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Original Issue

Dr. Z's Forecast

The most misunderstood word in the football lexicon is parity. It's a favorite of airhead talk show hosts when they explain why 5--8 and 6--7 teams still nurse playoff hopes. But they're confusing parity with mediocrity. If true parity existed, there would be very little difference between the upper and lower echelons. And such is definitely not the case.

You have your early clinchers such as New England, Indianapolis, Dallas and Green Bay, racehorses in a stable of nags. At the other end you've got the poor devils who have been rendered dismal, by injuries or bad luck or just plain incompetence—the Dolphins, 49ers and Jets.

Parity? Never have we had, at this stage of the season, a team that had won all its games and one that had won none of them. It's as antiparity as you can get. And did you see the blowouts last Sunday? Three teams scored more than 40, another four scored 34 or better. Handicappers who went with the favorites cleaned up.

The margin between first and second place is two or more games in every division except the AFC North, where Pittsburgh leads Cleveland by one. So let's concentrate on them. The Steelers host Jacksonville, a serious wild-card contender that has beaten Pittsburgh in the last two meetings. Not this time. The Steelers will come back strong from their loss to New England. The Browns are at home against the Bills, who've won six of their last eight. The upset possibility is intriguing, but I'll stay with Jamal Lewis (above) and Cleveland.

I like the Giants over the Redskins, the Vikings to keep it going against the Bears on Monday night and the Cardinals to surprise the Saints in the Dome. Finally, I'm picking the Dolphins to upset that dispirited group of imposters who ran around in Ravens uniforms on Sunday.
Last week 5--1
Season 70--38