Single page view By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

I no longer need to hype this column. In a secret, yet-to-be-published poll of NFL coaches, my Top 10 NFL Facts column was tabbed as the No. 1 reading material for league coaches.

In fact, my sources in Dallas told me this week that Bill Parcells had to break up a fight between two of his assistants who were arguing over exactly what makes me the foremost authority on the NFL.

One coach was convinced my playing experience at Ball State gave me keen insight. The other coach contended my sources throughout the league feed me inside information.

Both are wrong. It's Madden '06.

Here's what you should think about as we head to Week 4:

10. The gap between the NFC and the AFC is closing.

Other alleged NFL experts will say it's too early to suggest that the NFC is gaining ground on the AFC. I'm not an "alleged" expert.

So far, the two conferences have split 12 games evenly. A year ago, the AFC dominated NFC competition, posting an impressive 44-20 record when the two conferences met on the field.

Why will things even out?

There are more average-to-good teams in the NFC than in the AFC. The top of the AFC -- New England, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis -- is still better than the top of the NFC. But if you take away the NFC's top three teams -- Atlanta, Tampa and Philly -- and the AFC's best, I'll take the rest of the NFC over the rest of the AFC.

Randy Moss
With Randy Moss on your team, you should be putting up more points.

9. The Raiders are the lone winless NFL squad with a chance to qualify for the playoffs.

At some point, Oakland head coach Norv Turner will figure out a way to generate an explosive offense out of Randy Moss and Jerry Porter. If he doesn't, Al Davis should waste little time before acknowledging the mistake of hiring Turner.

The Raiders are averaging 19 points per game. That's criminal when you have two receivers as big and as talented as Moss and Porter. Turner isn't making a big enough effort to get either receiver the football. That won't last forever. When Turner figures it out, the Raiders will start scoring 30 and will win nine games, which might be enough to win the AFC West.

8. Ben Roethlisberger is the reason Buffalo's offense stinks.

Stick with me on this one. Second-year quarterback J.P. Losman has no business starting in the NFL. Buffalo coach Mike Mularkey isn't stupid. He knows better than anyone that Losman isn't ready. But because Roethlisberger held the reins as a rookie while Pittsburgh's defense and Jerome Bettis won 15 regular-season games last season, Mularkey is convinced Losman can do the same thing.

He can't. The Bills would have a far better chance of sneaking into the playoffs with backup Kelly Holcomb running the offense. Last week, Losman couldn't take advantage of an injury-riddled Atlanta defense. Losman is an inaccurate passer and lacks poise in the pocket.

7. Blame Big Ben for Chicago, too.

With average play from the QB position, the Chicago Bears could've upset the overhyped Cincinnati Bengals. Instead of average QB play, the Bears are stuck with rookie Kyle Orton, who threw five interceptions last week.



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