I BEEN ready for some football
By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

Don't you love this time of year?

I mean, unless you're Kobe Bryant -- don't you love it?

To have been denied real live NFL football, good old Blue 98, for so long, to know it's now less than a month away, doesn't that make the fuzz on top of your head stand up where male pattern baldness has kicked in? To go through the sweet agony of not knowing whether your team is entering the long-awaited Renaissance period you have so often prophesied -- or about to go Tank City on you again.

The League gets tougher every year. It's August, early August at that, and so for now, 30 of 32 NFL teams will make the playoffs (every team except your team and my team). At least 16 teams are locks to make the Super Bowl. Daily reports from Mr. Sneer, John Clayton, and Hank "Bump City" Goldberg do nothing but heighten our anticipation for the coming turf wars; when guys pass out from training camp heat, we think, "Somebody scrape that crap off the field," just like real coaches think.

Every camp ESPN visits is in full Super Bowl throat; all Vegas odds and stats Hammerin' Hank quotes will come home like Seabiscuit. Norman Chad is batting a thousand, Theismann rhymes not with Heisman but Dorian Gray, and Sean "Fang" Salisbury can't wait to rip somebody a new one. Caught Bryan Cox in studio yet? Can't wait to see him and Rush Limbaugh tango with Boom as the celebrity ref. Gregg Easterbrook and TMQ already revved up the creative reactor, and even Bill "Bull" O'Reilly is weighing in on it. Oh, wait, that's the Kobe Case.

The NFL. The Cause that Refreshes.

Now there's no way for me to edge anything you can really use into this babbling cacophony of sound and fury about the different factors, the scheduling tides and eddies, the coaching non-moves, the injuries, the police blotter/domestic horror show eventualities, the "diversity" issues, the hometown loyalties, the rules, the what-player-is-on-which-array-of-steroids, all that goes into the making and more importantly, the picking and betting of a Super champ. I tend to stick to the guys who actually play, whether they actually can or not. I know, but it's my rock, my hill to push it up.

With that in mind, here is the AFC breakdown for 2003-04. The NFC breakdown will come next week, unless the SWAT team manages to get in beforehand, and Mirandize me ...

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

Let's read 'em first. Then let's weep. You can deride me later. There's always room and plenty of time for that. That's a given. Just to cinch your annoyance, how about I let Road Dog read R-Dub's quickie AFC analysis and AFC Championship game picks in his own inimitable vernacular? That should make your day.

Yeah. Let's call sterling on that. That's sterling, not Sterling, although I hear Sterling Sharpe can drive a golf ball 350 yards with one of those new hot-faced drivers. As a knowledgeable female football fan I know says, "Guess what? I don't give a sh--" Don't get offended, you Sterling Sharpe fans out there, all three of you. She could've been talking about anything. Except NFL football.



Hey group. Dog here.


Don't make Dog laugh.

This is the team that drafted Willis McGahee -- like this was the common amateur baseball draft, or something, and the guy you pick may not turn out for five years, if he turns out at all.

Ricky Williams
Look for Ricky Williams to run Miami all the way to the AFC Championship game.
They'da been better off taking Drew Henson. At least they could spin that. They lose Peerless to the ATL. Yeah, they got Eric the Animal Moulds; they better wrap him in cotton, because if he goes down, they're down to Josh Reed, who can run at 4:40 in the afternoon; that's as close as he gets to running 4.4. They pick up Takeo Spikes free agent, that's money, but hey, the Bills were basically done for five years when they let Marcellus Wiley walk.

New England?

Brady can hurl, and his RBs make him want to. You can't count out Tom Terrific. You can count out the Patriots, but you can't count out Tom Terrific. Dub says deep ball is there against them all year, especially the deep middle. Anybody with a tight end who can run makes life miserable for them. Bill Belly's got two safeties who don't know what it is to backpedal, or carioca. Plus you can still run on 'em. Well, you can't, but Ricky Wicky Williams can.

New York Jets?

I can hear Herm now. "You play. . .to not. . .be embarrassed!"

Jet fans will have a great year -- long as they don't mind rooting for the Washington Redskins. Losing Coles, the O-Line, Hall the Kicker will hurt. Key is O-Line. Huck Finn Penny is fragile work, physically and psychobabbly, and it's gonna to be a long year for Curtis Martin, too. Herman Edwards better break out his best fist.


Bingo. Bango. Oingo. Boingo. Oy. Vey. Surtain has a knee, Madison is overrated, but Junior Seau, Jason Taylor and his brother-in-law, Zach At Mike, ain't. It's all about Wicky Wicky you so fine, you so fine you blow my mind Hey Wicky. The Dolphins get a slot in the AFC championship game even though to me they are short in the Weapons of Mass Destruction department, Deep Ball division. The Dolphs could get nicked up by the Chefs, the Raids, the Colitises or the Raves, but Putty Griese is going to help them. He don't like being hit but he's still better than Fielder.


The Cleveland Browns have a problem. The D-line stud, Courtney Brown, according to Dub's confidential source (Warren Sapp), "look like Tarzan, play like Jane." Not good. They got weapons - that's the beauty of the NFL, everybody's got some weapons. Tim Couch is a little too weepy for Dub's taste but Butch Davis may be not trying to let that big of a contract lay on the bench becoming grumpier day-by-day as some cat with cool grey temples like Kelly Holcombe runs the show; you watch Dwayne Rudd tear up something now cause the Browns let him go to Tampa due to Helmetgate. The Browns -- reduced to hanging hat on William "Sihugo" Green.

Dub don't see it happening for them this year.

