Thursday, August 31
Spirit of St. Louis still strong

Enough already with the "exhibition" football. How many more players need to be lost to injury in meaningless games before the NFL realizes the preseason just isn't worth it?

Luckily for the Rams, they've managed to stay injury-free. And as long as Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Kevin Carter are healthy, St. Louis will make a return trip to the Super Bowl.

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And now, the first rankings of 2000...

1. St. Louis Rams (13-3)
No Super Bowl champion in history was ignored in the offseason as much as the Rams, but that's a good thing. They have plenty of motivation to prove that last season wasn't a fluke. If midnight finally strikes on Kurt Warner, Mike Martz still has Trent Green to execute the NFL's most confounding offense.
2. Redskins (10-6) Norv Turner had better brush up on his chemistry because it's concoct a championship mix or else.
3. Titans (13-3) No Music City Miracles needed anymore for AFC's top team.
4. Colts (13-3) Talented? Yes. Super Bowl-bound? Uh, let's see Manning win a big game first.
5. Buccaneers (11-5) If Keyshawn complains about not getting the ball, there'll be someone (Sapp) to shut him up.
6. Jaguars (14-2) The clock is ticking on the Jags' title hopes due to their impending cap implosion.
7. Broncos (6-10) The Broncos will make headlines. Romanowski just needs to stay out of them.
8. Ravens (8-8) With Sharpe, Coates, Lewis and Taylor, Brian Billick finally has his toys.
9. Panthers (8-8) Even with 20 snaps a game, Reggie White will preach winning football in Carolina.
10. Raiders (8-8) Gruden's job rides on the accuracy -- and sobriety -- of partyboy placekicker Janikowski.
11. Bears (6-10) With a confident McNown, beefed-up Enis and rebuilt defense, Windy City finally has a winner.
12. Giants (7-9) They've gone retro with the old "NY" logo. All Fassel wants is return to '97 title form.
13. Seahawks (9-7) Shaky defense, not Kitna's quarterbacking, figures to be Holmgren's season-long concern.
14. Cowboys (8-8) A suspect and Deion-less secondary is not a good thing in pass-proficient NFC East.
15. Bills (11-5) It may be much to ask the Next Three (Smith, Price and Wiley) to replace the Big Three.
16. Packers (8-8) Injuries to Favre and Levens cut the Cheeseheads down a couple notches.
17. Vikings (10-6) Porous defense, not Culpepper, may cost Denny Green his job.
18. Jets (8-8) Fans are still griping about the Keyshawn deal.
19. Lions (8-8) Renewed running game won't matter if no one's healthy enough to hand off.
20. Chiefs (9-7) With no chairman, running game by committee takes you only so far.
21. Patriots (8-8) Defense is one of the best but won't get much rest from problematic offense.
22. Dolphins (9-7) See Patriots.
23. Steelers (6-10) Cowher would be wise not to wait too long to rely on Graham and Huntley.
24. Falcons (5-11) Amazing how one team could depend on one person (Jamal Anderson).
25. Chargers (8-8) Lack of go-to back won't help Ryan Leaf's rejuvenation.
26. Cardinals (6-10) Once again, it's all Jake Plummer or bust.
27. Eagles (5-11) How can you run a West Coast offense without any receivers?
28. 49ers (4-12) World championship pride. Expansion franchise talent.
29. Saints (3-13) Rash of preseason injuries one more indication that this organization is jinxed.
30. Bengals (4-12) Already one of millennium's great mysteries: How could Cincy keep Coslet?
31. Browns (2-14) Didn't take long for Dawg Pound to start snapping at Tim Couch's heels.

ESPN experts' picks for 2000's NFL 2000 preview