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Original Issue

Dr. Z's Forecast: Air Parcells

PHIL SIMMS tells this story about his old Giants coach, Bill Parcells: "We were playing Cincinnati in 1985, and our offense was pretty conservative, a ball-control kind of thing that used to drive me nuts. Then out of the clear blue, Bill said to me one day, 'I think we can pass for a lot of yards on this Bengals team. Let's open it up.' I threw for 513 yards that afternoon, a team record. That's the way he was. You never knew when he would come up with the unexpected."

That's the way it's been this year with Parcells's Cowboys, whose ball-control offense features the occasional deep strike to Terry Glenn but nothing really to get excited about. Until Sunday, when they attacked the Eagles in a frenzy, handing Philly one of its worst losses in a while.

Can we expect Parcells to turn loose the air force against the Giants in Dallas this weekend? Depends on how seriously he takes the fancy stats that Eli Manning has put up. Manning is now considered a major player in the QB game, with 648 yards and six TDs in his last two games, against the Chargers and the Rams.

The Giants are a strange team, with the offense carrying the defense for the first time since anyone can remember. Their great pass rush doesn't exist anymore. Parcells just might decide, sure, let's turn it into a shootout. We've got the personnel--Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson, Jason Witten, all receivers with Pro Bowl credentials. And of course, Drew Bledsoe, who can still shoot the lights out if he has time to square his shoulders and plant his feet, as the Eagles found out. I see a lot of points in Texas Stadium on Sunday, and I see Dallas collecting more of them than New York.

The Patriots won't have the luxury of a backup quarterback taking shots at their injury-depleted secondary--it'll be Jake Plummer this week. But as good as everyone must feel about his leading the Broncos into first place in the division, the truth remains that he's an erratic passer.

Here's what I like about the Pats: When the pressure's at its highest, it's not only Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri who perform the heroics; the receivers simply do not drop passes. Deion Branch, David Givens, Daniel Graham last weekend, even Bethel Johnson for one crucial long gainer against the Falcons, are dynamite. Pats over Broncos is my upset special.

Here's a formula game. The Lions at home should be favored over Carolina. They're not. Hence we stick with the Panthers. For the last four years the Bears have upset the Vikings at least once a season. It won't be an upset this time, but it'll be Chicago's annual victory anyway. Kansas City being such a big favorite over the Redskins tells me tackle Willie Roaf will be back. Which changes the Chiefs' whole offense. Which leads me to pick Kansas City. The Jets play their only game in New York, and I think Buffalo's D will be a little too much for Vinny Testaverde. (That's right, you pass the test ... all of New York's home games are in New Jersey.) Oakland's coming off a bye and playing at home. San Diego has a short week following a Monday-nighter. Is this enough of an edge to swing the vote to the Raiders? Um, no. Just a hunch, but I like the Chargers.

I pride myself on not bothering with high-spread puppies, but I always pick Monday night games. So, yeah, it'll be the Colts. But watch St. Louis catch fire and hand me a shocking loss.

Last week: 5-3 Season: 27-19



LOOKING LONG If he has time, Bledsoe will go deep often against the Giants.



STRESS RELIEF Givens and the other Pats receivers hold up well under pressure--one reason why New England is an upset pick.