Volume 1, Number 1 -- August, 1996
The Professor Looks at the Upcoming NFL SeasonGlory, glory, glory to all that is good and well in the world today. Football season is once again upon us and it is time for us to rejoice. Time to say good-bye to our loved ones, pull the protective plastic off that new arm chair, and fire up that new big-screen TV you bought with the money you had been promising to take the wife to Europe with. Yes, baseball has been fun and the Olympics provide a nice diversion, but we all know what life is truly all about.
It cannot be a coincidence that God created the world in six days, thus freeing himself up to watch football on Sunday. Anyway, on to the 1996 NFL season. My predictions are as follows:
***WARNING: Due to the supernatural accuracy of my predictions in the past, many of you may be inclined to skip this section, if only to preserve the mystery of the upcoming season.***
WILD CARDS: Chicago, Atlanta, Carolina
NFC CHAMP : Green Bay
WILD CARDS: Miami, New England, Seattle
AFC CHAMP: Oakland
SUPER BOWL CHAMP: Oakland
National Football ConferencePHILADELPHIA (lst Place - NFC EAST): This has the look of a pretty good team, perhaps not as talented as the teams Buddy Ryan had a few years ago but with a better coach. Gone is perennial crybaby/prima donna Randall Cunningham, the most talented loser the QB position has seen since Marc Wilson. In his place is Rodney Peete, a man with a fraction of Gunningham's skills but infinitely more heart. The Eagles went 10-3 in games Peete started, and that's the only stat that really matters to football fans.
NEW YORK GIANTS (2nd Place - NFC East): OK, confession number one. I'm only picking the Giants this high because I like their Quarterback, Dave Brown. I mean, all Steve Young-type fantasies aside, if you or I were ever to lace it up and take a few snaps with the pros, this is probably the guy we'd look most like. He can't run, he can't throw, he isn't even particularly attractive. But there he is, running around out there with the real football players showing all of us arm-chair Quarterbacks just how bad we might look if we ever did get the chance. That and he ran right over Deion Sander's over-publicized butt in last season's game
ARIZONA (3rd Place - NFC East): The Arizona Cardinals are a lock for most improved team in 1996 and they haven't even broken training camp yet. How do I know this? Simple, Buddy Ryan is unemployed. Let's face it, we all loved Buddy as a character (who can forget him punching Kevin Gilbride on Monday Night Football?) but as a coach he pretty much peaked around January 1986. As innovative as the 46 defense was when it took the NFL by storm in the early 80's, it now holds about as much mystery for offensive coordinators as a Scooby Doo rerun. Likable as Buddy may have been, he's just Bum Phillips without the charm (or Earl Campbell).
WASHINGTON (4th Place - NFC East): You'd think a team that could beat the Dallas Cowboys twice in the same season would be capable of making the playoffs or, at the very least, breaking .500. But alas, these are the Redskins. The team that beat America's team twice could muster only four more wins against the rest of America enroute to a 6-10 season. I'd go over some of their personnel for you, but it would only depress me.
DALLAS (5th Place - NFC East): Why 5th place? Because Dallas SUCKS! They've got a mediocre QB masquerading as a superstar, a wide receiver who may have left his best moves in the courtroom, and an owner who is actually more of an as&%ole than Al Davis. Much of their defense has defected to other teams, their offensive line can't seem to stay out of jail, and with Buddy Ryan gone, they are virtually certain to be out-coached every time they take the field. I repeat, DALLAS SUCKS!
GREEN BAY (1st Place - NFC Central): All apologies to Niner fans, but Green Bay had the best QB in the game last season, and that was in spite of his ongoing battle with pain-killer addiction. If the drug problems are truly behind him, as be attests, Favre could be even more dominating. The rest of the team is as solid as they come. Favre has a 100+ catch receiver to throw to and a 1,000+ yard back to hand off to. The defense was tops in the division and figures to improve with the addition of Santana Dotson at Defensive tackle. Look for Green Bay to be the class of the NFC.
CHICAGO (2nd Place - NFC Central): Put Chicago up here by default in a division which is, if not weak, at least evenly mediocre. The best thing Chicago has going for it is an excellent coach in Dave Wannstedt. Otherwise, there isn't much to waste ink on here.
MINNESOTA (3rd Place - NFC Central): Another mediocre team, except this one doesn't have a superior coach to bail it out. Dennis Green has many fine qualities and may yet prove to be a fine head coach, but don't be surprised if you see his name popping up on the inevitable lists of "Coaches on the hotseat" sometime around October.
TAMPA BAY (4th Place - NFC Central): If America truly loved the underdog then Tampa Bay would be America's team. Tampa Bay has only had one year in it's storied history that it made any noise at all. That was 1979 when they went to the NFC Championship game on the arm of Doug Williams and were beaten out by Vince Ferragamo and Los Angeles Rams (look it up). Yes, Tampa Bay is what we all wish Dallas would become - miserable and pathetic. Tony Dungy, I don't know what unspeakable atrocities you committed in your previous life to deserve this, but I wish you luck.
DETROIT (5th Place - NFC Central): Because it's my ex-wife's favorite team, that's why.
SAN FRANCISCO (lst Place - NFC West): Oh, must we go through this every year? The Niners are loaded, OK! Is that what you want to hear? The Niners are the best team in the entire world and no team can ever approach their dominance. All hail the all-mighty Niners! Sheesh!
ATLANTA (2nd Place - NFC West): Atlanta is the best of the also-rans in a suddenly very competitive division... for second place that is. Barring further William Floyd-type injuries to the Niners none of the other teams in the West should challenge for the top spot. But a Wild-Card berth is a very real possibility, particularly for the Falcons, who are coming off a 9-7 campaign and brimming with confidence.
