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THE INSIDE TRACK | NOTES ON A SCORECARD / ALLAN MALAMUD

What's What in the NFL? Here's the Real Lowdown

August 28, 1996|ALLAN MALAMUD

Bound to happen during the NFL season that opens Sunday:

Parity will raise its ugly head. . . .

The surprising Seattle Seahawks will leave visiting teams at the Kingdome quaking. . . .

Brett Favre will pass tests on and off the field. . . .

Carolina running back Tim Biakabutuka will have a good rookie season, but his last name won't make many headlines. . . .

Cleveland Browns' fans will cheer every Baltimore Raven defeat, of which there will be many. . . .

For the 31st consecutive time, the Super Bowl, scheduled for the Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 26, will not be played on the home field of either contestant. . . .

ESPN's "NFL Countdown" will remind people of "NFL GameDay.". . .

The Oakland Raiders will be 6-2 with Jeff Hostetler in the lineup and 1-7 without him. . . .

Arizona State will easily outdraw the Arizona Cardinals at Sun Devil Stadium. . . .

The West Coast offense will also be used by East Coast, Midwest, Southeast and Southwest teams. . . .

Jimmy Johnson will wish he were coaching the Miami Hurricanes instead of the Miami Dolphins. . . .

An announcer will call the St. Louis Rams "Los Angeles." . . .

An announcer will call the Houston Oilers "Nashville." . . .

Most valuable player will be Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly. . . .

Michael Irvin will be booed when he steps on the field for the first time at Texas Stadium. . . .

Irvin will be cheered when he catches his first touchdown pass at Texas Stadium. . . .

Kordell Stewart will win the Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback job by midseason. . . .

Rookie of the year will be New York Jet wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. . . .

Last year's expansion teams will win fewer games. . . .

The two-point conversion seldom will be attempted. . . .

Al Michaels will be the best TV play-by-play announcer and John Madden and Pat Haden the best commentators. . . .

Coach of the year will be Seattle's Dennis Erickson. . . .

Left tackle will be the second-most important position on offense, but nobody playing there will be noticed except when he is penalized for holding. . . .

The toughest division will be the AFC East, where even the last-place New York Jets will be dangerous. . . .

Good seats will be available for all games at the Astrodome. . . .

The most spectacular kickoff return will be called back because of a clipping penalty. . . .

San Francisco sophomore J.J. Stokes will be the most improved wide receiver in the league. . . .

Barry Switzer's winning percentage will dip. . . .

Marcus Allen will break Roger Craig's record for most receptions by a running back. . . .

Dave Shula will keep the Cincinnati Bengals from reaching the playoffs. . . .

There will be a quarterback controversy in Washington. . . .

Two of the best games will be between Da Bears and Da Packers. . . .

Dallas will win on Thanksgiving Day. . . .

Dan Reeves will criticize New York Giant management. . . .

New England Patriot ownership will criticize Bill Parcells. . . .

Buffalo will enjoy home-ice advantage in the AFC playoffs. . . .

Houston running back Eddie George, who has a great attitude, won't be just another Heisman Trophy winner who flops in the NFL. . . .

For a change, the Detroit Lions won't save Wayne Fontes' job. . . .

L.A. fans will miss having a home team or two more than they did last year. . . .

NFC West standings: 1. San Francisco, 2. Atlanta, 3. St. Louis, 4. New Orleans, 5. Carolina. . . .

NFC Central standings: 1. Green Bay, 2. Chicago, 3. Detroit, 4. Tampa Bay, 5. Minnesota. . . .

NFC East standings: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Dallas, 3. Washington, 4. New York Giants, 5. Arizona. . . .

AFC West standings: 1. Seattle, 2. Kansas City, 3. San Diego, 4. Oakland, 5. Denver. . . .

AFC Central standings: 1. Pittsburgh, 2. Houston, 3. Cincinnati, 4. Baltimore, 5. Jacksonville. . . .

AFC East standings: 1. Buffalo, 2. Indianapolis, 3. New England, 4. Miami, 5. New York Jets. . . .

NFC wild cards: Dallas, Chicago. . . .

AFC wild cards: Houston, Kansas City. . . .

NFC championship game: San Francisco over Green Bay. . . .

AFC championship game: Buffalo over Pittsburgh. . . .

Super Bowl: Buffalo 24, San Francisco 21.

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