A Passing Fantasy Issue 102

NFLBP Player Newsletter 2001 Wildcards

ed Robert Crowther

Playoff previews this issue from Dave Pinder and Martyn Williams this week, along with some stats on the playoff contenders. I also have the final standings in the predictions competition from Darren but my Internet connection has gone AWOL in the last few days, so I can't actually get at them :(.


ST LOUIS POST-DESPATCH – Mid-Week Interview with Coach Williams


Coach Williams couldn’t stop smiling as he appeared for an interview that had been pre-arranged back in week 14, once a home play off game had been confirmed. "Well I certainly didn’t think I would be sitting here as Coach of the newly crowned NFC West Champions, and the fact that we pipped the 49ers makes it even sweeter! The way that the coaching staff and players have come together after the week 9 loss in Detroit has really been a joy to witness. As coaches we worked hard to improve the offensive and defensive gameplans, and the players have taken those changes on board and an unbeaten run of 7 games has been the result. And now every one gets the reward of a week off, and the knowledge that the NFC road to the Superbowl runs through the Dome at the America’s Centre. We have a great opportunity here and we won’t be happy with anything less than representing the NFC in the Superbowl." When questioned about a recent drunken meeting with the three main contenders in the AFC Coach Williams looked slightly uncomfortable. "That lager slips down sweetly when celebrating success doesn’t it? All three coaches are cool guys, I just hope they didn’t take advantage of my willingness to chat – I don’t think I gave too much away… But first there is the matter of an NFC Championship to win, and whoever we face, to achieve that will take two good victories against strong teams."


Playoff Previews

Dave Pinder


AFC


Playoff Line-Up Wildcard - Seahawks at Broncos


Other Playoff Teams – Raiders, Patriots, Bengals


Seattle Seahawks – Coach Rod Pickard


Stole into the playoffs at 8-8 with a dramatic wk 16 victory over the Broncos, ironically, the team who they will now meet in the wildcard game. Their presence in the playoffs however can be credited to disappointing performance by the Dolphins and Browns in particular.


Their hopes rest on their #1 ranked offence, which solely consists of a deep passing attack that gains 16 yards per completion, but completes less than 50% of pass attempts. This tactic has been sufficient to dominate weaker opposition, but against organised defences they have struggled. Their only win of note this season being against the Raiders in an unusually low-scoring game. They passed for over 300 yards against each of the leading three teams in the AFC, but with little or no running game and an average D, they may well sneak past Denver, but don’t expect them to progress further than the Divisional playoffs.


Prediction: Hawks wings clipped by Broncos.


Denver Broncos –  No coach at present


The known absence of Coach Gamble casts doubts over the Broncos ability to challenge for the AFC Crown. Despite a talented squad, the lack of coaching leadership has meant very average performance, illustrated by the Broncos final rankings of 10 on O and 12 on D.


Their chief strength this season and a key reason for many close victories this season has been their stingy turnover ratio. The Broncos boast the lowest % interceptions and one of the best fumble percentages has given them the edge in several key games, including against the Browns and Raiders.


The Broncos do have what it takes to cause an upset on their day, but don’t expect them to get any further than Cincy in the Divisional Playoff round.


Prediction: Tigers to maul Broncos


Oakland Raiders – Coach Rob Crowther


Coach Crowther will have been disappointed in several key losses, which cost the Raiders a home playoff. Not so much the games in Cincinnati and New England, but the losses to Seattle, Denver and most notably Arizona.


The Raiders road form will be a key concern to their coach, facing the long trip to Foxboro’ in the divisional round, with an overall road record of 3-5, the Raiders need a big improvement to progress.


However, Coach Crowther has vast experience and his team is impressive on paper, ranked #6 on defence and offence. Indeed they have shown this season to be capable of both clampdown defence and outstanding offence, but lapses of both (though not at the same time) have cost them games.


One would expect them to need to produce their top form to overcome the Patriots, but they are well capable of going all the way. Write them off at your peril!


Prediction: Championship Game Blues for Oakland once more


New England Patriots – Coach Dave Pinder


At last weeks post-game news conference, Coach Pinder described their 15-1 season as ‘an improvement’ and ‘promising’, but was keen to express that as yet the Patriots have not won anything despite a pleasing regular season.


This sums it up for the Patriots, they have finally broken their losing streaks against their two big AFC rivals, but they find themselves having to beat the Raiders and Bengals again in order to reach their first BP Bowl game.

On paper it would seem eminently possible, with the leagues top rush O (on yardage) and the stingiest D, conceding just over 10 points per game on average.

However the Patriots post-season record is poor, having lost to the Bengals in each of the last two seasons, they still have to prove that they have what it takes in the biggest games. What is for sure, is that if they get to the Bowl, they’ll have earnt their place the hard way.


Prediction: Still a season too soon for the Pats. Oakland will be the stumbling block this time


Cincinnati Bengals – Coach Darren Birtchnell


The Bengals, quite rightly come into this post-season the clear favourites for the AFC and the BP Bowl. They have proved repeatedly that they are the team to beat in BP, despite last year’s disappointment against the Panthers and this year is no different.


