Punt, Pass, and Predict

Punt, Pass, and Predict

Punt, Pass, and Predict

The stadium scene.
Aug. 29 2000 3:00 AM

Punt, Pass, and Predict

Slate is about to inaugurate a new "Sports Nut" feature on pro football, "Tuesday Morning Quarterback." During the NFL season, Tuesday Morning Quarterback will run every—if you can't figure out when it will run, we're not going to tell you.


Tuesday Morning Quarterback will feature 20/20 hindsight on each weekend's games, especially far-after-the-fact analysis of blunders in strategy and tactics. You may say: That's unfair, football players and coaches must make their decisions under pressure, everything is clear in hindsight. Exactly! They earn millions chasing a ball in publicly subsidized stadiums, the least we can do is second-guess. As a matter of policy, Tuesday Morning Quarterback will be consistently unfair. Please join me, starting tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 29.

And now as a warm-up, here is the official TMQ NFL preview:

Right now every sports page, tout service, and betting parlor is running its season preview. But only Tuesday Morning Quarterback gives you certified guaranteed predictions! That's right—all TMQ forecasts are totally, absolutely guaranteed to be predictions. So you can't go wrong! Although you're not likely to be correct.

Please do not use these free, guaranteed predictions as the basis of any wager, such as an IPO.


Super Bowl Matchup: I absolutely guarantee that I have no idea who the Super Bowl teams will be. Neither does anyone else. Last year nobody—not Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Pro Football Weekly, the New York Times, or USA Today—called the Super Bowl in advance as the Rams vs. Titans. Predictions of this nature are so weak statistically that they essentially correlate with random choices. Professional sportswriters and tout services pretend that's not what they are doing. Tuesday Morning Quarterback, on the other hand, guarantees that what it is doing is making random choices.

Division Winners: Of the six division winners from last season—Indianapolis, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington—only one was a repeat from the previous year. In each of the two prior seasons, only one division winner repeated from the preceding year. This is a statistically strong indicator, and thus it seems safe to predict that of last year's division winners, only one will repeat this year. But TMQ has no idea which one it will be.

Actual Predicted Final Score: 13-10. Tuesday Morning Quarterback feels certain there will be a game with this score this year, and that you will wish you hadn't watched it.

Team-by-Team Forecasts


Arizona Cardinals: This team was outscored 118-19 in the first quarter last season. It was wracked by injuries, holdouts, and poor player relations; this year, for a refreshing change of pace, it is wracked by poor player relations, holdouts, and injuries. The Cardinals have had one postseason victory in the last 52 years. The true NFL devotee should say of this franchise what Rousseau said of Paris: "We can never get far enough away from you." Forecast finish: 4-12.

Atlanta Falcons: In 1998, the Falcons made the Super Bowl and looked pretty darn good. Since then they have had two off-seasons in which they lost important free agents while signing almost no one. In 1999, the Falcons committed one of the dullest trades in recent memory by swapping their year 2000 No. 1 pick to Baltimore for the Ravens' 1999 No. 2 choice. Through this crafty transaction Atlanta snagged Reggie Kelly—yes, the Reggie Kelly!—a nondescript backup who caught eight passes last year, while Baltimore ended up with the fifth selection overall in the 2000 draft. The Reggie Kelly trade was made by Dan Reeves (actual title: "Executive Vice President of Football Operations/Head Coach"), who enjoys a shiny media aura despite having lost all four of his Super Bowl coaching appearances by a combined score of 170-59. Forecast finish: 5-11.

Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore has a fabulous, tenacious defense and a strong offensive line; OL play is the least-appreciated key to football. The Ravens also sport purple-swirly-Q uniforms that would embarrass a high-school squad. But then, high-school uniforms didn't stop Tennessee last year. (The proliferation of high-school-style uniforms, started by Jacksonville, is one among many disturbing NFL trends, the shocking truth about which is being suppressed.) Baltimore feels in some ways like a destiny team, except for its puzzling decision to go with Tony Banks at QB. Banks is 20-33 as a career starter and is the proud holder of the NFL all-time record for most fumbles in a season—21, or more than one per game. Forecast finish: 12-4.

