Prognostications, pontifications and a whole lot of nonsense:

Thanksgiving Day, Texas Stadium: After having been reinstated following his drug suspension, Dexter Manley plays his first game for his new team, the Dallas Cowboys, after being waived by the Redskins. Manley has three sacks, the final one forcing Mark Rypien to fumble in overtime. Manley picks up the loose ball and rumbles 72 yards for the winning score, giving the previously winless Cowboys their first and last victory of the season. Afterward, Manley proclaims, "To let me go like that goes to show you the Redskins have the IQ of a grapefruit."

Nov. 25, Oakland Coliseum: After failing to draw as many as 30,000 people for any single home game at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Al Davis moves the Raiders to Oakland for a game against hated Kansas City, leading the AFC West. In a driving rainstorm, the Raiders lose and Davis announces he is moving the team. To Shea Stadium.

Dec. 2, Tampa Bay: Jerry Glanville, who frequently leaves tickets for dead people, leaves a pair for Tampa's own George Steinbrenner. The Former Boss becomes the first person to actually show up to claim the tix, but is told his ban extends to all sports except soccer and is turned away.

Dec. 9, RFK Stadium: Having blown two games this season with bad punt snaps, Coach Joe Gibbs decides to hire a 15th assistant. George Allen, who has grown bored since his Long Beach State 49ers are undefeated, answers Gibbs's call and brings Len Hauss back to be the long snapper. Not only that, but he calls a fake punt without Gibbs's knowledge, which goes for a 50-yard touchdown to beat the Bears. Mike Ditka is suspended for running onto the field to chase the ball carrier, Terry Orr.

Dec. 29, Denver: The Broncos, one victory away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, file a request with the league office for a change of venue after a Denver group, calling itself "Just Say No: To the Super Bowl" announces all season ticket holders have agreed to cheer for the Packers in Sunday's game.

The Order of Finish:

NFC East: Giants, Redskins, Eagles, Cardinals, Cowboys. The Giants and Eagles are a tossup and there's a temptation to pick the Cowboys ahead of the Cardinals, but we'll resist it for one more season. Most overrated division in football.

NFC Central: Vikings, Bears, Packers, Lions, Bucs. Maybe the toughest division in football. Only the Bucs cannot win. The Bears second? Okay, besides the fact that the forecaster is a Chicagoan, the Bears weren't really that bad last year. If Ditka approaches the team like he did during his heart attack season, not last season, the still-talented Bears will be back. If anybody goes into the dumper it will be Minnesota. The Packers have a killer schedule and who knows what frame of mind Don Majkowski and his teammates will be in after his long holdout? The Lions? Soon, but not just yet. It's a whole new game when everybody knows you're not a patsy anymore.

NFC West: Niners, Rams, Saints, Falcons. The NFL's two best teams plus its most improved team (Atlanta). The Saints might have been the second best team in the league two years ago, but now find themselves trying to hold on despite winning eight of their final 11 last season. If the Falcons trade for Eric Dickerson, they win nine games.

AFC East: Dolphins, Bills, Patriots, Jets, Colts. Worst division in the league. The Colts are a blueprint for how to ruin a playoff team. Infighting may yet kill the Bills.

AFC Central: Steelers, Bengals, Oilers, Browns. The tightest division of all and the only one that any team can win. The Steelers are one great pass rusher away from the big time. Jack Pardee might be just what the Oilers need. The Bengals still have the best offensive team in the conference. If the Broncos are the most pitied team in the league for losing the Super Bowl three times in the last four years, what does that make the Browns, who have lost the AFC title game to Denver all three times?

AFC West: Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Seahawks. The temptation here is to put the Broncos fourth based on the fact that one team can take only so much disappointment. Yes, Denver could fall apart completely. But the Broncos also have more talent than anybody in the division and the most unappreciated coach in the league in Dan Reeves. The Chiefs, fabulous on defense and strong in running, are choosing between Steve DeBerg and Steve Pelleur, which is all you need to know. The Chargers will be ready by midseason to make the big move.

Playoff teams: Niners, Giants, Vikes, Rams, Redskins, Bears in the NFC. Steelers, Broncos, Dolphins, Bengals, Chiefs, Chargers in the AFC.

Best offseason idea: Mike Lynn, for his three-day retreat that may enable the Vikings to avert another season of in-house fighting.

Worst offseason idea: Buffalo not having a retreat, tied with the Colts' decision to trade a six-time Pro Bowl left tackle, Chris Hinton; a game-breaking wide receiver, Andre Rison; and a first-round draft pick for quarterback Jeff George. The NBA once saved the Cleveland Cavaliers from its own ownership for making that kind of deal.

Players to watch: Oxon Hill's Derrick Fenner, now the No. 1 tailback in Seattle; Redskins outside linebacker Andre Collins; Jets wide receiver Rob Moore; Chicago running back Johnny Bailey; Green Bay quarterback Anthony Dilweg; Cowboys running back Terrence Flagler; Giants running back Rodney Hampton.

Teams down to their last chance: Vikings and Bills. The Vikings may be able to overcome last year's racial tension and salary squabbles, but Jerry Burns's play calling is another matter. The Bills need Jim Kelly to play, not whine and rip his teammates.

Kelly, who took on one of his blockers last year, probably wouldn't be so quick to point a finger at Niners tackle Steve Wallace, who sacked his parents recently. Wallace sent a notarized letter to his parents' mortgage company saying he would no longer be paying the $1,400 note. Wallace also sent a letter to his parents that read: "Mother, father: Here is the notice from the {mortgage company}. The house will soon foreclose. Sorry. Take care. Steve Wallace."

Play ball.