Great quarterbacks no longer are born, they're found at swap meets. In a topsy-turvy NFL season, several Hall of Fame-bound, millionaire quarterbacks are down and out while several fellas who were standing behind you in line at Burger King last year are front and center.

Suddenly, star quarterbacks in the NFL come from Europe, from Canada, from arena leagues, from offshore trailer parks. It's like going to the Met and finding out the lead in "La Traviata" used to sing in karaoke bars.

It starts with the Rams' Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa) and the Seahawks' Jon Kitna (Central Washington), each of whom went to colleges that may or may not have a football program and each of whom is leading his conference in quarterback rating.

But there's more.

The Bears' Jim Miller, who had passed for 520 yards total in his four-year career coming into this season, just threw for 422 in one game. The Dolphins' Damon Huard, who had thrown nine passes in three previous NFL seasons, is 3-1 as a starter. The Jets' Ray Lucas, who had thrown seven passes in three previous NFL seasons and was playing special teams as recently as last year, just directed an upset victory at New England on Monday night.

I could have sworn I saw Lucas a couple of Mondays ago working as a floorwalker at JC Penney.

Meanwhile, the old pros are teetering. Of late, a banged-up Brett Favre looks more like Benny Hill than Bart Starr. Sidelined with various career-threatening ailments are Steve Young (concussion), Troy Aikman (concussion) and Dan Marino (Jimmy Johnson).

Heck, if Gus Frerotte and Charlie Batch can't go this week for the Lions, George Plimpton might give it another shot.

P.S. Here's a Pro Bowl name for you in 2001: Michael Bishop. He's the No. 3 quarterback for the Patriots. At the moment, that is.

(Memo to "Monday Night Football": Is it asking too much that we get to see each play from the snap of the ball? Thank you.)

As always, the following point-spread picks should not be used as the basis for any actual cash wager:

Colts (-7) at Eagles: Could Indianapolis--3-13 in 1997 and 3-13 in 1998--go 13-3 in 1999? It's doubtful. But The Man has never doubted, since a long time ago, my friends and enemies, that these Colts are en route to galloping ingloriously into Super Bowl XXXIV. Pick: Colts.

Giants at Redskins (-6): To avoid owner Daniel M. Snyder, Norv Turner is using "service entrance" at Redskin Park. . . . The Giants are, I believe, the worst 5-4 team in the history of organized sports at any level, on any continent, including Antarctica. Pick: Redskins.

Ravens (-5 1/2) at Bengals: Unless his sales of Browns memorabilia on eBay pick up soon, Ravens owner Art Modell might have to fire personal driver. . . . If Brian Billick and Bruce Coslet sat down to a chess match, who would win? Pick: Ravens.

Lions at Packers (-5): Aside to Ray Rhodes: I love ya, buddy. But lose too many more home games and I've got five words for you: home electronics manager, Sheboygan Wal-Mart. . . . When Bobby Ross counts to 10, he can only do it by twos. Pick: Lions.

Rams (-7 1/2) at 49ers: Lawrence Phillips getting suspended for conduct detrimental to the team is like Adam Sandler losing his SAG card for conduct detrimental to acting. . . . If Steve Stenstrom is the answer, you don't want to know the question. Pick: 49ers.

Seahawks at Chiefs (-3): Seahawks equipment staff forgot to blow up "Welcome Back, Joey" balloons before Broncos game. . . . "Confusing directions" make Arrowhead Stadium the toughest place to play in the NFL. Pick: Chiefs.

Bears at Chargers (-1): Due to increasing tension, Chargers QB Jim Harbaugh and offensive linemen will huddle separately. . . . Next Bears kicker: Charlie Brown. Pick: Chargers.

Panthers (-5 1/2) at Browns: Caught off-guard, Browns Coach Chris Palmer had only prepared "moral victory" remarks for postgame Steelers news conference. Pick: Browns.

Raiders at Broncos (-2): Reminder to Chris Miller: In football as in life, your chances of being run over are doubled if you stay in the middle of the road. Pick: Broncos.

Bills (-2 1/2) at Jets: Another reason Bill Parcells doesn't allow Jets assistants to talk to the media: Bill Belichick's "knock, knock" jokes. Pick: Jets.

Saints at Jaguars (-13): Tom Coughlin is calling Jaguars' offensive plays, which is like having Mister Rogers planning your New Year's Eve party. Pick: Jaguars.

Patriots at Dolphins (-3 1/2): Dolphins' Dan Marino blaming slow recovery from injury on "too many salty snacks." Pick: Dolphins.

Cowboys (-1 1/2) at Cardinals: At doctor's appointment Tuesday, Cowboys' Michael Irvin pushed off on another patient. Pick: Cowboys.

Falcons at Buccaneers (-7): Tired of dire forecasts, Falcons fired team's fortune teller. Pick: Falcons.

Steelers at Titans (-6): To be honest, I think Kordell Stewart's game might be boccie ball. Pick: Steelers.

Last week: 3-12.*

Season record: 59-75-7.**

(* Worst mark in 10-year history of column.)

(** At this point, The Man couldn't pick cotton out of a cotton field.)