By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
Why they could lose: Reverence for undefeated 1972 Dolphins.
Edge: Miami, by a champagne cork
Projected record: 16-0. The Fins will then thump the Jaguars in the Divisional Playoffs and scratch past the Broncos to advance to Super Bowl XLI, where they will dispatch a likewise upstart Arizona Cardinals squad. The Earth will tremble and crack open, allowing the ghost of Joe Robbie to bestow an ectoplasm-covered Lombardi Trophy to Saban, who will fold his bottom lip back against his teeth, nod, wave, and be in bed by 10:30 p.m., to arise the next morning and begin scheming next year's delayed blitz schemes, leaving a congratulatory call from President Bush to kick over to voicemail.
The M Rating
If his knee is a question mark, to deploy a football cliché, Daunte Culpepper's arm is an exclamation point, underlined, with arrows pointing to it. He is despite a worrisome case of fumblitis (career: 1/game) and a penchant for making tabloid headlines the first decent signal-caller the Dolphins have employed in the six seasons since Marino put himself out to pasture on HBO. But just how do he and some of the other Miami QBums' stints in orange and teal stack up to Marino, the NFL's all-time leader in completions, yards, and touchdowns? We rank them on a scale of 1 to 10 Marinos (if you wanted rationality, you'd be reading another publication): Click for PDF
Mike Mularkey resigned as head coach of the Bills last season, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. When the Dolphins hired him as offensive coordinator just days later, cynics scoffed at his apparent fib. But Fort Lauderdale is indeed Mularkey's hometown he played prep ball at Northeast High School so the cynics can piss off!
Divorce Becomes You
Damned shame about habitual All-Pro defensive end Jason Taylor's wife, Katina, filing for divorce this summer. For one, the couple has three kids, all under age 4, and it suggests that an April 30 road rage incident in which Taylor was mildly, um, stabbed couldn't have come at a worse time. (Though talk about poise: On the tape of the 911 call, Taylor is heard calming his flustered wife and addressing the operator as "ma'am." He don't play on Sundays for nothing!)
The soap-opera wrinkle is, Katina is the sister of linebacker/brick-house Zach Thomas, the only Dolphins player with a longer team tenure than Taylor's. The Sun-Sentinel's Ethan Skolnick last month transcribed Taylor's reaction to the obvious inquiry: "'As far as the question about the locker room, I think it's ridiculous that anyone would even think that,' Taylor said, slapping the podium twice upon storming off. 'We're professionals, guys. '"
Then a display of professionalism: storming out of an interview. Still, as foul and wretched a thing as divorces can be (especially those in which the couple owns a yacht named for the wife), history shows that they can portend good tidings:
Andre Agassi didn't win a singles title in 1997, the year he married Brooke Shields, and slid to number 141 in the world rankings. After their split two years later, Agassi finished 1999 ranked number one in the world.
Lance Armstrong and his ex, Kristin, filed for divorce in 2003, after Armstrong's fifth Tour de France victory. The following summer, pedaling without the ol' ball and chain, he made it a round half-dozen.
Henry VIII severed ties with and the neck of Anne Boleyn in 1536. He then married the more homely and less feisty Jane Seymour, who gave birth to the male heir he never could sire with Boleyn. The lad, Edward, took over kingly duties upon his father's death nine years later.
Brad dumped Jen, upgraded to Angelina. Hasn't anchored a watchable movie since Snatch, doesn't seem to mind.
Early in the 2001-02 season, Michael Jordan's wife, Juanita, filed for divorce. The aging Jordan went on a mini-tear, notching five 30-point games and two 40-point games before the couple announced a month later that they were going to reconcile. After the next season, Jordan stopped tarnishing his legend and hung up his Nikes. Miracles do happen.
How Reporters Keep Track
Ever wonder why preseason football predictions are so dicey? Could be league parity, volatile gambling lines, preseason injuries, group-think idiocy. Or a clue could lie in how the beat writers are forced to cover the team during training camp:
1:20 p.m., August 21, Dolphins training facility media room:
Flak Mike Pehanich announces that it's time to go watch practice. Writers and photographers turn from Yankees-Red Sox game on ESPN and trudge to field.
1:22 p.m., northwest corner of bleachersMedia relations head Harvey Greene tells the half-dozen or so reporters that they have 24 minutes to observe practice. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero, seeing that the players on the field are actually stretching, protests that they're not practicing. Greene reminds Salguero that group activities also count as practice time. "It's the same 24 minutes we got last year," he tells the writer. "You just recycle your bitching and I'll recycle my answers."