Good News, Denver
2000 Schedule Favors Broncos
The NFL hands a holiday bonus to some of its worst teams. It's called the fifth-place schedule. Two teams that are in position to cash in next year are the Broncos and the Jets, last season's AFC Championship Game participants who, through Sunday, were in last place in their divisions.
Denver may gain more for finishing in the cellar. Next season AFC West teams will play inter-conference games against the so-so NFC West, while the AFC East matches up against the loaded NFC Central. The Broncos are looking at home games against the Browns, Falcons, 49ers and Jets; they'll face the Rams and the Saints on the road and will almost certainly visit Cincinnati.
Even during a 5-9 season, the Broncos haven't been your garden-variety loser. They've dropped five games by a field goal or less. They're ranked seventh in the league in defense, 12th in offense. The outlook is even brighter when you consider that Terrell Davis, who underwent reconstructive surgery after injuring his right knee on Oct. 3, was running hard in mid-December, a month earlier than anyone thought possible. "By April's minicamp I should be ready to go full speed," says Davis.
Coach Mike Shanahan says Brian Griese will be his starting quarterback entering 2000, and he may try to coax Jeff Hostetler out of retirement to be one of his backups. Shanahan is cautiously optimistic about the schedule. "Sometimes," he says, "that can really help you out."
A February Super Bowl?
The Super Bowl may soon be heading toward a permanent February date. Here's why: The networks don't like starting the season on the ratings-poor Labor Day weekend and want to continue with a 16-game, 17-week regular season (retaining that additional week of revenue); the owners want to keep the open date between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. Owners will discuss their options in March at the league's annual meeting. In May they're expected to pick a site (probably Houston) for the 2004 Super Bowl, which will probably be the first title game played in February....
So much for talk of Bears players dissing rookie quarterback Cade McNown. "I'm starting to love this guy," center Olin Kreutz told tackle James (Big Cat) Williams in the midst of Chicago's 28-10 win over the Lions on Sunday. McNown completed 27 of 36 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns....
After a disastrous season that led to his benching at quarterback and shift to wide receiver, the Steelers' Kordell Stewart should sound humble right about now. Inexplicably, he sounds just the opposite when he talks about next year. "The question is, which [position] is it that I want to play. Me. No one else. Me. And it's quarterback," Stewart says. "I don't want this situation to have to come about again. Plain and simple. I don't plan on going back in at wide receiver at all. No way, shape, size or form."
...Don Shula was 37-25 in his last 62 regular-season games as coach of the Dolphins. By virtue of Miami's 12-9 win over the Chargers on Sunday, Jimmy Johnson is 36-26.