Buffalo Bills: Most NFL teams have never simply waived a future Hall of Fame player. Departures of those bound for Canton are accompanied by ceremonial PR blitzes and festivals of nostalgia. Most NFL teams have never lost two Hall of Fame players in the same season, let alone on the same day. On one single day last February, the Bills simply waived three Hall of Fame players—Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, and Thurman Thomas—and all were cut loose without commemoration or even a phone call. Thomas found out he'd been released by watching the crawl at the bottom of the screen on ESPN2. That these players were in decline is not the point, nor is the nutty detail that the league's salary cap effectively forced the Bills to say goodbye to three once-in-a-generation players who were popular draws both for home ticket sales and NFL network ratings. The point is how it was done. Reed, Smith, and Thomas were cast aside like the shrink-wrap on a Lunchable. The football gods will punish Buffalo for this affront. There will be rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. Forecast finish: 7-9.


Carolina Panthers: Despite his Super Bowl ring from San Francisco, despite his career victory mark of .736 being second-best all-time in the NFL, George Seifert never gets credit as a great coach. Seifert looks wimpy—he could be the acting vice chairperson for diversity recriminations at the Modern Language Association—and when he was in SF, the fans waxed angry at him because he didn't win it all every year. Last season Seifert went to Carolina, a woeful team that had been 4-12 the previous season, had cut its Pro Bowl QB Kerry Collins in a snit, been stripped of its high draft choices in the woeful Sean Gilbert deal and, equally woeful, then been stuck with having to have Sean Gilbert. Seifert took these Panthers to an 8-8 finish, playing many, many gentlemen you've never heard of. Why Seifert never gets his media due for such accomplishments is a mystery. No, wait, there's a simple explanation—the media. Forecast finish: 10-6.

Chicago Bears: What, exactly, were the Bears doing passing for 4,136 yards last year? Don't they know they are the Bears? Apparently not. But though the Bears gained loads of yards last year they only scored 272 points, a middling figure, while their defense was pliant. This year the Bears are the deepest wide-receiver team in the league but are gambling heavily on temperamental, underachieving complainers such as defensive end Phillip Daniels and running back Curtis Enis. Fun fact: If a deal is reached to tear down and then rebuild Soldier Field, the Bears may play their home games next season at Notre Dame. Forecast finish: 8-8.

Cincinnati Bengals: Rousseau also said that because the "treadmill of competition" causes vanity, "we should therefore desire mediocrity in all things." He must have been a Bengals fan! The Bengals had the most losses in the '90s, a cover-your-eyes net record of .325 for the decade. Cincinnati has been so egregiously bad for a solid decade that Bengals management this year tried to insert into rookie contracts a clause forbidding players from denouncing the team in public. That's all right, they don't have to—everybody else does. Redeeming Bengals virtue: They have no vanity. Forecast finish: 2-14.

Cleveland Browns: OK, they're an expansion team, but so far, not much of one. Mid-'90s expansion teams Carolina and Jax both jumped to the playoffs in their second years thanks to blank salary caps that enabled them to sign players established teams could not afford. Don't expect a playoff leap this season for the Browns, who have done an undistinguished job of fishing the free-agency pool. Ominous sign: Cleveland has been experimenting with extensive use of five-wide, "empty backfield" formations that lack any running back. This is a formula for a lot of tedious 45-27 losses, plus for getting QB Tim Couch broken in half by defenses that can all-out pass rush on every play. Roster note: The Browns will start a rookie named JaJuan Dawson. JaJuan—wasn't he a character in Star Wars? Are players from other galaxies now allowed to compete in the NFL? Of course, that could explain Kurt Warner. Forecast finish: 3-13.


Dallas Cowboys: They were America's team, then they were Mexico's team, and now, unfortunately, they are Jerry Jones' team. Jones fired Jimmy Johnson for winning two Super Bowls. Jones fired Chan Gailey for merely going 18-16 with a playoff appearance in his first two years. Jones was mad about Gailey's offense, which only put up 352 points in 1999—the league average was 332. So Jones traded two No. 1 draft picks for receiver Joey Galloway. Last year, the Seahawks were 6-2 when Galloway didn't play and 3-6 when he did. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have an emergency situation at cornerback, and no draft picks or cap room to do anything about it. Boy, what a relief that Jerry Jones is kept far from any responsibility for anything real, like the Bush campaign. Cowboys redeeming virtue: It is the only NFL franchise that lists "cheerleader director" among its management titles. Forecast finish: 6-10.

