A Passing Fantasy Issue 104
NFLBP Player Newsletter 2001 Championship Games
ed Robert Crowther
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Divisional Games Review
The Broncos got off to a fast start in Cincinnati and when they went in at half time with a fifteen point lead an upset looked to be on the cards. The three time AFC champion Bengals are not a team to panic, however, and looked a different team in the second half. They still needed a two point conversion to set up a tense overtime period which right down to the wire. In New England the underdogs also got off to a fast start, Oakland turned three Patriot turnovers into 13 points on the way to a big first half lead. The Raiders rode their luck somewhat, with their receivers struggling to hold on to the ball against the hard hitting New England secondary the ball always seemed to be bouncing back to Oakland.
San Francisco held the early lead in Philadelphia, and stayed ahead at half time thanks to a failed two point conversion from the Eagles. In the second half the Philadelphia defense completely shut down the 49ers, while the offense was just about good enough to take advantage. In St Louis the Rams started strong and just kept on going, while any hopes Green Bay might have had after their second quarter touchdown faded rapidly. St Louis just kept on scoring while the Pack couldn't get back to the endzone.
Silver Bowl Review
The Panthers suddenly looked a lot more like the team that won the superbowl last season, giving up plenty of yardage to the Cowboys but, for the most part, keeping them out of scoring range at crucial times. Miami thrashed the Seahawks, giving up plenty of yards to their deep passing attack but getting the big plays to balance that out. The Jets are still winning ugly, their defense kept the Chiefs out of the endzone while their offense managed to score more points than they gave up. The Detroit punt returner had a huge day and was given plenty of opportunities by the Chicago offense.
Bronze Bowl Review
The Redskins rushing attack looked formidable in Tennessee, the Titans offense never really got on track. New Orleans were far too good for Buffalo despite not being able to run the ball. Baltimore got off to a good start in Arizona but then their offense dried up, while the Cards just kept on rolling. Cleveland couldn't move the ball on Tampa Bay but four turnovers gave them more than enough opportunities.
Coach Williams Mid-Week Press Conference
You would expect Coach Williams to be very happy with life at the moment, after all his Rams have just won their first play off game, dishing out a 48-11 whuppin to the visiting Packers. But he had this to say to the St Louis media on Wednesday.
"Obviously Im very happy with that result, and there were some real good positives to come out of that game. Our running game performed well ahead of what will be an extremely stern test this Sunday against the Eagles league leading run defence, and our defence was simply awesome. To force 7 turnovers and return 3 for scores in a play off game is phenomenal, and if they can keep up that form for another two games then Ill be a very happy man. However, it has to be said that our passing game was poor, Im very disappointed with 3 interceptions. All the blame doesnt lie with Kurt Warner, the Green Bay defense threw some very different looks at us to what we have been used to seeing in certain situations this season and that put them in the position to make those picks, but Im certainly not happy with two of them. It is even more disappointing given Kurts wonderful form in the last 7 weeks of the season, and well be looking to rectify that before the Eagles game."
And so what is Coach Williams view on the NFC Championship game?
"Well when you look at the performance of their front seven, you have to be impressed. They go at you relentlessly each and every down, and conceding an average of less than 2 yards per carry says it all really. The Eagles are very aggressive on D, calling BZ, IX and FD more often than not and Ive been looking at a gameplan that can use this aggressive stance to our advantage. The key aim is to get our running game going against that tough D, once that is done we should be able to pick apart their secondary, which has been passed on all season long. This has mainly been due to a lack of support from the linebackers more than a lack of ability at corner or safety. Our other main priority is to protect Kurt, as he has proven many times this season that he is very accurate with the ball when he has good protection and a running game backing him up. Defensively we will be making very few changes to the gameplan that has got us this far, the Eagles favour the inside run so we have adapted accordingly but other than that we feel confident that we can contain their offence. I have to admit that I really had in the back of my mind a 49ers v Rams Championship game, but full credit to Philadelphia for coming up big in their two key match ups against the 49ers. That alone proves that they deserve to be here and we are certainly going to show them the respect they deserve. It will be tough, and Im expecting it to be closer than their previous visit back in week 7 when we won 31-10 and that is as much as Im prepared to say!"
And how about over in the AFC?
"You can look at last weeks Broncos v Bengals game in two ways. Firstly, it shows that the Bengals can have bad days and that Oakland could beat them. The Raiders have only beaten the Bengals once during my tenure as head coach of the Rams, which now stretches back almost 3 seasons, and haven't beaten them in the play offs since BPs inaugural season, so of course the Bengals have to be favourites to reach their third successive Superbowl. Secondly Coach Birtchnell has proved time and again that he is the best coach in the leagues recent history and I simply cant see him allowing his players to be as slow out of the blocks against the Raiders as they were against the Broncos. From Coach Crowthers perspective, last weeks victory in New England will have helped instil new belief in a team that has struggled at times this season and they may well feel good about their chances of pulling off an upset. Personally, I think the Bengals are 9 point favourites."
Championship Games Preview
Raiders at Bengals
In the five seasons of NFLBP these two teams have won five AFC Championships between them. Three times they have met in the Championship game, with Cincinnati holding the advantage with two wins. In fact, Cincinnati hold the advantage overall with the Raiders having beaten them only once since Coach Birtchnell's first full season. Cincinnati, then, start as favourites - Oakland will have to come up with their best game of the season.
Eagles at Rams
In stark contrast to the AFC we are guaranteed to once again have a new NFC champion. The two teams are also very different - Philly lean heavily on their defense and like to control the ball with their offense, the Rams, while their defense is much improved, have their offense as the main weapon. Overall St Louis have the more balanced team and start as favourites, the Eagles will be looking to keep the game close and take advantage of turnovers.
NFLBP Player Newsletter
ed Robert Crowther