In normal times I'd say this is the week the Broncos finally prove they're human. They're coming off a game that was too easy for them. Twenty-seven plays yielded 242 yards and 28 points on Sunday, all in the first quarter. When they scored their 28th point, the opposition had minus-10 yards, with a long gainer of one yard.
The opposition was Philadelphia, and, of course, that's where the argument might break down, but still one must take note of what's going on in Broncoland. John Elway goes down, and Denver doesn't miss a beat. With Elway running things, the Broncos have outscored the enemy 76-47. With Bubby Brister in command, the numbers read 106-46. I thought Denver would be slightly out of kilter this year because of the losses on its offensive line, All-Pro left tackle Gary Zimmerman, who retired, and right guard Brian Habib, who jumped ship for the Seahawks. Hasn't seemed to mean much so far, has it? The Broncos have shown a hunger you don't associate with defending champions.
When the Seahawks started showing signs of life this season, I penciled in this week's game as a keynoter. It's in the Kingdome, where the noise level is serious. Zone-blitz teams such as the Seahawks love crowd noise. It will be their make-or-break game of the season, until, of course, the next one comes along. I can give you about a half-dozen more reasons why it would be cool to pick Seattle this weekend, except that I have a vivid picture in my mind: Jon Kitna, the Seahawks' third-string quarterback, game but overmatched, trying to rally the troops in the dying moments on Sunday against the Chiefs—while running back Ricky Watters sat on the bench with a bruised thigh, and wideout Joey Galloway limped in and out of the lineup, and quarterback Warren Moon, with a cracked rib, intermittently tried to throw the ball on the sideline. I don't know what kind of shape all these people will be in for their meeting with destiny, and unless someone can guarantee me that they'll be tiptop, I'll go with the Broncos.
Washington-Philly will be the Battle of the Bags. Saw a Philly fan on Sunday with CAN'T TAKE NO MORE written on the bag over his head. Saw a Washington fan with THEY MAKE ME WANT TO CRY on his bag. My choice? Always go with the grammatical bag, I say, so I'll take the Redskins in a squeaker.
Dan Reeves returns to the Meadowlands and, wow, wouldn't he like to nail his former employers. Reeves's Falcons ran up 51 points against the Panthers on Sunday, the second-highest total in Atlanta history. The Giants gained 135 yards in their loss to the Buccaneers. No team has had more three-and-outs. New York's offense is the pits. But not its defense. Turnovers will decide it, and I give the W to the Giants.
Steaming after their freaky, penalty-laden upset loss to the Bills, the 49ers travel to the Superdome, which in the early '90s was a house of horrors for them. Here's why I think the Saints have a chance. Their best pass rusher, Joe Johnson, will be lined up against Jamie Brown, the left tackle Bruce Smith destroyed on Sunday. They have an active, punishing defense, fortified by Superdome volume. They...uh, well, those are the only reasons. But I think the Niners will win because their defense is just too big-league for Danny Wuerffel, who's making progress but still learning.
You can't tell me Dan Marino's go-to guy, O.J. McDuffie, was healthy against the Jets. Yes, it was a stroke of genius for New York's defensive coach, Bill Belichick, to assign little Ray Mickens the job of shadowing McDuffie, and with Mickens playing the game of his life, Marino had trouble finding other receivers and loosening up a defense that was crowding the line to stop the run. Giving all the credit to the Jets, I still say they wouldn't have won so convincingly if McDuffie had been healthy. But with the game still fresh in my mind, I look for the Dolphins to fall again, to the Jaguars, whose dynamic pass rusher, Tony Brackens, is returning from a sprained left ankle.
Some other quick takes: The Jets will win a close one over the Rams. The Bills will beat the Colts for the sixth time in the teams' last seven meetings. The Bears, who have learned how to play the second half, will upset the Cardinals, and, in the toughest game on the board to handicap, the Chiefs will handle the Patriots, who have trouble with active, energized defenses.