The reasons for their success are not hard to see. They boast the #1 D and O, which produces an average of just under 35 points per game, by far the best in the league and with a defence which conceded more than 20 points on only two occasions, they are incredibly hard to beat.


Coach Birtchnell will be very disappointed if he doesn’t add to his previous AFC and BP Bowl championships this year, I for one will be very surprised if he does not.


Prediction: Another Bowl Victory for Coach Birtchnell and the Bengals


NFC


Playoff Line-Up Wildcard – Cowboys at 49ers

Other Playoff Teams – Packers, Eagles, Rams


Dallas Cowboys – Coach Philip Passey


Coach Passey has transformed the perennially struggling Cowboys into a post-season challenger in only one season. This is despite fairly disappointing stats, only #15 on O and #20 on D; they only beat one post-season bound team in 6 attempts this year.


Like the Seahawks, their success is based on big play capability, proved by a completed pass average of 16.2 yards, but their lack of an effective running game (the Eagles recently restricted them to 0 yards in the whole game) will surely restrict their progress in the Wildcard game. It was close when these teams met in week 1; it won’t be this time.


Prediction: 49ers to head Cowboys off at the Wildcard pass


San Francisco 49ers – Coach Martin Devine


If, two weeks ago, you had tried to place a bet on the 49ers playing in the wildcard game this season, they would have been calling for the straitjacket and sedatives. However, two shock results in a row, concluding with a 2 point loss to the Panthers saw the 49ers grasp NFC West defeat from the jaws of victory in spectacular style.


These results were all the more surprising as coach Devine and the 49ers had coasted through the first 14 weeks of the season, with only a close defeat at St Louis in week 10 in the loss column. Their #3 ranked O and #8 ranked D had shown no signs of great weakness, although the latter was a slight decline from last season.


However the loss against Philadelphia will have alarmed Coach Devine in particular, as the Niners are likely to have to travel to Philly for the divisional playoff. The 49ers will be relying on their impressive running game to see them past their main rivals this time, but should this falter, it is possible to foresee difficult time ahead.


Prediction: 49ers to get the blues in St Louis


Green Bay Packers - No coach at present


The Packers progressed to the Post season from arguably the weakest division in BP. The once great side finished 9-7, but with a record of 1-4 against playoff bound teams, their one win coming against the Cowboys.


Indeed the week 16 defeat at home against Chicago with their new coach saw a sorry performance from the Packers who with the #23 ranked defence look the weakest of all the playoff teams and are likely to experience a repeat of their week 15 thrashing by the Rams, or more likely worse.


Prediction: Cheeseheads going to St Louis and then off back to the frozen north


Philadelphia Eagles – Coach Paul Gaines


A successful season thus far for the Eagles, who emerged again from the Cardinals shadow with an impressive record of 11-5. Admittedly they are in a fairly weak division, they went 4-2 in their division and 3-2 against playoff teams. Inconsistency would seem to be their main problem, coming into the playoffs losing three of their last four, their only victory being against the 49ers.


The statistics show a #11 O, incorporating the #3 rushing offence, which has been the backbone of their winning season. On D they are ranked #3 overall and #1 against the run, which is most likely the reason for their mixed success. They have beaten good sides who have rush-based offence, but struggled against the passing teams.


A proficient side, they are in the playoffs on merit and should do well, although it is hard to see the 49ers letting them off lightly for costing them their division.


Prediction: Soaring Eagles grounded by 49ers


St Louis Rams – Coach Martyn Williams


Last but definitely not least, the Rams. Coach Williams has expressed his surprise and delight at their dramatic NFC West victory which they will feel is deserved after several years in the shadow of the 49ers. Pipping their arch-rivals will have been all the sweeter for the Rams who were knocked out in the Wildcard round by San Francisco last year.

Whilst only finishing #8 on offence, the Rams have based their victorious season on solid defence, boasting the lowest yards and points conceded totals in the NFC. They clinched homefield advantage in style, but losses on the road in San Francisco, where they were well beaten and in Detroit (inexplicably) prove that the Rams are not invincible. They are however on a seven match unbeaten streak since Detroit, the hottest in the NFC and it is hard to see anyone stopping them reaching their first BP Bowl. What then – we’ll have to see.


Prediction: Sheep to be shorn by Bengals in Bowl game


ST LOUIS POST-DESPATCH – 2001 Season Play Off Preview


AFC – The AFC has the two strongest teams in NFLBP, namely the Bengals and Patriots. The Bengals have homefield advantage but the Patriots are on a 15 game winning streak that includes a week 11 victory in Cincinnati. Looking at the stats the Patriots look like the favourites, but on the field there is nothing but a field goal to choose between the two. Behind them are the Raiders, who have fallen off the pace in the AFC slightly this season, but Coach Crowther has enough big game experience to pull off an upset, but I don’t think the team can get all the way to the Superbowl. Of the two wild card teams Seattle look more likely than Denver to be the surprise package, their defence is sound if not spectacular, and their bombs away approach to offence always has the ability to score points. However, the complete lack of a running game and a tendency to turn the ball over could ultimately cost them dear.


