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NFL Points to Ponder

Aug 27, 2002 5:33 AM

Super Bowl Long Shots?

The Rams were 200-1 shots to win the 2000 Super Bowl, the Ravens were 50-1 shots two years ago and the New England Patriots were 55-1 last summer. All won the Super Bowl.

Currently the Super Bowl champion odds are: the Rams at 2-1, the Steelers are 7-1, the Eagles are 7-1, the Raiders are 12-1, the Packers are 12-1, the Colts are 8-1, while the Dolphins, Titans and Bears are 15-1.

The defending Super Bowl champion Patriots are 10-1.

Since the long shots have won the last three Super Bowls, who falls into that category this summer? The Vikings (40-1), Bills (50-1) and Chargers (35-1), and the Saints (30-1), Jaguars (50-1), Cowboys (30-1) and Ravens (30-1).

Can the 49ers Take the Next Step?

One area the 49ers appear to have upgraded is the offensive line. Two-time Pro Bowl guard Ron Stone was signed away from the Giants. Also, the re-signing of center Jeremy Newberry was key. Newberry, 25, was considered one of the top free agents on the market.

The 49ers are in the same division as the Rams and have lost 6 straight to St. Louis.

Bounce-Back Year for the Broncos?

After averaging 30 points per game in 2000, Denver dropped to 21 ppg last season. Losing wide receiver Ed McCaffrey after one game to a broken leg hurt.

But McCaffrey is back, along with tight end Shannon Sharpe. Sharpe, 33, last played for Denver in the 1999 Super Bowl win over Atlanta, before leaving as a free agent. Speedy WR Ashley Lelie (Hawaii) was taken with the No. 19 overall pick, along with running back Clinton Portis (Miami, Fla.)

The running game is deep with Portis, Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and former rookie of the year Mike Anderson. With Brian Griese leading the way, Denver might average 30 ppg again. And first-year defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes did an outstanding job improving Denver’s ”˜D’ last year, so the Broncos may have all the pieces in place for a big year.

NFL Coaching Changes

San Diego: Mike Riley was fired and former Redskins and Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer takes over.

Tampa Bay: Jon Gruden left the Oakland Raiders to take over the Buccaneers.

Oakland: New head coach Bill Callahan was the offensive coordinator with the Raiders last season.

Carolina: Jon Fox is the new head man after being the defensive coordinator with the NY Giants. Fox is said to be fiery and passionate, which is a stark contrast to quiet, cerebral former coach George Siefert.

New Orleans: Jim Haslett is still the head coach. The Saints have a new defensive coordinator in Rick Venturi. After giving up 40 ppg in their final four games, Venturi wants to play more man-to-man coverage to reduce the many big plays given up by the Saints’ zone schemes last season.

Indianapolis: Tony Dungy takes over as head coach and should improve the NFL’s 30th ranked defense. Dungy kept offensive coordinator Tom Moore, so don’t look for the offense to slow down any.

Minnesota: Offensive line coach Mike Tice takes over as head coach.

Washington: Head coach Steve Spurrier will run the offense, new defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis (Ravens) will handle the defense. This looks to be the best one-two coaching punch in pro football.

Lots of Changes in Baltimore

You might not recognize the team that won the Super Bowl just two seasons ago.

The Ravens’ front office found itself $20 million over the 2002 salary cap, which resulted in the departure of

seven defensive starters: linemen Rob Burnett, Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, LB Jamie Sharper and defensive backs Rod Woodson, Corey Harris and Duane Starks.

They also released offensive starters Shannon Sharpe, Qadry Ismail and Jason Brookins and lost receivers Patrick Johnson and Jermaine Lewis.

The Ravens will switch to a 3-4 defense this fall. Mo Lewis and Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware skipped a May minicamp because they want their contracts restructured to have bigger signing bonuses. Coach Brian Billick publicly admonished them for not telling him of their plans.

New Look in DC

The Washington Redskins were extremely active on defense over the offseason. Starting at the top, former Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis was brought in to lead the way. After taking the Ravens’ defense to the top of the NFL, Lewis moved 40 miles south to join Steve Spurrier.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with. The Redskins figure to have one of the NFL’s best linebacking corps. With emerging superstar LaVar Arrington already in the fold, the team added middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (Eagles) and outside linebacker Jessie Armstead (Giants). Trotter is a good run stopper and should give Arrington even more room to move around and make plays.