CAROLINA (3rd Place - NFC West): God bless Carolina. Just when you think the football Gods have gone and given up on you they send out Carolina to beat the Glorious Forty Niners. Some of us poor unfortunates who have been relegated to rooting for mere mortal teams for the past 15 years wept tears of redemption in the eyes of our Lord.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (4th Place - NFC West): I can't in good conscience pick this team to finish any higher than fourth until I get used to the sound of that name. (St. Louis?)
NEW ORLEANS (5th Place - NFC West): Well, that just about wraps things up for the NFC.
American Football Conference
INDIANAPOLIS (lst Place - AFC East): First and foremost, I think the only responsible thing to do would be to trade the team name to Baltimore for draft picks. It's what the fans would want and it can only benefit the game. Next, Indy is such a fun little team. A bunch of over-achieving nobodies who just don't know enough to figure out that they should be finishing 4-12 instead of 9-7 and in the playoffs. Ah well, here's guessing they continue to wallow in their own ignorance and build on a surprising 1995 season.
MIAMI (2nd Place - NFC East): You know, it's just not fair. Miami goes from Don Shula to Jimmy Johnson while Arizona has to go from Buddy Ryan to Vince Tobin. It's just not right. Speaking of Jimmy Johnson, I think it's only fair we give him time to build his team before we start to expect results. Say, six games. After that, look out! Now those six games may well be the difference between a Division title and a Wild Card berth, but either way I'd look out for the Dolphins in the playoffs.
NEW ENGLAND (3rd Place - NFC East): Now I KNOW Drew Bledsoe is better than that! Say what you will about Curtis Martin and the Sophomore slump but I say Drew Bledsoe will bounce back and bounce back big in 1996. If Martin can put up anywhere near the numbers he did last year and Parcells can somehow talk his receivers into hanging onto that pointy thing then the Patriot offense will be scoring more often than Wilt Chamberlain. Unfortunately, the Patriots' defense will most likely be giving up similar scores in what may well be the NFL's answer to arena football.
BUFFALO (4th Place - NFC East): That giant sucking sound you heard from the Northeast last winter wasn't NAFTA or Hurricane Wilbur or anything like that, it was the last gasp from one of the great AFC teams of the nineties. The Bills have gotten so old at the skill positions that the fans have taken to calling them the cardiac kids - for actual medical reasons. If Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas were any older Bob Dole would have to call them "Sir". (Sorry, political pun. My contract calls for at least one of them per article. Won't happen again.)
NEW YORK JETS (5th Place - NFC East): I'm picking the Jets 5th for one reason only - there are not six teams. Prior to the 1996 season I had no great affection for the Jets, but neither did I particularly detest them. I pitied them, more than anything. But that was before they signed the evil, the despicable, the despised Neil O'(inject bad word here) Donnell. The man who single-handedly dashed the best chance the AFC has had in the past 12 years of wresting the Superbowl title from the NFC. The man who threw not ONE boneheaded, drive-killing interception in an utterly receiverless area of the field but TWO bone-headed, drive-killing interceptions in an utterly receiverless area of the field to ensure defeat at the bands of the hated Cowboys! I needed to get that off my chest.
PITTSBURGH (1st Place - AFC Central): For one reason and one reason only. They had the good sense NOT to bring back Neil O'(Inject really vulgar four-letter word here) Donnell.
CINCINNATI (2nd Place - AFC Central): The Bengals have an exciting young Quarterback in Jeff Blake, two fine young receivers in Darnay Scott and Carl Pickens, and the top pick in the 1995 draft (Ki-Jana Carter) healthy and in camp. Of course, they also have the worst defense in the league and a head coach whose greatest claim to fame to date is that of his lineage (Dave Shula).
JACKSONVILLE (3rd Place - AFC Central): In all truth, this team could easily finish as high as second and could conceivably win the division. A Wild Card berth is certainly not out of the question in the wide-open AFC.
HOUSTON (4th Place - AFC Central): Steve McNair? Chris Chandler? Who will it be, who will it be? Ah, who cares, just hand the ball to Eddie George and we'll see you at the draft in April.
BALTIMORE (5th Place - AFC Central): As if having Vinny Testaverde as a QB wasn't enough reason to hate this team, now they take up residence in Baltimore and they aren't even the Colts!
OAKLAND (1st Place - AFC West): Once again we look at the teams (on paper) and once again the Raiders are the most talented team in the AFC (on paper). Realizing where the game is actually played (not on paper) but facing the reality of where this column is written (on paper) I feel an abiding obligation to pick the Raiders to finish first, not just in the West, but in the AFC. What the hell, let's just go all the way and predict the Raiders to run over the Packers 44-13 in the Superbowl.
SEATTLE (2nd Place - AFC West): And while we're at it, the Seahawks will nail down a Wild Card berth, Rick Mirer will win the MVP award, and Cortez Kennedy will announce his retirement to pursue a career in gymnastics.
SAN DIEGO (3rd Place - AFC West): This is probably where they should have finished two years ago instead of getting their helmets bashed in by the Niners in the Superbowl.
KANSAS CITY (4th Place - AFC West): Steve Bono's bubble has expanded far beyond the laws of physical science. It is time for it to burst and I fear for the safety of all who are near him when it does.
DENVER (5th Place - AFC West): Because I hate them, that's why. I hate them even more than I hate Dallas. I hate them more than I hate Rap Music. If hate were tattoos, I'd be Dennis Rodman. The only way I could hate them more would be if there were two of them. I hate them, I hate them, I hate them!
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