Feb. 23, 2004
Mike Williams:
Funny: Don't hear any critics of the new NFL draft-eligibility system complaining. Maybe that's because he's a Top 5 talent -- as a soph.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

A-Rod? So passe. Here's a bona-fide NFL blockbuster deal that reclaims spring spotlight:

Superstar Broncos RB Clinton Portis to the Redskins for Champ Bailey and a 2nd-rounder.

Can't be overhyped: Compared to baseball, NFL trades come at a trickle -- and huge ones are a rarity. This one's huge.

Huge for the Redskins: With a gaping void at running back the size of D.C. itself, landing the 22-year-old Portis -- a legit threat to run for 2,000 yards -- gives them a franchise back for a decade (if he stays healthy).

With a new starting backfield (Portis and QB Mark Brunell), the Joe Gibbs era won't need a ramp-up; the NFC East is there for the taking.

Not bad for the Broncos, either: Unwilling to deal with Portis' payday demands, Denver is apparently happy to take on the Bailey headache for, arguably, one of the league's Top 3 cornerbacks.

In a word: Wow.

Peyton Payday
Is Peyton Manning worth the richest contract in NFL history? Not a chance -- before last season's playoffs. But combining his MVP regular season with his unstoppable postseason orchestrations (complete with Maestro-worthy hand-signals), and there's no player who deserves more.

One caveat: There's talk of a $30 million signing bonus, eclipsing the previous high -- Donovan McNabb's $20 mil -- by 50 percent. That's a premium out of whack with his status relative to other top NFL players.

Dolphins QB
"Feeley the Excitement!" Okay, so Miami's new marketing slogan to match their new QB (underrated Eagles third-stringer

Tiger-as-Carl-Spackler ad: Buzz for Oscars debut next wknd
NFL combine: Receivers are wowing scouts, as expected
Bracket Buster: Manhattan wins fans, game at UWisc-Milw.
Maryland: Lost 3 str; Duke fans chant "Burst your bubble!"
Penguins: 18th straight game w/o a win ties a team record
Indecisive Eric Crouch: Ex-Heisman QB mulling NFL comeback
AJ Feeley) may not work out, but the player himself can't do much worse than deposed starter Jay Fiedler, who simply was not a playoff QB.

LeBron in NYC
Fickle, even by New Yorkers' standards: Toast of the town just a few weeks ago, the Knicks were booed by fans yesterday on national TV, with the worst reserved for new acquisition Tim Thomas, who got the "Keith! Van! Horn!" chant after some ugly shots.

Meanwhile: Most of the fans were probably there to see LeBron's smooth Garden debut anyway (22 pts), not to see Nazr Mohammed get abused by Z. Ilgauskas.

Astros: Who's No. 1?
All those high-profile offseason pitching acquisitions, and the Astros light the fans on fire with some of the same-old-same-old on Opening Day. Roy Oswalt ahead of Andy Pettitte (or even Roger Clemens)? That's deference to an incumbent that is almost as ridiculous as not even entertaining that Derek Jeter might be moved from SS.

Colorado Watch
No scandal since Friday (but the week's still young). As for this "interim" head coach, does anyone else see a small fox-henhouse thing going on?

St. Joe's Rules
Usually, missed predictions force an overcorrection: Temple didn't end up beating St. Joe's on Saturday (got crushed, in fact), but St. Joe's will still fall short of the Final Four.

However, a perfect regular season is a lock: Remaining schedule includes Wednesday at UMass; Saturday at Rhodey; and a must-see finale at home Tuesday March 2 vs. sorry St. Bonnie.

2002 hoops champ reeling (13-10, 4-8 ACC) after stomping Sunday at Duke, where student section taunted them with: "Burst! Your! Bub-ble!"

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Remember it took 3 OT to make it happen, but how about Yao's 41-16-7 game last night? ...

You could say myth-making is an epidemic in NYC, but A-Rod helps his own cause by belting a BP HR off a truck in the parking lot ...

Alas, no such performances in the cards for Alfonso Soriano's first workouts. Nothing but long tosses and your average BP ...

Is the Nets' success Lawrence Frank or the comfy schedule? 4 of next 8 reveal it: at MIN, at DEN and home-and-home with the Lakers ...

For those keeping score, tiny Milan High was CRUSHED by Muncie Central on Saturday, 81-40. No "Hoosiers" miracle this year ...

Keep it real, Littlest Groom: Go with the g/f prospect who will make you happy, not who's got the right size (whatever that is) ...

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