Dec 22

WEEK 1: With the Bills trailing, 28-24, and time running out, Flutie scrambles toward the right sideline and encounters a wall of defenders. The resourceful Peter Pan-in-shoulder-pads hurls a lateral across the field to an unattended Peerless Price, who easily goes the final 55 yards for a winning touchdown to be forever known as Musical-Chairs-QB City Miracle.

The Titans protest, but instant replay shows Flutie’s lateral to be legal. It also reveals something strange in the shape of a pepper mill stuffed in Flutie’s sock.

WEEK 2: Whiny figure skater Nancy Kerrigan and HBO’s leg-breaking crime boss Tony Soprano perform a national anthem duet, then swap cartilage and patella tendon tales at midfield with Jamal Anderson and Terrell Davis. In this reunion of Super Bowl 33 running backs, both of whom missed most of last season with serious knee injuries, Davis’ Broncos defeat Anderson’s Falcons, 5 Mile-High Salutes to 3 Dirty Birds.

WEEK 3: Dan Snyder, owner of the 2-0 Redskins, fires coach Norv Turner during the second quarter of the Monday Night game against the Cowboys after Washington’s offense goes three-and-out on its first three possessions. Snyder installs defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes as head coach pro tem and demands that Jeff George replace Brad Johnson as the ‘Skins QB.

WEEK 4: Buccaneers receiver Keyshawn Johnson gets reacquainted with his old teammates when the Jets visit Tampa Bay. Johnson fumbles away a reception late in the game, allowing the Jets to recover deep in their own end, then run out the dock on a 12-6 showcase of defense and kickers. After the game diminutive Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet tells the media: “We want to thank Keyshawn for giving us the


Dec 14

By the end of last season, the Georgia defense had done just that under first-year coordinator Kevin Ramsey. Despite having some of the most athletic and physically gifted players in the SEC, the Bulldogs fell apart and were last in the league in total yards (382.6) and passing yards (278.1) per game. Georgia also gave up 25.9 points per game (second-most in the conference) and gave up a combined 105 points to its three biggest SEC rivals (Florida, Tennessee and Auburn).

georgSo, a week after national signing day, Donnan hired his old friend Gibbs, with whom he worked during Switzer’s glory years at Oklahoma. Ramsey, hired away from Tennessee a year earlier, called the Gibbs hiring “deceitful” and called Donnan “Pontius Pilate.” That left Gibbs–fair or not–saddled as the Savior.

This is what Gibbs has walked into and why this potential Ambush in the Ozarks is more important than it looks. The Razorbacks are rebuilding, but they’ll ride into the season on an unbeaten streak at home under third-year coach Houston Nutt. Arkansas has one of the SEC’s best tailbacks in Cedric Cobbs, and hotshot red-shirt freshman quarterback Gary Brashears steers Nutt’s passing offense.

For Georgia, the Arkansas game falls one week before the much-awaited showdown with Tennessee in Athens. If the Bulldogs truly are a force in the East Division, winning a game ripe with risk is essential.

“We can’t look ahead of anybody,” says Georgia quarterback Quincy Carter. “That would be ridiculous. We’ve been pretty good the last couple of years about not looking past teams. This year, it’s more important than ever.”

Especially considering Georgia is primed to end years of heartache against Florida and Tennessee. The


Dec 14

Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh firmly installed Banks as the starter in the 2000 offseason. Then, they signed Sharpe, who wanted out of Denver after 10 years, seven Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl victories, to improve upon the 34 catches the Ravens squeezed out of the tight end position last season. “I told Shannon that we were going to install a system that puts oxygen in the room,” Billick says with a grin.

billickThen, they used first-round draft picks on running back Jamal Lewis of Tennessee and wide receiver Travis Taylor of Florida. All of a sudden, you could see the blueprint and the brainstorms, and Billick was spending hours on his computer drafting plays around a better short passing game that widened the field.

Then when Coates, a free-agent, five-time Pro Bowler who wasn’t re-signed by New England, was brought in, you could see Billick rubbing his hands like some madman in a lab coat.

Billick, who retooled the Vikings’ offense three times in the six years he was their coordinator, is an offensive guru who can produce a solid game plan from almost any variation of personnel. But gurus are only as good as the people playing for them, and when Billick and Cavanaugh broke down the Ravens’ offense, they saw three immediate areas of concern: instability at quarterback, an average running game and the lack of a short passing attack.

“Brian has said so many times since he got here that he’s not a guru who, all of a sudden, is going to have this magic formula in which we can do it this way or that way and win every time,” wide receiver Qadry