The Riverfront Reporter
NFLAY Player Newsletter
ed Robert Crowther
Welcome to another, slightly hurried, issue. Big news this week was the shocking end to the Raven's unbeaten record, there can't have been many who predicted the Redskins to be the ones to upset the applecart, let alone in such a convincing manner. I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome Mark Dixon to the NFLAY, joining an increasingly competitive NFC East. The Giants have already benefited from the new leadership, leaping from last place into (nearly) playoff contention. The next issue is planned to come out in time for the playoffs (giving myself a large window of opportunity here), but I will be moving house in the meantime (not sure where yet...), so email contributions only for next time: [email protected].
Review of weeks ten to twelve
This week I'm starting in the NFC East, mainly because of the shock result of the season - last week's stunning shutout by the Skins over the Ravens. Washington continue to improve week by week and now lead the East, and have a chance to upset another perfect winning record this week, when they play Carolina. Oddly, the Cowboys went 0-3 as the offense stuttered and the defense failed. New (though veteran) Head Coach Mark Dixon has turned the Giants around and has a chance at the playoffs.
The central is as-you-were, with Chicago the first team to be crowned Division champ. The Bears also now have the league's number one offense, and the number four D, making them the team to beat in the NFC. Green Bay are suffering in the basement, but haven't had the easiest of schedules.
Again, the West is the same as week nine. The Niner's week 2 tied game means they cannot now catch the Panthers.
Playoff-wise, the Bears and Panthers are in, Washington and Dallas are fighting for the East crown, and the Giants, Lions, Vikings, Niners and Falcons are crowding the loser for the wild-card spots.
Off to the AFC East. The other new leaders are the Colts, Back on top as the Dolphins slide from top to bottom in 3 weeks. Not as bad as it sounds: the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins are tied for second. With weeks 14 and 16 interdivisional, this crown's going to the wire.
The central is another Same-as division, but the split has widened between second and third. The Bengals have beaten tough opposition to keep alive the editor's playoff chances but I can't see the Ravens wheels coming off so badly they fail to take the Division, though having said that, guess who play each other week 16...? The Jags need every win they can get to gain a wild card.
The Raiders still lead the West, but Coach MacDonald is trying to make me eat my words as the Seahawks move up two places. Two wins out of four and the Raiders rule the west.
As for the playoff picture, who knows? Baltimore and the Raiders look like winners, leaving the Bengals and whoever doesn't win the East to scrabble for wild cards. The Bengals have the edge (and play Miami and the Jets, as well as the Ravens), the Chiefs and Seahawks are outsiders.
Week 11 saw the annual rush to spend the LPs accumulated by week 10,with the Giants being the main movers, something that may well continue as Coach Dixon runs the slide rule over his new charges. And week 12 brings the updated league stats, which show that the Bears have the number one O, and the Giants have taken the number one D spot from the suddenly frail Dallas. All round, the AFC East looks like a tough place to be, with four top 7 offences and three top 10 defences. I for one look forward to some good games from there in weeks 14 and 16 - but I reckon the coaches will be nervous.
Finally, The Race for the number one draft pick is tight, with a four-way tie. I'm betting on St Louis taking the first pick: their last four opponents have a combined 31-16-1 record.
The playoffs are in sight. Gentlemen, start your engines... and good luck.
Remaining opponents: Raiders; Jets; Chargers; Patriots.
Combined record: 23-25
A fairly tough run in, but nothing Indianapolis haven't handled before. Already have a one game lead in the division and should have no problems with San Diego, I suspect it will take massive performances from both New York and New England to prevent them reclaiming the division crown.
Remaining opponents: Chargers; Dolphins; Raiders; Colts.
Combined record: 24-24
Should beat San Diego and, if they manage to get past Miami and Oakland, have a points difference advantage over leaders Indianapolis which could be significant come week sixteen. I expect them to slip up at least once before then, however.
Remaining opponents: Ravens; Colts; Bengals; Dolphins.
Combined record: 34-14
A nightmare run in for the New York team, it will be a phenomenal performance for them to snatch a wildcard from this. May well find themselves out of the running inside two weeks, although, if you're a glass half full kind of person, they have their destiny in their own hands...
Remaining opponents: Bengals; Patriots; Ravens; Jets.
Combined record: 33-15
Slightly better prospects than New York, but they need to take three out of four and hope someone else can knock off the Colts.
Remaining opponents: Jets; Jaguars; Dolphins; Bengals.
Combined record: 26-22
Realistically need only one win to wrap up the division and homefield advantage. I expect the poor showing in Washington will turn out to be a one off, in which case another loss would be a bit of a surprise.
Remaining opponents: Dolphins; Steelers; Jets; Ravens.
Combined record: 27-21
Schedule is tougher than the record suggests, given the revitalisation of Pittsburgh, but two wins out of four will likely be enough for a wildcard if Cincy can't manage that, they don't deserve to be in the playoffs.
Remaining opponents: Colts; Chiefs; Patriots; Chargers.
Combined record: 21-27
With the huge advantage of getting to play the rest of the AFC West twice a season, Oakland are a lock. They might, mathematically, still be able to lose the division, but it's not likely.
Remaining opponents: Panthers; Giants; 49ers; Cowboys.
Combined record: 30-17-1
A tough run in, it will take a repeat of last week's form to come away from Carolina with a win, New York are much improved and the 49ers are always tough to beat the week sixteen game could turn out to be the division decider. Still, with a two game lead they are clear favourites in the East.
Remaining opponents: 49ers; Eagles; Panthers; Redskins.
Combined record: 30-17-1
A similar schedule to the division leaders, but should be guaranteed at least one win in Philadelphia. They will be hoping Washington's performance last week was a fluke.
Remaining opponents: Lions; Redskins; Vikings; Eagles.
Combined record: 21-28
They need to win all their remaining games, hope the Redskins lose all theirs, and the Cowboys beat no-one apart from Washington. A slim chance but, with a relatively soft schedule, a chance nonetheless.
Remaining opponents: Rams; Vikings; Falcons; Packers.
Combined record: 15-32-1
Already secured a playoff spot, will be hoping someone can beat Carolina by about sixty points so they can snatch homefield advantage...
Remaining opponents: Redskins; Rams; Cowboys; 49ers.
Combined record: 26-19-2
Not much to keep the Panthers interested, apart from preserving the perfect record and throwing a few spanners in the works of other's playoff machinations.
Remaining opponents: Cowboys; Falcons; Redskins; Panthers.
Combined record: 32-15-1
Should be able to pick up two wins from this lot, which will see them back in the wildcard game. Result against the Falcons will likely determine whether or not they host it.
Remaining opponents: Packers; 49ers; Bears; Rams.
Combined record: 22-25-1
Expect them to pick up wins in Green Bay and St Louis, but will have to beat one of San Francisco or Chicago to guarantee a wildcard spot, though I suspect eight wins may be enough for them.
Predictions for week thirteen
Colts at Raiders Colts by 7
Patriots at Chargers Patriots by 14
Jets at Ravens Ravens by 7
Jaguars at Seahawks Jaguars by 3
Steelers at Chiefs Steelers by 14
Cowboys at 49ers 49ers by 3
Redskins at Panthers Panthers by 10
Eagles at Vikings Vikings by 7
Giants at Lions Giants by 7
Bears at Rams Bears by 14
Packers at Falcons Falcons by 14
2003 Season Week 13