Stillers Game by Game 2000 Prediction:
1. Balt: If Cowher has ever proven anything, it's his gross inability to have his team ready for a season opener, last year's laugher over junior-varsity Cleveland notwithstanding. Since '94, Cowher's teams have either been thoroughly embarrassed on opening day, or they've barely squeaked by marginal competition. Expect the Ravens defense, which has continually bottled up our offense since '98, to do so again, helping the Ravens to a tight, low-scoring victory. Loss. Record: 0-1.
2. @ Cleve: Only Cleveland's ineptitude allows us to waltz up the turnpike and squeak by the Brownies. Win. Record: 1-1.
3. Tenn: Playing at home won't matter�.the Titans are simply too deep and too strong, and Cowher will be incapable of doing anything on either side of the ball. Loss. Record: 1-2.
4. @ Jax: This is one of the most interesting games on the slate. The Stillers have never won down in Jax, but with the plethora of injuries, Jax is ripe for a beating. But Jax pulls out the "W" in the 4th quarter. Loss. Record: 1-3
5. @ NY Jets: The NY Jest (not Jets) are nothing overly fearsome, but they'll be good enough to knock off Field Goal Bill and his merry kicking game. Loss. Record: 1-4
6. Cinci: The Bungals should be handled handily, unless Akili Smith really develops in a hurry. Win. Record: 2-4.
7. Cleve: The entire team should be highly motivated to avenge last year's despicable home loss to Cleveland. Cowher KNOWS his job is on the line if he loses another home game to the greenhorn Browns. Win. Record: 3-4.
8. @ Balt: This game will be an opportunity to extract revenge for the opening day loss to the Woodpeckers. But the Woodpeckers fight off the challenge and win another close game. Loss. Record: 3-5.
9. @ Tenn: The Titans again steamroll a bumbling Stillers team. Loss. Record: 3-6.
10. Phil: Ex-Stiller personnel guru Tom Modrak, now the Iggles' GM, finally gets his shot at the Stillers. It'll be an ugly homecoming for ol' Tom. Win. Record: 4-6.
11. Jax: This game serves as a shot at revenge for the week 4 loss. Playing on national TV, Field Goal Bill will have his boys fired up, and the 3 Rivers crowd will be rocking. Win. Record: 5-6.
12. @ Cinci: The pesky Bunals won't be easy to sweep, but their franchise typically finds a way to go into a midseason swoon. Win. Record: 6-6.
13. Oakland: Jokeland impressed many folks last year with their 8-8 record. Problem was, they were in just about the weakest conference in pro football. Stillers put the hurt on Oakland Al and the Raidas. Win. Record: 7-6.
14. @ NY Gi�nts: Fassell gives Cowhead some lessons in how to make the most out of what you've got to work with. Loss. Record: 7-7.
15. Wash: The Skins will be fighting hard for a home-field playoff spot, so they won't take this one lightly. Loss. Record: 7-8.
16. @ San Diego: Neat matchup -- Ryan Leaf versus Kevin Gilbride. Leaf, free from the repression of Coach Gilbride, has a sterling day, while the Charger D bottles Gilbride's feeble offense. Loss. Record: 7-9.
I'll state for the record that I see a 7-9 season. I don't necessarily think it will unfold exactly the way I described above, but I feel sane in predicting a 7-9 record. I simply see too many unanswered questions, and too many "ifs", to predict anything better.
Offensively, this team is prepared to do little more than stink and sputter. Cowhead had all summer to name Graham the starter, which would have allowed him more time to mesh with the receivers, but the stubborn mule insisted on the "Stewart the Incumbent" mantra until AFTER the final preseason game. Regardless of who is at QB, Gilbride has shown me nothing in preseason that indicates he spent any more than about 10 minutes in the offseason trying to right all the wrongs of the �98 and �99 offenses, both of which were Xerox copies of each other. What will allow this team to be in most games, is the softness of their schedule. The Stillers have the 18th strongest schedule, playing only 5 games against '99 playoff teams (2 each vs. Tenn and Jax, and 1 vs. Wash.) and only 5 games against teams who finished over .500 (again, Jax, Tenn,and Wash.). And the non-divisional games are fairly cup-cakey as well�.NY Jest, Philly, Oakland, NY Gi'nts, Wash, and Diego. The only team that really is fearful among that bunch is the Wash. Foreskins.
The defense is actually improved over last year�s version, which will also help to at least keep the club competitive in many a game. Sure, Roye is gone, but the DL is actually better, since we�ve gotten rid of Fat Joel Steed, who waddled around like a bloated duck last season, and we�ve demoted Jeremy Faat, who continually was bullied about as a NT. Porter is an immense boost over the sorry Emmons, and Kirkland�s finally showing up to camp in shape should translate into a return to his �96-�97 form. Chad Scott, unlike last year, is now fully recovered from the knee injury, and Alexander/Shields is a vast improvement over Travis Gayvis. What will again bog down this team is a coaching staff that is too dumb, too blind, and too stubborn to make adjustments as the season goes along, which will allow teams to fine tune their tactics and have the edge over Cowher and his bumbling band of dim bulb coaches. 7-9 should buy Cowhead one more season, whereas 6-10 could spell the end of Marty Jr. in the 'Burgh. Look for Cowher to once again throw all development into the can, at the expense of again trying to save his job.
The Still Mill