggle on offense even against the weak defenses. Both teams have been mistake prone. UNDER.

Patriots (+5½) at Dolphins (37): Both teams have played well, winning eight of 11 games. Each is better on defense than the rankings suggest, allowing yards but not points. Both have been exceptionally strong stopping the run. UNDER.

Packers (NL) at Rams: St Louis played Monday night. Green Bay QB Brett Favre had arguably the worst day of his career in the playoff loss at St. Louis two seasons ago, tossing six interceptions. Both teams have much more on offense than defense. This shapes up as the highest scoring game of the week. OVER.

Jets (-3) at Texans (37½): The Jets were impressive following their bye last week with a rout of Buffalo. Houston has had problems converting yards into points and the Jets have been stingy, ranking sixth in fewest points allowed. JETS.

Bears (+8) at Seahawks (43): Seattle continues to win by avoiding turnovers on offense and creating them on defense. Chicago can run the ball, but has been horrible on defense. Seattle is not good enough to be favored by close to double digits. BEARS.

Bucs (-4) at 49ers (39): The 49ers are 2-4 instead of perhaps 5-1. Tampa Bay rebounded from the fourth quarter debacle against Indy with an overpowering second half at Washington. Tampa has an underrated offense, the better defense and clearly the far better head coach. BUCS.

Chiefs (-4) at Raiders (47): Oakland has misfired on offense and still has been unable to contain the run on defense. The Raiders have won six of the last seven against KC and are home underdogs for the first time since 1999. Look for an outright upset with the intensity of the rivalry and Oakland’s season on the line. RAIDERS.

Last week: 7-6

Season: 38-44-3