Dr. Z's Forecast

October 17, 1999

People moan about parity in the NFL. They gripe about it because
griping is the thing to do, because they've read about it or
heard it somewhere. They complain without fully understanding
what parity means. I even heard it last year, which was
definitely not a season when parity was an issue. I mean, the
good were very good and the bad were just as bad, and that ain't
parity.

Now I'm hearing it again, because form's gone out the window.
Everyone seems capable of beating everyone else, and the three
heaviest underdogs on the board--Philadelphia, Chicago and
Denver--all pulled off upsets on Sunday. I think it's terrific,
and unless you get a thrill out of watching Penn State score 70
points against Akron or Kansas run up 71 against Cal
State-Northridge, you'll have to agree that competition is what
it's all about.

The only problem is, parity makes it tough on handicappers, such
as yours truly, but not impossible if you avoid picking games
with big spreads, as I do. Who wants to fatten up on puppies?

Which leads us to this week. Do I see a shocking upset on the
horizon? No. I'm not that smart. Do I see any minor surprises?
Sure, Seattle over San Diego, which registered another one of
Sunday's upsets with its win in Detroit. The Chargers, who added
Lions quarterback Charlie Batch to their list of victims, play
heroic defense. But they're also pretty badly banged up, and the
Seahawks are coming off a bye week. I feel that Seattle will
have a bit more zip in its legs.

Denver and Green Bay meet in the Inspiration Bowl, after each
team overcame much adversity to win on Sunday. The Broncos
worked through an unbelievable succession of injuries to beat
the Raiders: Bubby Brister was a late scratch, tight end Shannon
Sharpe went down with a broken collarbone, wideouts Ed McCaffrey
and Rod Smith were wobbling around like punchy fighters, the
running game fell to rookie Olandis Gary after Terrell Davis's
backup, Derek Loville, was scratched with a strained hamstring,
and on and on. The Packers pulled out a victory at the end
against the Bucs, despite the fact that Brett Favre banged up
his shoulder to go with his already sore passing hand. The
game's at Mile High, where the Pack has yet to win in four
tries. Ordinarily I'd be highly tempted to go the upset route
here, but the Broncos are simply too worn down. Green Bay gets
the win.

Miami goes to New England in the biggest AFC game on the board,
and both are coming off games that were decided in the final
seconds. The teams are almost dead even in the matchups. Both
pass a lot better than they run, both have fine secondaries and
at least one serious go-to wideout now that Dan Marino has
discovered Tony Martin. But the Dolphins have dropped four
straight at New England; the Foxboro factor means a win for the
Pats.

The Bills, who looked at times like the AFC's most efficient
machine against the Steelers, will beat the Raiders. The
Redskins, who have lost nine of their last 12 games against the
Cardinals, will win this one in the desert. The Jets will have
to blitz Indy's Peyton Manning to slow down his high-powered
offense, but the young man is becoming a master at going to the
hot reads, and I see a throw-short, run-long or two in a Colts
victory. The Vikings will stop scratching their heads over their
lost offense long enough to hang an L on the Lions. Finally,
there's the Monday-nighter, the Cowboys at the Giants. I see the
Dallas blitzers pouring through in waves against Kent Graham or
Kerry Collins. I see batted balls and turnovers. I don't see a
lot of yards for Dallas, but I do see a Cowboys win.

--Paul Zimmerman

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER Corner Charles Dimry (27) plays on a stingy Chargers' defense.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)