Baseball Hall of Fame Committee Needs a Clue
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@ByName:By Mike Duffy
and Andrew Heitner
@Body:A hearty Let’s Argue welcome back to all of our faithful readers. With all of those football games on and the start of Big Monday, Super Tuesday, etc., we hope you were able to find time to do something constructive this past IAP. Before we dive into our Super Bowl preview, we must address some other sports topics. ...
Although it was a senseless act of violence, the manner in which the Nancy Kerrigan case was handled was a little extraordinary - to say the least. Assigning the FBI and a special unit from the Detroit Metro Police to investigate the goings-on of a woman getting whacked on the leg with a rod is a bit ridiculous. The Motor City is not known as the safest city in the hemisphere, so it’s not like Detroit’s finest had time to spare. Likewise, the Feds should have something better to do than to track down Nancy’s attacker (she wasn’t even left in the hospital overnight, by the way). As soon as other crimes are solved in such a swift manner, then can our tax dollars go to solving such relatively trivial cases. Unless, of course, the FBI wants to investigate and solve the mystery of why our damn furnace won’t work for more than two hours in a row. ...
By the way, how is it possible that a gorilla of a man like Shane Stant can hit a 24 year-old woman in the knee with a solid metal rod and cause damage only so minor that Nancy could be not only ice skating within a week, but skating at a Olympic caliber level within two weeks? And how could any group of thugs not looking to get caught, leave a paper trail longer than the line to get a LaVerde’s sub at noon at every place that Kerrigan was at for two weeks prior to the attack? As juicy as the Hard Copy episodes and USA “Up All Night” movies for this escapade are going to be, wouldn’t it be even more outrageous if this entire scheme was actually masterminded by someone in Kerrigan’s entourage as a publicity stunt for the Stoneham Biscuit?
It’s time for the Baseball Hall of Fame committee to wake up and get a clue. Players should be on the Hall of Fame ballot for 3 years, max. This practice of allowing players to remain on the ballot for 15 years is ridiculous. When a player is brought up in conversation, there should be no debate over whether he belongs in the Hall; he’s either a Hall of Famer or he’s not, case closed (this is a sensitive issue here at Let’s Argue as the great-great uncle of one of your humble scribes is enshrined at Cooperstown). Why should a player be able to put on a media blitz in the last few years of his eligibility (see Orlando Cepeda and Ron Santo) in order to woo some more votes from the Baseball writers? If he did not get into the Hall during year three of his eligibility, what the hell has he done that makes him a shoo-in during year fifteen? Nothing, save some serious butt-kissing. Three years of eligibility is enough and should be used for the following reasons: First, only the truly exceptional deserve to be voted in during their first year of eligibility (Aaron, Ruth, Cobb, ROSE). Secondly, voters won’t put more than five players into the Hall during any one year. Therefore, on the off chance that someone wasn’t voted in because he was in the same class as 5 other Hall of Famers, he would have the opportunity to get voted in the next year. Therefore, a player should get 3 chances to make it to Cooperstown before he is removed from the ballot. This would also spare everyone the charade of seeing Phil Neikro, Bake McBride, and Dave Kingman’s name in the news each year, instead of fading into trivia question anonymity, where they belong. Besides, isn’t it three-strikes-and-you’re-out at the old ball game?
We take this time to give a hearty Let’s Argue “Two Thumbs Up” to ESPN’s Prime Time highlight show, an hour-long wrap up and comedy extravaganza for the pro football junkie, sandwiched in between the end of the 4 p.m. game and the start of the Sunday night 8 p.m. contest. The best part of the show is that the crew — Chris “Boomer” Berman, Tom Jackson, Joe Theisman, and Robin Roberts — shows all the relevant plays in a game; for instance, the 12-yard run on third and five and the 18-yard pass play that really set up a score, not just the “highlight” of the fullback lunging over from the one. The analyses are also superior to what is usually found on one of the shows on the networks. Jackson and Theisman are straight forward and accurate with criticisms and salute offensive linemen who played well for a losing team, quarterbacks for winning teams, etc. A telltale example of the greatness of the show came during the last week of the season, when several playoff spots were still up for grabs. When the Raiders-Broncos game went into overtime, cutting into the first half of Prime Time, the crew let Robin describe all the meaningless games (as is always the case), and saved the important games for Berman to do during the second half of the show when people were actually watching. And of course, the show has Chris Berman as Chris Berman: Vince Workman “My Way Back to You Babe” and Chris “HiDe HiDe HiDe Ho” Calloway. ...
