AUGUST 1998 | VOL. 2, NO. 3
Top Ten Signs of Football Season
BRETT FAVRE (quarterback, Green Bay Packers) epitomizes quality and skillful football. A two-time league MVP and Super Bowl champion, Favre looks to lead the Pack into the Super Bowl for the third straight year.
CONTENTS Illustrations by Pat Scavone for
Renaissance Online Magazine
Illustrations by Pat Scavone for Renaissance Online Magazine
For the first time, sports appear on the pages of Renaissance, beginning with this preview of the upcoming NFL season and a timely Top Ten list. Sports have long played an important and necessary role in all cultures. Athletes and true sportsmanship embody the wonder and variety that defines humanity -- combining skill, intellect, strength, determination and motivation. Season after season, we are rewarded by amazing feats of human perseverance that mark and shape both our history and our dreams.
In the AFC East look for the superior talent of the New England Patriots to carry them to the top of the division despite losing running back Curtis Martin to the New York Jets. Their defense, which played superbly at the end of last season will be called upon to carry the Pats as the offense looks for its groove. The Jets and the Miami Dolphins will battle it out for second place, with the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills trying to rebuild.
In the AFC Central, the Pittsburgh Steelers will punish teams trying to take over the division. No need to worry if "The Bus" (Jerome Bettis, RB) breaks down, because the Steelers will simply reschedule with Ma'afala picking up would-be tacklers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will also be a force to reckon with, especially behind a healthy Mark Brunell. The Tennessee Oilers' offense improved by picking up Yancey Thigpen from division opponent Pittsburgh and acquiring a new rookie threat. They should have one of the most balanced offenses in the league. The Cincinnati Bengals try to find someone they can trust at quarterback to compliment the running of second-year back Corey Dillon. The Bengals' defense will start showing signs of life thanks to their two new linebackers, both first-rounders in this year's draft. One has to wonder why the Baltimore Ravens brought in Jim Harbaugh from the Colts. He's definitely the man to lead the team straight into the cellar.
The AFC West should prove to one of the most interesting divisions. The Kansas City Chiefs -- not the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos -- won this competitive division last year. Look for them to win it again. Their additions of defensive lineman Chester McGlockton and wide receiver Derrick Alexander opens the way for one of the strongest teams in the game. If only they can finally find a way to win when it counts.
Denver will still be strong with quarterback John Elway returning for another year. The Seattle Seahawks' potent offense will create problems for other teams. The Oakland Raiders' defense has too many holes for even prize rookie Charles Woodson (CB) to fill. The San Diego Chargers are in a rebuilding year.
The NFC East will be host the hottest competition this year, with every team have a chance for the title. Parity strikes a once proud division as no team is strong enough to be a definite shoe-in. Look for the New York Giants to build off last season's momentum and the Arizona Cardinals to follow close behind with a tremendous defensive line. The Dallas Cowboys will make a better showing than last year but age catching up with the team's core players. The Washington Redskins could make a run for the title if running back Terry Allen stays healthy. One thing is for certain in this division: Philadelphia will be flat-out horrible, no question about it.
The NFC Central boasts a crop of talented teams as well as the Chicago Bears. Green Bay should ride high again after quarterback Brett Favre found out that There's Something About Mary. Tampa Bay remains close on their heels, seeking to continue their punishment of opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers -- Jerry Rice and Steve Young are available as references. Minnesota's Brad Johnson (QB) must come back from injury to take advantage of the league's most talented receiver trio. It's the same old song and dance in Detroit as they again place their hopes in the erratic left arm of quarterback Scott Mitchell and in a defense that gives up too many "poor field position" points. Chicago's lone bright spots are rookie running back Curtis Enis and veteran quarterback Rick Mirer. The lonely eyes of "Da Bears" look to expected savior Enis. Their best off-season move is the release of the underachieving Mirer. Unfortunately, the real needs of the team weren't filled because they drafted Enis for an already strong running back position.
The NFC West keeps its annual mediocre streak alive. San Fransisco will easily control this typically weak division, chased valiantly by Carolina. Atlanta faired surprisingly well last season and I look for them to remain about the same this year. The St. Louis Rams lack the motivation that a younger coaching staff could bring. New Orleans seems content to concentrate solely on defense -- and do well in spite of themselves -- while their offense fails to move the ball anywhere.
The Super Bowl will feature the anticipated match-up of last year: Kansas City and Green Bay. The Chiefs will finally win the big game as they extend the AFC's winning streak to two games.
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