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Very early Super Bowl predicition

By By Rob Sigler
July 25, 2001
Where has the summer gone?
It's seems impossible that we're already talking about football season, but it is here.
While the high schools won't don the pads and helmets until Aug. 6th, the guys who get paid to play (the NFL, not SMU) have already begun to open up training camps around the country.
As we gaze into the crystal ball, let's take a look at what could be expected this year in the professional ranks.
First of all, you have to start with the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Despite having one of the most ineffective starting quarterbacks in the league a year ago, the Ravens and their stout defense captured the coveted Lombardi Trophy.
In order to successfully defend their title, Baltimore decided to make a change under center and released Trent Dilfer in favor of Elvis Grbac. Dilfer, who probably played the game of his life in the final NFL contest of 2000 season, is still without a team.
While they have obviously upgraded their offense with Grbac, the defense remains relatively unchanged with most of their starters returning.
But making a Super Bowl repeat is a different story, just ask the St. Louis Rams, the 1999 champs hailed as the next dynasty that failed to get back to the big game, due mainly because of free agency that depleted their defense and the injury to star quarterback Kurt Warner.
Baltimore will get some pretty stiff competition from within their own division, Tennessee and Indianapolis in particular.
As far as the rest of the AFC is concerned, Oakland has legitimate expectations of making it to New Orleans for Super Bowl XXX-whatever. The Raiders made it to the AFC title game a year ago and only a Super Bowl berth is acceptable from owner Al Davis.
The rest of the AFC is a mixed bag of wanna-bes, has-beens and never-was.
Denver and Jacksonville have several question marks that must be answered, especially with players returning from injuries.
Over in the NFC, a lot of people are saying it's the Tampa Bay Bucs turn, but I don't believe they quite have the defense.
The team to beat appears to be the N.Y. Giants once again. They may have looked poorly in the last year's Super Bowl, but this team is much than they displayed that Sunday.
They have one of the most potent 1-2 running games in the league with Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne and have an adequate passing game, but their defense, like the Ravens, has remained together.
Teams to give the Giants a run for their money include Minnesota, which would be a Super Bowl favorite if not for their questionable rushing attack with the surprise retirement of Robert Smith.
St. Louis is also a contender to represent the NFC, and dare I say, the New Orleans Saints playing at home for the championship.
No kidding folks, this team has developed quickly into a title contender and could advance very far into the playoffs this season.
Now whether any of this materializes is another matter. This is pure speculation, but look for the Ravens and Giants to once again battle for the prize trophy in the Crescent City.
Wow, it's football season. Can you believe it?
Rob Sigler is sports editor at the Meridian Star. E-mail him at rsigler@themeridianstar.com or call 693-1551 ext. 3235.

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