It's a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game, and we
were told not to be surprised if it previewed this season's as
well. Jets versus Broncos, showdown at Mile High Stadium, and
folks at CBS were licking their chops and counting the rating
Well, the teams are a combined 0-6, as we all know, and in New
York the fans shrug and say what a shame that Bill Parcells lost
his quarterback, and maybe we can salvage
something--anything--from the season. Denver fans are still
looking through the history books to see if any team won a Super
Bowl after an 0-3 start (no), or even won a divisional playoff
game (again, no).
The running game was the springboard to the Broncos'
back-to-back Super Bowl titles, topped off by John Elway's
long-range arm. Now Denver has neither. Where has the ground
game gone? I have a sneaky feeling that it's gone the way of the
chop block from behind, a legal clip before it was outlawed this
The Broncos were masters of that move. It slowed down the
pursuit, made defensive linemen hesitate just a little, worrying
about their knees. Now that it's illegal, I don't see the Denver
line opening those big holes for Terrell Davis anymore. Brian
Griese is a careful young quarterback who doesn't pose a serious
downfield threat to defenses, which can now cheat backs up to
stop the run and close fast on the short passes. For three weeks
in a row, facing quick, aggressive units in Miami, Kansas City
and Tampa Bay, the Broncos' offense got nailed.
The Jets? The defense was supposed to carry the load until
replacement quarterback Rick Mirer got acclimated, but it was
done in by a pair of little guys the past two weeks--first the
Bills' Doug Flutie and then the Redskins' 179-pound wideout,
Albert Connell. Parcells, the master psychologist, has a
psychological dilemma: Should I holler this week, lighten up,
toughen up, throw up or what?
These two teams have tremendous pride, and the emotional burners
will be turned way up, so that angle's a wash. I'm picking the
Jets in an upset. I hear the tee-hees out there--that's three
weeks out of four that he's picked them--but in my heart I just
know they're going to break out of it one of these weeks. I
don't want to be lined up on the other side when they do.
Minnesota will beat Tampa Bay in the Metrodome. No question the
Vikings are off-kilter, especially offensively. Compare last
season's numbers through three games with this year's: 98 points
scored to 54, and 15 catches for 221 yards and three scores by
wideout Randy Moss to nine catches for 123 yards and one
But the Bucs' offense lacks dimension. It's either Mike Alstott
with the heavy hammer, or Warrick Dunn with the twinkly toes,
running the ball or catching passes as he did so artfully
against Denver. The defense is great, but turnovers will do in
Coming off that rain-drenched loss against Tennessee, the
Jaguars will nail the Steelers, who are coming off a sloppy,
five-interception fiasco against the Seahawks, at Three Rivers.
Tennessee will drop its first game, in San Francisco. There's
something about the West Coast that bugs the Titans. They
haven't won there since 1993 (when they were the Houston Oilers).
The Bills have dropped five straight in Miami, and on Monday
night the Dolphins will make it six. With starting corners Deion
Sanders and Kevin Smith returning to duty, the Cowboys will get
revenge for last season's playoff loss to the Cardinals. Asked
last week if Sanders's health and mobility would be tested,
Dallas free safety George Teague said, "I think somebody will
make that mistake."
Send your pro football questions to Peter King's Mailbag and
read more from Paul Zimmerman at cnnsi.com/football.