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Celebrity NFL Picks: For Dolphins, ‘08 season’s a flipper

Sal DeFilippo

Celebrity Picks

Lance Burton, Monte Carlo master magician (24-18)
Jets -7 vs. Bills
Titans -3 at Texans
Browns +14 at Eagles
****
Anthony Crivello, star of "Phantom - Las Vegas Spectacular" (23-19)
Jaguars +2 vs. Packers
Colts-Lions over 45
Titans -3 at Texans
****
Carrot Top, Luxor headliner (15-26-1)
Colts -17 vs. Lions
Dolphins -6 ½ vs. 49ers
Jets -7 vs. Bills
****
Danny Gans, Encore headliner (22-20)
Jets -7 vs. Bills
Panthers -7 ½ vs. Broncos
Eagles -14 vs. Browns
****
Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas (22-20)
Colts -17 vs. Lions
Falcons -3 vs. Buccaneers
Eagles -14 vs. Browns
****
Kevin Janison, KVBC meteorologist (21-19-2)
Ravens -1 ½ vs. Steelers
Cardinals -3 vs. Vikings
Patriots-Raiders under 40
****
Wayne Newton, "Mr. Las Vegas" (27-15)
Dolphins-49ers under 42
Cardinals -3 vs. Vikings
Browns +14 at Philly

A year ago, the Miami Dolphins were heading into Week 15 of the NFL season with an 0-13 record and seemingly little hope of cracking the win column. Their offense was pitiful, and their quarterback was a real Lemon – backup Cleo Lemon had taken the reins to finish out the campaign.

It appeared they would be handed loss No. 14, too, when Baltimore’s Matt Stover lined up for a game-winning field goal attempt in overtime. Stover missed, however, and an imperfect season was avoided when Lemon connected with Greg Camarillo for a touchdown, notching Miami’s only win of 2007.

But that was a year ago, and a distant memory for people in the southern part of the Sunshine State. The Dolphins had a solid draft, still had some veteran stars in Joey Porter and Vonnie Holliday on defense, and a solid running back in Ronnie Brown. They hired a new coach, Tony Sparano, who had spent the previous five seasons in Dallas. But they still needed someone to lead the team offensively.

Heading into training camp, Chad Henne and John Beck were among those fighting for a starting job. But suddenly, the move the Dolphins needed was announced – and they had nothing to do with it.

The Jets signed Brett Favre in what was easily the most-hyped event of the offseason and training camp. Favre obviously wasn’t going to be holding the clipboard on the sidelines, which meant longtime starter Chad Pennington would be – until the Jets cut him and the Dolphins signed him less than a week later.

Pennington spent eight productive seasons with the Jets, and is one of the league’s most accurate passers. He played through injuries, and rarely made poor decisions. He was criticized for not being able to throw deep passes and sideline routes that required a stronger arm, but when healthy, he had been a solid NFL starter.

Is a completion percentage of more than 65 from a guy who has throw 30 more touchdowns than interceptions cause for criticism? That’s like knocking Santa Claus for being too predictable and consistent every year.

The results have the Dolphins feeling jolly – and perched in a three-way tie at 8-5 atop the AFC East with Favre’s Jets and the defending conference champion Patriots. That’s seven more Ws than last season. And with upcoming games against San Francisco and Kansas City, the stage is set for Pennington to have a key showdown in the regular-season finale – you guessed it, against Favre and his former team, the Jets.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the road to the Super Bowl may take some road wins in the playoffs, and last weekend, there was plenty of evidence that some teams are ready to hit the road more than others.

Pennington and Miami may be riding high, but I was sacked for a huge loss last week, going 0-3 against the number. With a 25-16-1 overall record, I’m primed for a late-season collapse, but we’ll see how I fare this week with the Bengals plus 6 1/2 against the Redskins, the Steelers +1 ½ at the Ravens and the Packers -2 at the Jaguars.

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