The NFL must be as happy as the NBA is that a strong rookie crop played well this year, ensuring the league of having stars of the future. Aside from the well-publicized Irish backfield of Rick “No Time To Wallow in the” Mirer, Jerome Bettis, and Reggie Brooks, Drew Bledsoe and several running backs stood out: Natrone “Refried” Means (SD), Ron “For a Few Dollars” Moore (Phoenix), Eric Peagram (Atlanta), Terry Kirby (Miami), and two ‘Sotans, Scottie Graham and Robert Smith. Bledsoe has the best tools, and is going to be the best QB in the NFL in 3 to 4 years — his experience coupled with the retirement of some of the greats.
For the runners, look for Smith, if he stays healthy and gets the PT, and Moore to have great careers. Receiver/returner OJ McDuffie stood out this year, while the Saints’ Willie Roaf was the best rookie offensive lineman. Of course, Dana Stubblefield was an excellent choice for defensive rookie of the year. ...
Why did the Giants look so flat against the Niners and the Raiders run out of gas in the second half versus Buffalo? It is a result of bonehead scheduling by the Lords of the Gridiron. Both the Giants and the Raiders had to play with only six days of rest, while their opponents each had 13. LA had to play the late game on the West coast, then travel across the country (losing 3 hours) and play the early Saturday game against the Bills, while the Giants also had to cross the continent and play a day early after beating the Vikings, who had nine days off prior to the game in the Meadowlands. Of course this is supposed to be the advantage of winning the division, instead of a wild card, but the advantage is too great, especially in light of the fact that both KC and Green Bay, who played on the first Saturday, could easily have played on the second Saturday, instead of getting eight days’ rest. Also, the Giants had a better record than the ‘Niners, but didn’t have the luxury of playing in a division in which the next best team was 8-8. Yet, as is always the case, when the television execs bark, the NFL listens.
The current power struggle between the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and the university presidents goes far beyond Prop 42 (in which the NCAA would have restored a 14th scholarship to be used by Division I schools) and it certainly isn’t a racial issue. For years, the presidents have dictated the rules by which the NABC must adhere to — rules made without input from coaches. The failure of Proposition 42 to pass simply brought the pot to boil. A walkout by NABC or BCA (Black Coaches Association) members would be a strong message to University Presidents, implying that enough is enough and that its time to incorporate coaches into the decision making process. The following lists some of the critical issues that led to the current situation:
1.] Prop 42. In Division 1-A football, teams are alloted 85 scholarships. With 22 position players per team needed (players can double up for special teams duties) , this translates to a 3.9 ratio, compared to 2.6 for basketball. It is not as if football produces 150 percent more revenue for the university (as their administration and travel costs tower over those of basketball programs - in which $250,000 is the average basketball budget at D-1 schools). In fact, most basketball programs contribute more to the bottom line than football does. Additionally, for a basketball team to practice full tilt, ten players are needed (for 5 on 5). If a player is hurt, needs a sub, or misses practice because of a class, the coach currently has only 3 subs to choose a replacement from. Contrast this to football where the coach has 63 players shooting the breeze on the sideline.
2.] Changing the date practice can start from Oct. 15 to Nov. 1. This caused a lot of injuries to players unprepared for the rigors of the season. Coaches, rushed to familiarize players with all of the offensive and defensive sets, were not able to properly condition their players, leading to a rash of injuries — injuries that should not have occurred. This starting date was changed so that student-athletes could concentrate on school. What about Division I-A football? They start practice in the spring. Correct us if we are wrong, but the first college football game of the year is at the end of August.
3.] Players getting paid. This is a sensitive issue throughout the NCAA, not just with the NABC. Some of the rules governing the players are insane (for example, a coach is barred from giving a player a ride home from the gym). The subject of players getting paid, however, is analogous to students receiving stipends for research work performed at a university. At MIT, a graduate student works on a project for a professor and receives compensation in the form of free tuition and a monthly stipend in the range of $1200. In return, the grad student is expected to put in 20-30 hours a week of work on the project. These projects bring in bring in monies and additional projects to the ‘Tute, money upwards of 100K or so.
