Two teams headed in different directions - the Denver Broncos are inching toward Super Bowl XXXII and the New England Patriots are inching away from Super Bowl XXXI - meet Monday night in Mile High Stadium. The winner will be undefeated by dawn, the loser will be dressed down by Pete Carroll.
Both coaches, the Broncos’ Mike Shanahan and the Patriots’ Carroll, have arrived at this moment from similar circumstances.
Shanahan, 45, was briefly head coach with the Raiders and Carroll, 46, was briefly head coach with the Jets, then each had short stints as offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, with the 49ers before landing their current jobs.
The big difference - and this is a BIG difference where I come from - is that I very much like Shanahan and very much dislike Carroll. Shanahan, I believe, is a sharp-minded winner and Carroll, I believe, is a former Bruce Coslet assistant.
Still, according to conventional wisdom, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC, but, then again, conventional wisdom once held that the earth was flat and Jay Leno was funny.
At this point, I’d like to put on my Seymour Siwoff (of the Elias Sports Bureau) hat - that would be the billycock with a built-in abacus - to recite the following numbers: Denver has won 19 of its last 22 regular-season games; Denver is 17-2 at home since 1995; Denver has beaten New England nine consecutive times, including 37-3 and 34-8 the past two years; New England has the worst record on Monday nights (5-12) of any AFC team.
Normally, I’d throw stats like that right out the window, but the problem is, I live in a basement apartment.
Thus, I must select Denver, a four-point favorite.
In addition, please remember this: In Carroll’s one year of head coaching (1994) previous to this, his Jets started 6-5 before fading to 6-10. It says here that Carroll’s Patriots are 4-0 headed for 8-8. That’s right, 4-0 to 8-8. You heard me. You always hear it from me first.
(Speaking of which, I’ve had it with these prognosticating pretenders, all claiming they saw Tampa Bay coming from a mile away. Hah! They’re Johnny-come-latelys, I’m Johnny on the spot. Folks, a year ago starting in Week 1, The Man told you Carolina was “Super Bowl-bound,” and I missed it by that much. This year, before a single football was snapped, The Man told you Tampa Bay was “playoff-ready” and then forecast Tampa Bay would be “10-6 or better.” Compare that to these state-of-the-obvious sportswriters, who wake up in the morning, look out their windows, see there’s not a cloud in the sky, then go on TV and radio the rest of the day and tell you it’s going to be sunny!)
As usual, all picks against the point spread are for recreational purposes only:
Buccaneers at Packers (-8): When you only get six first downs and you’re outgained 364 yards to 147 and your quarterback throws an interception returned for a touchdown and you still win, you are blessed. God, it feels good to be a Buccaneer… . Memo to Brett Favre: When you’re on your knees, you should either be praying, cutting bait or looking for a contact lens. Pick: Buccaneers.
Cowboys (-7-1/2) at Giants: Yo, Deion if you want to start celebrating at the 25-yard line, get some neon tassels, strobe lights, chorus girls, sparkling fireworks, a nice fruit-and-cheese board and a bottle of Dom Perignon AND DO IT RIGHT, you self-winding, one-tackle-a-week windbag. P.S. That was a nice return. Pick: Giants.
Saints at Bears (-3-1/2): April 1951: Gen. MacArthur returns to America (but retires). October 1997: Gen. Ditka returns to Chicago (but coaches). The difference: Old coaches never die; they simply take over 3-13 teams. Pick: Bears.
Oilers at Seahawks (-6): Indoors, with a slight air-duct tailwind, Oilers’ Al Del Greco could kick the ball completely out of a dome and through the uprights of a goalpost at a nearby outdoor stadium. Pick: Oilers.
Redskins at Eagles (-4): Watching Ty Detmer-Ricky Watters spat Sunday night brought back somewhat bittersweet memories of the sound and the fury that was Week 6 of The Man’s marriage. Pick: Eagles.
Bengals at Jaguars (-6-1/2): In regard to occasionally fanciful Bengals coach Bruce Coslet, I’m not sure if he’s a visionary or if he just has something in his eye. Pick: Jaguars.
Lions at Bills (-4): Q. What’s the difference between an Intel Pentium II processor and the Bills offense? A. Turnovers, my friends, turnovers. Pick: Bills.
Chiefs at Dolphins (-3): Out of frustration, Dolphins QB Dan Marino implored coach Jimmy Johnson Tuesday to sign free-agent WR Rod Tidwell. Pick: Dolphins.
Steelers (-3) at Ravens: Ravens P Greg Montgomery blamed 34.2-yard average last week in San Diego on harassment by local “punterazzi.” Pick: Steelers.
Vikings at Cardinals (-1): Responding to player poll, Cardinals first in NFL to add ceiling fan to huddle. Pick: Cardinals.
Jets (-2-1/2) at Colts: Frankly, I think Colts QB Jim Harbaugh might be more suited to dodge ball than football. Pick: Jets.
Chargers at Raiders (-7-1/2): New Raiders offensive plays to be tested in the Nevada Desert. Pick: Chargers.
Last week: 6-6-1; Season record: 30-37-2.
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