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SPORTS WEEKEND | eXcess and O's

Matchups That Rival Any Rivalry

November 17, 2000|MIKE PENNER

RIVALRY WEEK SPECIAL

We interrupt this week-long cavalcade of hysteria over victory bells and oaken buckets and civil wars for a few words about NFL rivalries.

Yes, the NFL has some. Maybe not as entrenched as college football's, but nothing in the NFL is as entrenched as college football. Players move from team to team, teams move from city to city. You want to know the difference between college football and the NFL? College football has Traveler, the NFL has travelers--the Rams to St. Louis, the Browns to Baltimore, the Oilers to Tennessee, the Raiders back to Oakland.

The current state of the NFL rivalry:

STILL SIMMERING

1. Cowboys-Redskins. Once, their mutual hatred was a many-splendored thing, but now it's Norv Turner instead of George Allen, Dave Campo instead of Tom Landry, Brad Johnson instead of Billy Kilmer. All seemed lost until Daniel Snyder came riding into town, bringing Deion Sanders with him.

2. Raiders-Chiefs. Two words: Marcus Allen.

3. Raiders-Broncos. Two more: Mike Shanahan.

4. Raiders-Chargers. Holy Roller fumbles, helmet-to-helmet hits, last-second field goals. What more can they bring to this fractious AFC West series? Aside from bodyguards for Charger fans?

5. Raiders-anybody. When you're a Raider, every week is Rivalry Week.

6. Bears-Packers. Turns 80 next year, with the greatest scrapbook in the game: Halas, Lombardi, Butkus, Nitschke, Sayers, Hornung. But, the question has to be asked: Does anyone outside Illinois and Wisconsin still care?

7. Dolphins-Jets. Their most recent meeting, the so-called "Monday Night Miracle" of Oct. 23, has been deemed an instant classic. Must be. Less than a week after John Hall's overtime field goal won it for the Jets, a 30-minute Cliff Notes' version wound up on ESPN Classic.

8. Dolphins-Bills. You remember the '80s and '90s as their glory years. Until you remember that Dan Marino and Jim Kelly went 0-5 in Super Bowls.

9. Eagles-Cowboys. Buddy Ryan's long gone, and so, supposedly, are the infamous "Bounty Bowls." Although you'll have a tough time convincing Michael Irvin, Joey Galloway and Rocket Ismail.

10. Giants-Redskins. Or so we have been told. It's an East Coast thing; we wouldn't understand.

LATE AND LAMENTED

1. Rams-49ers. Los Angeles-San Francisco--now that's a theater of hate every Californian can appreciate. But St. Louis-San Francisco? What is that, a TWA commuter flight?

2. Browns-Steelers. For more than four decades, Steeler fans despised the Browns. But those Browns are now in Baltimore and call themselves "Ravens." These Browns are less than two years old and start Doug Pederson at quarterback.

3. Cowboys-49ers. Faded from view as soon as the annual meetings for the NFC Championship did.

COULD DEVELOP

1. Browns-Ravens. In Cleveland, the Dawg Pound is amped and ready for this one. Wish they could say the same for the home team.

2. Ravens-Redskins. From the banks of the Potomac to the Banks who just lost his job to Dilfer. Not quite there yet.

3. Jaguars-Titans. Ready to take off as the NFL's next great rivalry. Just as soon as Jacksonville wins a game.

USC VS. UCLA

It has been a down year for the hometown NFL farm teams, but it didn't happen overnight. Looking for clues? Scan this season's NFL rosters. Simply put, USC and UCLA aren't churning out running backs, quarterbacks and tight ends the way they once did:

Quarterback: Cade McNown went from UCLA to the Chicago Bears, who discovered they play better when he is hurt. Rob Johnson went from USC to the Buffalo Bills, who recently went 3-1 when he was hurt. Tiebreaker goes to Troy Aikman, UCLA, who was a Pro Bowl starter before he got hurt and the only one in this group with a chance of ever giving a speech on a July afternoon in Canton. Advantage: UCLA.

Running back: Incredibly, Tailback U. does not have a single alumnus currently starting at running back in the NFL. Chad Morton was hoping to get his shot in New Orleans in the wake of Ricky Williams' ankle injury, but once the Saints carefully considered their options, they went out and signed Terry Allen. UCLA--the school that gave the league Mel Farr, Wendell Tyler, Freeman McNeil and Gaston Green--is represented by a single active NFL running back: Redskin third-stringer Skip Hicks. Advantage: Neither.

Wide receiver: Three former Trojans currently start in the NFL--Keyshawn Johnson in Tampa Bay, Johnnie Morton in Detroit, Curtis Conway in San Diego. UCLA is represented by a couple of backups--J.J. Stokes in San Francisco and rookie Danny Farmer in Cincinnati. Advantage: USC.

Tight end: Two former USC tight ends in the NFL . . . and all they do is snap the ball on field goals and punts? Such is the sad station of John Allred (Bears) and Bradford Banta (Jets). Former Bruin Ryan Neufeld is the third tight end in Jacksonville, still awaiting his first reception of 2000. Advantage: Neither.

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