A basketball player at a D-1 school gets tuition and room and board covered, but no extra money for spending. Yet he brings in millions of dollars to the university (besides shoe contracts, television contracts, and tournament revenue, think of how many replica jerseys of players the colleges sell - like Webber’s #4 at Michigan) and spends 20-30 hours a week “working.” Additionally, he is not permitted to hold a job during the school year or receive any other form of financial aid (i.e., outside scholarships). Think of undergrad students who have full financial aid packages yet also (a) hold part-time jobs in order to have some extra flow (cash) or (b) receive $1,000 awards from various societies for papers written, research done, or being the son/daughter of an employee (money which is generally pocketed). This is all illegal activity for D-1 and II players. If you take this away from athletes, then take it away from all full ride scholarship recipients (Merit scholars included). Lastly, think of all the free marketing and advertising athletic teams provide to their respective universities every time they are on the tube. When Doug Flutie reigned supreme out at the Heights, Boston College received over twice as many undergraduate applications for admission than in the pre-Flutie era.
Coincidence? Likely not.
4.] Gender equity. While it is agreed that women should have equal opportunity to participate in athletics, some measures undertaken in an attempt to achieve this have been unfair. The most obvious is evident in the case of a lawsuit filed by the USC women’s basketball coach, Marianne Stanley. Stanley sought equal pay as George Raveling, the men’s coach. She argued that since both performed the same “job,” so both should be paid the same. What she failed to recognize, however, was that the men’s team brought in millions of dollars in revenue to USC and partially funded not only women’s basketball, but additional sports as well.
To draw upon a real world example, do you find it fair that you receive the same salary as a co-worker because you (1) have the same job title and (2) are of opposite sex, even though you bring in projects with revenue covering half of your department’s operating budget, compared to less than 5 percent by your co-worker. Additionally, tools needed by you to effectively do your job are eliminated in order to supplement the activities of other co-workers (e.g., Prop 42 and the elimination of an assistant coach for Men’s teams in order to free up some dough for other sports), co-workers who never bring in enough revenue to cover their expenses. You, the worker, would find this unfair. So, while gender equity is a major issue in all of college athletics, the current means being used to solve this problem are wrong.
Using the above-mentioned as a springboard, we recommend to the NCAA that it split itself up into separate governing bodies: one for college football, one for college basketball, and one each for the remainder of Division I, II, and III athletics. This way the governing body can spend its time addressing the appropriate needs of its members.
The Big East Conference as we know it today is in serious trouble. Formed as a basketball-only conference in order to cash in on the media markets of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, the league is receiving serious ultimatums from its football only members. Temple, West Virginia, and Rutgers want in on the basketball side of operations as well. In the past, they have been continually told “no.” Now, however, they are threatening to move out of the conference and form their own all sports league (similar to the Big 10 or ACC).
If these schools bail, BC, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Miami would all follow, leaving Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, UConn, Villanova, and Providence hung out to dry (teams which provided the backbone for the conference in the early years). To complicate matters further, Rutgers is being mentioned as a possible 12th member of the Big 10, as the Big 10 would love to crack the New York media market (which Big East officials fear) and Penn State would like an Eastern partner. Therefore, unless something happens soon, G’Town, Hall, and the like will be replacing Temple, WVU, and Rutgers in the Atlantic 10.
The best thing about CBS losing the NFL: no more Terry Bradshaw. The worst thing about Fox getting the NFL: the acquisition of Terry Bradshaw. That cornpone ought to go back to his spokesmodel days for Hair Club for Men...
@BodySub:Where Are They Now?
@Body:Former Big 10 hoopsters: Roy Marble, Ed Horton, Lowell Hamilton, Sean Higgins, Todd Mitchell, Carter Scott, Doug Altenberger, Kelvin Ransey, Steve Bardo, Todd Penn, Keith Smart, and Brad Sellers.
