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Dr. Z's Forecast

Ever since 1978, when new rules put wings on the ball and made
passing easier, poor old reactionaries such as me have been
wringing our hands and longing for the return of old-fashioned
values. Running the ball. Taking the game to the big guys.

It's too early to hope that a trend is emerging, but look at some
of the things that happened on Sunday. The Giants got 222 yards
on the ground from rookie Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber, whom
headline writers have begun calling Thunder and Lightning. (Note
to New York nickname designers: Be original, please. The real
Thunder and Lightning were the Saints' Chuck Muncie and Tony
Galbreath in the late '70s. For the people who have been
referring to Dayne and Barber as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside,
sorry, Army's Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis beat you to it by
5 1/2 decades.)

In the old days great twosomes were in the backfield together,
but the modern era dictates that the backs play one at a time.
That's O.K. We'll take it any way we can get it. So will the
Eagles, who meet the Giants this Sunday in a game that stirred
little excitement a week ago, but now quickens the pulse after
Philadelphia manhandled Dallas 41-14. The Eagles rushed for an
unheard of 306 yards, the most ever by a Cowboys opponent, 201 of
them going to Duce Staley, who fell four yards short of the club
record held by the great Steve Van Buren.

So Philly-New York looks like real trench warfare, especially
when you figure that the scariest thing about the Eagles was the
way they swarmed the Dallas offensive line, knocking out Troy
Aikman with a concussion early in the second quarter. The Giants,
of course, want to protect Kerry Collins from such an onslaught.
What better way than the one-two punch of Barber, who was
dazzling in the 21-16 win over Arizona, and Dayne, who likes to
mush it late in the game, when the defense tires?

Don't be too sure that both teams will play it the way they did
in Week 1. Coaches are notorious for getting away from tendencies
the following week, for doing the unexpected, for crossing up
opponents. So I expect Collins to roll out and look for stuff
deep, and Philly's Donovan McNabb to test the New York secondary
early, then come back with Staley. The Eagles win in a
high-scoring affair.

Meanwhile the poor Cowboys, possibly minus Aikman and definitely
minus wideout Joey Galloway (torn ACL in his left knee) and their
self-respect, travel to Arizona. The Cardinals still have to
convince me that they have an offensive line. And a defensive
line. Dallas is the pick.

The upset light is flashing, and it means that the Dolphins will
hang one on the Vikings in the Metrodome. I don't like Daunte
Culpepper throwing into that blue-ribbon Miami secondary.
Baltimore's offense had trouble in the red zone against
Pittsburgh, but I think the Ravens have enough defense to squeeze
out a win over Jacksonville, a team Baltimore has never beaten.
If Indianapolis were traveling to Oakland, I might lean toward
the Raiders, but in Indianapolis, I like the Colts and their
flashy offense to overcome Oakland's stout defense.

The Jets, who beat an ailing Brett Favre, will get a rush on Drew
Bledsoe and handle the Patriots in the Monday nighter. The
Packers' woes will continue against the Bills in Buffalo, a tough
place for any quarterback to play. Finally, St. Louis visits
Seattle, whose quarterback, Jon Kitna, seems to have regressed
and whose rushing defense is as weak as it was last year. The
Rams will come away with the win.

--Paul Zimmerman

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO The Giants go to the fleet-footed Barber when they want to run outside.