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Original Issue

Dr. Z's Forecast

In normal times I'd say this is the week the Broncos finally
prove they're human. They're coming off a game that was too easy
for them. Twenty-seven plays yielded 242 yards and 28 points on
Sunday, all in the first quarter. When they scored their 28th
point, the opposition had minus-10 yards, with a long gainer of
one yard.

The opposition was Philadelphia, and, of course, that's where
the argument might break down, but still one must take note of
what's going on in Broncoland. John Elway goes down, and Denver
doesn't miss a beat. With Elway running things, the Broncos have
outscored the enemy 76-47. With Bubby Brister in command, the
numbers read 106-46. I thought Denver would be slightly out of
kilter this year because of the losses on its offensive line,
All-Pro left tackle Gary Zimmerman, who retired, and right guard
Brian Habib, who jumped ship for the Seahawks. Hasn't seemed to
mean much so far, has it? The Broncos have shown a hunger you
don't associate with defending champions.

When the Seahawks started showing signs of life this season, I
penciled in this week's game as a keynoter. It's in the
Kingdome, where the noise level is serious. Zone-blitz teams
such as the Seahawks love crowd noise. It will be their
make-or-break game of the season, until, of course, the next one
comes along. I can give you about a half-dozen more reasons why
it would be cool to pick Seattle this weekend, except that I
have a vivid picture in my mind: Jon Kitna, the Seahawks'
third-string quarterback, game but overmatched, trying to rally
the troops in the dying moments on Sunday against the
Chiefs--while running back Ricky Watters sat on the bench with a
bruised thigh, and wideout Joey Galloway limped in and out of
the lineup, and quarterback Warren Moon, with a cracked rib,
intermittently tried to throw the ball on the sideline. I don't
know what kind of shape all these people will be in for their
meeting with destiny, and unless someone can guarantee me that
they'll be tip-top, I'll go with the Broncos.

Washington-Philly will be the Battle of the Bags. Saw a Philly
fan on Sunday with CAN'T TAKE NO MORE written on the bag over
his head. Saw a Washington fan with THEY MAKE ME WANT TO CRY on
his bag. My choice? Always go with the grammatical bag, I say,
so I'll take the Redskins in a squeaker.

Dan Reeves returns to the Meadowlands and, wow, wouldn't he like
to nail his former employers. Reeves's Falcons ran up 51 points
against the Panthers on Sunday, the second-highest total in
Atlanta history. The Giants gained 135 yards in their loss to
the Buccaneers. No team has had more three-and-outs. New York's
offense is the pits. But not its defense. Turnovers will decide
it, and I give the W to the Giants.

Steaming after their freaky, penalty-laden upset loss to the
Bills, the 49ers travel to the Superdome, which in the early
'90s was a house of horrors for them. Here's why I think the
Saints have a chance. Their best pass rusher, Joe Johnson, will
be lined up against Jamie Brown, the left tackle Bruce Smith
destroyed on Sunday. They have an active, punishing defense,
fortified by Superdome volume. They...uh, well, those are the
only reasons. But I think the Niners will win because their
defense is just too big-league for Danny Wuerffel, who's making
progress but still learning.

You can't tell me Dan Marino's go-to guy, O.J. McDuffie, was
healthy against the Jets. Yes, it was a stroke of genius for New
York's defensive coach, Bill Belichick, to assign little Ray
Mickens the job of shadowing McDuffie, and with Mickens playing
the game of his life, Marino had trouble finding other receivers
and loosening up a defense that was crowding the line to stop
the run. Giving all the credit to the Jets, I still say they
wouldn't have won so convincingly if McDuffie had been healthy.
But with the game still fresh in my mind, I look for the
Dolphins to fall again, to the Jaguars, whose dynamic pass
rusher, Tony Brackens, is returning from a sprained left ankle.

Some other quick takes: The Jets will win a close one over the
Rams. The Bills will beat the Colts for the sixth time in the
teams' last seven meetings. The Bears, who have learned how to
play the second half, will upset the Cardinals, and, in the
toughest game on the board to handicap, the Chiefs will handle
the Patriots, who have trouble with active, energized defenses.

--Paul Zimmerman

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COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON The 49ers have to hope the Saints don't come marching in on Steve Young as easily as Smith (78) and Marcellus Wiley did on Sunday. [Marcellus Wiley and Bruce Smith sacking Steve Young]