Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Early season musings

The time has come, my Badger friends, to talk of other things. Of blitzes, backfields and ground attacks, of Seahawks and Vikings. And if the Pack can win the crown. And what Joe Gibbs can bring.

The NFL regular season has officially begun. With just one of 17 weeks of gridiron excitement in the books, we’ve already seen some quality football. The Pats thrilled audiences Thursday night with a clutch 11th hour sack to kill a signature Payton Manning comeback. Former bay-area fire-starter Terrell Owens lit up the Giants’ secondary for three touchdowns. And the Culpepper-Moss tandem came together again, decimating the Cowboys.

If Week 1 is any indication, fans can expect a playoff race at least on par with the enthralling ’03 finish.


Now let’s look at the key questions that will come to dictate the course of the NFL in 2004.

10. Can Vinny do Dallas?

Few of us can remember Testaverde torching ACC secondaries en route to securing the 1986 Heisman Trophy. Back in the day of Huey Lewis and John Hughes, the Hurricane phenom seemed destined for greatness.

For much of his NFL career, the Heisman curse looked very much in effect. When he went to the Jets, everyone expected another comical fiasco — everyone was wrong. Now the old-school slinger heads to Dallas for a repeat performance. Will lightning strike twice?

No. Vinny will apply some magic, not due to his ability but because it’s hard to expect anything. However, when the fantasy ends and the film credits roll, the guy is 40 years old. The situation is just too conspicuously storybook for fate’s finicky palate.

Every football writer in the country wants to see it happen, and by virtue of that, it won’t.

9. Will Jamal Lewis finish the season in Baltimore Ravens violet or Fulton County orange?

When my great grandpappy Frederick Klemz came to this country, he thought he was finally in the land of the free. He never would’ve guessed that certain troublemakers would one day arrive to disrupt the flow of America’s favorite preoccupation.

Drug conspiracy? Attempting to procure cocaine? In the words of Sideshow Bob, “Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry? Do they?” The time came to start a movement, and some Baltimore fans responded. For more information on how you can help, visit and back the back.

8. Why is B.J. Sander still a Packer?

You would think that booting a 5-yard punt to cap off a dismal preseason performance would be ample reason to bring out the axe. Yet, for some reason Sherman sticks with this guy.

All right, he’s a Buckeye, so I’m prejudiced from the get-go. Still, what does Sander have to do to get fired? Could he go the way of Alcibiades and piss on a statue of Lombardi? Would that do it?

The guy has talent, no doubting that, but his mind isn’t there. Sometimes the psychology of sports can overwhelm physical aspects. With Favre’s twilight at hand, now isn’t the time to screw around in Green Bay.

7. Will the city of brotherly love rub off on Owens?

It’s long overdue, but now Philly’s slammin’.

Despite a couple of greenhorns at cornerback, the Eagles appear ready finally to take seat at the top of the NFC. However, one of the key pieces to the puzzle looks like it came out of a different box. Owens needs to stop being Owens and start acting with at least some degree of class. For as much ability as he projects on to the field, it’s a shame he’ll likely be remembered for other exploits. Maybe he’s finally in the right place to make a change.

6. Joe Gibbs: Is the Capitol City messiah headed to Golgotha?

There’s been a running joke in the NFL for the past decade, and it goes something like this, “Washington has a chance.”

This year the Skins get back their legendary pilot in a shocking second wind. For motivational reasons alone, Washington will improve over last year. But with expectations sky-high in D.C., Gibbs will need to turn water into wine on national television – and it ain’t happening.

All right, enough sacrilege for this week.

5. How are the Vikes going to fall apart this year?

Culpepper and Co. looked electric in the debut against Dallas. Yet, the defense came off with little luster. If you give up 355 yards to old man Testaverde, don’t even show up against Favre or McNabb.

Not to mention much of the Vikings’ aerial success came against a secondary of very unproven defensive backs. Veteran safety Darren Woodson sat out with a back injury – a situation inviting disaster against receivers the likes of Moss, Ontarrio Smith and Marcus Robinson.

All things considered, Dallas didn’t come out complete, and complete they aren’t that impressive — a poor litmus test for the Viking offense.

There will be plenty of points on the board this season, but not enough – the secondary will ultimately be Minnesota’s undoing.

4. Will Fumbly McSnap (Aaron Brooks) ever adjust to big-game pressure?

For as much talent as this guy has, reoccurring foibles continue to tarnish his young career. Brooks himself could alone be the difference between serious playoff contention and a season in the cellar.

He sputtered against Seattle, which could actually be good for New Orleans. If he comes out slow, there’s a good chance the problem will be righted mid-season and the Saints will carry some momentum into the post-season. By starting the season on fire and confidence issues popping up subsequently, there’s a much greater risk of yet another disaster.

3. Who’s just too trendy to make it?

Seattle. Mike Holmgren always works wonders, but it’s hard to place them among the NFC elite. The NFC west doesn’t offer a real strong candidate for the conference title, but talent-wise, they’re as rich as any. St. Louis will take the division again, and the Seahawks just don’t match up on the Wild Card scene.

The Ravens are nowhere near as formidable as the rest of the AFC front-runners, but let’s face it: the AFC North stinks. With a Wild Card berth a pipe dream for Baltimore, the Ravens need to secure the worst division in football. Sound easy? Not for this squad. The Browns will stay hot by virtue of a weak schedule, but the Bengals appear prepared to shock folks. One of the two will topple the Ravens.

2. Was Sunday a preview of the AFC Championship game?

In composition, but not result. You can only keep Manning down for so long and the Pats are running out of luck. Side-by-side New England proves the more talented group, but you just can’t make paper calls with a lethal quarterback involved.

6-0 at Foxboro, nine touchdowns and 16 interceptions — it doesn’t look like a Manning stat line. Reprisal seems a foregone conclusion. Soon Peyton’s time will finally arrive. Come January, they’ll be sobbing in Beantown.

1. Will there be echoes of the 2002 Chicago Bears in Charlotte this year?

To a substantially lesser degree. The Panthers certainly got lucky a number of times last season, but the Bears that won the black and blue division in 2001 almost made you question the workings of the universe.

Calculate in the turnover at offensive line and Carolina stands to lose a couple more games than last year. New Orleans will come on late and push Carolina down to a Wild Card spot. The Panthers just don’t have the firepower to compete against sound defenses, and their pool of good fortune may have run dry.

Although it hardly matters on the whole, for this is the year of the Eagle.

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