Volume 96, Issue 6
Friday September 6, 2002

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The NFL will do what a strike could not - kill baseball

Mustang Tales/Bob Gage

THE BEST OF THE BEST. Former Mustangs quarterback Jamie Bone (second from left) stands amongst the greatest in Western football history, including (from left): Tyrone Williams, Bob McFarlane, Joe Krol and Blake Marshall.

By Jordan Bell (NFC) and Ben Mills (AFC)
Gazette Staff


Football is a life-saver.

It comes along at a time when die-hard sports fan are yearning to see some athletic action, it gives you the chance to drink shitloads of beer and eat large quantities of wings and pizza and it stops you from shooting yourself in the head while watching baseball.

The NFL offers the greatest bang for your buck because you never really know who is going to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy at the end of the year. There are no Yankees, Lakers or Red Wings running away with the big prize.

Without further ado, The Gazette will attempt to dissect this parity and predict who will emerge and who will sink in a sea of despair in the NFL this season.


National Football Conference

The St. Louis Rams were winless in the pre-season, but that doesn't hold much credence. The Rams destroy your psyche with one element – offense. Kurt Warner is the best passing quarterback in the league and back Marshall Faulk is the best offensive player in the league. The Rams lost receiver Az Hakim, but they still have receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce catching Warner's bombs. And their defense isn't too bad anymore either.

Tampa Bay once again revamped after a disappointing 2001 campaign. They changed head coaches, enticing former Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden to join the ship and snagged receiver Keenan McCardell, tight end Ken Dilger and back Michael Pittman. It's too bad receiver Keyshawn Johnson and tackle Warren Sapp just can't seem to get along.

The Green Bay Packers are always a factor with reliable veteran quarterback Brett Favre. Ahman Green has also come into his own, becoming one of the best backs in the league and tight end Bubba Franks doesn't just have a great name, but also a great game.

Former CFL star quarterback Jeff Garcia leads the San Francisco 49ers into battle and will utilize the cockiest receiver in football, Terrell Owens, on virtually every play from scrimmage.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the cream of the crop in the NFC East last season and they don't look to be going anywhere but up. Quarterback Donovan McNabb returns to anchor an offense that includes running back Duce Staley, receiver James Thrash and new acquisitions, back Dorsey Levens and receiver Antonio Freeman.

McNabb has emerged as one of the strongest quarterbacks in the league and with his strong arm and elusive running speed, the Eagles will be difficult to stop. Add to the mix the leagues' strongest special teams core and you have a potential sleeper candidate for a Super Bowl berth.

And finally, the last wild-card playoff slot will be snagged by the Chicago Bears. Linebackers Rosevelt Colvin, Brian Urlacher and Warrick Holdman are potentially the strongest core in the league and will wreak havoc once again this season.

NFC East NFC South
Philadelphia Tampa Bay
New York New Orleans
Washington Atlanta
Dallas Carolina
   
NFC North NFC West
Green Bay St. Louis
Chicago San Francisco
Minnesota Seattle
Detroit Arizona


American Football Conference

The AFC East will be the most fiercely competitive division this year and look for Miami to end up on top. With Norv Turner as the new offensive coordinator and the off-season acquisition of back Ricky Williams, the fish look to have a super-charged offense this season.

Oakland will be hard to knock off in the West this year. Their motto for the past few seasons has been "bigger is better." Big game receivers in Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, a big kicker in Sebastian Janikowski, a freight train of a fullback in Tyrone Wheatley and the big arm of quarterback Rich "the Cannon" Gannon make the Raiders a fearsome opponent.

The iron curtain will be resurrected in the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers standing behind it. Kordell Stewart got out of his rut last season and proved he is an actual NFL quarterback. Receivers Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress combine for a frightening deep threat offense alongside back Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, who blows through defensive lines like a sneeze through a wet tissue. It seems the Steelers are viable Super Bowl contenders. On top of all of that, they had the number one defense last year and are coached by Bill Cowher, who's scarier than Freddy Krueger, Jason and witnessing your parents having an orgy with your grandparents.

Indianapolis will be the team to beat in the rather dismal AFC South, with their only competition coming from the Tennessee Titans. The Colts boast one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, led by the treacherous trio of quarterback Peyton Manning, receiver Marvin Harrison and back Edgerrin James, who will all be looking to have better seasons this year. With Tony Dungy as the new head coach in Indy, their defense can only get better, seeing as they were ranked an atrocious 29 out of 32 teams in overall defensive categories.

As far as wild-card contenders go, Buffalo and Denver are the long-shot picks. With Rob "Sack" Johnson gone, along with his stupid bandanna, Drew Bledsoe will breathe new life into the Bills offense, utilizing receiver Eric Moulds as his main target. Denver will snatch the other wild-card spot with yet another punishing running and passing attack. Look for rookie back Clinton Portis to take a few carries now that former back Terrell Davis is out of the picture.

AFC East AFC South
Miami Indianapolis
Buffalo Tennessee
New England Jacksonville
New York Houston
   
AFC North AFC West
Baltimore Oakland
Cincinnati Denver
Cleveland Kansas City
Pittsburgh San Diego


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2002 THE GAZETTE