Thursday, August 11, 2004

Behind The Scoreboard
By Claude Vinson

Time to talk NFL football

Would you believe that this column was pretty dictated by some very loyal NFL fans (who, not unlike a lot of us, just can’t seem to wait)? The start of the real season is about a month away, but with the queries which I have been getting this past week, one would think that opening day was more imminent.

One query was which NFL team would be the weakest this season, and which one would be the strongest. Along with that was a pinpoint question – is Chicago going to escape the cellar and make a great (?) showing?

Amidst all the pertinent inquiries, there was one direct prediction – the New England Patriots are going to win their third Super Bowl in a row!

At first, being the devil’s advocate that I am, I started to say, “What an optimist.” But after momentarily reflecting on the Pats’ most recent history (three Bowls in four years), it might be a good idea to tread with caution.

New England has taken some personnel hits this year, losing Tedy Bruschi; both of his coordinators received offers which they couldn’t refuse; and their premier defensive end, Richard Seymour, was being classed a holdout. It would be really reckless to sell head coach Bill Belichick short. He always seems to manage with whatever is at hand, or on the field. Expect the Pats to be one of the top three finishers.

Even with Terrell Owens sitting on the fence and still being thorny in the Eagles’ side, Philadelphia is going to be in the big three and will probably win their sixth division title. The root of Owens’ unhappiness appears to be shadowy, with no real concrete elements for discontent. At once it was rumored that he didn’t like the idea that Deuce McAllister (New Orleans) received a bigger pay-check.

And speaking of the Deuce’s team, the Saints were rumored to be eyeing a change of venue (like Los Angeles) last year, but so far nothing materialized. The Saints were in Jackson at Memorial Stadium on Saturday (Aug. 6) for their Black and Gold Game and thrilled over 10,000 fans. They will be one of the weakest teams this season but are building. Coach Jim Haslett is hanging on by a thread.

And while the Chicago Bears won’t rise to the top like the finest cream, they will probably escape the cellar. Coach Lovie Smith (a defensive tactician) is probably still going to face a real challenge with his offense.

And who is the other of the “big three?” Why, Kansas City, of course.

What? You thought that I was going to say the Dallas Cowboys?

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