(Conference and league champions)
COACH: WEEB EWBANK
1958 RECORD: W 9, L 3, 1ST
1959 EXHIBITIONS: W 4, L 2
With the best passer in football in Johnny Unitas and the best receiver in Raymond Berry, the Colts travel by air whenever necessary and expedient. With Lenny Moore, Jim Mutscheller and Jerry Richardson, a rookie, Baltimore can go over any defense that's too tough to go through. The Colt offensive line takes pride in providing Unitas with the three or four seconds he needs to get the ball away. If Johnny's health fails, he has an able substitute in Ray Brown, the defensive halfback.
Alan Ameche is a powerful fullback, big and strong enough to bust up the middle, fast enough to convert a five-yard gain into 50. L. G. Dupre is a good foil for Ameche, and Lenny Moore gives the Colt ground attack breakaway speed. Even so the Colts could never win the league title on their running backs, good as they are. But then who ever could?
The Colt defenders are a year older and a year better. Tackle Big Daddy Lipscomb has learned to slip away from a blocker now and then to put pressure from the middle of the line. That kind of pressure leads to pass interceptions.
Big Don Joyce and Gino Marchetti at end, Lipscomb and ageless Art Donovan at tackle give the Colts something over half a ton of beef to smother a running offense. None has slowed enough to worry about, and the linebackers have been helped by the return of Dick Szymanski and the acquisition of Marv Matuszak.
Great passing, adequate running and a tough defense against passing or running make the Colts favorites to retain their title. This year the Colts have stiffer competition from the second-division teams and, too, stiffer competition from Los Angeles and the Chicago Bears. The big weakness last year was punting; now Dave Sherer, a rookie from Southern Methodist, booms the punts out nearly 50 yards. The bench is stronger, too, on both offense and defense. But so is the Colt competition in the Western Conference.
COACH: GEORGE HALAS
1958 RECORD: W 8, L 4, TIED FOR 2ND
1959 EXHIBITIONS: W 6, L 1
George Halas, coach of the Chicago Bears, got $50,000 for Bobby Layne from the New York Bulldogs; since then he has lost no telling how many championships for lack of a great quarterback. This year should be no exception. Quarterbacks Ed Brown, Zeke Bratkowski and Rudy Bukich have looked fine yet have never stood up for an entire season. The receivers are there in Harlon Hill, healthy again, Jim Dooley, another cripple fit for war, and a good rookie, Willard Dewveall.