Clint's Corner Archive
Clint's Corner Archive
The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.
Sizing up the AFC East...
New England 6-2:
The Patriots are off to their best start since 1980, and with the exception of Ted Johnson, the big payroll players who were out in 1998 are playing and contributing big time. Terry Glenn is 2nd in the NFL in receiving yardage, and when teams set out to stop him it hasn’t slowed the rest of the potent New England passing attack. Willie McGinest is off to a tremendous start, continually making his home in the opponents backfield. Drew Bledsoe is showing no ill effects of last season’s finger injury, putting up MVP-like numbers despite being knocked down more than any QB in the NFL.
Others off to a good start include Lawyer Milloy, Tedy Bruschi, Steve Israel, and Chris Slade. Newcomers Andy Katzenmoyer, Damien Woody, and Terry Allen have also paid immediate dividends. With Troy Brown expected back for the Jets game, and Ted Johnson pencilled in for late November, the Patriots look to be in good health heading into the home stretch. Depth at linebacker has been ravaged by injury, forcing safety Larry Whigham to play outside on a few series the past two games. Despite that position being hard hit as of late, the good news is that all of the injured reserve linebackers could be back for the Jets game, which will also be a big boost for the special teams.
The Patriots did sustain a two-game losing streak after their 4-0 start, with each loss coming in the final seconds of very winnable games. Unlike the past two seasons, the Pats were quick to get back on track with two more wins before their bye week. While it’s true a missed 32-yard field goal and a dropped 3rd down pass by Ben Coates is all that separates the Pats from being 8-0, you could also argue they could be 3-5. Picked by many prognosticators to finish below .500 this season, the Patriots and their fans should be very happy to be sitting at 6-2 with a bright second half outlook.
If the Patriots can continue to run the ball and stop the run as well as they have the past two weeks, there is no question that the Pats could go 6-2 the rest of the way. The offense has been inconsistent at times, but a rejuvenated ground game should lessen the 9-man blitzes and 3-and-outs which have bitten the Pats offense too often over the first half of the season.
Predicted Finish: 12-4 (5-3), AFC East Champions
Pivotal Game: Week 11 @Miami
For all you Pats fans complaining that New England should be 8-0, know that it’s the Colts who are the AFC East’s most underrated team. In their first loss of the season at New England, they twice blew 21-point leads in losing 31-28 while going scoreless and playing pitiful defense in the 2nd half. That game was Drew’s 10th victory in 12 career games against the Colts. In their loss to Miami, Dan Marino fumbled the ball on the Dolphins final possession, but despite the aid of instant replay, the officials blew the call. The Dolphins went on to score a last minute touchdown and win the game. The Colts really should be 7-0 and leading the AFC East by two games. Just because they aren’t doesn’t mean they should not be thought of that way.
Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and rookie Edgerrin James have combined to give the Colts the NFL’s 3rd highest rated offense. While their defense ranks below the other contenders in the division, that is more the result of a few poor quarters of play and is not indicative of their overall performance. With the benefit of a last place schedule, Indianapolis could very easily go undefeated in 1999 outside the division. That blown officials call against the Dolphins may end up costing the Colts the division title.
Predicted Finish: 12-4 (4-4), 2nd in AFC East
Pivotal Game: Week 14 vs. New England
Despite having by far the best defense in the division, I can’t see the Dolphins continuing to win games scoring in the teens. Damon Huard is not the problem, as Dan Marino was struggling as well before sustaining a pinched nerve, which has sidelined him for 3 games to date. His imminent return to the lineup does not figure to boost the Dolphins scoring punch. As the last standing member of the class of ’83, Marino is clearly no longer a marquis quarterback week in and week out.
Miami fans are all excited about rookie backs Cecil Collins, J.J. Johnson, and Rob Konrad. While each appears to have a very bright future in the NFL, none of them are even close to Terry Allen, 10 years their senior, in rushing yards or rushing average. If you factor out rushing yards gained from the quarterback position, Miami is averaging just 7 yards on the ground more than the oft-maligned Patriots rushing attack.
While it’s true that defense is the cornerstone to a championship team, ask Warren Sapp Company what no offense will ultimately do to you. Yes the Dolphins scored 31 points to beat the Pats in New England, but it’s not every day that your kicker will connect on 6 of 6 field goals. Should the Dolphins offense sputter in their rematch with the Pats, their big win in New England will be neutralized.
