Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media

Dante's Inferno8/27/00: Are You Ready for Some Football Part 2? Or, Dante's Fearless NFL Predictions, NFC Style

By now you've all gotten over the shock and surprise of me picking the Silver and Black to win the AFC West. (That'd be the Raiders to you non-sports buffs.)

Well, wait till you get a load of my NFC picks! It'd be like going out and getting a smarmy, high-brow comedian to co-host a national sports institution. Oh, wait, that already happened.

We'll start in the NFC East, home to perennial powers, young upstarts, and stars-in-the-making. But all is not well in the land of the Cowboys, Cardinals and Eagles. You see, an owner went out this off-season and went on a spending spree of epic promportions. A seasoned veteran here, the NFL's best all-around-athlete there. Oh, and he also found himself with a couple first-class rookies on draft day. And for once, that owner wasn't Jerry Jones! Nope, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder went out and gave coach Norv Turner the players to compliment an already solid starting lineup: Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier, and Jeff George will all be wearing the Redskin uniform this season. And that's in addition to RB Steven Davis, QB Brad Johnson, and rookies LaVar Arrington and LT Chris Samuels.

On paper you'd think that would make the 'Skins the fave to win the division, the conference, and the Super Bowl. Well, you'll just have to wait till the end of this column to find out about the last two. Unfortunately for the 'Skins, all that new talent could mean a lack of chemistry, and in the always-tough NFC East that might be tougher to overcome than usual. Nipping at the heels of the conference front-runners will be the New York Giants, who look to do two things well this season: run the ball with Ron Dayne and play their usually tough defense. That'll require them to stay healthy (Jason Sehorn, I'm talking to you!) and make big holes for the Heisman winner. Look for the Giants to stay close to the 'Skins all season, and maybe steal the division if that DC chemistry experiment doesn't work.

After that the NFC East isn't a pretty sight. The Cardinals hope to rebound to the form of two seasons ago, but so much of that rests on the shoulders and in the hands of Jake Plummer. Plummer threw INTs like I opened wine bottles last year, and that doomed the Arizona (ugh) Cardinals. Still, the early-season weather can wear opponents down in a hurry, so they should surprise some folks, and a Wild Card berth isn't out of the question. The Dallas Cowboys, once the example of how a franchise should and shouldn't be run (all in the same week, hell in the same day!), are an organization in total turmoil. And freefall. Deion's gone, as is coach Chan Gailey, the victim of an Aikman-inspired coup. And this 'Boys fan wishes Aikman'd concentrate more on winning games than getting rid of coaches. The team did right by signing speedy receiver Joey Galloway, but Aikman's arm and Emmitt Smith's legs aren't getting any younger. Our hometown Philadelphia Eagles look to be improving, and if they can take advantage of their schedule, they could play more than the role of spoiler. (PREDICTIONS: Washington: 10-6; Giants: 10-6; Cardinals: 8-8; Cowboys: 8-8; Eagles: 8-8)

The NFC Central is a division in flux. Names like Green Bay and Minnesota are staring tough, rebuilding years in the face, while Tampa should be near the top again. But it's the Chicago Bears that are going to return to former glory and steal the division with a Rams-like year. I kid you not. Last year Cade McNown was a green rookie making mistakes and coughing up turnovers. Oh yeah, and finishing third in the NFL in passing. Granted, there's plenty of garbage-time in those stats, but don't be fooled. With a shorn-up D, the Bears are back and the Bears are for real.

Last year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised plenty of people, but with coach Tony Dungey and a defense led by Warren Sapp, their ascension shouldn't have come as that much of a shock. This is a team on the rise. Unfortunately, Shawn King ain't the QB that's going to take them there. Luckily, the presence of Keyshawn Johnson will help that situation correct itself. What's he gonna do, throw himself the dman ball?! Tampa Bay'll be tough and not somebody I'd want to face in a Wild Card game.

The rest of the Central is a dead zone, with Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota all finishing below .500 according to this fan. I've never been impressed by Detroit's Charlie Batch, and he has yet to show me that he can stay healthy. They'll spoil a few other teams' seasons, but they won't be arounf when it counts. Much the same can be said for the Packers, who ended the Great Ray Rhodes Experiment after one disastrous season. Frankly, anybody from Philly could've told them disaster was in their future once they hired that pariah. Not that I wasn't happy to see Brett Favre and Co. disintegrate in front of my eyes! The Vikings, like the Eagles, are probably a year or two away from dominating their respective division. Daunte Culpepper could turn out to be the real deal, but we'll find that out in his first regular season game. Fortunately, he's throwing to Randy Moss, the best receiver in the game. (PREDICTIONS: Chicago: 11-5; Tampa: 10-6; Detroit: 7-9; Green Bay: 7-9; Vikings: 7-9)

Finally, we arrive on the left coast, home to the NFC West. Well, sorta. Explain to me why the St. Louis Rams play in the West but the Arizona Cardinals play in the East. Or, how about Atlanta and New Orleans? Sheesh! Somebody's in desperate need of a realignment, and I don't mean the Grey Ghost!

Anyway, let's make this quick. Carolina steps up to the plate and does what they should've done last year...win the goddamn division! Enough of this worst-to-first Rams crap! The Carolina Panthers, with underrated football god George Seifert at the helm, emphasized their defense in the off-season and signed some key free agents (Lee Woodall, Jimmy Hitchcok). Sure, Steve Buerlien's as old as my mom, but he's got enough juice left in the tank to make another run this year. Thankfully, 'cause I can't take another year of touchy-feely Rams stories. I'm sick of Kurt Warner, aren't you? Christ, couldn't he have been at the house when his parents got sucked away by the tornado? And what's with his wife's dyke haircut? Ugh. Anyway, worst-to-first means playing a real schedule, so we'll see how Kurt and Co. respond to playing the likes of Denver, Tampa and Washington in the regular season, instead of feasting on the Browns, Lions, and Eagles of a year ago. At least cry-baby Vermeil is gone!

Jamaal Anderson returns to the Falcons lineup, but they certainly aren't the team they were a few years ago. A Wild Card berth isn't out of the question, but don't look for the Falcons to finish much above .500. As for the rest of the division, the sad, sad 49ers are without Steve Young (another goody two-shoes I'm glad to see off the field) and will be lucky to win five games. The only thing worse than being a 49er? Suiting up in a New Orleans 'Aints uniform. Ricky Williams might be a bright spot, but that isn't even a guarantee! (PREDICTIONS: Carolina: 12-4; St. Louis: 11-5; Atlanta: 9-7; San Fran: 5-11; New Orleans: 2-14)

DIVISION WINNERS: Washington, Chicago, Carolina
WILD CARDS: Giants, Tampa Bay, St. Louis
SUPER BOWL: Tennessee Titans over Washington Redskins

That's it for this week...stop back next week for more plugs, rants, and shameless self-promotion.

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