Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Subway Super Bowl? No way

Jets-Giants unlikely in wide-open NFL

October 31, 2000

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Fear not.

The nation will not be subjected to a Subway Super Bowl even though the New York Jets and Giants have reached the midway point of the NFL season at 6-2.

OK, it's not a sure thing. But it's surer than many predictions in a league wide open at this point.

Here's a look by conference.

NFC

Tampa Bay broke a four-game losing streak and evened its record at 4-4 on Sunday. But the Bucs still have a shot at becoming the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

That's how wide open things are.

The 41-13 win over Minnesota, the Vikings' first loss, gave heart to the Bucs and demonstrated the Vikings' vulnerabilities, including Daunte Culpepper's inexperience.

The Rams remain the conference favorite despite a porous defense that got a little better against San Francisco Sunday, Bud Carson's first game back as defensive consultant. The Vikings (also 7-1) have discernible defensive weaknesses, too.

Defense isn't the problem in Tampa, where Shaun King threw four touchdown passes Sunday and Keyshawn Johnson finally got the "damn" ball, six catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.

In any case, the Rams, Vikings and Redskins seem headed for division titles. The Bucs are probably too far back to catch the Vikings. The Saints (5-3) aren't in the Rams' class, and ditto for the Giants (6-2), who have been staying with Washington.

Throw those three into the wild card mix along with Detroit (5-3) and perhaps Philadelphia (5-4), although the Eagles' two losses to the Giants may end up killing their shot because of the tiebreaker implications.

Tampa Bay has history on its side it started 3-4 last season, finished 11-5 and almost beat the Rams to get to the Super Bowl. If King holds up, the Bucs are good enough to finish 10-6 or 11-5, make it into the playoffs and do damage.

The Saints, who play defense and run well, could be right there.

Detroit's hopes may rest on two games at the Meadowlands against the Giants on Nov. 19 and the Jets on Dec. 17.

The Giants just need to finish 4-4 against a moderately soft schedule (Cleveland next week) to win 10, which should be enough.

AFC

The Titans don't always look pretty, but they win and they have last season's experience in tight playoff games. In fact, Tennessee might be the best team in the NFL right now, or at least the best balanced, even though it doesn't score 40 points a game.

That's in contrast to the three 6-2 teams atop the AFC East, all of whom have weaknesses that could be exposed in the playoffs or before.

The Colts, probably the best of the three, remain soft on defense. Peyton Manning & Co. may not be able to make up for that against teams like Tennessee.

The Dolphins are resilient enough to bounce back after being outscored 50-7 in 50 minutes encompassing the end of the Jets game and the first 29 minutes of Sunday's win over Green Bay. But is Jay Fiedler a Super Bowl quarterback?

The Jets are this year's version of the team that annually gets "cardiac" placed before its name.

Put those three in a package with Oakland (7-1) and Kansas City (5-3). Denver (4-4) is still a contender.

The Raiders, who used to lose the close ones, are winning them. The Chiefs have survived a killer first-half schedule and things may start to get easier.

Add two wild card mysteries Pittsburgh (5-3) and Baltimore (5-4).

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