Over the years, I have absorbed a lot of negative mail, angry phone calls and random street heckling. And that's just from my ex-wife. But there's a method to The Man. To wit: the Indianapolis Colts. Since Week 1 of the NFL season, I have loudly proclaimed that the Colts will gallop ingloriously into Super Bowl XXXIV, staking my shaky reputation on a team that had lost 26 of its previous 32 games to march into Atlanta Jan. 30.
It was a fabulous forecast, better than three seasons ago when I gave you the Carolina Panthers, better than two seasons ago when I gave you the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and certainly better than last season when I missed by giving you the then-Tennessee Oilers.
Yet I'm still under fire from NFL freaks and geeks for other supposed shortcomings in my quirky prognosticating.
Ladies and gentlemen, pestering me about finishing a handful of games under .500 while I unearth the greatest turnaround in NFL history is like complaining to Michelangelo about parking tickets while he's painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
(Aside to Giants fans: How come the nasty mail stopped coming? When the Giants were 5-3, I projected them for 6-10 and got more crayon-filled letters than Captain Kangaroo. Anyway, I missed on that one--the Giants finished 7-9.)
(Aside to my other detractors: I did miss on the 49ers, who I thought wouldn't stumble badly, and I did miss on my preposterous Browns-to-upset-Rams prediction, and I might be in the process of missing on Jeff George, who is one victory from the NFC championship game. But, as you know, I never miss on Bruce Coslet--on the highway of life, he's the bug and I'm the windshield.)
There are so many Colts to thank for fulfilling my Dream Team expectations, but I only have space for three:
* Team president Bill Polian. He put together the roster. Amazingly, this past offseason, he traded away Marshall Faulk and passed on Ricky Williams--and still wound up with Edgerrin James. This guy could turn the Bolshoi Ballet into an Olympic bobsledding team inside of three winters.
* Coach Jim Mora. He's the Howard Beale of the NFL, the mad prophet of the sidelines. He wins everywhere he goes. And I don't want to hear this business about his 0-4 playoff record with the Saints, implying he can't cut it in the postseason. He won two titles in three USFL seasons. What, that doesn't count?
* Quarterback Peyton Manning. Looks like Mr. Clean. Lives right, acts right and throws right. If Kurt Warner's UFO doesn't land in St. Louis, Manning's the league MVP. (Note: If Manning gets hurt, uh oh. For if you see Steve Walsh on the field for any reason other than to hold for a kick, the Colts will be hoofs up.)
The Colts are six-point favorites at home against the Titans. I'd like to thank Tennessee for its spectacular miracle finish against Buffalo and also would like to thank the Titans in advance for getting out of the way of my Colts. Take Indy.
(Coaching Note I: How tough is it to coach in the NFL? Three of the four coaches just fired--Pete Carroll, Ray Rhodes and Chan Gailey--did not record a single losing season with their teams. The fourth, incidentally, was Mike Ditka, a bombastic bum who will be barking bromides into our TV sets next season.)
(Coaching Note II: In regards to the Jets, it appears likely that Bill Parcells will become the first coach in NFL history to replace himself.)
(Business Note: Next mega-merger could be AOL and the NFL, allowing Internet users to challenge up to two calls per game from home.)
As always, the following point-spread picks should not be used as the basis for any actual cash wager:
Vikings at Rams (-7): Here are the actual scores of each of the Rams' eight home games this season: 27-10, 35-7, 42-20, 34-3, 35-10, 43-12, 31-10 and 34-12. That's an average margin of victory of nearly 25 points a game.
You say, "None of the teams they beat had a winning record." To which I say, "Fiddlesticks." The Rams are more fun to watch than "Nudes on Ice." Kudos to Coach Dick Vermeil. Vermeil is the Dalai Lama of pro football--he loves everybody. And we love him!
The Jeff George Resurrection & Revival Tour ends here, my friends. Pick: Rams.
Dolphins at Jaguars (-8 1/2): When you downshift a manual transmission, the engine slows you down, not the brake. Changing from Mark Brunell to Jay Fiedler would be like shifting from fifth to second gear while you're going 60 mph. (Better call Aamco. Beep-beep!)
In addition, the Jaguars will sorely miss stellar offensive tackle Tony Boselli. (Candidates to replace Boselli include Goldberg, Shaquille O'Neal and that big inmate from "The Green Mile.") Pick: Dolphins.
Redskins at Buccaneers (-5): Rededicating myself to the film room this week, I noticed that, if you take away pass interference, the Redskins have no passing game. (Similarly, if you take away free enterprise, Daniel M. Snyder has no money.) Pick: Buccaneers.
Last week: 1-3.
Season record: 115-123-10.