already. Never before have I heard serious speculation about a team's chances
of going undefeated as early as September. I'm not kidding. Right now the jury
is divided on whether the Patriots will put together the first unbeaten season
since the league went to 16 games in 1978. I see five obstacles they have to
overcome: Oct. 14 at Dallas, Nov. 4 at Indianapolis, Dec. 3 at Baltimore and
Dec. 9 versus Pittsburgh at home. What's the fifth? Well, the Monday nighter
this week in Cincinnati.
Don't laugh. The
Bengals' defense has been dismal, but this is a team that specializes in
shootouts. What's the best way to beat New England? Score more than 38 points.
That's how many the Pats had in each of their first three games this season,
and when they beat the Bengals in Cincy last year.
What chance do the
Bengals have? Two big-time wideouts, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh;
Carson Palmer (above), a hot-and-cold quarterback who can put up big numbers
when he's on; and Monday-night madness in a town that needs a win real bad. Do
I see a Bengals victory here? No, the Patriots will take it.
This is an odd
week because teams that should be favored by a lot aren't. That goes for the
Jets, who are only slight favorites over crippled Buffalo. O.K., I'll fall into
the trap and pick the Jets. Ditto the Eagles over the Giants, and I'll also go
with the Bears, who despite their problems should be more than a field goal
favorite over Detroit. I'll take my upset shot with the 49ers and their anemic
offense at home over the Seahawks. The biggest trap is Green Bay in Minnesota,
but I'll ride with the Packers (and probably regret it). Indianapolis will be
blowout city: The Colts will run it up on Denver.
Last week 4--4