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A wild wild-card weekend

Click here for more on this story
Posted: Thursday December 28, 2000 3:29 PM
Updated: Friday December 29, 2000 4:09 PM


Click here to submit a question to Sports Illustrated's Peter King.

I am a bad game-picker. So I don't expect you to read this and fly to Vegas and bet the mortgage -- or even the Christmas money. But I like all four road teams this weekend. I like the Colts and the cool Peyton Manning, 20-17. I like the Rams and the steely Marshall Faulk, 29-20. I like the Broncos and the big-game chess movements of Mike Shanahan, 19-17. And I like the Bucs, barely, with Warrick Dunn as the hero, 17-16.

I am naive enough to think every one of these games could be a classic. It has been a long time (forever, basically) since a wild-card weekend has been this charismatic.

Now on to your questions for the week:

I feel your pain about the Hazelnut lattes at Starbucks. That's why I switched to plain, regular coffee. How badly can Starbucks mess that up? Anyway, what in the world is Mike Shanahan going to do with three different 1,000-yard rushers next year? Lovely problem to have, but my boys need some defensive help, and quick! Also, can Shanahan and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson co-exist for another year?
—Nick Brownlee, Seattle

I wish I could switch to regular, Nick. But I'm hooked on the latte, even the bad ones. Now, as for your Broncos, I wouldn't be surprised if Shanahan shocked the world and made Terrell Davis a salary-cap casualty this offseason. He has two good backs with a combined cap cost of less than $1 million behind Davis, who has finished but five of the Broncos' last 32 games. As for the Robinson issue, I think Shanahan may move to replace him, perhaps with Ray Rhodes, this offseason.

What are Doug Flutie's chances for the Hall of Fame? I mean, he is probably the best player in Canadian Football League history, and if it weren't for Wade Phillips' stubborness, he would be one of the best QBs in the NFL now. He is in his late 30s and is possibly one of the best ever at his age. Troy Aikman is a surefire HOFer, is younger than Flutie, and is really not that good at the moment. I believe Flutie deserves consideration.
—Mark Shirk, New Holland, Pa.

Very, very interesting question. Bud Grant got some oomph in his Hall campaign from his years in Canada. Flutie will certainly be considered, but I don't think he'll make it. Guys on the committee will question the quality of competition he faced, just like they'll do with Warren Moon when, I believe, they will discount Moon's numbers in Canada when considering him for the Hall.

If Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb were to trade places, who would have the better numbers? Does anyone think Culpepper would have brought 10 wins to the Eagles, as McNabb did? How is McNabb not in the Pro Bowl?
—Jeff Zimmerman, Mount Joy, Pa.

First of all, I'm sure McNabb will play in the Pro Bowl. Quarterbacks always want to take time off after the season and look for excuses to get out of the game, so one of the three will probably bail and McNabb will go. Don't diss Culpepper. It does your argument no good. Culpepper was every bit the great player this year that McNabb was.

I just bought (and loved) Greatest Quarterbacks, and I gave it a positive review on My question is about the Pro Bowl. Do you think the NFL should change the ballot to allow a media vote so that some objectivity could be brought to it? It sickens me to see some of the terrible selections that were made this year. Mike Alstott as the NFC's fullback? Are you kidding?
—Michael David Smith, Long Beach, Calif.

Thanks for your kind words about the book. People still chide me for saying Otto Graham is the best quarterback of all time, but I believe it. All you can do is compare players to ones from their era, and Graham was better in his day than any other quarterback was in his, I believe. The guy played in the championship game of his league in every one of the 10 seasons he played.

I'd like to see Pro Bowl voting handed to the 31 pro-personnel directors for each team. Each man would be told he couldn't vote for players on his own team. That's the best chance of any to get a fair vote.

What's the latest on NFL realignment? Also, what is your opinion of it?
—Ian, Orlando

On the realignment front, I look for a faction of owners to force Bill Bidwell and Arizona west, which is only fair. I look for the league to explore Minnesota moving west too, because the NFL has no clue where the Vikings will be playing in six to eight years; they could be in L.A. And I see Seattle moving to the NFC. Those are the highlights, I guess.

Do you think the Giants defense and a seemingly improved Kerry Collins can carry them to one or two playoff wins? Also, I would like to know your opinion of Micheal Barrow's impact on the Giants' defense.
—Bo Dyce, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Bo, when I talked to Jim Fassel this week, the one thing he said that rang true is that the Giants do a great job of hanging tough for three quarters and hanging around until they can make two or three offensive plays to win. I would, however, fear a St. Louis trip to the Meadowlands for the divisional game. The Rams could make enough offensive plays -- unless the weather turned absolutely horrible. As for Barrow, I have always loved him as a player. He is a sideline-to-sideline demon, and even though he has slowed a bit he's still a big-play guy.

Given the latest comments from Jeff George about getting Dan Snyder to fire the coaches, what's the feeling among the rest of the league regarding George's future and his ability to lead this team next year? Is this the start of the end of his run in Washington?
—Bobby Lam, Falls Church, Va.

Bobby, I don't know what choice the 'Skins have, given their cap constraints. They'll have to give George a chance next year with a new coach. You'll see how things like paying Deion Sanders $8 million to sign will begin to hamstring the Redskins over the next few years.

I'm a Ray Rhodes fan. I felt he should've had one more year in Green Bay. However, I respect Ron Wolf for making a decision based on his principles. But now that the Packers didn't make the playoffs, will Mike Sherman be fired? Was the team any more disciplined this year under Sherman?
—Edward Bradley, Ambler, Pa.

You can't keep firing a coach a year in the NFL. The players think Sherman runs a tighter ship than Rhodes did, though Sherman had problems (and continues to) with a guy who's a keystone there, Antonio Freeman. Sherman has a chance to be a good head coach. He delegates well, and the Packers played superbly down the stretch given their spate of injuries, winning seven of the last 10. It's time to give Sherman help, not a pink slip.

Who are the big-name free agents who will be available after the season?
—Craig Simpson, Tracy, Calif.

Here's a guess at the top five:

1. RB Corey Dillon, Cincinnati. Head case at times, but a guaranteed 1,200-yard runner, and he's only 25.

2. OG Will Shields, Kansas City. Underrated, class guy. Guards aren't big winners in free agency, but he should be.

3. CB Jason Sehorn, Giants. Fully healthy at a key position of need for every team in the league.

4. WR Eric Moulds, Buffalo. But I expect the Bills will franchise him.

T5. LB Dwayne Rudd, Minnesota. He has been banged up, but if he gets a clean bill of health, he'll make $5 mil a year.

T5. RB Tiki Barber, Giants. Intriguing guy. But he'll take less to stay in New York because of offseason radio/TV gigs.

My Monday-morning staples are your MMQB and coffee. Now my question: Why are the Vikings consistently in the playoffs every year when they go through as much or more personnel turnover than most NFL teams? My football buddies and I speculate it could be related to scouting, of both free agents and college players. Is there a secret weapon (besides Denny Green) in the Vikings front office?
—Steve Ewing , Jackson, Miss.

Thanks, Steve. I think Dennis Green, though he has made some key mistakes -- as all draft men do -- is an underrated judge of talent. He always seems to make good players out of suspect draft choices, particularly on offense. Culpepper is a great example of that. Red McCombs did a smart thing in signing Green to a long-term deal.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King covers the NFL and appears regularly on CNN/Sports Illustrated and CNN's NFL Preview. To send a question to his mailbag -- which will next appear on Jan. 11 -- click here.

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