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Mr. Sunshine Spies
on the Neighbors

by Tom Hayes (6/10/01)

You know, I used to be satisfied just knowing more than a well-adjusted person should about one team - the Steelers. But the offseason can be ungodly dull and, besides that, I've got a fantasy football commitment to consider, so I guess this is as good a time as any to get nebby about what some other teams are up to. I thought I'd start by poking around our own little neighborhood - the AFC Central.

Jeez, would you look at that across the street? They've got the rings and the trophy and they're annoying the sh*t out of me by crowing about it. On paper, the Ravens will be tough. Their only major losses are at center and safety, and they think they can replace both. The defense is still murderous(!) and the offense is loaded with talent, including budding superstar RB Jamal Lewis. If Leon Searcy can still beat defensive linemen like he beats his wife, they'll field perhaps the best tackle tandem in the league. And they've even hired The King to play QB. Wow. I guess the rest of us shouldn't even bother to show up in 2001. Party on, oh mighty Ravens. May you be as successful this year as Danny Snyder's preseason favorites were a year ago.

Moving down the block, we have the Tennessee Titans, who should change their colors to envy green and, um, light envy green. Here was a team that was just inches short of winning it all in '99. They posted the best record in the NFL in 2000. Then they got beat. Now look at 'em. A good team still, to be sure, but perhaps slipping past their peak. Oh yeah, I know they added Kevin Carter. I know they'll have a nasty pass rush. Well they'd better 'cause they also coughed up half of their secondary (Marcus Robertson and Denard Walker) in the offseason. And while dumping Pickens and Thigpen was probably a good move, neglecting WR in free agency and at the top of the draft was, perhaps, not. To top it all off, Eddie George is still gimping around a bit after his toe surgery and will have to settle for running behind the likes of... well, I don't know who because Lorenzo Neal has gone on to bigger and better things in ...Cincinnati and the Titans don't seem to have any fullbacks left. They did swap kickers. Maybe that'll push 'em over the top.

I've seen the collection agents taking stuff out of the house at the end of the cul-de-sac all week. Looks like somebody's credit card company has had enough. Ah, the Jaguars. How rewarding to watch the pendulum swing back. So you say that you don't have enough cap space to keep your own guys let alone add impact free agents? How very tragic. My heart bleeds. The Jags now find themselves in a position all too familiar to some of us - they're a good team ...IF. IF Fred Taylor can stay healthy. IF Jimmy Smith can recover from intestinal surgery. IF they can get away with starting a rookie to protect Mark Brunell's blind side. IF rookie DT Marcus Stroud can draw and handle double-teams. IF the new snapper and holder don't further upset the already disgruntled kicker. IF each and every one of their projected starters, many of them aging, can stay healthy enough to keep the team from having to rely on a decimated bench. IF they can even keep all the starters they still have left. Yeah, it could happen.

Some new guy just moved into the fixer-upper next door and he has a lot of work to do. Unfortunately for new Cleveland coach Butch Davis, he's still a few trips to the local 84 Lumber yard short. You know, five of the eight top rushing yardage performers last year resided in the AFC Central. Butch doesn't have one. He does, however, have a quarterback in Tim Couch and plenty of good, if not spectacular, targets for him to throw at. To supplement the bevy of young wideouts already on the team, the Browns have added additional pass catchers in TE Rickey Dudley, FB Mike Sellers, and second round draft pick WR Quincy Morgan. They're desperately trying to cobble together an effective offensive line, however, having invested big bucks in injured Ross Verba and injury-prone Tre Johnson. The D is improved via the addition of FA linebacker Dwayne Rudd and number three overall draftee DT Gerrard Warren. Warren's addition means that this team fields a defensive line whose third best player used to be our best. Kinda scary, but overall these guys still have too many flaws to win a lot of games. And now that they've cut Jeremiah Pharms, they might not be able to steal any either.

Speaking of fixer-uppers, look over the backyard fence and tell me what is the deal with this outfit? This house has been in a continual state of disrepair for decades and should have been condemned years ago. Don't get me wrong, they've got some talent. But they've always got talent. Try to forget for a moment that they're Bengals and tell me you're not impressed with this list of skill players: Corey Dillon, Lorenzo Neal, Darnay Scott, Peter Warrick and Chad Johnson. The whole set could probably start for us. But new offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, who plans to spread the field with this gang, still has a thing or two to work out. Like finding a starting QB among Jon Kitna, Scott Mitchell and Akili Smith. I could go on from here and analyze the O-line, the D, and blah-blah-blah but the bottom line is this team goes nowhere until they can prove it on the field consistently. And until they stop stealing stuff (Jamain Stephens, Kevin Henry) out of our trashcan!

I don't know about you, but after this little tour I actually feel pretty upbeat about what we've got. Positively sunny, in fact. I see opportunity for success here. Now it's up to the Steelers to make the most of it. It starts with those four Ohio games. 3-1 like last year or 2-2 as in '99? Not good enough. You MUST beat the teams you're supposed to beat. Then go exploit the weaknesses of your peers like the Titans & Jags. And finally, march up to the big bad bird and huff and puff and blow his house down!

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Fan Comments & Responses
The following articles are listed in the order they were received (with the most recent entries at the top). This isn't a "guestbook" format... I read and manually insert every message, so you may not see your submission show up immediately. Thanks a million for your comments, people!
Submitted by McMillen & Wife
YOU are the man! Dude, I've only just begun to think about what the opposition has been up to and you've already assembled a complete (and highly accurate, in my opinion) critique of the whole division. Outstanding! Hope you dig the Titan uniform I turned "envy green... and light envy green" for the occassion.

You did your homework, bro. This thing is so good I don't know what I could possibly add, except this... who in the hell is Danny Snyder?

Tim McMillen
Webmaster, McMillen & Wife

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