@BodySub:Menudo’s Final College Football Top 5
@Body:1. Notre Dame
2. Florida State
Although your humble scribes care for Notre Dame less than the ’Tute cares about plowing the bridge following a snowstorm, we have to admit that Lou Holtz and his “golden boys” officially got the shaft — no elevator included — by the football pollsters. If two teams have the same record, the first and most obvious tie breaker should be the head-to-head (i.e., Geromio) record, just like the NFL. If only A&M’s hook and lateral play had worked, however.
Following this year’s national championship debate, Menudo offers the following suggestion in order to clear up the confusion: the AP football poll should not come out until the fifth week of the season. This will give sportswriters a better sense of who is for real (see Nebraska and Wisconsin) and which teams are jokes (see Syracuse and Georgia). It will also help to eliminate “voter bias.” This bias is from sportswriters voting for the teams they picked in their pre-season publications (which go to press way back in May) and sticking with them all year, win or lose, in order to “look good” so that more publications can be sold next year (how else can you explain a non-ranked team beating a Top 10 team in week one of the season yet, in week two, still not being ranked while the 0-1 team slips to 16th in the polls). Also, the problem with leap-frogging won’t be as pronounced. Some teams don’t get ranked as highly at the end of the season as they deserve (see West Virginia), because they were either unranked at the start of the season (therefore had to spend all season moving up the polls) or not ranked that highly.
In college basketball, the AP poll means squat because the tournament selection committee uses the RPI (power index) in order to both select and seed the teams invited to the Big Dance. Therefore, the national championship is decided on the court, not “on the throne” at the sports departments of major newspapers. In football, however, voters decide the matchups for most of the major bowls. Therefore, one sportswriter from Butte could determine whether or not FSU plays Nebraska in the Orange Bowl (the final two minutes were the best in college Bowl history, by the way) with the stroke of his pen. Otherwise, the Bowl coalition should use computer power ranking’s (based on strength of schedule, opponents’ strength of schedule, victory margin, etc.) in order to determine bowl matchups. This will also help to eliminate the traditional cup cake non-conference schedules some schools play.
@BodySub:Let’s Argue Fan Final Top 5
@Body:This final top 5 comes from the power ratings of the computer-like mind of Steve Hao ’92:
1. Northern Illinois University
2. Waubonsee Community College
3. Aurora University
4. Illinois Benedictine College
5. Illinois Institute of Technology
Steve adds: “NIU is in Dekalb, Ill. — Cindy Crawford’s home town. Aurora Univeristy is, of course, in Aurora, Ill., my home town and the setting for Wayne’s world. IIT is a cheap imitation of MIT in downtown Chi-town. WCC and IBC - do they have sports teams? Who knows or really cares.”
@BodySub:Simson’s Top Four
4. North Carolina
@BodySub:Race For Futility
@Body:Marty Schottenheimer: 0-3 in AFC Conference Championships
Buffalo Bills: 0-3 in Super Bowls
Schottenheimer should not feel so bad, considering that the last coach to go 0-3 in AFC Conference Championships won the Super Bowl the next year and, this week, signed a $30 million contract with the Simpson Network. The Bills’ Super Bowl win total equals the number of times Lambda Chi Alpha and GAMIT have had mixers .How wrong we were in predicting that the Mavs would surpass the ’Boys in wins this year, as the ’Boys have won more games this month (3) than the Mavs have this season.
@BodySub:You Heard It Here First
@Body:Oilers’ defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan is headed to Portland, Ore., to hire Eckhart, Stant, and Gilooly to club Kevin Gilbright, once the three goons get out of jail.
@BodySub:Mondongo’s hueso de la semana:
@Body:To Kansas City running back Kimble Anders for trying to catch a Joe Montana pass with his shoulder pads at the end of the first half of the Chiefs-Bills game. The pass would have gone for a touchdown, leaving KC down by only 7 going into the locker room, with the Chiefs receiving the ball to start the third quarter. Instead, safety Henry Jones snatched up the free ball for an interception about as quickly as your humble scribes will be downing the free booze at The Tech banquet tomorrow night, securing the victory for the Beautiful Losers.
@BodySub:Trivia Question of the Week
@Body:In what Super Bowl did the “I’m going to Disney World” commercial first appear in and who said it? Send answers, comments, and predictions to sports<\@>the-tech.
