Playoff Picture Comes Into Full Focus
With Week 1 completed, the NFL playoff picture has crystallized. Among those teams eliminated from the postseason are Seattle (0-1), Jacksonville (0-1), Indianapolis (0-1), Carolina (0-1), the New Jersey Jets (0-1), the New Jersey Giants (0-1) and, of course, Tampa Bay (1-0).
Note: League officials are reviewing tape of the Buccaneers’ season-opening victory at Philadelphia to see if any foul play was involved.
In response to recent postseason trends, the NFL has radically altered the structure of the playoff system.
First, in a time-saving maneuver, the NFL has designated the Nov. 12 49ers-at-Cowboys contest as the NFC championship game. (In a related story, the league publicly admitted that four NFC Central teams made the playoffs last season “due to an administrative error.”)
Meanwhile, also in an attempt to cut back on needless games, the NFL has abolished the entire AFC playoffs. In its place, the AFC’s Super Bowl XXX representative will be determined through a USA Today reader poll, sponsored by the DeVry Institute.
There will be no wild cards this season, unless Buddy Ryan, on horseback, crashes the pass gate at Sun Devil Stadium on Jan. 28.
As always, the following point-spread picks are for recreational purposes only, and please remember my admonitions to you - don’t discuss the picks among yourselves, don’t form any opinions about the picks, don’t conduct any deliberations till the full column is submitted to you and do not allow anybody to communicate with you with regard to these picks:
Raiders (-4) at Redskins
I want to go on the record right here, right now about Oakland: Al Davis still runs an offense that makes the Hula Hoop look complex, the team’s best runner is still its quarterback and most of the team’s receivers couldn’t catch a cold in Minsk. This team smells of 9-7. Trust me - if The Man tells you it’s gonna rain, you can get yourself an umbrella. Pick: Redskins.
Dolphins (-1) at Patriots
During an emotional team meeting Wednesday, Miami QB Dan Marino discussed the 2-minute offense, how to cut back on turnovers and the unexpected rise of technology and paper stocks driven by a resurgent economy. Then, during a Q-and-A session, Marino dismissed WR Randal Hill’s tip on pork bellies. Pick: Dolphins.
Lions at Vikings (-3)
“Chain of custody” shows origins of Detroit’s season-opening loss date to Lions’ selection of QB Andre Ware in first round of 1990 draft. Pick: Lions.
Buccaneers at Browns (-8)
Tampa Bay’s always-innovative Sam Wyche - our honorary worldwide Coach of the Week - wants defense “to accessorize.” … By the way, anybody saying Buccaneers are playoff-bound is assuming facts not in evidence. Pick: Browns.
Colts (-1-1/2) at Jets
Jets fans primed and pumped for home opener after spending final two weeks of August at fantasy hooliganism camp in Liverpool… . With Jets QB Boomer Esiason, it’s what he does with it after the interception. Pick: Jets.
Broncos at Cowboys (-10)
Dallas G Nate Newton fined unspecified amount by Jerry Jones for drinking six-pack of Coke at home while wearing adidas thongs… . With Cowboys WR Michael Irvin, it’s what he does with it after the catch. Pick: Cowboys. o
Steelers (-5) at Oilers
When I saw injured Pittsburgh QB Neil O’Donnell walking off field and backup QB Mike Tomczak walking onto field against Detroit last week, I had my first Tagamet moment of the season. Pick: Steelers.
Falcons at 49ers (-13)
Last season, San Francisco beat Atlanta by scores of 42-3 and 50-14. But here’s a wagering warning: Going from Steve Young to Elvis Grbac is like going from Ed McMahon to Andy Richter. Pick: 49ers.
Eagles at Cardinals (-3)
Hey, I’m not going to go out there betting a tough game like this, trip up and get tapped out. For who? For what? There will be other paydays. Pick: Cardinals.
Jaguars at Bengals (-7)
Geez, the way Cincinnati coach Dave Shula reacted to that overtime victory, I thought he’d won the Ford Taurus on “The Price Is Right.” Pick: Bengals.
Giants at Chiefs (-6)
Giants QB Dave Brown has that look your dog gets when his water dish is empty… . Traces of EPTA found throughout Giants’ game plan Monday night. Pick: Chiefs.
Panthers at Bills (-9-1/2)
If - and only if - Jim Kelly gets hurt, Carolina QB Frank Reich will play second half for Buffalo. Pick: Panthers.
Seahawks at Chargers (-8-1/2)
When “The Usual Suspects” opened nationwide in theaters, most Seattle fans figured it was an off-season Seahawks highlight film. Pick: Chargers.
Packers at Bears (-3)
A kinder, gentler Reggie White now asks quarterbacks, “Paper or plastic?” before sacking them. Pick: Bears.
Saints at Rams (-2)
Sure, St. Louis is 1-0. What of it? Would it refresh your recollection at all if I mentioned that the Rams have the worst record in the NFL since 1990? The prosecution rests. Pick: Saints.
Last week: 7-7-1.