New coaches on the block:
1) Joe Gibbs, Washington Redskins: Owner Dan Snyder provides each new coach with more weapons, and Gibbs knows how to use them. Only pitfall is that
he won't be able to rotate Snyder out as easily as his crew did old tires on the racing circuit.
2) Dennis Green, Arizona Cardinals: A snake-bit franchise with low or even no expectations, Arizona should improve with Green, a proven rebuilder, at
the helm. But that still isn't saying much.
Coaches on the spot:
1) Dave Wannstedt, Miami Dolphins: He has plenty of excuses, with Ricky Williams's retirement and David Boston's season-ending injury, but he is still
running out of time.
2) Butch Davis, Cleveland Browns: If Steve Spurrier hadn't taken the brunt of all the college coach flopping publicity, folks might be wondering about
3) Dennis Erickson, San Francisco 49ers: What's he ever done in the NFL, but lose?
4) Herman Edwards, New York Jets: He's one of the league's true nice guys, but the Jets ownership may be tired of mediocrity on the field.
New QBs on the block:
1) Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals: Can't keep the No. 1 choice waiting more than one season, but Palmer will have to be plenty good to keep the
Bengals from taking a step backwards.
2) Eli Manning, New York Giants: By the time Manning takes the helm midseason, there should be more boo birds than pigeons in New York.
3) Drew Henson, Dallas Cowboys: Coach Bill Parcells doesn't cotton to rookies, let alone rookie signal-callers. But all those years in the Yankee
system should count for something. And Henson did start ahead of Brady at Michigan.
QBs on the spot:
1) Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles: If he doesn't run, he's not as effective; and McNabb, coming back from injury, seemed gun-shy last year. He
also had the worst set of receivers in the NFL. With Terrell Owens on the wing, he no longer has that excuse.
2) Drew Bledsoe, Buffalo Bills: They'll be saying. "Boo," not "Drew" in this not so fond farewell. Bledsoe, with his faulty footwork and his flawed
short-passing game, is not made for the new-millennium NFL game.
3) Kurt Warner, New York Giants: Warner won’t have to go back to bagging groceries, but don't expect a happy ending. The only consolation is that
New York sports radio should get a bonanza when his wife calls with her first complaint.
4) Jeff Garcia, Cleveland Browns: Out of range from Terrell Owens's scorched-earth criticisms, Garcia needs to keep a new mouthy receiver, Kellen
Winslow, happy to survive in his new home.
5) Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons: Still regarded as all-world without having done anything much on the field in the NFL. Time to fulfill all those
1) Corey Dillon, running back, New England Patriots: Finally, Belichick has a stud back to ride in the cold weather.
2) Terrell Owens, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles: Only question—which is bigger, his talent or his ego? If it turns out to be the latter, Eagles
fans will not be forgiving.
3) Mark Brunell, quarterback, Washington Redskins: Coach Joe Gibbs likes veterans at the helm, and Brunell, if injury-free, has considerable gifts on
top of his experience.
4) Champ Bailey, cornerback, Denver Broncos: Denver gave up Clinton Portis, but no team has better demonstrated that 1,000-yard rushers are a
byproduct of a great offensive line. Game-breaking defenders, however, are rare and last far longer.
5) Bobby Taylor, cornerback, Seattle Seahawks: He is tough and consistent and will make a big difference in those two division games against the Rams.
He will be sorely missed in Philly.
6) Marcus Robinson, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings: He has suffered in some dismal offenses in Chicago and Baltimore. With Randy Moss commanding
double and even triple coverage, Robinson could be be dangerous again.
1) Kellen Winslow, tight end, Cleveland Browns
2) Roy Williams, wide receiver, Detroit Lions
3) Robert Gallery, tackle, Oakland Raiders
4) Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers
5) Ben Watson, tight end, New England Patriots
If they only had an offense:
1) Baltimore Ravens: Deion Sanders is just icing on the cake of this superb defense.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars: If Byron Leftwich can deliver anything to the quarterbacks, the Jags can be the surprise team of AFC.
3) Dallas Cowboys: Surely Vinnie Testaverde can't be the solution.
4) Buffalo Bills: Willis McGahee should help, but don't be surprised if the transition from Bledsoe to rookie J. P. Losman comes sooner rather than
If they only had a defense:
1) Indianapolis Colts: Changing rules to hurt other defenses doesn't change this lousy defense, which can give it up faster than Peyton Manning can
2) Kansas City Chiefs: Former head coach Gunther Cunningham returns to Chiefs as defensive guru. Any change should help.
Key date of the season:
Nov. 1. No, not the Dolphins-Jets on "Monday Night Football." But earlier that same day, the start of the federal drug-conspiracy trial of Ravens
running back Jamal Lewis. Baltimore’s hopes for this season depend on a swift and successful resolution. One wonders why Lewis's lawyers couldn't
have mimicked the Kobe strategy and put off the trial until after the season.
Teams on the way up
1) Detroit Lions
2) Jacksonville Jaguars
3) Baltimore Ravens
4) Washington Redskins
Teams on the way down:
1) San Francisco 49ers
2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3) Miami Dolphins
4) Green Bay Packers
The Playoff Picture:
East: New England
Wild Cards: K.C., Jacksonville
Wild Cards: St. Louis, Washington