Answer to last week’s question: Houston (Bluebonnet), Pontiac, Mich., (Cherry), and Orlando (Tangerine). Kudos to Neal Rappaport G who got it right. He wins a free set of Lorena Bobbitt autographed steak knives. We understand they are great for slicing meat, sausage, and even bananas.
@BodySub:Sir Vix Picks
@Body:’Boys 28, Bills 20: An easy call when you look at the streaks: No team has ever come back from losing three Superlative Bowls in a row to win one. No team from a city that rhymes with “Muffalo” has ever won a Super Bowl. No team with Leon Lett has ever lost a Super Bowl. No team has ever lost a Super Bowl rematch, etc.
Bud 21, Bud Light 12: With all the fuss about the first ever Super Bowl rematch, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these two squads have faced each other in each of the last 6 Bud Bowls. The Sam Adams Winterlagers are much better than either of these two, but just don’t have the size to compete. Bud Light is coming off a tough championship game versus Poland Springs, mainly because it was so difficult to tell the teams apart. With the highly effective Boston area boycott of Bud now over due to the sale of the Pats, the King of Beers should come out on top. Long live the King.
@BodySub:Rumblings from around the ’Tute
@Body:While in town for training with Sun microsystems for Martin Marietta (the world’s largest aerospace firm), Jim O’Bryan (not the former kicker for the Colts), Bob Adkins, and Dan McClure (no relation to Bob, former pitcher for the Brewers) from Possum Trot, Ky., left us this gem: “If the season had lasted 4 weeks longer, the Bengals would have made it to the Super Bowl. By the way, everyone back in Possum Trot and Monkey’s Eyebrow, Ky., always go with The Picks.”
This prediction and newsflash just in from Steve Hao ’92, med student in the City of Brotherly Cheesesteaks: “You heard it here first: the Penn Quakers will be Ivy League champs in both football and basketball this year. In other news, upon annoucement of our new university president nominee, Judith Rodin, fifteen women streaked through the Quad (it was actually a second annual streak, but the timing of their exposure was too amusing to pass up). On the front page of the Daily Pennsylvanian one sees a huge picture of Judith Rodin with the caption “Madame President” and underneath her you see eight bare rumps with the caption, “Bold, cold women hit the Quad.” One male spectator was quoted as saying, “They’ve got bigger balls than I do.”
From spunky Mike Miller ’95: “Since you guys put Earl Morrall in the ‘Where Are They Now’ section in the last issue, I thought I’d tell you. He goes to my church right outside of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and owns a driving range down there as well.”
@BodySub:Super Bowl XXVIII Preview
@Body:The Bills must be the favorite team of Bob Seger, because they can best be described as Beautiful Losers. Three times they have tried in the Super Bowl, and three times they have failed. It is hard to figure that they will do anything differently this time around. On the one hand, they have been dominant in the AFC for the last 5 years, no small feat in the NFL due to the difficult schedule and low draft picks for division winners. On the other, they have been soundly trounced by far better opposition in the Super Bowls (except for the Giants who dominated them with superior ball control). How can this be the case?
On the good side, an immeasurable amount of credit must be given to Marv Levy, who has not only been a superior tactition, but has also managed to keep his teem focused and motivated for 5 years at times when it would have been easy for the team to quit. Credit must also be given to former GM Bill Polan for turning around a sorry franchise that played in a stadium rivaling only Foxboro in shabbiness and for amassing such a wealth of talent (Kelly, Thomas, Smith, Bennett, etc.) and keeping them happy. During a time when top draft picks wouldn’t play for Tampa Bay, the Bills management turned their number ones into All-Pros, with their players having to live in Buffalo to boot.
On the down side, however, it can be argued that: 1) the AFC as a whole is not as good as the NFC, especially in post-season games in which mistakes are costly, players are banged up, and the NFC style ground game dominates and 2) the Bills have been been able to use a significant home-field advantage to reach the Super Bowl when there may have been better teams in the AFC. In three of the last four years, the Bills have gotten home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by feasting on a steady diet of Dolts, Jets, and Pats. They may not have gotten to all four Super Bowls if the Bills had to travel outside the friendly and frigid confines of Rich Stadium.