Ray Lewis
The Ravens should return to the top of their division with Ray Lewis leading the charge.
Cincinnati drafted some good people. Got that Oregon State DB who was all shot up. He'll play like somebody stuck a cattle prod up his . . . bad visual there. Dub's a big Kelli Washington guy, still waiting on Peter Warrick. Jon Kitna ain't the answer, and Carson Palmer will play as much as Carson Daly. If Marvelous Marvin Lewis can turn this, he ain't a coach, he's Kal-El of Krypton.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a super receiving corps. Hey. Who don't have a super receiving corps? But if Amos Z. is dragging a leg, they got trouble. The Steelers probably win the division, but mostly by default. I can't even remember who else is in it.

Oh yeah. Baltimore. Scratch Pittsburgh as division champs. The Ravens will win the division, although Ray Lewis is getting a little full of himself. Did you see him slam that pie plate in first-round pick Terrell Suggs' face at camp the other day, when the kid was giving an interview? Did you hear it? Now they do that in baseball after a rook makes a game-winning play in the Show. But this was in camp; Suggs was just giving an interview. What's the problem, Ray? Taking your new-found popularity as a commercial pitchman a little too serious, OG? It's one thing to punk Eddie George. It's another thing to punk the edge rusher playing in front of you.

Terrell Suggs wasn't happy about getting slammed -- I don't mean a nice easy application of a shaving cream pie, I mean POW! your boy Ray-Ray really slammed the kid. Suggs jumped up, turned around and saw it was Ray-Ray, and had to eat his pride.

People don't like eating their own pride.

Still, gotta like the Raves, and fully animatronix Brian Billick.


Jacksonville, or as Dub calls it, The City That Passed Out, or, the Ammonia Cap Capital of the World, or, Wayne's Wrecked World.

Dub loves Fred Taylor's game, but he keeps getting hurt.

The Jags have three good QBs in Brunell, Gerard and Doughboy Leftwich, but unfortunately for them, you can only play one QB at a time. Put it this way -- it'll be a while for them. Although a smart team would trade for Brunell, and he might make the difference for them, backing up a Trent Green, or a Peyton Manning, or a Rich Gannon, and getting in there due to injury, and lighting things up.

Always did like Brunell. Throwback.

Eddie George
Eddie George can carry the Titans on his back to a division crown.
Indianapolis is the sneaky fast team in here, especially how D. Freeney turned out last year; now they get this high caliber bullet named Mike Doss to play at strong or free. He's a Pocket Tatum, but the sleeper pick on D may be Cato June, a safety who hits like a LB, but was hurt much of his career at Michigan. You may not be able to trust Tony Dungy on offensive coordinators, but you can damn sure trust him on defensive personnel. Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber. All on the All-Dungy team.

The Colts are playoffish.

But they ain't the Tennessee Titans.

The Tites came up with that Oklahoma DB, a monster WR pick in Tyrone Calico, and that RB from Colorado, Chris Brown, who Dub is waffling on. Yeah, he look-did real good running through truck-sized holes, but he's vertical, straight up and down, no body lean; the Tites got one of them in Eddie "Where Ray-Ray At?" George.

Calico is the plain main truth, though, and so is Jevon Kearse. If he can come back to anything like what he was, it may be a Tite turn.

Houston? Oh yeah. Houston. Right.


The division came back a little as a group; gotta play Kansas City as the fave this season. The Chiefies have a QB in Trent Green; Superfly Priest Holmes looked like he had his hips under him in the Hall of Fame game, and in Gonzo they've got the best TE in the bidness not named Shockey, or Baby Winslow. They got the secret weapon of a good-ass offensive coordinator who calls a sweet game, does what the defense don't expect, in Al Saunders. Even though everybody knows Dub's an Oakland guy, made his bones in Oakland, has a love-hate thing with Al Davis (Dub says Al started it -- but maybe something Dub wrote started it, he can't remember), Dub is biting on the Chefs this year, in honor of Hank Stram and the offense of the '70s. The mentor, boys. Hey, if Dick Vermeil can't outstrip Bill Callahan, what's the sense of going on?

Priest Holmes
With a healthy Priest Holmes, the Chiefs have a good shot in the AFC West.
Well, the Raiders will go on. I mean, it's really hard not to pick them to go back to the Bowl, looking at the skill spots. They got the two best corners on one team in the game in Wood and Young Boy Phil Buchanon. They got Jerry Porter, a Book of Revelations rookie 6-7, 262-lb. tight end/slot receiver Teyo Johnson (Buffalo -- what the hell were you thinking?) and OBTW, Jerry Rice.

The problem is, they also have Barret Robbins, and Lt. Cally, who is Gru-Dog's bi--- ... hmm. Better just stick with Dub's script.

The San Diego Chargers' games will be the shortest, that much we do know. They may sling passes around a whooping ten or 11 times a game. If they're playing from in front, less than that.

LaDanian to the right of me, LaDanian to the left of me ...

Watch the San Diego-Denver scores. Whoever wins the season series between those two will battle it out with K.C. and Oak-town for the right to get beat in the playoffs by Tennessee, Baltimore or Mi-jami. The Ravens inexperience at QB will do them in. Cally going "duh" will derail the Raider Express. So that leaves ...

Yep. Tennessee vs. Miami in the AFC title tilt.

Tyrone Calico. Titans in the Super Bowl.

Just don't tell Ray-Ray I said so.

(Editor's Note: Gentle pilgrim readers can write in to R-Dub/Road Dog and point out the utter lunacy and absurdity of his NFL thoughts and picks at Ralpwiley@aol.com)

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."



Ralph Wiley Archive

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