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No Pat-ent to repeat

Aug 24, 2004 7:51 AM

Since entering the 21st century, no team has won back-to-back Super Bowls. But, if there is a "dynasty" in pro football, look no further than defending champion New England.

Caesars Palace has listed the Patriots as a 9-2 favorite to repeat. No surprise since the Patriots have been to three Super Bowls since 1997, winning in 2002 and last February. Plus, the only real weakness (a consistent running game) would seem to be solved with the acquisition of Corey Dillon from Cincinnati.

Of course, injuries are sure to happen. So picking an NFL champ now is really premature and, frankly, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Yet we go through the annual breakdown because it’s fun for us, along with giving our readers a chance to see another view that may either support or challenge theirs.

Enough for the written babble, it’s time to produce.

NFC EAST:

Eagles (5-1 to win SB): Not again! Three straight failures in the NFC title game. We want new blood, but acquiring Terrell Owens does make Philly much better through the air. Donovan McNabb made a big statement by firing an 81-yard TD pass to Owens on the first play against the Giants. Both should excel to offset the rash of injuries.

Redskins (15-1): It’s all about Joe Gibbs and the intangibles he brings. Joe is a winner and about the only coach who could inspire hope in D.C. "Boy King" (owner Dan Snyder) dug into his vast wallet to acquire a QB (Mark Brunell), a RB (Clinton Portis) and a DB (drafted Miami’s Sean Taylor). All great moves.

Cowboys (18-1): Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones are pro spin masters, and they will have to be more than ever this season. They don’t have a QB or RB to mortgage the house. Right now, the ball is in Vinny Testaverde’s hands, but Drew Henson will take over. How soon depends on when Vinny T becomes Vinny INT. Dallas has a defense, but fatigue sets in by November.

Giants (50-1): First year failure is in the Manning horoscope. Daddy Archie struggled his rookie season with the "Aints" and brother Peyton had his problems at Indy. Eli is coming, but should blossom next year. The Giants have no offensive line. Sacks could force management to sit Eli and send Kurt Warner to the dogs.

NFC NORTH

Vikings (12-1):Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss are the most dangerous pitch/catch duo in football. They are overdue for an explosion this season under the fiery coach Mike Tice. Vikes should survive a division where the gap between bottom and top is narrowing.

Bears (60-1): It’s a "Lovie Fest" in Chicago, where new coach Lovie Smith has the excitement back at Soldier Field. The Bears celebrated a preseason OT win over St. Louis like it was the Super Bowl. Brian Urlacher should have a big year and QB Rex Grossman may be the steady leader the Bears have lacked.

Packers (8-1): Could be the most overpriced team in football. The Packers are dead if anything happens to Ahman Green and Brett Favre, and there are 16 regular season games to deal with. Green Bay lacks depth and has been prone to losses at Lambeau.

Lions (80-1): WR Charles Rogers, last year’s top pick, is back from injury and looking good in preseason. If the Lions get some consistency from QB Joey Harrington, the roar might be back in Motown. But you can’t get all your wins at home!

NFC SOUTH

Panthers (15-1): Last year Jake Delhomme was behind Rodney Peete on the QB depth chart. Now he’s a cult hero in the Queen City. Delhomme and Steve Smith are the working man’s Culpepper-Moss. The ground game is great the defense is terrorizing against the pass. And, the Panthers still don’t get respect. The 15-1 is a steal!

Bucs (15-1): Jon Gruden is trying to surround himself with former Raiders, which may not be a bad idea. But I can’t imagine losing Warren Sapp and John Lynch won’t hurt. The Bucs are hungry again, but Carolina is better.

Saints (50-1): It’s all about Deuce McAllister. He is the focal point on offense until Albert Brooks decides he wants to be a QB for 16 games. The Saints are so used to disappointment that they probably win up around .500.

Falcons (25-1): Michael (sorry, Mike) Vick has yet to prove he can complete a pass in the pocket with regularity. But, can this dude run! He’ll have to because rookie Schwab is having a big preseason and can throw the long ball standing still. Falcons have a lot to prove.

NFC WEST

Seahawks (7-1): This really seems to be the put-up or shut-up year for Mike Holmgren’s boys. Offensively this teams rocks, and the Seahawks have developed a great winning environment at their new outdoor stadium. We really love Mr. Alexander in the backfield. Defense is iffy, but we’ll bite. State of urgency lifts Hawks to top.

Rams (12-1): It’s definitely Marc Bulger’s team now, and he’s capable. But we have never been Mike Martz fans and are not about to change. He has reduced Marshall Faulk’s role and lost much of the speed that made the Rams so scary.