The ’Boys, on the other hand, have clearly been the best team in the league for the last two years. Credit here is also due the coach, Jimmy Johnson, and the front office, notably Jerry Jones. Both showed cajones grandes in taking the team away from legendary Tom Landry and Tex Schramm, getting rid of the Herschel Factor, and dropping 15 of 16 in 1989. They, of course, followed the right track by cashing in their chips and trading a single 1-15 season, followed by two Super Bowls, for 5 seasons of 8-8 mediocrity. Their talent pool is hard to match, particularly on the offensive line, which makes Troy Aikman’s job pretty easy, and they are playing with unchecked, but well-earned confidence.
Having only one week off between the conference championship and the Super Bowl should help keep Buffalo in it. The ’Pokes will win convincingly, but a late score led by Frank “Decline and Fall of the Third” Reich will bring the Bills within the spread.
Dallas on Offense
@Body:The better half of the Dallas team is its extremely talented offense. The ’Boys are strong in every facet of offense, led by the offensive line. Dallas finished the season 4th in the league in total offense, second to the Giants in rushing and 7th in passing. They are sending seven out of 11 starters, including the entire backfield, to Honolulu in two weeks as Pro Bowl selections, and probably could have had one or two more as well.
The offensive line is the anchor, allowing Troy “Boy” Aikman enough time to do a 6.233 problem set before he throws the ball and creating gaps for Emmitt to poke through. Nate Newton, who plays the part of jolly fat man better than anyone with the possible exception of his biggest fan, John Madden, and tackle Erik Williams are going to the Pro Bowl. More importantly, Newton has also made the All-Madden team for the 5th time. Kevin Gogan and John Gesek could also have made it, and they lead a crew rounded out by the supurb Mark Tuinei. Coach Jimmy Johnson will likely line Williams up against Bruce Smith, a matchup that may determine the outcome of the game.
The backfield consists of Aikman, Smith, and Daryl “Moose” Johnston. Johnston is going to the Pro Bowl as a fullback, despite rushing for only 74 yards for the season, a testament to his blocking and receiving (his 50 catches were third on the team) and the team’s ability to feature Emmitt Smith play after play. When Smith is not in, bruiser Lincoln Coleman can step in adequately, and although rookie Derrick Lassic has good skills, he lacks sufficient pro experience.
Aikman was the second highest rated quarterback this season at 99.0, while racking up some amazing numbers like completing 69.1% of his passes and throwing six interceptions all season, including the one that ended the regular season game versus Buffalo. (By comparison, Drew Bledsoe had five in a single game against the Steelers in Week 13). Troy is not flashy, but is a perfect compliment to the offense by making good decisions when passing and by getting out of Smith’s way after he hands it off. He is not irreplacable, though. Because Dallas is so strong all over, they can still win this game if the legendary Bernie Kosar has to come off the bench.
The crew that catches Aikman’s passes is also pretty good. The wide outs are led by Michael Irvin, who is almost as good as he thinks he is, and is headed to the Five-0 as well. He led the team with 88 catches for 1330 yards and 7 TD receptions, and is a threat both deep and short. Although not as acrobatic as some NFL receivers, Irvin has great hands (much like Sir Vix) and great concentration. On the other side, Alvin Harper is primarily a deep threat, averaging 21.6 yards a catch; he likes to catch the quick slant and take it for a long gain, as seen in the last two NFC Championship games. Tight end Jay Novacek had a down year compared to previous years, especially 1992, catching only 44 balls for 445 yards and only 1 TD. Although criticized by Todd Christenson this year, Novacek remained the best tight end in the NFC mainly because no one else stepped up to claim the title, and he was rewarded with a trip to the Aloha State.
Despite the other facets of the offense, it is clear that Emmitt Smith is the key to the entire Dallas team. He was a clear choice for the NFL MVP. Dallas has lost 4 games all season, and in none of them did Emmitt play all four quarters. He led the league with 1486 rushing yards, despite sitting out the first two games versus Washington and Buffalo. More importantly, his 5.3 yards/carry average allows the Cowboys to run him on first down and leave the defense vulnerable with 2nd and short situations. He showed his toughness by playing in extreme pain against the Giants and Packers. If Emmitt has to go out due to his shoulder injury, the Bills could capitalize.
