NFC to again do a number, say, 68-10

January 13, 1998|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Thirteen-and-a-half points -- one for every year of the AFC's losing streak, plus a half for good measure.

Alas, the Super Bowl point spread went back down to 13 !B yesterday, and as usual, the drama surrounding the line should prove more interesting than the game.

The oddsmakers initially set the line at 11 after Sunday's conference championship games, but it jumped 2 1/2 points in approximately XXXII seconds.

Thirteen? Actually, that might be low. The Broncos' three Super Bowl losses with John Elway were by increasing margins of 19, 32 and 45 points.

All right, sports fans, fill in the missing number:

19, 32, 45

(Let's see, 19+13=32, 32+13=45, 45+13=)

58!

Those with the correct answer, raise the hand you will use on your remote control to turn off the big game.

With all due apologies to NBC, we can now make our annual, semi-coherent, non-scientific, spoil-sport prediction.

Packers 68, Broncos 10.

The law of averages?

Not even Bam Morris could break that one.

Two years ago, the Bamster delivered a near-MVP performance in Pittsburgh's 27-17 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX.

Yesterday, he began serving a 120-day jail term for violating the terms of his probation for a 1996 marijuana possession conviction.

Maybe if an NFC team signs Bam, the AFC would have a chance.

Mercifully, the Ravens appear ready to part with a convicted felon whose next probation violation will land him 10 years in the slammer.

Ten years.

The Raiders' Al Davis might even pass.

Laugh if you'd like, but Davis' team of dirty rotten scoundrels was the last AFC representative to win a Super Bowl -- way back in 1984, just after Reagan's second inauguration.

The AFC has been outscored 490-219 during its losing streak -- an average margin of nearly 21 points per game.

The Broncos' contribution?

A 39-20 loss to the New York Giants, a 42-10 loss to the Washington Redskins and a 55-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

And that's not counting their first "Super" appearance 20 years ago, when they fell to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-10.

For the next two weeks, certain experts will claim that this time will be different, that these Broncos are better than those Broncos, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I know better, you know better, and most importantly, the gamblers know better too.

The line isn't an actual prediction; it merely reflects the number that oddsmakers determine will attract the most betting interest.

At 11 points, they believed an equal number of bettors would wager on the Packers and the Broncos.

What happened?

Packers supporters jumped on that number with such enthusiasm, the line rose faster than Nike stock after the return of Michael Jordan.

At an increase of 2 1/2 points per day, the Packers would have been mere 46-point favorites by the day of the Super Bowl.

But like a marked-down used car, the Broncos started looking better when the spread hit 13 1/2 , and bettors put enough money on them to push the line back to 13.

dTC Even then, the line is probably too high. But the '80 Raiders were the only wild-card team to win a Super Bowl, and they did it against Ron Jaworski, not Brett Favre.

Let's state the Broncos' case and pick it apart, just to get this over with:

Terrell Davis is a better runner than any of the Broncos' previous Super Bowl backs.

It's a valid enough point -- Davis has averaged 141.3 yards rushing in the Broncos' three playoff victories. But now let's see him do it against Gilbert Brown and Co.

The Packers ranked 20th in the NFL against the run, but that's mostly because the 345-pound Brown played only 30 percent of the defensive snaps due to injuries.

The 49ers gained 33 yards on 18 carries in the NFC championship game. The Broncos' offensive line is one of the smallest in the league.

Lots of luck, Terrell.

John Elway is a better quarterback at 37 than he was in his three Super Bowl losses.

That might also be true, but how many points did Elway produce in the second half Sunday?

Zero.

Not to disparage one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history, but the Broncos' victory Sunday was largely attributable to Kordell Stewart's four turnovers.

The Packers haven't allowed a touchdown pass in 31 quarters, and their defensive coordinator, Fritz Shurmur, is one of the brightest minds in the game.

Elway has more offensive weapons than in the past, but can he outscore Favre?

Lots of luck, John.

The Broncos reached the Super Bowl by winning back-to-back road games at difficult sites -- Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

Those victories can't be discounted -- the Chiefs and Steelers were a combined 15-1 at home this season.

By contrast, Elway's three other Super Bowl teams won all but one of their six conference playoff games at Mile High Stadium.

Still, when you're playing Green Bay, how much does all that mean?

The Steelers outgained Denver, 354 yards to 345, with running back Jerome Bettis averaging 4.6 yards per carry.

The Broncos didn't stop them; Stewart did.

Still, Elway insisted, "I've never felt better about our chances. I think the offense I'm in now fits me a lot better than the one I was in before."

It helps that Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has Super Bowl experience -- the former assistant lost three with Denver and won one with San Francisco.

It also helps that the league has been so diluted by free agency, the Indianapolis Colts beat the Packers this season when they were 0-10.

Eventually, the AFC will close the gap -- the 49ers' entry in the NFC championship game was probably the weakest in recent franchise history.

But for now, the one remaining dominant team plays in the NFC.

Thirteen points?

Sorry, not enough.

Packers 68, Broncos 10.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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