Today's unbeatens have weaknesses
Posted: Tuesday September 29, 1998 12:41 PM
There are nine teams that enter this week's play undefeated with perfect
records. Who are they really fooling?
Only the '72 Dolphins reached perfect with an unblemished season and a
Super Bowl win. Now, one of our nine teams may go on to win the Super Bowl
(I picked Jacksonville vs Minnesota). But they are far from perfect. Every
team has a weakness -- or 2 or 3 -- that they try desperately to cover up.
(I know my weakness is fried catfish and peach cobbler with ice cream. Did
I say lots of ice cream?)
Let's dig into this weakness thing. I'll list the teams in reverse order:
9. The Aints. I mean Saints. Mike Ditka the miracle worker. He will be
a miracle worker if he can swear off swearing for the entire season. QB Danny Wuerffel was
terrific in college but so far he's unproven in the NFL. Defensive
coordinator Zaven Yaralian does a nice job with only two real stars -- DE
Joe Johnson and LB Mark Fields.
8. The Falcons, starring Dan Reeves and his ageless backup quarterback,
Steve DeBerg. Chris
Chandler is a good puncher with a glass jaw. The wide receivers are a
bit undersized. Safeties William White and Eugene Robinson try to
shore up a secondary that will be tested.
7. Dan Marino's
Dolphins -- or should that be Jimmy Johnson's Dolphins? Run or pass? Maybe
J.J. is smarter than what we think. His receiving crew starts a guy who
played in the Arena League. Johnson could also use a big running back for
late-season games in Buffalo and New England.
6. Seahawks owner Paul Allen spent heavily on defense in 1997 and is
reaping the rewards now. Warren Moon could use
another target other than Joey Galloway. Shut
Galloway down and the Seahawks' air attack slows to a crawl.
5. Garrison Hearst
makes this potentially the best 49er offense ever. Keep Rice happy! Steve Young needs to pay as
much attention to Jerry
Rice on game day as he does in those commercials. Has anyone seen the
49er secondary? Marquez
Pope needs to hurry and get well. The front seven can only do so much.
Maybe letting Rod
Woodson go wasn't such a good idea.
4. The Broncos are the best team in the league at Mile High Stadium.
Corner Darrien Gordon
is the best punt returner in the AFC but only an average cover guy. The
pass rush is suspect without a healthy DT Keith Traylor. Then again
you have to score 50 to beat the Broncos.
3. The Packers' Reggie
White is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I can live with that. I'm not sure if
Mike Holmgren's troops can win it all without Dorsey Levens. Levens was the
league's best speed, moves, blitz pickup and route running back.
2. The Vikings could use Carl Eller, Jim Marshall and Alan Page to go
along with John Randle.
Where are the Purple People Eaters when you need them? The Vikings ranked
29th in defense last year. This year's defense plays too much rope-a-dope
and needs to learn to shut the other teams down when they have big leads.
Randall Cunningham looks
better in the pocket after taking a year off in '96.
1. With RB James
Stewart down, Tom Coughlin looks like a genius. Coughlin drafted backs
Fred Taylor and Tavian Banks with first-
and fourth-round picks. At the time it looked like overkill. What killed
the defense last year was its run defense. The Jaguars may die the same
death with Jeff Lageman
out for the season and Tony
Brackens not back from a preseason injury.
These teams may be good, just not perfect. I'll have another scoop of ice
cream with that cobbler. James Lofton, who finished his 16-year NFL
career in 1993 with 43 100-yard receiving games, is an NFL analyst for
CNN/SI. His weekly column appears every Thursday exclusively on