Well, it’s here. The beginning of football season. As the season begins, let’s take a look at items XX-XXXVIII on my list of 38 things that have caught my eye as we head towards Super Bowl XXXVIII on February 1, 2004 in Houston. It will be here before you know it.
XX. Enjoy Green Bay’s Brett Favre this year because it sounds more and more like this is going to be his last year before he retires to his farm in Mississippi.
XXI. Trivia time, Zinger-groupies: According to STATS Inc., which active quarterback has the most game-winning/tying drives in the fourth quarter and overtime over the last ten years? None other than our old friend, Drew Bledsoe with 26 such drives. Everybody’s first guess, Brett Favre, is in second place with 23 game winning/tying drives. Honestly, Drew Bledsoe would not have been one of my first three guesses.
XXII. Over the last year, I have taken up yet another meaningless hobby much to the chagrin of Mrs. Rousseau. I have begun to collect Super Bowl programs. Most programs after 1980 can be had for around ten dollars off Ebay. The hidden treat of these programs is looking at all of the old ads. In 1979, the latest technology, a Beta VCR could…..record your favorite program.
XXIII. If you haven’t picked up a copy of the recently re-invented SportsWeekly from USA today, do so. It’s predecessor, Baseball Weekly, was a poor man’s version of the revered Baseball America. By adding equal coverage of the NFL to its pages, it has appealed to a much larger audience. That includes this address.
XXIV. Howard Balzer, of the above-mentioned SportsWeekly, proposed in the July 9th issue the idea of two expansion teams in L.A. In his view, this would create a rivalry right off the bat that would create a buzz for the fickle L.A. crowd. It would also bring to thirty-four the number of teams in the league. Under his proposal, he would get rid of divisions and have each team play the other sixteen teams in its conference. Could you imagine the Patriots playing the Steelers, Raiders, and Broncos every year? I don’t know if I’m sold on the idea but it is intriguing.
XXV. One factor not mentioned often when discussing the Patriots letdown last year is the lack of consistency from punter Ken Walter. In the Super Bowl season, it seemed that just about every one of his kicks was landing inside the opponent’s twenty-yard line. Apparently, Bill Belichick is worried enough about the punting game to bring in third-year veteran Daniel Pope to compete with Walter for the job in camp.
XXVI. I know I’ll be accused of being a homer on this one but...Why isn’t current Patriots radio announcer Gino Cappelletti in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? He was the AFL’s all-time scoring leader and was the heart and soul of the Patriots franchise for its first ten years. He would make an excellent Veterans Committee selection some year.
XXVII. I’m still trying to understand the logic of the Chiefs drafting Penn State running back Larry Johnson with their first round pick in the April draft. The Chiefs defense ranked dead last a year ago and they have a supposedly healthy, young stud of a running back in Priest Holmes. Holmes had 1615 yards rushing and 672 yards receiving even while missing two games. Holmes hip injury has to be worse than the Chiefs are letting on.
XXVIII. While I’m on the topic of taking running backs in the first round, are you still as shocked as I am that the Bills took the bait and grabbed Willis McGahee with the 23rd pick in the draft? Already, everyone involved is backing off the outrageous expectations projected by his agent and others before the draft. I have never seen such a snow job as the one that McGahee’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, pulled off in the days before the draft. The Bills have improved a great deal this offseason but imagine how much more feared they would be with a new defensive lineman or linebacker.
XXIX. If there is one player in the League that I have to watch, it’s Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in a landslide. He has the potential to be an all-time great given his stunning athletic skills. The only other player in recent memory that evoked that much excitement and “must-see” desire was Lions running back Barry Sanders.
XXX. Recently, the Chicago Bears announced that they will be “presented by Capital One.” This got me to thinking about other potential sponsorship opportunities around the League. Given their propensity for screwing up on the phones during the last two drafts, the Vikings must, absolutely must, be sponsored by Verizon call-waiting.
XXXI. In my never ending quest to provide the lovely and talented Mrs. Rousseau with the very best in husbandry services, I have discovered that tickets and travel packages for the Pro Bowl in Hawaii are very easy to come by. Not a bad idea for a February vacation, eh?
XXXII. Who will be the most improved team this year? A tie between the Bills for their improved defense and the Bengals for their new attitude.
XXXIII. If I was drafting a fantasy football team my top running back would be the Rams Marshall Faulk. His ability to act as a wide receiver on top of his running game make him THE guy in fantasy football for at least one more year. As a sidenote, he is seventh on the all-time touchdown list and could easily leap all the way into fourth place by end of the year with twelve touchdowns. My top quarterback would be the Colts’ Peyton Manning solely because of my top receiver Marvin Harrison. The Colts problem apparently is their defense (or lack thereof).
XXXIV. Phew, hang in there, we’re almost there…….
XXXV. For those of you (and you know who you are out there) who thought that Mrs. Rousseau’s bye week guest spot was last year’s runaway column of the year, you can rejoice. Our agents have worked out an agreement for her to again write the ever-popular column that pulls no punches on what it is like to live with me. She wishes to leave a sample for all of you to enjoy until the bye week in November: “Having a weekly Maine newspaper agree to pick up your column must give you all the ammunition you need to call a carpenter for a larger door frame in order to fit your big, fat head into the house.”
XXXVI. Here are my pre-season predictions for the playoffs. They are almost as credible as a Mel Kiper mock draft. AFC East-Patriots. AFC North-Steelers. AFC South-Colts (by default). AFC West-Chargers. AFC wild card teams-Bills and the Raiders. NFC East-Eagles. NFC North-Packers (again, by default). NFC South-Buccaneers. NFC West-Rams. NFC wild card teams-Falcons and the Redskins.
XXXVII. I’m thinking of naming my weekly column “The Gridiron Press.” If you have a better idea, I’m all ears.
XXXVIII. If you’ve made it this far, you either should make an appointment with a professional or for some reason you must find this stuff just as interesting as I do. I would enjoy hearing from you. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org