Cardinals (80-1): New coach Denny Green should be good enough to lift the Cards out of the cellar. We like Josh McCown, whose last play Hail Mary kept the Vikings out of the playoffs. Losing Anquan Bolden was a lethal blow to the receiving corps.

49ers (125-1): The 49ers haven’t been this bad since the days of John Brodie. Lack of depth, free agent thefts and a tough division have contributed to Death Valley Days in the Bay Area. No Terrell Owens means no sniff at a winning record.

AFC EAST

Patriots (9-2): And why not! The addition of Dillon figures to make the Patriots more intimidating than last year. Tom Brady now has two Super Bowl rings and could win a couple more before he calls it a career. Ty Law returns, but is the hunger there?

NY Jets (22-1): Sure it was preseason, but wasn’t Chad Pennington the real deal against Indy! If Chad can just stay healthy, the Jets will remain interested and that means trouble for opponents. At 22-1, the Jets are an enticing pick.

Bills (30-1): The question shouldn’t be whether RB Willis McGahee starts, but whether he finishes. The Bills risked a lot of cash that the former Miami standout will rebound from a devastating knee injury. If he does, the Bills can factor into the division.

Dolphins (25-1): No Ricky Williams, he’s into pot. No David Boston, he’s into knee rehab. And, probably no Dave Wannstedt after this season. Just too many obstacles for Fish to overcome in a parity sport. They will win in September, though.

AFC NORTH

Bengals (35-1): Cincy surprised folks by immediately naming Carson Palmer as the starting QB ahead of Jon Kitna, who comes off a career year. Kitna will be better off in Dallas, New Orleans or San Francisco than in Cincy. Palmer is looking good and the Bengals are finally ready to make a statement in the AFC.

Ravens (12-1): Ray Lewis can will this team to a divisional title, but a federal court judge can take it way if Jamal Lewis does jail time. At best, Jamal figures to miss a few weeks in November while he’s on trial. At worst, he’s doing prison time. Too risky to bet.

Steelers (25-1): We really like Ben Roethlisberger, but he may not break into the lineup fast enough for the Steelers to win the division. When Ben does play, Bill Cowher will finally have the QB he thought Kordell Stewart would be.

Browns (60-1): Thanks to former "buddy" Owens for trying to "out" Jeff Garcia. As if the Browns QB doesn’t have enough on his plate after a disappointing year with the 49ers. We have waited for Cleveland to step up long enough. Now, a step back.

AFC SOUTH

Colts (6-1): Peyton Manning proved he can win big games, highlighted by that amazing 28-point fourth-quarter comeback win over Tampa Bay. Now he has to take it a step further in the playoffs. The parts are there in maybe the NFL’s toughest division.

Jaguars (35-1): Surfacing under the radar screen is a lot of positive vibes on the Jags. Jacksonville will be very good if Fred Taylor stays healthy. Taylor can win the rushing title — he’s that good. Byron Leftwich is ready for a big year.

Titans (15-1): Steve McNair has improved statistically every season, which means 4,000 yards passing this year. Now, if the Titans can find the answer for Eddie George, both on and off the field. Losing Jevon Kearse doesn’t help either. Still, they’re tough.

Texans (85-1): Somebody has to be last, but Houston is a comer. David Carr improves each season and Dom Capers possesses a quality defense. A .500 season is definitely within reach and that still may be last in the division.

AFC WEST

Chiefs (8-1): This is it for Dick Vermeil and the Chiefs. Trent Green has put up numbers, but the Chiefs keep coming up short. RB Priest Holmes is second to none and tight end Tony Gonzalez is a monster. But can KC stop anyone. We’re banking on the Chiefs averaging 30 a game and winning with offense.

Raiders (22-1): Last year we thought Oakland looked old and in denial from the embarrassing Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay. Tim Brown is gone and the Raiders come off an excellent draft. They’re younger, meaner and healthier. Actually, we like third string "Tui" at QB better than Rich Gannon and Kerry Collins. But what do we know?

Broncos (8-1): Some critics are questioning whether Jake Plummer was really the answer, and they should. Mike Shanahan just can’t seem to find another Elway. Quintin Griffin is good, but Denver will miss Portis. Broncos are solid, but we see down year from Jake.

Chargers (100-1): Eli Manning didn’t want to play for the Chargers and now Philip Rivers doesn’t. It would be something if Drew Brees all of a sudden begins to play up to his fat contract. He’s having a good preseason, and there’s always LaDanian Tomlinson to fall back on. But, we’re not high on "Marty Ball."