Denver Broncos: This team won two straight Super Bowls, then turned in a creditable season last year despite the retirement of John Elway and season-ending injuries to Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, and John Mobley. Davis and Mobley are back, though Sharpe is gone to Baltimore in a salary-cap purge. (Can it really be in the interest of NFL fan continuity, to say nothing of the league's network ratings, to have Sharpe in Baltimore and Bruce Smith in Washington and all the year's other cap-cut famous players in confusingly new places? One reason baseball ratings are down is that no one has any idea who's on which team.) Denver should remain a contender, if only because it practices and performs in the depleted Colorado air. Playing at Mile High Stadium is like starting every season with a two-game lead and then just having to hold it—the Broncos for decades have been one of the top home-record franchises, owing to anoxia, the bends, and similar unpleasant effects on the cardiopulmonary systems of the visiting team. Aside: Has anyone noticed that when Bob Griese broadcasts games involving Broncos starter Brian Griese, Dad seems singularly unenthusiastic about his son? Musta been a lot of loves and hugs growing up in that Griese household. Forecast finish: 8-8.

Detroit Lions: What does it tell you about this team that it managed to get Barry Sanders so mad he retired when he was just about to become the NFL's all-time leading rusher? Here's what it tells you: nothing. Sanders is one strange duck. His bitterness against the Lions—which only made him a multimillionaire star for a decade, why didn't they do more for him, huh?—reflects badly on Sanders, not Detroit. Many NFL observers have thought for years that the Lions have been held back by Sanders' self-centered tirades and the poor example he set, especially his refusal to block. Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas throw blocks and are winners; Sanders wouldn't and wasn't. Now that Barry is finally, irrevocably, off the roster and out of the team's psyche, this could be an up-arrow year for the Lions, so long as the Ace-bandage-loving duo of Herman Moore and Charlie Batch can stay on the field. Forecast finish: 10-6.

Green Bay: Doing Dallas one better, the Packers canned Ray Rhodes after a mere single season at 8-8. Memo to Packers' General Manager Ron Wolf: Rhodes had to coach with the players you gave him. Four years ago in its Super Bowl win, the Pack starters on defense: Reggie White, LeRoy Butler, Doug Evans, Santana Dotson, Gilbert Brown, Sean Jones, Brian Williams, George Koonce, Craig Newsome, Eugene Robinson, Wayne Simmons. What a lineup! Two future Hall of Famers, several Pro Bowlers. Today, just four years later, only three of those guys are still with the team, and the gentlemen who have replaced them, well, you don't wanna know. The Packers are at the dead end of a talent cycle, and this will be an R-word year. Fans will be screaming, "Bring back Rhodes." Forecast finish: 4-12.

Indianapolis: Possibly the league's most fun team to watch this season, since the Colts will both score and surrender lots of points. The QB-WR-RB trio of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and Edgerrin James has the potential to be as long-term good as Aikman, Irvin, and Smith at Dallas or Kelly, Reed, and Thomas at Buffalo. And the Colts' big three are all under long-term contracts, so fans can get used to seeing them together, which is a pleasure in this age of the revolving-door roster. Forecast finish: 12-4.

Jacksonville: Four years ago when Jax made the postseason as a second-year expansion team and stunned Buffalo and Denver with road playoff victories, this team felt like it would become the scrappy underdog everybody loved to root for. Instead, in our accelerated-pace life, Jax has already transformed into the most bloated, overrated, arrogant team in the league. Last year the Jaguars finished the regular season 14-2 and the players bragged, bragged, bragged—despite a cotton-candy schedule, Jax playing only two games against teams that finished above .500 and losing both. Jax also bragged, bragged, bragged about how its defense allowed a league-low 13.5 points per game—then gave up 33 points at home in losing the AFC title contest to Tennessee. TMQ would dearly love to project this paper jaguar as a loser in the coming season, but the league has once again awarded a walkover schedule: eighth-easiest among the 31 NFL teams, opponents with a combined record of 119-137 in 1999. These candy schedules—just what does Jax management have on NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, one wonders? Forecast finish: 9-7.

Kansas City: In the past decade, no team has consistently gotten more performance from less ability than the Chiefs. They've been in the postseason seven of the last 10 years, a tremendous achievement considering the names on the backs of their uniforms. Last year KC barely missed the playoffs despite having the very average Elvis Grbac at QB, a leading rusher with 627 yards, and a defense staffed almost entirely by who-dats. Arrowhead Stadium is the key to this success—Kansas City has become the perennial league leader in attendance, selling out to 79,451 very, very noisy people each Sunday. The Chiefs had the NFL's best home record in the '90s, and it happened mainly because of decibels. Chiefs fans sustain such oppressive domelike noise in an open-air stadium that every single one of the 79,451 of them should be listed on the team's roster. Forecast finish: 8-8.

