Colts will capture Super slugfest
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Alameda Times-Star

CAN THERE BE any doubt about it -- the NFL is going to the dogs. Greyhounds, to be specific.
The NFL high factotums have decreed as much with the new no-chuck-after-5-yards rule. They want offense. They're going to get it. Boy, are they.

Now that they have turned on the spigot, let's see how happy they are with the results. As one of those who railed against the way the New England Patriots mugged Indianapolis receivers in the AFC Championship Game last year, I applauded the intent.

I'm not so sure I like what I suspect is going to be the outcome. The prediction in this corner is for the Super Bowl to be the wildest, chest-thumpingest run of long-range touchdowns in its near 40-year history.

This corner says the Indianapolis Colts, amped by the new rules, will prevail over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 39 (XXXIX sounds like a Mexican beer, after all) by the geeked-up score of 45-38.

All because these teams have the receivers, the quarterbacks and the sheer offensive intent to make the best use of the "new" rule. Provided, that is, the zebras call it the way they have been -- contact by defense is a flag, receivers pushing off is OK.

Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce ... come on down. It's your day in the sun.

Forthwith, your season, in advance:

AFC WEST: Kansas City 11-5, Oakland 10-6, Denver 9-7, San Diego 4-12. The Chiefs break the 500-point barrier and lose, again, in the playoffs. Raiders return to the playoffs in a score or be-scored-on season. Denver will find life difficult without Clinton Portis. The Chargers merely stink. Again.

AFC EAST: New England 11-5, Buffalo 8-8, New York Jets 7-9, Miami 6-10. Pats win a weakened division off fumes. The Bills are well back. Jets lack karma despite a very special coach. The Dolphins flail like a beached porpoise without Ricky.

AFC NORTH: Baltimore 10-6, Cincinnati 7-9, Pittsburgh 7-9, Cleveland 5-11. Nod to Ravens even though it's a lousy year to try to win on defense. Bengals take a step back with Palmer. Steelers just don't figure. Send condolences to Jeff Garcia, loose change to Winslow.

AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis 12-4, Tennessee 10-6, Jacksonville 8-8, Houston 4-12. Colts will hit that 500-point mark in a breeze. Too bad, Eddie George was the soul of the Titans. The Jags are a comer. Houston is a goner.

WILD CARDS: Oakland, Tennessee.

WILD-CARD ROUND: Oakland over Kansas City 20-17; Baltimore over Tennessee 31-17.

DIVISIONAL ROUND: Indianapolis over Oakland 34-27; Baltimore over New England 24-17.

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Indianapolis over Baltimore 34-17.

NFC WEST: St. Louis 11-5, Seattle 9-7, San Francisco 5-11, Arizona 3-13. Suddenly, the Rams are without challengers. Sorry, the Seahawks are overrated. The ***** avoid the cellar because ... the Cardinals are still a mess, only it's Denny's mess now.

NFC EAST: Philadelphia 10-6, Washington 9-7, Dallas 8-8, New York Giants 7-9. The Freak won't last and the Eagles never do. A mild vote for Joe Gibbs restoring the Redskins. Vinny's there, so the Cowboys must do it on defense.

NFC NORTH: Green Bay 10-6, Detroit 8-8, Minnesota 7-9, Chicago 5-11. Last go-round for Brett, but it'll end badly for the Pack. Lions are about to make some noise. Vikings lack something. Bears lack teeth.

NFC SOUTH: Tampa Bay 10-6, Atlanta 9-7, Carolina 8-8, New Orleans 7-9. Gruden will make Bucs a threat, but the days of voracious "D" are done. The Falcons go as far as Vick can take them. Panthers were a mirage and so was DelHomme. The Saints ain't.

WILD CARDS: Washington, Seattle.

WILD-CARD ROUND: Philadelphia over Seattle 20-17; Tampa Bay over Washington 27-16.

DIVISIONAL ROUND: Tampa Bay over Green Bay 19-17; St. Louis over Philadelphia 31-17.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: St. Louis over Tampa Bay, 30-16.