THE INSIDE STORY In April 2002 HBO Sports dramatically revamped
Inside the NFL, replacing the duo of Len Dawson and Nick
Buoniconti with the quartet of Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth,
Cris Carter and Dan Marino. The move has given cable's longest
running series (now in its 27th year) fresh legs. Last year it
won a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Studio Show, and for our money
it's simply the best football show on TV. Here's why: Freed from
the confines of the Fox broadcasting booth, Collinsworth has
become the sport's most outspoken critic, knocking Patriots coach
Bill Belichick for mishandling players and Rams coach Mike Martz
for mismanaging games. Costas is the most polished of studio
hosts, and the conversation among the co-hosts crackles with wit
and wisdom. The show's 10 p.m. Wednesday time slot means that
each week it's the first national football show to analyze
upcoming games. What truly sets Inside apart, though, is the
customized highlight package that HBO gets exclusively from NFL
Films. That slo-mo action coupled with Harry Kalas's narration is
superior to standard clips, and the miked-up players provides
sounds of the game other networks don't have.

MAURICE IN THE MIDDLE Maurice Clarett is not the LeBron James of
football. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. projects the suspended
Ohio State running back as a second-round pick should he be
eligible for the 2004 draft. Frank Coyle, who publishes the
respected Draft Insiders' Digest, sees Clarett as a late first
rounder. "You're talking about a kid who played three quarters of
a freshman season and will be out of football for at least a
year," Kiper says. "There are an awful lot of good running backs
who will have the option to turn pro. Do you take them or
Clarett? I think you take them."