Dr. Z's Forecast

December 20, 1999

Let's talk about turmoil. Writers call it dissension. Coaches
call it a distraction. I still don't know how to handicap it.

I've known coaches who liked to stir things up when they felt
their team was getting complacent. Former Raiders linebacker
Matt Millen tells a story about how Al Davis told him to start a
fight at the Wednesday practice before Super Bowl XVIII because
things were too dull. "So I picked the worst fighter on the
offense," Millen says, "Mickey Marvin, our right guard."

There was so much turmoil in the Jets' Super Bowl camp before
they played the heavily favored Colts in 1969 that the line went
from 17 to 19 1/2. Of course, we know what happened in that one.

A few weeks ago the Jets were in turmoil again. You remember the
Keyshawn Johnson quote after the Jets lost to the Colts on Nov.
28: "I don't want to be around no losers." Then they got murdered
by the Giants, prompting coach Bill Parcells to say, "I'm ashamed
of this team." But on Sunday the Jets turned in a rock-solid
performance and a big upset over Miami, which is desperately
fighting for a playoff spot.

And how about those Giants? Linebacker Jessie Armstead popped
off about how the defense was carrying the offense, then
defensive end Michael Strahan laced into management for muzzling
Armstead, and bam-bam, they get the big win over the Jets
followed by an upset of the Bills.

Tampa Bay was winning, but last month the Bucs started slipping.
The offense couldn't score a touchdown against the lowly
Falcons. Three players were docked playing time for missing
meetings. Add quarterback Trent Dilfer's broken clavicle, and
you've got a team ready to crack, right? Nope. Tampa Bay just
keeps beating the good teams--Seattle, Minnesota and
Detroit--and distancing itself from the rest of the NFC Central.

The best incidence of a little turmoil breeding success this
season belongs to the Redskins, though. They are tops in the NFC
East but were shaky after losing to Detroit on Dec. 5. There
were frowns all around after their premier runner, Stephen
Davis, carried the ball only three times in the second half
against the Lions. So last Thursday owner Daniel Snyder called
five veterans into his office and told them--depending on which
version of the story you got--to play for themselves, or never
mind what the coaches told them. Then the Skins crushed the
Cardinals.

So how do we project all this into Week 15? I say the Skins lose
to Indy, which makes up in quality for what it lacks in turmoil.
Call it 37-31. The Giants visit St. Louis, and I'm trying to
find an upset. If the game were in the Meadowlands I'd consider
it, but in the TWA Dome I'll take the Rams.

The Jets? Well, we don't really know how good they are, do we? I
say they're good enough to upset the Cowboys, who have a
depleted wideout corps, in Dallas, though New York is an
extremely difficult team to handicap, as I've learned the hard
way. I'll stick with the Jets. And the Bucs will keep it going
with a win in Oakland, although their young quarterback, Shaun
King, might find things a bit tougher on the road.

Green Bay visits Minnesota in the Monday nighter. Both are
coming off weird losses. Both know that another loss will
cripple their wild-card chances. I'd like to know more about the
prognosis on Cris Carter's sprained ankle. Even so, I like the
Pack to upset the Vikings.

Quickie picks: Seattle can't stop the skid and will lose to the
Broncos in Denver. The Patriots keep their dim playoff hopes
flickering with a win in Philadelphia. Finally, the Bills squeak
one out in Arizona, not with Flutie magic but with a defense
that forces a few turnovers.

--Paul Zimmerman

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Davis had a career-high 189-yard rushing day against Arizona.

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)