A PASSING FANTASY ISSUE 44 1999 SEASON WEEK ONE
NFLBP PLAYER NEWSLETTER ed. Robert Crowther

Thanks to Martin Devine, Quentin Jenkinson, Darren Birtchnell and John Coleman for letters this week. The address is:

2 Lily Terrace
Edinburgh
EH11 1PN

John would like to know how the Panthers won six games last season (I can only answer solid defense and big passing plays) and says he hopes to improve that record this season. He also predicts that Green Bay will win the superbowl this season, and on that note...

1999 SEASON PREVIEW

AFC East

QJ - Look for New England to win more games this season than they've won in their entire history (not too difficult: 4-10; 1-15; 2-14), they'll win this division now they've got a coach who looks as though he knows what he's doing.
1 Patriots 2 Jets 3 Dolphins 4 Bills

MD - It's tough to see the Jets repeating as division champions given their problems on the offensive line, but their defence will win them some games. Buffalo also have weaknesses, but their ball-control offence is well-suited to their squad. Miami look to be the strongest team (or maybe the team with the fewest weaknesses) in this division. New England are rebuilding, but will be much improved over past seasons.
1 Miami 10-6 2 Buffalo 8-8 3 New York 6-10 4 New England 6-10

RC - Jets have no OL, Bills and Patriots have no secondary, Dolphins win the division by default. Maybe not. The challenge with the other three will be to get the ball in the air before the defense eats the QB - the Jets, Bills and Pats all have more talent in their front seven than most teams have on their entire defense. This will be the closest divisional race.
1 Dolphins 2 Patriots 3 Bills 4 Jets

DB - Dolphins, Patriots, Bills, Jets.

AFC Central

QJ - Cleveland will battle the Bengals for the top spot in the Central. Cincinnati should be able to hold them off to set up another drive toward appearing in the Superbowl.
1 Bengals 2 Browns 3 Jaguars 4 Steelers

MD - Cincinnati may be starting a rookie QB, but he'll have a good supporting cast to ease him into the professional game. Cleveland and Pittsburgh are likely to be the main challengers, but are likely to fall short. Jacksonville will be in the running for the first pick in the draft once again.
1 Cincinnati 13-3 2 Pittsburgh 9-7 3 Cleveland 8-8 4 Jacksonville 2-14

RC - Bengals will once again rely on their defense, the rookie QB may hurt them in close games. Pittsburgh show signs of having a powerhouse offense this season, an above average effort from their defense could see them back in the playoffs. Cleveland have a suspect secondary and will need another league leading performance from their offense. Jacksonville still have no defense and feature one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
1 Bengals 2 Steelers 3 Browns 4 Jaguars

DB - Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Jaguars.

AFC West

QJ - Oakland won't have as much trouble in this division this season as they did last year. The Silver and Black should win the West with ease as they attempt to regain top spot within the AFC.
1 Raiders 2 Chiefs 3 Broncos 4 Seahawks

MD - Oakland should come out on top here, but it's tough to see them being as dominant as they have been in the past - this may be the start of a decline for the Raiders. Denver will again be the main threat, but the Broncos will struggle against the best teams in the league. Kansas City and Seattle will win games on the back of their offenses, but will leak too many points to be contenders.
1 Oakland 12-4 2 Denver 9-7 3 Seattle 5-11 4 Kansas City 4-12

RC - The Raiders will struggle with a young QB this season, but are any of their rivals good enough to take advantage? Denver have the best squad but are going to have to start playing their LB's on offense to get them in the game. Seattle and KC have great offense but neither has a defense capable of stopping an opponent.

DB - Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, Seahawks.

NFC East

QJ - Arizona have some competition in the East this season (makes a change!) from the Eagles. Modesty prevents me from predicting another divisional title heading towards the desert, Philadelphia might just snatch it away.
1 No 2 predictions 3 from 4 me

MD - This division is all about second place, as Arizona should retain the top spot with ease despite a merely average offence. The main challenge will come from Philadelphia, a team on the rise. Dallas and Washington will battle to avoid last place in the division - the Redskins should come out on top due to their offensive firepower.
1 Arizona 14-2 2 Philadelphia 10-6 3 Washington 6-10 4 Dallas 3-13

RC - The Cardinals will need another good year from their special teams to keep them ahead of the Eagles, who had another good offseason and, like Miami, have no obvious weaknesses. The Arizona offense looks suspect on paper but managed four hundred yards on the Jets in preseason. The Cowboys have yet to figure out how to take advantage of their offensive talent while the Redskins still have one of the worst defenses in the league.
1 Cardinals 2 Eagles 3 Cowboys 4 Redskins

DB - Cardinals, Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys.

NFC Central

QJ - The sudden demise of the Bears and Lions leaves Green Bay the only decent team in this division. The repeat Superbowl champions won't have any problems in clinching another Central title and might even go all the way once again.
1 Packers 2 Bears 3 Bucs 4 Lions

MD - Can anyone stop the Packers? Not in this division, anyways! Green Bay should win this division at a canter. Detroit are the favourites to take second place, although they do have defensive weaknesses. Tampa Bay won't set the league on fire, but they should finish ahead of the Bears.
1 Green Bay 14-2 2 Detroit 9-7 3 Tampa Bay 7-9 4 Chicago 4-12

RC - Green Bay have very little between them and a third consecutive division title. It seems strange that divisional opponents who regularly face the league's premier passing offense have yet to hit on the idea of building a solid secondary. In fact, Chicago have given up on the concept of defense altogether.
1 Packers 2 Bucs 3 Lions 4 Bears

DB - Packers, Bucs, Lions, Bears.

NFC West

QJ - San Francisco and New Orleans will fight each other for the Western title, while Carolina might even have a tilt at it. I think that Coach Devine has done well in re-tooling his squad, and so should regain his divisional crown.
1 49ers 2 Saints 3 Panthers 4 Rams

MD - The closest division in the NFC (which isn't saying much!) New Orleans and San Francisco will battle for the division title, with the edge going to the defending champion Saints. Carolina will be improved, but are still building towards a challenge for the division. The offence will win games for St. Louis, but the defence will lose more.

RC - This is going to be a fun division. New Orleans will once again pile up the yards but are still vulnerable defensively. The 49ers have the most balanced squad while the Panthers have the best front seven in the league, ideal for stopping that New Orleans offense. Oh, and the Rams will get the top draft pick...
1 49ers 2 Saints 3 Panthers 4 Rams

DB - 49ers, Saints, Panthers, Rams.

MESSAGE BOARD

John Coleman to Martin Devine: What did the Panthers do to the 49ers last season? Please tell me as I need the help for week eight.

Darren Birtchnell to all: I didn't post my turnsheet in time last week, so I played the Packers with the same gameplan I used for the Superbowl the week before, only this time I won. How annoying is that?

Quentin Jenkinson to Chris Baird: What happened? Were you trying? Perhaps your players were in awe of their famous head coach (do they get First Down in Green Bay?).

Quentin Jenkinson to Dave Pinder: A good win but I think you let me down regarding my blowout prediction. Perhaps my faith in the Patriots was ill advised, but I hear on the grapevine that you've got a good record in Gameplan - perhaps the Broncos will feel the wrath of the revolutionaries.

Quentin Jenkinson to John Coleman: You've got an excellent chance to cause an upset this week, although you'll need to stop giving the ball away if you are to do it.

WEEK ONE PREVIEW

						MD				QJ				DB
Jets at Steelers		Steelers by 3 		Jets by 7			Jets by 1
Bills at Jaguars		Bills by 10 		Bills by 3		Bills by 13
Dolphins at Raiders	Raiders by 6 		Raiders by 7		Raiders by 3
Patriots at Broncos	Broncos by 7 		Patriots by 14		Patriots by 1
Bengals at Chiefs		Bengals by 12 		Bengals by 10		No prediction
Browns at Seahawks		Seahawks by 1 		Browns by 3		Seahawks by 3
Cardinals at Bucs		Cardinals by 10 	No prediction		Cardinals by 10
Eagles at Bears		Eagles by 7 		Eagles by 3		Eagles by 10
Redskins at Saints		Saints by 9 		Saints by 21		Saints by 20
Cowboys at 49ers 		No prediction 		49ers by 7		49ers by 7
Packers at Panthers	Packers by 10 		Panthers by 1		Packers by 6
Lions at Rams			Lions by 6 		Lions by 3		Lions by 1

Lock of the week		Bengals			Bengals			Bills
Shock of the week		Seahawks 			Panthers			Seahawks
Blowout of the week	Packers 			Saints			Saints
Shootout of the week	Lions at Rams 		Lions at Rams		Lions at Rams
Slugfest of the week	Bills at Jaguars 	Jets at Steelers	Patriots at Broncos

RC - Steelers by 7; Bills by 10; Patriots by 3 (Slugfest); Bengals by 10; Browns by 3 (Shootout); Cards by 7; Eagles by 14 (Blowout); Saints by 14 (Lock); 49ers by 10; Packers by 7; Lions by 10.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK - QUENTIN JENKINSON

Redskins at Saints: This will be Custer's last stand in reverse, this time it will be the Indians on the receiving end of the slaughter. The New Orleans offense will be able to run rings around the Redskins, their frail run defense will be put to a severe test and will fail dismally. The Saints defense will be able to contain the Washington offense, they are strong when it comes to stopping the run and although they have a suspect secondary they force quarterbacks to hurry their decision making with an excellent pass rush. If the Saints get the momentum going early they could quite possibly set a new record for points scored.

BLOWOUT OF THE WEEK - DARREN BIRTCHNELL

Redskins at Saints: New Orleans will get their season off to a flying start as they look to continue the good form they showed last week in beating the Raiders. We all know how these two teams like to play offense - run, run then run again - but it will be the other side of the ball which decides the outcome here. The Saints defense is fairly good (9th overall, 5th against the run last year) but the Skins defense is poor and will be on the field for long periods as they struggle to contain the Saints ground attack. New Orleans sometimes struggle when defending the pass, but Washington ranked dead last in passing yardage last year so they won't advantage of this, even after drafting a WR. So expect the game to be over by halftime as Washington return home well and truly scalped while the Saints go marching on.

SHOOTOUT OF THE WEEK

Browns at Seahawks: The Browns had the top offense in the league last season, while the Seahawks had the best running game. Neither defense offers too much resistance, the Browns are slightly better but have little chance of shutting down the Seattle running game. The weak Cleveland secondary will get little help from the front seven and will be exploited by Seattle's deep passing game. Meanwhile, the Seattle defense will be needing all the rest it can get from the barrage of the balanced Brown's offense, through the air or on the ground the Seahawks will have no answers. Whoever wins, expect spectacular amounts of offense.