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The Race to XXXVIII
Paul Zimmerman
November 17, 2003
Six of the eight divisions will be won by teams that didn't even make the playoffs last season. The Chiefs and the Panthers are emerging powers, while the defending Super Bowl-champion Buccaneers will be on the outside looking in. What follows is my projected playoff lineup, with conference seedings and predictions for the postseason, which begins on Jan. 3.
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November 17, 2003

The Race To Xxxviii

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1. RAMS (12-4)
The Ravens smacked their offense in the mouth on Sunday, but the defense held things together. Marshall Faulk doesn't look anything like his old self, but a favorable schedule gives St. Louis the edge in the West.

2. PANTHERS (12-4)
They had been winning with defense and the running game, but Stephen Davis missed the game against the South-rival Bucs, and Jake Delhomme had to win it with his arm. This team has moved to a new level.

3. VIKINGS (11-5)
Everyone was enraptured by their newfound defense, then they gave up 1,359 yards in losses to the Giants, Packers and Chargers. Now an asset has turned into a liability, and winning the North isn't a lock anymore.

4. EAGLES (10-6)
I think Donovan McNabb's early struggles were health-related, and as he gets stronger, so does Philly. I see the Eagles winning the East because they get the Giants and the Cowboys at home.


5. PACKERS (10-6)
They're keyed by one of the best and most underrated offensive lines in football. The running attack is formidable, and Brett Favre has lost nothing off his fastball while playing with a cracked thumb. The only thing holding Green Bay back is a subpar defense.

6. COWBOYS (10-6)
It's fashionable to dismiss their early success because of the teams they've beaten. We'll get a better reading over the next month. Dallas's next four games are against teams with winning records.


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