It's the first week of the football season, and
with it come those traditions Colt fans know and love. Tailgate parties with your buddies
in the south parking lot, the smell of burgers and dogs sizzling on the grill. A friendly
game of catch with some pals. Saying hi to old friends
and making new ones. A sea
of blue-and-white clad fans heading toward the RCA Dome. Standing up for the opening
And Stump the Chump.
Now entering its second season, Stump the Chump is an old idea which has been given new
life, thanks to the global reach of the Internet. The concept of Stump the Chump is quite
simple. Each week, a guest fan matches wits with yours truly (aka "The Chump")
and attempts to pick the winners of every pro football game played that week. No point
spreads, no parlays or over-unders -- just a simple W or L.
But there's more than wins or losses at stake here; there are also matters of prize and
pride. If a fan picks more games correctly, they could win any one of several valuable --
and I use that word loosely -- Colts-related prizes. If they pick fewer games right,
however, they'll suffer the shame of knowing they lost to someone who once thought Dedric
Mathis would make the Pro Bowl.
Leading off this year's crop of victims -- oops, I mean contestants -- is Earl
Phillips, who believes that this year will be the first of many trips to the postseason
for the Colts in the Peyton Manning era. "With a few bounces and breaks," writes
Mr. Phillips, "we could see the playoffs."
Yes, the Colts may get to the postsason, but first we'll have to see how good Earl is
at picking football games. We won't know the results until the start of next week, but for
the time being, let's see if Earl has what it takes to stump the chump. Listed below are
Earl's predictions, followed by my own predictions and a brief commentary about each game.
Good luck, Earl!
Buffalo at Indianapolis
Earl's pick: Colts.
My pick: Colts. Last year, the Colts knocked starting QB Rob Johnson out of the game and
ended up getting beaten by Doug Flutie. This year, their new-look defense will knock both
Flutie and Rob Johnson out of the game, giving the Colts their first win on opening day
since the start of the 1996 season.
Arizona at Philadelphia
Earl's pick: Cardinals. Earl's lock of the week.
My pick: Eagles. So what if Arizona still has Jake Plummer? They don't have Larry Centers,
Jamir Miller, Lomas Brown or Ernest Dye anymore. Last time I checked, it takes 11 guys to
win a football game, not one. And the game's at Philadelphia, home to a group of fans that
would boo the Easter Bunny. That automatically gives the Eagles a three handgun -- oops, I
meant three point -- advantage.
Baltimore at St. Louis
Earl's pick: Ravens.
My pick: Ravens. Dog of the week. If there's one thing you count on this season, it's
this: I will never, ever pick a team owned by Georgia Frontierre to win a professional
football game. Unless it's against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which case I would pull for
a scoreless tie.
Carolina at New Orleans
Earl's pick: Panthers. Earl's dog of the week.
My pick: Panthers. Fortunately for Saints fans, there's a lot more to do in their city
than watch professional football on Sundays. Chances are, that's what most of the New
Orleans viewing audience will be doing by the halftime of this stinker.
Cincinnati at Tennessee
Earl's pick: Titans.
My pick: Titans. Another week one matchup that has all the excitement of a preseason WNBA
game. Titans are playing in their fourth stadium in as many years and will christen the
new field with an easy victory over the hapless Bengals.
Dallas at Washington
Earl's pick: Redskins.
My pick: Redskins. Remember when games between Dallas and Washington would decide which
team would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Nowadays, games like this are used to
separate who finishes third or fourth in the division. Still, Washington gets the nod
because of the game being played at home, and because both of the Cowboys' starting
cornerbacks are fighting off nagging injuries.
Kansas City at Chicago
Earl's pick: Chiefs.
My pick: Bears. Why did I take Chicago? Because the coin came up heads. That's about all
the time I wanted to spend on this clunker. If anything, it'll be fun to see what Cade
McNown does in his first game as a pro, but there aren't many other reasons to tune in to
New England at N.Y. Jets
Earl's pick: Jets.
My pick: Jets. Hard to predict which head coach will have a stroke on the sidelines first
-- Denver's Mike Shanahan or New England's Pete Carroll. Early odds would go to Carroll,
who's facing an old mentor in Bill Parcells at the Meadowlands. The loss of Wayne Chrebet
may hurt New York's passing game early on, but New England just doesn't have enough to
match up with New York man for man.
Oakland at Green Bay
Earl's pick: Packers.
My pick: Packers. Lock of the week. Green Bay comes into the season opener with a healthy
Dorsey Levens, an angry Antonio Freeman and a focused Brett Favre. Oakland, meanwhile,
comes into this game with a starting quarterback whose main claim to fame is
as soon as he does something noteworthy, I'll let you know. Raider fans, this may be a
good time to go do some yardwork.
Detroit at Seattle
Earl's pick: Seahawks.
My pick: Lions. Upset of the week. Joey Galloway's holdout is going to mean a lot more to
the Seahawks than new head coach Mike Holmgren thinks. He'll find that out early on,
especially if Detroit is able to contain Rickey Watters.
Minnesota at Atlanta
Earl's pick: Falcons. Earl's upset of the week.
My pick: Vikings. This year's season opener will end the way last year's NFC championship
game was supposed to, with Randall Cunningham and his trio of big-time receivers (Randy
Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed) each catching a touchdown pass against the Falcons.
Minnesota needs to prove last year's loss to the Falcons was no fluke, and they'll do so
in convincing fashion.
N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay
Earl's pick: Giants.
My pick: Buccaneers. Neither of New York's starting cornerbacks has played so much as a
down in the preseason, which could mean huge trouble for the Giant defense -- and a feast
for speedsters like Bert Emanual and Reidel Anthony. The way Tampa's defense has looked in
the preseason, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kerry Collins in the game for New York in
the second half.
San Francisco at Jacksonville
Earl's pick: Jaguars.
My pick: Jaguars. What's this? A preview of Super Bowl XXXIV in the first week of the
regular season? Close, but not quite. In this game, Jacksonville will show for all the
world that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Denver, New York and Miami as
the best team in the AFC. And San Francisco will show that Jerry Rice, Ken Norton and
Steve Young are suddenly really, really old.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Earl's pick: Steelers.
My pick: Browns. No expansion team has ever won their first preseason game, but these
Browns aren't your ordinary expansion team. They're also starting the season against what
may be the worst team the Steelers have fielded since the early days of Bubby Brister.
What better way for the Browns to start the season then with an easy victory? Welcome back
to the NFL, Cleveland.
Monday Night's Game
Miami at Denver
Earl's pick: Broncos.
My pick: Dolphins. Denver fans will realize exactly how much John Elway meant to their
team when they have to turn to Bubby Brister to win the game in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for them, Brister can't win games with his head (or his arm) the way Elway
used to. Don't be surprised to see Denver head coach Mike Shanahan melt down and then try
to contact Elway by cel phone during the halftime break.