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Putting his 11-1 mark on the line

September 05, 2002|by DAN KAUFFMAN

I made my mind up that I was going to make some predictions for the NFL season, which starts tonight.

Of course, every sportswriter and his best friend writes prediction columns - many of them going out on limbs as big as the ones on the trees around the Herald-Mail parking lot (they're crow-proofed, or so we'll see in about three months) - so why should anyone read mine?

Here's why you should listen to me (big ego-stroke coming): I went 11-1 in the Fearless Forecasters last week, the second time I've done that, and I've only predicted games on record five times. My Sandbox fantasy baseball team is running away with its second straight league title. Plus, I said so.

Never mind that my Fearless Forecasters record come the end of the season will, no doubt, look something like the Cincinnati Bengals' 1990s record (that would be, uh, 14-1,785,693. OK, I made that up).

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Never mind that my other fantasy baseball team - the one in the league where money is at stake - has a Bengals-like record of 4-18.

Never mind that I drafted Michael Bennett in the third round of a fantasy football draft last year, one pick ahead of Curtis Martin.

Forget about all that. I wish I had.

As Big Sydney would say (and he'll no doubt rip me for stealing his line), on with the predictions ... last season, 0-0, .000 (Technically, that's undefeated. For those of you mocking me with 'Technically, that's also winless' ... you're right, and I hate you).

-- Steve Spurrier's gonna dirty more than a couple of visors. In fact, I suggest he start practicing his visor-to-ground not-so-touch pass now.

I don't care how many points the Redskins' offense put up this preseason against second- and third-string defenses. In four of the five games, their offense stunk against the first-stringers.

Danny Wuerffel isn't starting because he has the arm strength of Tim Wakefield, who makes his living throwing 55-mile-per-hour knuckleballs. Patrick "I'm going to hold out for no good reason" Ramsey isn't starting because he looked just as clueless in training camp as he really is. And Shane Matthews was so bad in Chicago, he was released outright.

The receivers? They looked above-average the last month, but ... Rod Gardner was solid as a rookie, but he's got to avoid the sophomore jinx. Jacquez Green showed flashes in Tampa Bay, but was terribly inconsistent. Kevin Lockett? Please. Derrius Thompson, Darnerien McCants and Chris Doerring have yet to do anything in a meaningful game.

Yes, the defense should be strong, and they should keep the Redskins in every game they play. But while Spurrier might be thankful for his defense, it won't get him excited.

Offense excites him. Long touchdown passes excite him. Scores of 56-14 excite him. And frankly, I don't see a lot of that.

What I see is a lot of visor-chucking.

-- The Ravens? I know this is the modern NFL, where mediocrity can change overnight, but this team is going to be hard-pressed to finish near .500.

Nobody on offense is a sure thing to produce. Jamal Lewis is coming off an ACL tear.

Travis Taylor has talent, but needs to put it all together in his third year. Brandon Stokley needs to prove he can be a starting receiver. And need I start on Chris Redman?

The guess, er, prediction here is the Ravens struggle early, Jeff Blake becomes the starting quarterback, Blake-to-Taylor turn into a nice little deep threat, and Baltimore plays decent ball down the stretch to finish 7-9. And yes, I'm being nice.

-- I'm running short on space and long on opinions (how typical), so here's my picks for division, conference and Super Bowl champions (including a couple of long walks on fragile limbs which will break, I assure you, around Week 5):

AFC - East: Miami Dolphins; South: Indianapolis Colts; North: Pittsburgh Steelers; West: Denver Broncos; Wild Cards: Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans; Conference Championship: Colts over Steelers.

NFC - East: Philadelphia Eagles; South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers; North: Green Bay Packers; West: San Francisco 49ers; Wild Cards: St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings; Conference Championship: Packers over Rams.

Super Bowl: Packers 24, Colts 17.

Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2311 or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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