Share this article

print logo


Snow on the roof, Halloween Friday, standard time next weekend. We must be halfway through the NFL season. An audit is in order.

A cautionary note: What happens in the first 50 percent of the NFL season is not necessarily put through the copy machine in the second half. Remember the Redskins' Syndrome: Washington was 7-1 at the turn in 1996, 2-6 and a non-playoff team in the last half of the season.

Bills' best moment: Completing a comeback after falling behind, 26-0, to Indianapolis here Sept. 21.

Worst moment: Billy Joe.

Bills' most crucial drive: Last Monday night in Indy, after Todd Collins threw a couple of low-rent incompletions despite Quinn Early twice working his way open in the Colt end zone. Steve Christie then missed the field goal.

His teammates might have suffered a confidence crisis with Collins if Buffalo had lost. Instead, he led a six-minute drive up the field, making several big plays, as the Bills won on Christie's last-play field goal.

It made the difference between hand-wringing and chins held high going into the remainder of the season.

Bills' most valuable player: Ted Washington.

Cheeriest development: The molding of Collins into a competent NFL starting quarterback. No, he isn't the second coming of Jim Kelly, but we may never see the likes of Kelly again. Surround him with competent talent, however, and Buffalo can win with Collins.

NFL'S MVP: Terrell Davis, the Broncos' running back we'll see today in Rich Stadium. How could this man last until the sixth round of the 1995 draft? Well, for one thing he played behind Garrison Hearst at Georgia. The Bulldogs also had Eric Zeier at quarterback, Andre Hastings at wide receiver, John Kasay at kicker and a whole bunch of other talent. They still didn't win the Southeastern Conference championship. No wonder the coach, Ray Goff, got fired.

Biggest surprise: The Tampa Bay Bucs. They have already won five games. In 10 of the last 15 years they didn't win more than five games in a season.

Biggest disappointment: Carolina. The fastest rise and fall since actor David Caruso walked out on "NYPD Blue."

Best coaching job (AFC): This hurts to admit, but it's the Tuna, Bill Parcells, with the Jets, followed closely by Jimmy Johnson with Miami.

Best coaching job (NFC): Tony Dungy, Tampa Bay. Honorable mentions to Jim Fassel of the Giants and Dennis Green of Minnesota.

Worst coaching job (AFC): Mr. Information Overload, Lindy Infante of Indianapolis. Granted, the Colts have had holdout and injury problems. But how can you saddle Jim Harbaugh, an 11-year NFL quarterback, with a wristband full of plays that extends halfway to his elbow?

The word is that Infante's list also includes instructions on how to hook up your VCR, his mom's recipe for pasta e fagiole and Billy Joe Hobert's lost homework assignments. And they wonder why the Colts can't run a play before time expires.

Worst coaching job (NFC): Bright coordinators don't always turn into good head coaches. Dave Wannstedt of the Bears is a graphic example. Teams with coaching vacancies fell all over him after his Dallas defense helped win the Super Bowl. Yet even his specialty has suffered in Chicago, where the defensive yield goes up alarmingly every year.

Best free agent signing: Elvis Grbac, by Kansas City. They laughed when the Chiefs signed another ex-49er quarterback, but while Grbac hasn't been great he is what KC needed.

Semi-last laugh: Bills' expatriate Glenn Parker found a new home at right tackle for the Chiefs and no one calls the talk shows in KC to whack him with a figurative 2x4.

Worst trade: Chicago traded its first-round draft choice to Seattle for quarterback Rick Mirer, who flopped from the minute he stepped foot into the Bears' complex. The Seahawks, meanwhile, bartered the Chicago pick and another to Tampa Bay to move into the sixth position in the first round. They used it to draft Florida State offensive tackle Walter Jones, who looks as if he will flourish for the next decade.

Dumbest transition: Moving the Oilers from Houston to Memphis on a temporary basis while a new stadium is being completed in Nashville. Owner Bud Adams paid a hefty exit fee to leave Houston early. Memphis didn't want the Oilers and resents being used as a storage locker. Now Adams is despised in two cities.

The Oilers' biggest crowd of the season was drawn to the Liberty Bowl to watch them beat Washington. But in two of the four games played in Memphis, the Oilers failed to draw enough fans, about 28,000, to generate enough revenue to pay the visiting team's share of the gate, $542,000.

AFC's top stars: Offense, Davis; Defense, Carnell Lake, Steelers' safety-cornerback.

NFC's top stars: Offense, Barry Sanders, Detroit running back; Defense, Aeneas Williams, Arizona cornerback.

AFC's best rookies: Offense, Bills running back Antowain Smith; Defense, Jets linebacker James Farrior.

NFC's best rookies: Offense, Tampa Bay running back Warrick Dunn; Defense, Dallas linebacker Dexter Coakley.

Best position switch: Washington moving ex-Bill Marvcus Patton from outside to inside linebacker, where he leads a revamped defense.

Emerging star: Donnie Edwards, Kansas City linebacker, a junior Derrick Thomas.

Reverting to form: Cincinnati is back where it started last year when David Shula was fired.

Much ado about nothing: The return to coaching of Mike Ditka in New Orleans and Dick Vermeil in St. Louis.

(Last week's rank in parentheses. NR: Not ranked)
1. San Francisco . . . Just eating up candy bars (2)

2. Denver . . . Couldn't stop Raider runs (1)

3. Green Bay . . . Big test vs. Pats (5)

4. New England . . . Choked on Tuna (3)

5. Kansas City . . . Serious schedule after Rams (7)

6. Minnesota . . . Bucs a big hurdle (6)

7. Tampa Bay . . . Sweep Minny, regain stride (8)

8. Pittsburgh . . . Now we find out about Kordell (9)

9. Jacksonville . . . Stumbled on wounded Cowboys (4)

10. Miami . . . Keeps shaking off injuries (NR).