The Dolphins are in 1st place, but their wins have been tighter than the Pats, and against lesser foes. Their victory in the RCA Dome was a gift from the officials, and they narrowly beat the lowly Eagles and Cardinals in their home stadium. Their "big" win in Denver on opening day suddenly doesn’t look so big anymore either, as Mile High stadium was later the sight of the Jets only victory this season.
The national publications had the Dolphins as Super Bowl contenders before the season started, and they are at the top of everyone's "Power Rankings" today after 7 games. Respectfully, I disagree. The Dolphins to me are the 3rd or 4th best team in this division, and that will be decided in two weeks, as Buffalo will seek to complete the season sweep.
Predicted Finish: 11-5 (5-3), 3rd in AFC East
Pivotal Game: Week 10 @Buffalo
The Bills season to date has not picked up where it left off in 1998. While Buffalo is still in strong contention with 5 wins, they have struggled mightily in each of their three losses and had perhaps their poorest offensive performance to date last week in a victory at Baltimore. Flutie was a last minute Tony Banks fumble away from being replaced by Rob Johnson heading into the Washington game.
Injuries to Thurman Thomas and a drop off in Antoine Smith’s play have combined to give Buffalo the worst rushing attack in the AFC East. Look at the NFL stats and you’ll see Buffalo as the 10th rated rushing offense in the league. Factor out 39 yards per game from Flutie, and the Bills running backs are averaging an anemic 81 yards on the ground.
The Bills are still a dangerous team, especially at home, and are the only team in the East to have not lost a divisional home game. Their win in Miami will prove to be a big one only if they end up the only team in the division to go 4-0 at home. Each of their remaining home divisional opponents lost at Ralph Wilson Stadium (formerly Rich Stadium) last season. If Flutie can regain his "magic" of a year ago with a healthy Eric Moulds back in the lineup, Buffalo could very easily overcome their sluggish first half.
While Miami’s defense gets all the headlines in this division, Buffalo’s D is once again in the league’s top 10, good for 2nd best in the East. The Bills have a playmaker at quarterback, and I have the feeling their running game will be vastly improved in the 2nd half. If the Bills can pull the upset in Washington this Sunday – watch out.
Predicted Finish: 10-6 (5-3), 4th in AFC East
Pivotal Game: Week 17 vs. Indianapolis
NY Jets 1-6:
Don’t you dare use injuries as an excuse here. At the end of 1998, Tuna decided he was no longer happy with Glenn Foley and shipped him up to Seattle. With players such as John Friesz, Jeff George, Kurt Warner, Rich Gannon, and Warren Moon available, GM Tuna elected to go with Scott Zolak and promptly cut him. This is the same Scott Zolak who QB’d the Patriots in 31-10 loss to the Jets in week 17 last season. If you remember back to last December, Drew Bledsoe being on the sidelines did not at all prevent the Carroll bashers from surfacing with their torches and noose.
A last hour trade landed Rick Mirer, who was beaten out by BC’s Matt Hasselbeck in Green Bay for the right to back up Brett Favre. I was in the Meadowlands on opening day and personally witnessed the Jets Super Bowl aspirations being carted off the field on a stretcher. I did not, however, expect the Jets to be 1-6 after 7 games. Miami is 3-0 with their backup, and although any team would suffer without their starter, it’s hard to imagine that John Frieze, Rob Johnson, or Steve Walsh could single handedly end their team’s playoff hopes in just 7 weeks.
While the injury riddled 1998 Patriots limped in (and out) of the playoffs at 9-7, the now injury-smitten Jets are in line for a top 5 draft pick. They certainly do miss Vinny, but he does not play defense, and the Jets unit is currently ranked 29th in the NFL, giving up a whopping 363 yards per game. In fact, the Patriots defense has been hit just as hard if not harder than the Jets this season and has continued to perform well. The Jets have choked in the last minute in 4 of their 6 losses, which is not at all indicative of a superbly coached team.
In what many thought would be Tuna’s finest season ever just 7 weeks ago, Parcells’ Jets are now in line to win fewer games than he did in his first year with New England when the Pats went 5-11. While the Jets are certainly out of the playoff picture, they have 5 division games remaining and could certainly play a large part in deciding who wins the AFC East. The bad news for the rest of the division is the 2000 season. With a healthy Testaverde back, a high draft pick, and an 0-0 record, I can’t see Tuna hanging it up just yet.
Predicted Finish: 4-12 (1-7), 5th in AFC East
Pivotal Game: Week 13 @Giants (As close to a "Super Bowl" Jets fans will get in ‘99)
Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again after Tuna Bowl VI.