Miami: Dan Marino is gone; Damon Huard and Jay Fiedler have arrived. Even if you hate the Miami Dolphins—and TMQ, for sectarian reasons, has always hated the Dolphins—it was a joy and a privilege to watch Dan Marino play the game of football. It will not be a privilege to watch Damon Huard and Jay Fiedler play football. And that killer Miami defense of 1998? Check the stats from the second half of 1999; you won't find it. Forecast finish: 6-10.

Minnesota: What, you haven't played quarterback for Dennis Green? This year the Vikes roll out their eighth new QB starter in nine seasons. There was plenty of notice for the Bills' salary-cap losses this off-season; less noticed was that Minnesota had a cap crash that cost the team Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, and Jeff George. In performance terms, this was worse than Buffalo's loss, because Christy and George still have peak years ahead. Minnesota may rise to average this year, but the club has train-wreck potential. Redeeming Vikings virtue: Dennis Green proves that you can have absolutely no idea what you're doing (remember when he threatened to sue his owner?) and still win NFL games, which offers nice fantasies for the Walter Mitty set. Forecast finish: 7-9.

New England: The P-Men owner, Robert Kraft, wanted Bill Belichick as his coach so bad, he gave up a No. 1 draft pick for him. But Belichick is 37-45 lifetime as a head coach. Does Kraft know something we don't? More likely, Kraft doesn't know something we do—that Belichick is a fine defensive coordinator but lacks the people skills to be a head coach. Belichick is famous for sitting in his office with the door closed; he may have ample reason to do so this season. Speaking of people: New England has 'em at linebacker but not on the offensive line. Drew Bledsoe's best chance of protection will be going into an office and closing the door. Another team with train-wreck potential. Forecast finish: 6-10.

New Orleans: Everybody who follows football has a high opinion of rookie head coach Jim Haslett. Everybody who follows football was impressed by the Saints' off-season and the promising group of free agents obtained. Everybody who follows football assumes QB Jeff Blake will blossom now that he's out of the NFL Elba that is Cincinnati. Everybody who follows football knows that the Saints wish they could return Ricky Williams and get their draft choices back. And everybody who follows football knows that New Orleans annually, reliably, always tanks. The Saints is the sole NFL franchise that has never won a postseason game. (That stat depends on which side one takes in the dispute regarding whether the expansion Browns or the relocated Ravens are the "real" Browns, and don't get us started on which team is the "real" Colts.) Forecast finish: 5-11.

New Jersey Giants: Two seasons ago the Giants had a thousand-yard rusher. Can you name him? I didn't think so. No NFL team is more anonymous, and that's something considering the Giants play somewhat close to New York, the world's media center. Giants management has recently expended a vast number of high draft picks on RBs and WRs with only modest results; meanwhile, the lines on both sides of the ball have been allowed to atrophy. That clucking sound you hear is the chickens coming home to roost. Redeeming Giants virtue: They've gone high school too with their new uniforms, but it's '50s-era high school. Giants are the first team ever to design uniforms with the express intent of making its own players look slow. Forecast finish: 5-11.

New Jersey Jets: OK, Keyshawn Johnson is obnoxious. But you don't have to be his friend, you only have to let him catch the ball. Johnson is an impact player at the height of his career, and the Jets traded him for draft choices that became John Abraham and Anthony Becht. Keyshawn Johnson for John Abraham and Andy Becht—it's like one of those baseball trades where they give Tom Seaver for six minor-leaguers and a case of Michelob. The Jets say they had to trade Johnson because they might have lost him to free agency in 2002. Great, so they lost him two years sooner. Why put off problems till tomorrow when you can have them today? This is a very New York attitude, at least. Speaking of problems: Fans who saw the Jets in the second half of last season saw a very poised, very intelligent young QB in Ray Lucas. Now Lucas is third on the depth chart behind the returning Vinny Testaverde and the big-money glamour pick Chad Pennington. There's a hint in the air that the Jets wouldn't take Lucas seriously as a QB because he is black and hails from Rutgers, where no one in his right mind wants to play college football but where Lucas must have learned something because he sure seems to know what he's doing. Brushing aside Lucas is a potential source of discord for the Jets, especially given the media-capital factor. Forecast finish: 6-10.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders' buzz this year is like the Titans' buzz was last summer—that of an up team about to put it all together. TMQ hopes this does not happen, for two reasons: Al Davis. But a big Raiders year may be in store. Only horrifying place-kicking kept Oakland out of the playoffs last year, and now the team has Sebastian Janikowski, who may become the Russian army of place-kickers. ("Drunk he beat Denver, drunk he beat Carolina …") The Raiders enjoy solid DBs, OL, and RBs and a potentially weak division to play in. Forecast finish: 12-4.

