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SPORTS EXTRA / NFL 2000 | AFC PREVIEW

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August 26, 2000|Robyn Norwood

1. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison are being touted as reminiscent of the Dallas Cowboys' Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Only the Super Bowls are missing.

* Coach: Jim Mora (109-95)

* 1999 record: 13-3

* Newcomer to make an impact: Linebacker Rob Morris.

* Little-known fact: Manning's jersey is No. 4 seller in NFL behind Brett Favre, Aikman and Randy Moss.

* Stat that must change: James is exceptional, but NFL-leading 369 carries is too many. Manning was second-leading rusher with 73 yards.

2. TENNESSEE TITANS

They'll be thinking about that one yard until they win a Super Bowl, but with Eddie George and Steve McNair moving the offense and an aggressive defense that forces turnovers, the Titans aren't that far away.

* Coach: Jeff Fisher (48-42)

* 1999 record: 13-3

* Newcomer to make an impact: Receiver Carl Pickens.

* Little-known fact: New offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was a Titan once before--as offensive coordinator at Cal State Fullerton in 1988.

* Stat that must change: Passing defense ranked 25th in NFL.

3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

The Jaguars have the best regular-season record in NFL over the last three years at 36-12 but no ring, and the window of opportunity won't be open forever.

* Coach: Tom Coughlin (53-35)

* 1999 record: 14-2

* Newcomer to make an impact: Linebacker Hardy Nickerson.

* Little-known fact: Jacksonville claims the second-best regular-season winning percentage among pro sports franchises at .613 behind the Lakers' .616--but the Lakers have won 2,505 games to the Jaguars' 49.

* Stat that must change: Plain and simple: 0-3 versus Tennessee.

4. BUFFALO BILLS

Team said goodbye to Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, but depth and youth will soften blow of farewell to names from Super Bowls past.

* Coach: Wade Phillips (38-32).

* 1999 record: 11-5

* Newcomer to make an impact: Defensive end Erik Flowers.

* Little-known fact: Only five players remain from last Super Bowl in 1994.

* Stat that must change: Quarterback Rob Johnson has been knocked out by injuries in four of 11 games for Buffalo.

5. OAKLAND RAIDERS

Raiders ranked among NFL's top 10 in offense and defense last season but lost eight games by an average of 4.25 points.

* Coach: Jon Gruden (16-16)

* 1999 record: 8-8

* Newcomer to make an impact: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

* Little-known fact: Schedule includes only three games against 1999 playoff teams.

* Stat that must change: Kickers were 18 for 31 on field goals beyond 30 yards.

6. BALTIMORE RAVENS

Defense ranked second in NFL, and Ravens added tight end Shannon Sharpe and receiver Travis Taylor to 25th-ranked passing offense. Whether Tony Banks is the right quarterback is still the question.

* Coach: Brian Billick (8-8)

* 1999 record: 8-8

* Newcomer to make an impact: Sharpe.

* Little-known fact: Defensive back Rod Woodson needs one interception return for a touchdown to take sole possession of NFL record with 10.

* Stat that must change: Ravens averaged 189 yards passing.

7. DENVER BRONCOS

Terrell Davis attacked his knee rehabilitation with ferocity, and Brian Griese is developing at quarterback. Questions, yes, but potential is there.

* Coach: Mike Shanahan (68-40)

* 1999 record: 6-10

* Newcomer to make an impact: Quarterback Gus Frerotte.

* Little-known fact: Punter Tom Rouen is engaged to Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken.

* Stat that must change: Broncos scored less than 20 points in half their games.

8. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Coach Mike Holmgren lost a bunch of players from the team that lost to Miami in the AFC wild-card game, including receiver Joey Galloway and defensive linemen Phillip Daniels and Sam Adams.

* Coach: Holmgren (93-50)

* 1999 record: 9-7

* Newcomer to make an impact: Running back Shaun Alexander.

* Little-known fact: Holmgren and John Madden are the only NFL coaches in history to have a five-year stretch with at least one postseason victory.

* Stat that must change: Quarterback Jon Kitna stumbled down stretch as Seahawks lost six of their last seven.

9. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

After shunning the Jets, Bill Belichick's job is to end the Patriots' slide since Super Bowl XXXI. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe is coming off a subpar season, and running back is still undecided among Raymont Harris, Kevin Faulk and rookie J.R. Redmond, who was injured in camp.

* Coach: Belichick (37-45)

* 1999 record: 8-8

* Newcomer to make an impact: Harris.

* Little-known fact: Belichick was youngest coach in league when he was hired by Browns in 1991 at 37.

* Stat that must change: Bledsoe's season was illustrated by a six-to-17 touchdown-to-interception ratio down the stretch.

10. NEW YORK JETS

Vinny Testaverde is back from an Achilles' tendon injury--and even if he's hurt again, Ray Lucas is solid. But with Keyshawn Johnson in Tampa and Bill Parcells in the front office, the Jets are still adjusting.

* Coach: Al Groh (first year).

* 1999 record: 8-8

* Newcomer to make an impact: Defensive end Shaun Ellis.

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