NFL begins new season, finds same results

Jeff Reynolds

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After their venerable field general guided them pas the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, the Denver Broncos must unload their hefty hardware and fuel up to face the challenges that come with etching SUPER BOWL CHAMPION into your resume`.AFC WEST

John Elway and the Broncos didn’t even win the AFC West last season (Kansas City), a task that doesn’t get any easier after this offseason.

The Chiefs added bulk to their already stellar defense, signing defensive end Leslie O’Neal who played for the St. Louis Rams last season and defensive tackle Chester McGlockton as free agents. Joined by Derrick Thomas and Dale Carter, Kansas City should repeat as division champs.

The Seattle Seahawks tie their laces and once again attempt to step out of the shadows of mediocrity that have consumed them for the last decade. The best omen for the Seahawks may be the return of 44-year-old Dave Krieg, who played for the Seahawks the last time they won 10 games in a season. Running back Ricky Watters continues to travel the globe in search of an NFL home. San Francisco was too classy, Philadelphia was too harsh but unfortunately Watters talent is consumed by his immense ego.

Brian Habib and all-pro Kevin Glover were added to the offensive line to protect the most valuable fossil known to man, Warren Moon and open holes for Watters.

Oakland will be improved from last season’s four-win debacle, but they will be forced to settle for the basement again, battling Ryan Leaf and the San Diego Chargers.

NFC West

The NFC West won’t stray far from tradition, once again parting the waters and giving clear passage to the 49ers. Jerry Rice returns with something to prove, a scary proposition for defenses around the league. The San Francisco defense will be reminiscent to those of the title years in the 80s, featuring Bryant Young, Ken Norton and a young but talented secondary.

The only competition for the 49ers within the division comes from the east coast and the Carolina Panthers. Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd are reunited at linebacker, and paired with Lamar Lathon should be an intimidating unit. As long as head coach Dom Capers sticks with Kerry Collins at quarterback, the Panthers will be stuck at 8-8.

St. Louis, New Orleans and Atlanta will provide an entertaining fight to the finish for the number-one selection in next year’s draft.

NFC East

Head coach Jim Fassel and the New York Giants will be without the services of defensive leader Jason Sehorn who was injured returning a kick in the second exhibition game of the season.

Sehorn led the divisions top defense last season along with Jesse Armstead. Danny Kanell, Tiki Barber and Charles Way hope to anchor the Giants backfield and hold off up-start Washington and Arizona.

The Redskins rusty offense badly needs refinement. Norv Turner is counting on the expensive additions of defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson, while Dallas and Philadelphia will need excessive overachieveing to compete.

NFC Central

Green Bay finally got Dorsey Levens into camp, making them the odds-on favorite to win the talent-rich Central. Brett Favre, Antonio Freeman and the entire cast of characters are back with a vengeance after last season’s dissapointing finale.

Reggie White and rookie Vonnie Holliday hope to corral the hopes of young Tampa Bay and the improved Minnesota Vikings hoping Brad Johnson can come back from last season’s neck injury and launch touchdown passes to the best receiving trio in the league.

AFC East

Running back Curtis Martin was reunited with Bill Parcells as a member of the New York Jets, pushing them past the New England Patriots as the favorite to take the East. The sooner veteran quarterback Vinnie Testaverde is inserted into the lineup for inexperienced starter Glen Foley, the better the Jets chances of outlasting Martin’s former club, the New England Patriots.

The Pats’ defense will be their strength, unless rookie running back Robert Edwards can fill the immense shoes of an NFL running back. Drew Bledsoe and his favorite target Ben Coates will keep them in contention, where a 10-6 record will win this division.

The Dolphins are stuck playing out the rest of Dan Marino’s career unless Jimmy Johnson can pull of a trade for a big-play receiver. Don’t look for big things from the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning or the Buffalo Bills this season the rebuilding has just begun.

AFC Central

You can never rule out the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have made the playoffs in each of Bill Cowher’s six seasons as head coach. Kordell Stewart lost his favorite target in Yancey Thigpen, who fled to division rival Tennessee. Jerome Bettis will have a hard time getting 10 passengers on his back, so Stewart will have to find a way to spread the load.

A healthy Mark Brunell behind a mammoth offensive line spell division title for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Natrone Means took his services to San Diego, but count on a healthy James Stewart and rookie Fred Taylor to platoon successfully in the Jaguar backfield.

The Oilers, Bengals and Baltimore Ravens aren’t quite ready to take the next step, but all of them are headed in the right direction.

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