Dallas will look to maintain the same offensive scheme that got them to The Dance, and which will make Norv Turner rich next year. They will try to feature Emmitt Smith as a primary means for steamrolling over Buffalo. Buffalo’s only chance will be to stop the Boys up front, at the line of scrimmage where the Bills are strongest. If the Boys can block the D-line, though, Buffalo will have to try again next year. Regardless of the line play, it will be interesting to watch the matchup of the talented Dallas receivers going against the unheralded Buffalo secondary of Nate Odomes, Mark Kelso, Henry Jones (quietly gaining the title of “Most Underrated Player”), and Thomas Smith.
@BodySub:Buffalo on Defense
@Body:With the Bills offense using the no-huddle approach, the defensive players will be on the field for over half of the game (Buffalo’s average time of possession was 27:30 in the regular season). This could be a problem, especially if Emmitt’s shoulder is fine, as the Big Dallas Offensive line may be able to wear out the Bills front three, resulting in long sustained scoring drives for the Boys. With Nate Odomes giving away 4 inches to Michael Irvin, it is imperative that the D-line gets pressure on Aikman so that he is not able to spot up and throw the deep pass to number 88. This is an opportunistic defense (47 turnovers in the regular season, league-high), however, and, combined with Aikman’s penchant to force the ball, could come up with some of the big plays the Bills need to have a chance.
On the line, Buffalo has arguably the league’s most dominant player in Bruce Smith. Smith will need to put his father’s health in the back of his mind or use it as motivation as he needs to come up with a big game. Despite being constantly double-teamed, Bruce was able to register 13 1/2 sacks this year, second in the league. While the attention has been focused on Smith, nosetackle Jeff Wright (5 1/2 sacks) and defensive end Phil Hansen (3 1/2) quietly had nice years. Their ability to get pressure on Aikman so that Troy has to hurry (and force) his passes and to contain Emmitt by forcing him inside so that the Bills excellent linebacking corps may tackle him will be keys to the game.
The Bills linebackers - All Pro Cornelius Bennett, Darryl Talley (career high 137 tackles), Marvcus Patton (12 tackles vs. the Raiders), and Mark Maddox (9 vs. Kansas City)—are very talented. Bennett and Talley are money players and will need to step up in Sunday’s game. As Dallas uses Emmitt and Novacek effectively in their short passing game, they will have their hands full. They will have to read the play action passes so that Novacek isn’t able to slip in between them and the Bills secondary for a 15 yard pickup (when the Bills play zone) or go for the big gainer (when the Bills are in man coverage). Their ability to tackle Emmitt on the first try will be a key, as Smith has the knack for bouncing off the initial would-be tackler and picking up 5 additional yards. Therefore, the Bills will have to use their body (i.e., square the shoulders) and not rely on arm-tackling to bring Emmitt down.
The secondary has all pro corner Nate Odomes and the steady Henry Jones at safety. Although the defense had 23 picks during the season, they do get burned, especially by crossing patterns over the middle (see Tim Brown in the Raiders game) and passes deep. If Kelso bites on the play action, falls for Aikman’s pump fakes, or is forced to help the linebackers in covering Novacek, watch for Irvin and Harper to go long.
@BodySub:When the Bills Have the Ball
Buffalo on Offense
@Body:The Bills run the no-huddle. Although it results in a lot of quick scoring drives, it also produces quick 3’s and out. They do, however, have the ability to run the ball and grind out the clock. The Bills finished 6th in the league in total O, so the ability to score a lot of points is there. They also do not turn the ball over very often and are not heavily penalized. If they can get some drives going (especially early) in order to give the defense a rest and do not have the drive killing holding penalties, Kelly will be able to have the big day needed in order to bring the trophy to the frozen shores of Lake Erie.
The backfield is superb, led by All World running back Thurman Thomas (led the AFC in yards from scrimmage for an NFL-record fifth straight time). Despite a ho-hum performance against the Raiders, Thomas was able to turn it up a notch and excel versus the Chiefs. His ability to run hard and keep the Boys’ defense off guard and guessing will set up Kelly and the passing game and is vital to the Bills success. Kenneth Davis needs to give the Bills an equal effort so there is no let down when he spells Thurman for a play or two.
