They were 3-13 last season. They play in a nondescript dome. They have precisely the sex appeal of aluminum siding. They are the woebegone, wandering Indianapolis Colts and -- as detailed here last week to the usual derision and disdain -- they will gallop ingloriously into the Super Bowl.
Nobody ever sees these "Going to 12 Percent of the Country" Colts on TV. When they make the playoffs in January, most viewers will figure them for an NFL Europe entry.
For the past generation, the Colts have been Michael Bolton-bad. Since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978, only the Colts and Cardinals have failed to win 10 games in a season. But in 1999, we're staring at a 10-6 Colts campaign and a stunned football nation come Super Bowl XXXIV.
How can I back a team with the league's worst record in 1998 in the NFL's toughest division? Because I am The Man, my friends, and The Man doesn't mind jumping feet-first into a school of sharks.
These Colts have last year's best rookie quarterback (Peyton Manning), this year's best rookie running back (Edgerrin James), a solid group of pass catchers (Marvin Harrison, E.G. Green and Ken Dilger) and the Mount Rushmore of offensive lines. Ah, yes, the Colts' offensive line. If these guys were blocking for the Kremlin back in the '60s, Khrushchev would still be in power.
Plus, the Colts are led by the Howard Beale of the '90s, Jim Mora, the mad prophet of the sidelines. He won two titles in three USFL seasons with Philadelphia, then he won in New Orleans. No coach before or after Mora has had a winning season with the Saints, and Mora did it five times in a seven-year period.
Mora knows how to motivate. He could convince Siegfried to leave Roy.
So come with me and my horseshoe, good people, and take the Colts this Sunday, getting 4 1/2 points at New England.
(Passing Point: In the early 19th century, Chief Justice John Marshall created the principle of judicial review. From that high-minded notion, we now find ourselves saddled with instant replay.)
(Strange Standings: Chargers, at 0-0, lead the AFC West. Remember when the teacher asked one person to step forward and everyone else but you took one step back? You are the Chargers.)
(Rule Revision: Quietly, the NFL now requires that all coin tosses be witnessed by a notary public.)
As always, the following picks against the point spread are for recreational purposes only:
Redskins at Giants (-2 1/2): The Man would like to offer a belated welcome to the NFL's newest master of money, Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder, He Who Would Be Eddie D. . . . "Keep it on the ground" is to the Giants offense as "jiggle the handle" is to plumbing. Pick: Redskins.
Saints at 49ers (-11): Topic of this week's Bill Walsh Tuesday lecture series: "Absolute Relativity and the West Coast Offense". . . . In light of recent Saints-49ers results, Mike Ditka's doctors have advised him "to take a comp day" Sunday. Pick: 49ers.
Raiders at Vikings (-10 1/2): Is Vikings' Jeff George a team player? Sure he is. Witness Randall Cunningham voodoo doll he keeps in his locker. . . . In his spare time, Al Davis looks for himself on the History Channel. Pick: Vikings.
Steelers (-3) at Ravens: Here's a novel suggestion for the Ravens: Play Scott Mitchell and Tony Banks on alternate series to keep defense guessing about whether to look for interceptions or fumbles. Pick: Steelers.
Packers (-6) at Lions: Unreported from Sunday's postgame news conference in which Packers QB Brett Favre broke down crying: He had just watched the end of "Titanic" on home video. Pick: Packers.
Broncos (-3 1/2) at Chiefs: Broncos LB Bill Romanowski has asked team to shift Oct. 17 date against Green Bay due to conflict with pharmaceutical convention. Pick: Broncos.
Chargers at Bengals (-1): Junior Seau will play offense and defense for Chargers, and also will "have a say" in where the team dines on the road. Pick: Bengals.
Browns at Titans (-15 1/2): "Players Only" sign on door to Browns' training complex has been replaced by "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here." Pick: Titans.
Buccaneers (-6 1/2) at Eagles: Buccaneers playbook now divided into three sections: "pass," "run" and "coping with turnovers." Pick: Eagles.
Cardinals at Dolphins (-9 1/2): Dolphins caught with 12 men on field Monday night when unidentified parole officer joined huddle. Pick: Cardinals.
Jaguars (-9) at Panthers: Jaguars toughman Tom Coughlin cracks down again: Players now fined $25 for hitting snooze bar on alarms. Pick: Jaguars.
Falcons at Cowboys (-6): Responding to player poll, Cowboys to convert blocking sleds into Jacuzzis. Pick: Falcons.
Jets at Bills (-4 1/2): Regis Philbin hosting new local Jets TV show, "Who Wants to Be a Quarterback?" Pick: Jets.
Seahawks (-4) at Bears: Memo to Mike Holmgren: Castro got "total control" in Cuba, and look what happened there. Pick: Bears.
Last week's record: 5-10.*
(* Worst opening week in The Man's 10-year history. It's got to be the marriage.)