St. Louis Rams will win it all
The National Football League season started Thursday night with the San Francisco 49ers taking on the New York Giants at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The 49ers are a legitimate contender to keep the St. Louis Rams from winning another NFC Championship and thus earning a third Super Bowl berth in the last four years.
The Giants are trying to bounce back from a sub-par season. By the way, the Giants cut Chadron State College (Neb.) offensive lineman Ryan Deterding, so the heck with them. My picks for the Super Bowl are the Rams and Steelers in a rematch of the big game of 1979-80.
The Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl in six years, but the Rams should win it all this season.
That may be bad news for fans of the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, the defending champion New England Patriots (last year was a fluke), 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers.
Oh yes, as much as I like the Kansas City Chiefs, they're not going to win much this year.
The Chiefs don't have enough help for offensive stars Tony Gonzalez and Priest Holmes, quarterback Trent Green is much too accuarate in his ability to pass the ball to the opposition and the defense is suspect with the loss of free safety Jerome Woods to a broken ankle.
Oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has tabbed the Rams as a 4:1 favorite to win the Super Bowl, followed by Pittsburgh at 7:1, Philadelphia 8:1 and New England, Oakland and San Francisco at 10:1.
The Broncos are 18:1 favorites. Their biggest weakness is at quarterback with Brian "I know everyone wishes I was Hall of Fame dad Bob" Griese.
Denver's chances for advancement hedge on his playmaking skills, which are neglible.
The Kansas City Chiefs are 500,000:1 favorites to win it all, but you have better luck winning the Powerball.
The Chiefs' defense, even with the addition of highly-touted defensive tackle Ryan Sims, has problems keeping the other team out of the end zone.
The Houston Texans, the NFL's newest franchise, are one trillion:1 shots at winning it all. First-round draft pick David Carr will start at quarterback for the Texans.
Because there are now 32 teams in the NFL, the league has been realigned into eight four-team divisions, with four each in the AFC and NFC -- East, West, South and Central.
The AFC West is still one of the most competive of the divisions with Denver, Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego. Seattle is gone, having been placed in the NFC West with St. Louis, San Francisco and Arizona.
According to three experts in first edition of USA Today's Sports Weekly (formerly Baseball Weekly combined with football news), the New England Patriots and New York Jets will battle for the AFC East title.
Other divisional picks are:
AFC North -- Pittsburgh; AFC South -- Indianapolis or Tennessee; AFC West
-- Denver or Oakland; NFC East -- Philadelphia; NFC North -- Green Bay or
Chicago; NFC South -- Tampa Bay; NFC West -- St. Louis.
The AFC Wild Card possibilities are Miami, Oakland, New England, Tennesee and Cleveland.
The Most Valuable Player is projected to be none other than St. Louis
Rams' running back Marshall Faulk, who is taking aim at his fourth straight season with 2,000 yards combined rushing and receiving.
The Chiefs play at Cleveland at noon Sunday and the Broncos host the Rams at 3:15 p.m.
The Houston Texans' first NFL regular season game is 7:30 p.m. Sunday at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
The New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season debut of Monday Night Football.
Game time on ABC is 8 p.m.
The new tandem of Al Michaels and John Madden debuts Monday night.
When the season concludes with XXXVII in late January in San Diego, the Rams will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Then again, watch out for those 500,000:1 shots.
John J. Mesh is the sports editor of the McCook (Neb.) Daily Gazette. He's a diehard Chiefs fan, which means this will be a long season. He also doesn't think much of former Florida head coach Steve Spurrier and the team he now coaches -- the Washington Redskins. E-mail John at email@example.com.