The Pro Football Hall of Fame's preliminary list of 2006 nominees was announced last week, and it is perhaps the deepest class of the last 25 years. It certainly rivals the classes of 1993 (which included Dan Fouts, Chuck Noll, Walter Payton and Bill Walsh) and '85 (with such figures as Joe Namath, Pete Rozelle, O.J. Simpson and Roger Staubach). First-time nominees Reggie White (right), Troy Aikman and Thurman Thomas have the best shot to survive all the cuts-the list of 112 is pared to 25 by a vote of the Hall's 39 selectors, then to 15 before the final balloting, in Detroit on Feb. 4-with Warren Moon, Andre Reed, Dan Reeves and Ron Wolf also strong contenders. Add near-miss candidates from recent years Harry Carson, L.C. Greenwood, Michael Irvin, Art Modell and Art Monk, plus Senior Committee candidates John Madden and Rayfield Wright, and there's an excellent chance that the Hall, which admits three to six new members at a time, could have its largest class since 2001.
Last season the Colts tied for the AFC lead in sacks (45) and also allowed the fewest sacks (14). This season? Indianapolis is tops in both categories again, with 26 and five, respectively.
HEAD TO HEAD
Philadelphia at Washington
Well, they can't both lose. Each team is 4-3 and coming off a horrible showing. The Eagles surrendered 564 yards, the most they've allowed since 1966, in losing 49-21 at Denver. The Redskins were whitewashed by the inspired Giants at the Meadowlands, the first shutout loss of Joe Gibbs's 14 regular seasons. It's not surprising that rebuilding Washington has up-and-down days. But Philly, a four-time conference finalist, with all its offensive weapons back? Most inexplicable is how horrendous the Eagles have been at the start of games. Four times they've fallen behind by 10 or more points after one quarter, to Atlanta (14), Kansas City (10), Dallas (17) and Denver (14). The Broncos gained 200 yards to Philadelphia's four in the opening period on Sunday, as the Eagles were overrun by the blitz-happy Broncos. Expect Washington to use the same strategy this week. It could be a big night for rejuvenated Skins linebacker LaVar Arrington.
1 �My over-under for NFL coaches getting replaced in the off-season: nine. But where will their successors come from? With hot prospects Kirk Ferentz ( Iowa) and Charlie Weis (Notre Dame) likely to stay with their college teams, expect little-known coordinators such as Cam Cameron (offense, San Diego) and Jim Schwartz (defense, Tennessee) to get strong looks.
2 �I now believe Steve McNair will beat Brett Favre to retirement. That's how beaten up McNair is.
3 �The highest compliment I can pay a coach, regarding his character: Tony Dungy is the Wellington Mara of coaches.