Despite poor playoff performances in the past, QB Jim Kelly had a stellar playoffs this year. He is reading the coverages right, looking off receivers, and not forcing the ball in hopes of a big play. Additionally, unlike his Dallas counterpart, he comes into the game in top shape physically. His ability to distribute the ball among all receivers, Thomas, and Metzelaars in order to spread the Dallas defense and open up some big play opportunities will be a key to the game.
The receiving corps of Buffalo is also excellent. All Pro receiver Andre Reed, former BU standout Bill Brooks, Steve Tasker, and the underrated Pete Metzelaars are all playing well this year. Reed and Brooks have the ability to go deep, while Tasker is an excellent possession receiver. Metzelaars needs to find the open spots in the Dallas D and catch some passes early in order for Thomas to have a big day. Otherwise, Norton and Edwards will be able to contain Thomas and stop the flair passes to Thurman in the flat.
The offensive line is playing very well (no sacks versus KC) and is underappreciated. The two keys of the game from the line standpoint are: 1) How well All Pro tackle Howard Ballard can keep Maryland away from Kelly, and 2) The health of center Kent Hull. X-rays of his ankle were negative earlier in the week, but the ability for him to plant the foot on pass protection to keep Lett off of Kelly and drive forward in the running game in order to open some holes for Thomas are unknown.
@BodySub:Dallas on Defense
@Body:The Cowboys’ defense is not dominating or fearsome, like the Doomsday Defense of days gone by was. This is ok, however, because 1) they don’t have to be since the offense takes care of business and 2) they rely on speed, finesse, and the scheme of the departed (and now rich) Dave Wanstadt. In fact, the ‘Boys were only 10th in the league in total defense, 11th versus the run and 10th against the pass. They will need to come up big against Thermal Thomas, however, because if they give up 184 yards to him like KC did, they will likely loose like KC did.
Russel Maryland is the only Pro Bowl selection on a defensive line filled with stars. It is hard to believe Eugene Chung was picked after him in the first round. It is unknown how well he will be able to play coming off the ankle injury. Tony Tolbert and Jim Jeffcoat combined for 13 1/2 sacks, leading the corps that includes Charles Haley, a long-time great, Tony Casillas, and the infamous Leon Lett. This crew is known more for finesse than punishment.
Ken Norton is the only Pro Bowl selection among the linebackers, an amazing feat considering that it has been nearly 20 years since he broke Ali’s jaw and 15 years since he lost the heavyweight title to Larry Homes. He has played well despite a torn bicep muscle that has allowed him the use of only 1 arm. Dixon Edwards will be the next big defensive star for Dallas. Look for him to have a big game on Sunday and to possibly make All-Pro next year. Robert Jones and Darren Smith round out a solid but not flashy group.
The secondary is also solid, despite having perhaps the most boring names in the NFL in Smith (Kevin), Washington (James), and Brown (Larry, who splits time between Irving and Indiana). Safety Thomas Everett, of course is the most renowned of the group, is good against both the run and the pass, and became the 10th Cowboy to make the Pro-Bowl.
@Body:Life-long kicker Eddie “Eat, Drink, and Be” Murray is consistant from short range, hitting on 25/28 from under 50 yards for the season, but was never known for hitting the long ball, even though he connected on 3 out of 5 from 50+ this season for Dallas.
Steve “Lightning Strikes” Christie, on the other hand was known for his long range kicking, even though he hit on just 1 of 6 from 50+ this year. He was also the goat for millions of bettors in the second round game versus the Raiders, where he missed 2 extra points, thereby allowing LA to cover the spread by 1/2 a point.
The punters names are James Jett for Dallas and Chris Mohr (of Mohr’s circle fame) for Buffalo. No one cares about the rest. As long as they stay off the field on Sunday, no one will get hurt.
Other keys for the special teams: Kevin Williams has got to hang on to the ball on kick and punt returns. He cost the ‘Boys the regular season game against Atlanta with a muffed punt return, and has a propensity for fumbling. Steve Tasker is going to the Pro Bowl for Buffalo as a special teams guy; Dallas should avoid kicking the ball to him on one bounce at the 40 yard line, like the Raiders did.
@BodySub:Favorite Vegas Odds
@Body:First To Score a Touchdown
Eddie Murray: 150-1
Steve Christie: 200-1
Odds The The Final Score Will Be: