A PASSING FANTASY ISSUE 24 1998 SEASON WEEK TWO

NFLBP PLAYER NEWSLETTER ed. Robert Crowther


In this issue...

WEEK ONE REVIEW - BY QUENTIN JENKINSON

Miami and Cincinnati fought out a tough draw in Ohio, Twenty punts was the low-light of a game that neither side took control of. However, if the Dolphins won their division and the Bengals won the Con Bowl last year, which team has improved with this result? Luck, the only explanation for the Browns beating the Bills! That, and a slight advantage in turnovers (2-1). The Browns look to be a team that can challenge the rest in an extremely strong AFC Central. Buffalo, on the other hand, are a good team and should easily bounce back next week (Home to the Patsies). Oakland put in a strong performance against the Jets, to start their march toward a third straight Superbowl defeat (Tee-hee!). The Raiders have now won eighteen regular season games in a row, and a rookie QB wasn't going to get much change out of a strong Oakland secondary. Ray Lucas, on his debut, threw no touchdowns, one interception and ran for 32 yards - if he were a team he'd be called the Tampa Bay Buccaneers! New England continued to struggle, this time against a 'Coach-less' Broncos team. The Patriots backfield, loaded with talent, ran well against a strong Denver run defense, and so gave Drew 'Lazarus' Bledsoe time to throw the long passes that Coach 'Deep Ball' loves to call. Unfortunately, Denver managed to run out the clock, gaining more first downs (23-14). Pittsburgh came out on fire at the Kingdome, perhaps spurred on by their preseason win over Superbowl champions Green Bay. Three first quarter TDs was always going to be a sizable barrier for the Seahawks. The Steelers, in my opinion, will retain their division title this season with solid wins like this. This week's thanksgiving turkeys are Jacksonville. Coach Ashton forgot to read the menu (An easy win for the Jags) and dished up an upset with cranberry sauce and stuffing! The Chiefs, like New England, have a strong back field and plenty of downfield passing options. It's possible that this game might have exposed the fact that the Jacksonville secondary isn't great. Arizona put in a solid performance on the road in Michigan. The Cardinals eventually gaining the upper hand in the second half. The Lions are another team that could challenge for honours this season, though I'm not sure they're utilising their strengths as well as they did last season. In the 'Hurt themselves the most' category this week are the Dallas Cowboys. Coach Keel went out and drafted a deep threat wide receiver, and then ran 65 times on a Bucs defense ranked first against the run at the end of last season. As Homer Simpson would say, 'Doh!' Tampa Bay didn't produce much offense, but they didn't have to! San Francisco opened their campaign with a comfortable win over the Redskins. The 49ers high percentage short passing game creating space for the running backs to capitalize on a weak Washington run defense. Philadelphia, preseason darlings of other Coaches, got beaten by a strong Saints team in Louisiana. The question that begs to be asked, though, is why sign an expensive free agent QB and sit him on the bench? New Orleans ran the ball well and controlled the clock, thus limiting damage to a weak secondary. Notify Ripley's, Carolina gave up only 101 rushing yards against Green Bay, their second lowest figure in franchise history (1997 Wk 6 - 79 yards at Patriots - yes, I've been doing research, well, I thought it might have been the record!). They still managed to lose, though, because the Packers were able to post 31 first quarter points and coast for the rest of the game. Chicago managed to overcome the Rams in a tight game at the Trans World Dome. This game probably marks the re-emergence of a St Louis team that had a terrible season last year after going to the playoffs in 1996.

Offensive performance of the week goes to Kansas City for 381 yards and four TDs against the Jaguars. Defensive performance of the week goes to Cleveland for limiting a strong Bills offense to one touchdown and two field goals. Special teams performance of the week goes to Denver, 6 kick returns for 158 yards (including a TD), 2 of 2 field goals and 3 of 3 extra points.


1998 SEASON PREVIEW

AFC East

1) Miami 2) Buffalo 3) New York 4) New England

Expect this to be a two horse race, New York don't have the offensive talent to overcome a rookie starter at QB. Buffalo and Miami both have well balanced rosters, the Bills have more talent but the Dolphins have more experience. Their week five encounter should be important, but the Dolphins get the Patriots twice in three weeks in the middle of the season which will either put them back in the race or put them too far ahead. New England, once again, will struggle without pass protection, and their defense is getting weaker by the year.

AFC Central

1) Cincinnati 2) Pittsburgh 3) Jacksonville 4) Cleveland

The toughest division in the AFC, Pittsburgh will be tough to unseat but the Bengals have enough talent to do it. Neither team look to have any major weaknesses. The Jaguars are lacking a secondary, which could hurt them in the long run, but have a strong offense and pass rush to overcome this for any given game - expect a few thrashings either way. Cleveland look good on paper, the defense could be exceptional if the young LBs play well, but their track record counts against them in this division of experience coaches and quality rosters.

AFC West

1) No 2) Predictions 3) From 4) Me

The Raiders had this division won by midseason last year, and remain the team to beat - the question is, can any of the other three do it? Denver are the obvious challengers, with a strong defense - especially against the run - and enough talent on offense. However, they are likely to be without a coach for a large part of the season. Seattle look to have a monster offensive line which, coupled with a veteran RB and QB and two deep threat wideouts, should lead to a high octane offense. The problem will be on defense, where they will struggle to stop most teams running, let alone the Raiders. The Chiefs are loaded at the offensive skill positions, but will also struggle on defense. Having said that, the Raiders are not without problems - the running game has lost it's workhorse, and the defensive front seven is starting to look a bit thin.

The Playoffs

The likely playoff teams in the AFC are Buffalo, Cincinnati, Oakland, Miami and Pittsburgh. Other contenders are Jacksonville and Denver. It's about time someone other than Oakland got to represent the AFC in the Superbowl, so I'll pick, um, err, well, one of the others...

NFC East

1) Arizona 2) Philadelphia 3) Washington 4) Dallas

The Cardinals look to be untouchable in this division with all the other contenders having major problems. Many of us are waiting for the Eagles to have their breakthrough year, but they look weak on the offensive line and lack experience at linebacker. The Redskins still need to improve their defense to give their offense a chance to win games. The Cowboys like to run the ball, a lot, but unusually chose to draft a WR rather then bolster their offensive line. The defensive line and secondary are strong, but the Cowboys are too predictable on offense.

NFC Central

1) Green Bay 2) Detroit 3) Chicago 4) Tampa Bay

This division is a lottery, any one of three teams could win. Despite it being Detroit's turn I'm going to stick with the Packers. Green Bay are strong in every area, and feature virtually impenetrable pass protection for their short passing game and great defensive playcalling. Detroit have more talent, but seem to lose out in the big games, their week sixteen loss to the Bears is just one example. The Bears rely on their veteran NT to hold the defense together long enough for their offense to overpower opponents. Although they are weak at linebacker, they have managed to overcome this lack of talent before and have a chance to win the division. Tampa Bay are built around a monster defensive line, and should once again be among the league's leading run defenses, the question is, do they have enough talent in other areas to overcome their strong divisional opponents?

NFC West

1) San Francisco 2) New Orleans 3) St Louis 4) Carolina

The West should be much stronger this year as the Rams return to contention. After losing a host of veterans and enduring a horrible season last year, the Rams have added talent and experience. They may not be in the playoffs, but they look good enough for seven or eight wins. The Panthers have more talent than anyone in the NFC, the defense, on paper, should be among the league's best, but they are continually let down by their total lack of offensive blocking and poor defensive playcalling. New Orleans look back to their best, great offense coupled with overpowering run defense but shaky further back - a recipe that worked in 1996. The 49ers however, have enough class to take the division again. A balanced offense, and perhaps the best linebacking corp in the league.

The Playoffs

The likely playoff teams are Arizona, Green Bay, San Francisco, Detroit and Chicago with New Orleans the team most likely to benefit from the infighting in the Central. The last two champions, Green Bay and San Francisco, are favourites to advance.


WEEK TWO PREVIEW

Predictions this week from Pat Ratcliffe, Quentin Jenkinson and Darren Birtchnell.

Jets at Dolphins

PR - After difficult games in week one, both New York and Miami have to regroup and take advantage of their first down superiority. DOLPHINS BY 6

QJ - JETS BY 1 DB - DOLPHINS BY 4

Patriots at Bills

PR - Both teams need to step up to secure victory. BILLS BY 3

QJ - BILLS BY 14 DB - BILLS BY 14

Bengals at Steelers

PR - A hard game in prospect, with the Bengals keen to get on the winning track and Pittsburgh looking to close up a leaky pass defense after a lucky week one win. NO PREDICTION

QJ - STEELERS BY 7 DB - NO PREDICTION

Browns at Jaguars

PR - Coach Morgan needs to discover how to shore up his shell-shocked defense, after a severe hammering in week one, and find a way to improve his third down conversion rate. BROWNS BY 6

QJ - JAGUARS BY 3 DB - BROWNS BY 1

Chiefs at Broncos

PR - Can Kansas continue their awesome offense in Mile High Stadium? Something has to give. BRONCOS BY 6

QJ - CHIEFS BY 3 DB - BRONCOS BY 3

Seahawks at Raiders

PR - Look to Coach Crowther to continue in his relentless pursuit of a bowl win, in this close encounter of the second week. RAIDERS BY 3

QJ - RAIDERS BY 7 DB - RAIDERS BY 10

Redskins at Cardinals

PR - Coach Jenkinson should build on an excellent week one, and washout Washington's warpath. CARDINALS BY 10

QJ - NO PREDICTION DB - CARDINALS BY 10

Eagles at Cowboys

PR - Dallas are going to need to generate more offense in the air to have any chance of winging an eagle today.EAGLES BY 10

QJ - EAGLES BY 7 DB - COWBOYS BY 1

Lions at Packers

PR - There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded lion, so the Pack had better be on the lookout. LIONS BY 6

QJ - PACKERS BY 7 DB - PACKERS BY 3

Bucs at Bears

PR - The Bucs are due for a severe mauling from Coach Spicer's Bears. BEARS BY 14

QJ - BEARS BY 10 DB - BEARS BY 7

Rams at Saints

PR - The rams defense will be steamrollered away by the almost heavenly power of the Saints rush towards glory. SAINTS BY 14

QJ - SAINTS BY 7 DB - SAINTS BY 7

Panthers at 49ers

PR - Only a minor miracle can save Carolina from another devine performance. 49ERS BY 17

QJ - 49ERS BY 10 DB - 49ERS BY 10


That's all for this week, thanks for all the contributions. Rob

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