NFC – After week 14 it was 49ers all the way, but two disastrous results later and they have to settle for a wildcard. So the Rams become the NFC favourites, and the turnaround under Coach Williams is almost complete. Having the leagues top rated rushing attack, and a tough defence isn’t exactly what St Louis fans were used to 3 seasons ago, but no one is complaining now. The 49ers are still the team to beat in many respects, but they could struggle from the wild card. A trip to Philadelphia doesn’t look good for them after the week 15 defeat. The Eagles have been overlooked by many this season, but fired a wake up call across the NFC with that victory over the 49ers, unfortunately they followed that with a loss to lowly Arizona. Green Bay and Dallas both have the offences to score points, but poor defences tell the truth about their chances.


Message Board


Dave Pinder to all Playoff Coaches: Best of Luck in the playoffs to all (except if you play me of course)



STATS CORNER - 2001 PlayOffs

Martyn Williams


RUSHING OFFENCE


Team

Att

Yards

Avg

TD

Fm

Rating

1

Rams

527

1919

3.64

22

10

72.92

2

Bengals

378

1703

4.51

20

14

72.67

3

Raiders

480

1869

3.89

16

10

69.89

4

49ers

492

1985

4.03

16

11

69.50

5

Patriots

571

2506

4.39

10

8

69.44

7

Packers

475

1451

3.05

15

11

63.83

8

Eagles

511

1938

3.79

10

12

62.55

11

Seahawks

299

846

2.83

11

11

57.97

16

Broncos

455

1404

3.09

4

10

55.46

19

Cowboys

444

1173

2.64

8

12

54.40


PASSING OFFENCE



Team

Cp

Att

Pct

Yds

TD

Int

Sk

Rat

2

Patriots

329

490

67.14

3471

35

11

45

102.0

3

Bengals

360

563

63.94

4474

41

18

64

99.4

4

Packers

253

393

64.38

3702

27

20

46

96.6

5

Broncos

304

489

62.17

4081

23

10

66

95.8

6

49ers

343

544

63.05

4012

37

16

51

95.7

7

Cowboys

232

444

52.25

3747

34

16

49

91.3

9

Rams

278

474

58.65

3686

33

19

49

89.8

11

Raiders

334

551

60.62

3892

35

23

45

85.8

12

Eagles

301

484

62.19

3422

25

18

56

85.0

20

Seahawks

334

673

49.63

5427

25

29

76

71.4


TURNOVERS


Rank

Team

T/O +/-

1

New England Patriots

16

3

Dallas Cowboys

14

4

Denver Broncos

14

5

St Louis Rams

13

9

San Francisco 49ers

2

11

Philadelphia Eagles

0

12

Cincinnati Bengals

-1

15

Oakland Raiders

-4

17

Green Bay Packers

-5

18

Seattle Seahawks

-7


RUSHING DEFENCE



Team

Att

Yards

AvgR

TD

Fm

Rating

1

Eagles

448

741

1.65

7

17

43.05

2

Rams

439

1137

2.59

4

17

44.73

3

Seahawks

431

1341

3.11

4

15

49.37

4

Bengals

432

1328

3.07

1

12

49.91

5

Raiders

406

1376

3.39

3

13

51.39

6

Patriots

329

1023

3.11

4

10

52.71

11

49ers

553

1523

2.75

11

12

58.38

14

Packers

502

1880

3.75

7

11

60.85

15

Cowboys

549

1859

3.39

21

19

62.43

16

Broncos

411

1287

3.13

12

10

62.67


PASSING DEFENCE



Team

Cp

Att

Pct

Yds

TD

Int

Sk

Rat

1

Patriots

330

606

54.46

3838

12

25

58

63.26

2

Bengals

286

538

53.16

3106

18

19

50

66.88

4

Rams

297

508

58.46

3440

21

25

46

72.29

5

Raiders

301

547

55.03

3500

18

16

60

73.38

6

Broncos

312

562

55.52

3987

25

24

72

74.94

7

49ers

270

466

57.94

3414

17

17

44

77.85

11

Cowboys

303

486

62.35

3714

21

23

47

80.56

14

Seahawks

321

543

59.12

3973

29

18

60

85.82

19

Packers

321

541

59.33

4212

32

15

59

92.13

21

Eagles

321

506

63.44

3930

25

13

64

93.07


SPECIAL TEAMS – KICKERS



Team

FG%

XP%

KickPt

KickRat

1

Raiders

90.63

96.08

136

95.63

2

Rams

96.00

100.00

129

95.58

3

Patriots

86.11

95.65

137

94.25

6

Eagles

79.07

97.22

137

91.80

7

49ers

92.00

96.30

121

90.70

9

Bengals

75.76

95.24

135

89.58

10

Cowboys

95.24

100.00

103

85.81

11

Packers

95.65

94.87

103

85.32

13

Broncos

84.38

100.00

108

83.56

15

Seahawks

90.91

100.00

94

80.90


Wildcard Predictions


Predictions from Dave Pinder and Martyn Williams.


DP – Broncos by 7, 49ers by 14


MW – Seahawks by 7, 49ers by 13

NFLBP Player Newsletter

-4-

ed Robert Crowther