Philadelphia Eagles: In the last decade, Philadelphia and Cincinnati have competed for the distinction of worst-run NFL franchise. Losing teams, unhappy players, budget cuts, unstable management—if the Eagles and Bengals tried as hard to be good on the field as they try to be bad off the field, they'd meet annually in the Super Bowl. Philadelphia even has the league's worst stadium, the Vet, with its crumbling stands and runway-like playing surface. But ominously, the Eagles are showing signs of improvement. They're acquired a level-headed coach, some decent linemen, and a smart young QB, Donovan McNabb, who may well outdo the QBs taken ahead of him (Tim Couch and Akili Smith) in last year's draft. The Eagles appear on the upswing. But then, liberalism is supposed to be coming back, too. Redeeming Eagles virtue: The Vet is a pleasant venue for road teams, since the Philly home crowd usually roots for the visitors. Forecast finish: 8-8.

(Technical note: Due to a conspiracy, the Official Tuesday Morning Quarterback NFL Preview was posted Monday without the Eagles entry. TMQ has now heard from roughly 8 zillion readers on this blunder. One reader, Nic, asked in "The Fray," "Have the Birds fallen so far off the NFL radar as to not even warrant a brief mention?" Nic goes on to project a good year for the Eagles, owing to "a schedule that ought to be served with a fruit topping," but cautions that the weak Philadelphia WR contingent means "McNabb will be throwing most of his passes to television crews." Nic, give TMQ a break! It's only existed for one day, and already you are coming up with better lines.)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Talk about being at the end of a talent cycle. The Steelers have lost a dozen Pro Bowl players to free agency in the last decade and basically brought in no one. Bad drafts, too: They just cut a couple of recent high picks. Now they are both depleted and stuck in the Kordell Stewart morass. Stewart is benefiting from reverse discrimination in a big way. There's no chance a white quarterback playing as poorly as Stewart has for two years (1999 passer rating: 64.9) would still be on the field. But Pittsburgh committed itself to Stewart come hell or high water, and at this point, high water sounds attractive. In order to keep Stewart from complaining about racial politics, Pittsburgh did not bring in any credible alternative during the off-season: The No. 2 QB is the pedestrian Kent Graham. The Steelers may self-destruct over the Stewart situation and to top it off: 1) Stewart is blowing his chance to become a great wide receiver; and 2) by the end of the season the team may be playing rookie Tee Martin, who's black but, unlike Stewart, belongs at the QB position. Forecast finish: 4-12.

San Diego: The novelist Reynolds Price has said, "Few human beings of any sex or background are called to anything grander than dinner." He must be a Chargers fan! San Diego is among the least talented teams in the NFL, partly because it traded so much for Ryan Leaf. Last year the Chargers' leading rusher had a LOL 365 yards—Doug Flutie, a quarterback, ran for more yards in 1999. The team's defense, which was top-rated in 1998, last year flowed downward, the Bolts pass defense finding its level in the bottom quartile of the rankings. Unless Leaf has really pulled himself together, creaking Jim Harbaugh or the great Moses Moreno will be at QB. Redeeming Bolts virtue: At sunny home games, there are thousands of women in halter tops. Forecast finish: 6-10.

St. Louis: Defending champs and a talented, fast, deep team. Last year commentators were so interested in the Kurt Warner story that they missed the Rams' league-leading rushing defense. But what a story: Kurt Warner wins the regular-season and Super Bowl MVP awards when he had never played a down before in the NFL. Boy, they must be proud of Kurt on his homeworld. Right now it's fashionable to be suspicious of another good St. Louis year. Yeah, yeah, the Rams lost a couple of linemen to free agency, they have a new coach, and people will be gunning for them. Yeah, yeah. Forecast finish: 12-4.

