Picks and Pans Main: Etc.
The 1977 National Football League Season
Will the former Broadway Joe Namath but now Freeway Joe find renewal as a 34-year-old, gimpy-kneed Los Angeles Ram? Will Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett of the Dallas Cowboys become pro football's most exciting rookie runner since Gale Sayers? Will Don Meredith muzzle Howard Cosell? As the NFL opens its 58th season, such questions threaten once again to make football widows of American women. In the NFC, Namath and Dorsett should help already-strong teams to the playoffs, even if Dallas squeaks in as a wild-card entry behind the St. Louis Cardinals, galvanized by a rejuvenated Terry Metcalf. The aging Minnesota Vikings, four-time Super Bowl losers, should yield to the Chicago Bears and their nonpareil runner Walter Payton. But the real strength is in the rival AFC. The Super Bowl champ Oakland Raiders should top the AFC West, despite the San Diego Chargers and flanker Johnny Rodgers, a former Heisman winner who's come south from Canada. In the Central, Ken Anderson—the NFL's all-time leading quarterback in completion percentage—will pass the Cincinnati Bengals over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the East, Buffalo has O.J. Simpson, but little else. Not so the once-lowly New England Patriots, who, with quarterback Steve Grogan and defensive back Mike Haynes, should conquer Bert Jones and the Baltimore Colts. Yes, make the Patriots your best long-shot bet for Super Bowl XII.