San Francisco: I don't wish to alarm you, but when the Niners take the field on opening day, the first team will include Scott Gragg, Monty Montgomery, Jeremy Newberry, Chike Okeafor, and Pierson Prioleau. Zach Bronson, John Keith, Ben Lynch, Phil Ostrowski, Joe Wesley, and Matt Willig will also see action, and none of these gentlemen are kickers. Bill Walsh said last winter that "guys who are right now sitting in frat houses and sports bars will be playing for the Niners in the fall," and Walsh has been true to his word. The cause is the implosion of the Niners' salary cap, and the detonation may not yet be over, if the league, as rumored, penalizes San Francisco for past contract shenanigans by revoking future draft picks. (Bear in mind that San Francisco is among the best-connected NFL franchises in terms of league politics—if the Niners draw a serious penalty, they must have really been out of line.) Not only will the Niners defense, soft last year, be squishy again, the team's offensive line may be a disaster. The Niners have used only one No. 1 draft pick on an OL in the last 33 years. They've always had good fortune in finding talented unknowns. This year, they have only managed to find unknowns. Forecast finish: 4-12.

Seattle: At one point last year, the Seahawks were 8-2; they finished 9-8, losing at home in the opening round of the playoffs to a Miami team that was itself spiraling toward the water. That's 1-6 for Seattle down the home stretch, not exactly the stuff legends are made of. But the Hawks improved by unloading Joey Galloway. They have defensive talent and Mike Holmgren at the helm. Question: Why are they still giving out cash bonuses instead of stock options? Forecast finish: 10-6.

Tampa Bay: Last year the Bucs were perhaps one incredibly bad officiating call away from the Super Bowl. Trailing by five, Tampa completed a pass deep in Rams territory with about a minute to go in the NFC championship game. Officials called the completion correctly on the field but, incredibly, instant reply overturned the ruling, taking away the catch and turning a correct call into an incorrect one. The drive then failed. In Tampa, this bizarre sequence of events has been the subject of endless discussion. Less discussed is that the game ended 11-6—Tampa scored but six points in a title game. Hoping to correct this, the Bucs made major offensive additions in the form of Keyshawn Johnson, Jeff Christy, and Randall McDaniel. But they still enter the season with the unproven Shaun King at QB, backed up by the inexcusable Eric Zeier. (Rhymes with "extinguished"—you Georgia fans will get that one.) It's rare for a team to make the Super Bowl without a premium QB. Forecast finish: 11-5.

Tennessee Titans: The Flaming T's (check their helmets) were terrific last year and should be better this year, as the receiving corps, the team's main weakness, has been strengthened, while Steve McNair finally gets the green light to throw deep. The T's have as good a shot to repeat as conference champs as any team ever does. Plus they're playing in the same place for the second straight year, talk about your luxuries.  Redeeming Tennessee virtue: T's players showed great sportsmanship in 1999, never boasting about their three straight pastings of rival Jax and openly admitting, after beating Buffalo on the Music City Miracle kick return, that the play had been illegal. Forecast finish: 12-4.

Washington Indigenous Persons: First off, that name is offensive. (Sure there are Braves and Indians, but neither of those terms is intended to insult.) Washington is in the midst of losing a lawsuit over its proprietary claim to "Redskins"—you're not supposed to be able to trademark offensive language. Once legal appeals are exhausted and anyone can make "Redskins" merchandise, the team name will have to be changed in order to protect marketing revenue. Second off, Washington greed-head Daniel Snyder, first NFL owner to charge fans to watch training camp, is also offensive. May he lose many, many lawsuits. Snyder is already well on his way to replacing Jerry Jones as Most Hated Owner. Snyder and the Persons are spending $100 million on players this season, the most ever for a football club. Maybe this money will buy happiness. But bear in mind how much of the sum was expended on Deion Sanders, who hasn't played a full season in four years and who performs with one thing in mind, and it's not the team. Third off, let's add this about Snyder: Dorothy Parker said, "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to." Forecast finish: 11-5.

Technical note: Keen-eyed readers may note that the predicted records do not add up to 248-248, which is what the league final tally must come to, barring ties. Tuesday Morning Quarterback has observed that few media organizations, when running their season forecasts, make the predicted wins and losses add up to a wash. Since this oversight appears integral to sportswriting, who is TMQ to do otherwise?