A painful week in Raiderland, defeat at the hands of the Bengals, once again. Still, I'll get over it if the Bengals win the superbowl... Managed to read my email this week and I've included some predictions from Martin Devine and Martyn Williams for last week's games at the end of the newsletter (turns out the Raiders were favourites, no wonder we lost) as well as their articles in this issue. Any contributions can be sent to:

2 Lily Terrace
EH11 1PN

Or emailed to '[email protected]'. I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome Mark Gamble as the new coach of the Broncos - I've heard you've been remarkably successful in the NFLBF, so we'll all be expecting a big improvement in Denver.


The Bengals saw an early lead vanish in the second quarter, but the Oakland momentum was stopped abruptly by a blocked punt. The touchdown after the subsequent short drive put Cincy in the lead for good. The Raiders only managed to get past the Bengals' forty once in the second half. The Patriots surprised this season's surprise package with a dazzling offensive display. The Chiefs got some good field position from their returns unit but struggled to make much of an impression on the New England defense. Green Bay built a large lead in the first half over the visiting Panthers and were able to sit back in the second. The Carolina offense, not well suited to playing catchup, managed one touchdown but didn't really worry the Packers. The San Francisco defense displayed its championship credentials as the Eagles were held to just 4.3 yards per play. The offense wasn't too spectacular but didn't make any mistakes to give Philadelphia any easy opportunities.


The Rams racked up five hundred yards of offense but had difficulty turning that into points thanks to six turnovers, while the Steelers, with only four turnovers and half as much yardage, were able to snatch victory. The Seahawks offense was once again in the mood, the Cowboys were always going to struggle to keep up. Arizona continued their recent good form and gained some revenge for a regular season defeat by the Bears. The Jets offense, productive in recent weeks, ran into a brick wall in the shape of the Miami defense.


Denver welcomed their new coach with a win over Washington, both offenses were effective but the Broncos made fewer mistakes. Jacksonville pulled another inexplicably impressive performance out of the bag, comprehensively seeing off the Bucs. Buffalo were able to exploit the Lions' achilles heel, nearly three hundred yards rushing at over five yards per carry.


Darren Birtchnell to Mark Gamble : Looking at your free agent signing I expect you're going to take the easy way out and use the same tactics as your BF Redskins. So is that the only way you can win?


Despite what some people might expect after two successive defeats at the Carolina Panthers, morale is still high at the Trans World Dome this offseason. And why shouldn't it be? Coach Williams arrived in week eight a rookie head coach, at a team firmly stuck to the bottom of the NFC with the league's worst rushing offense and worst overall defense. The only plus point seemed to be a quarterback and receiving corps capable of scoring on anybody. However, with a new defensive philosophy of bend but don't break (more through necessity than anything else, this defense was never going to stop giving up yards) and five wins later in week fourteen the pundits were suggesting the Rams could go all the way if reaching the playoffs. Ironically, playing up against the 49ers virtually assured a playoff berth, but also resulted in the team peaking too soon. It just wasn't possible for them to raise themselves to that level again and so suffered a disappointing defeat in a one sided wildcard game at Carolina. But simply making that wildcard game had turned a disastrous season around to become a success. Looking towards next season, the team's offense has managed to stay relatively unaffected by retirements and the like, and with the draft hopefully injecting some youth and hunger back into the defense the feeling in St Louis is that next season the Rams will be genuine contenders for the NFC West Championship (as long as we can convince the NFL to move the Panthers into the AFC!).


For the second year running there isn't going to be a whole lot of change in 49er- land, with virtually the whole squad returning. Offensively, the only change is at QB, where the coaching staff has made the decision to go with the younger player. This has allowed the front office to concentrate on defense in the draft, looking to shore up any weak spots and strengthen the team for next year, but also to make it less likely that future retirements create holes in the team. The DL picked up in the first round of the draft covers both, as the pass rush and run defense will be immediately improved, and this provides cover for the cornerstone of the 49er defense, Bryant Young.


Predictions and commentary from myself, other predictions from Darren Birtchnell and Quentin Jenkinson.

Patriots at Bengals After their surprise victory last week the Patriots will be hoping that anything is possible. However, I suspect they're going to need more than just luck to unseat the Bengals as AFC Champions. New England have the best run defense in the league but that didn't stop them getting soundly beaten when they visited Cincinnati in week thirteen. The Bengals got an early lead in that one and managed an amazing 24 hurries of New England's QB. BENGALS BY 10

49ers at PackersDespite possessing the second and fourth best defenses in the NFC these two combined for 47 first downs in their week seven encounter. The 49ers ended up winning comfortably in that one, but the game was close for three quarters and the Pack seem to have improved as the season has worn on. This game will be close and will likely come down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes. I'm going to go with Green Bay, since they're the defending champs and have homefield advantage. PACKERS BY 1


						RC				DB				QJ
Raiders at Chiefs						RAIDERS BY 3		RAIDERS BY 7
Seahawks at Steelers	SEAHAWKS BY 7		STEELERS BY 1		SEAHAWKS BY 3
Dolphins at Cardinals	CARDINALS BY 7		CARDINALS BY 7
Broncos at Jaguars		BRONCOS BY 10		BRONCOS BY 10		BRONCOS BY 10
Saints at Bills		SAINTS BY 1		SAINTS BY 3		BILLS BY 3

That's all for this week, the predictions left out of the last issue appear on the next page. I should warn everyone that I will be going away on the weekend of the 13th May so the newsletter will be getting done on the Friday before the next deadline, if you have any contributions for the next issue please ensure they reach me before then.


A PASSING FANTASY ISSUE 61 ADDENDUM Turned out there was lots of email last week, from Martin Devine and Martyn Williams. In order not to waste their predictions (and since there's plenty of space in the newsletter) here they are:


Predictions and commentary from Martin Devine, other predictions from Martyn Williams. Raiders at BengalsMaybe the best two teams in the conference meeting a round early? Both teams are solid defensively, so don't expect too many points here. Oakland have the better offense but are susceptible to giving up the big play on occasion. Cincinnati have managed to get this far with a rookie QB, who has made a few mistakes but otherwise has had a good year. A pounding running game and stifling defense has helped, and is likely to be good enough to see the Bengals advance. BENGALS BY 4 MW - RAIDERS BY 3 Patriots at ChiefsNew England's change of coach has paid dividends, with the team putting up more wins in one season than they managed in their first three in NFLBP. Kansas City has made it this far on the back of a productive offense and an overachieving defense - we keep expecting KC's defense to collapse, but it hasn't obliged yet! This may be a season too soon for the Patriots, as they were a total mess at this time last year. CHIEFS BY 9 MW - CHIEFS BY 10 Panthers at Packers This is likely to be a hard nosed defensive showdown, with both teams having good defensive units and offenses which are no better than average. Green Bay haven't been overly impressive so far this season, but have still managed to come out of the regular season with homefield advantage. Carolina's defense is one of the better units in the league, but their offense has been somewhat ineffectual at times. PACKERS BY 3 MW - PANTHERS BY 3 Eagles at 49ers A rematch of last year's NFC Wildcard game (won by Philadelphia) and the week fifteen matchup (won by San Francisco). Philadelphia are deserving NFC East champions, having managed to cut down on the mistakes which blighted their chances in earlier seasons. The Eagles play a ball control type offense, and have a very sound defense. San Francisco are a bit more balanced offensively, looking to pass first most of the time, and also have a solid defense which has been better against the run than the pass this season (although playing in the same division as the Rams does that to your defense!). MW - 49ERS BY 14 Other predictions from Martin Devine: Rams at Steelers RAMS BY 10 Broncos at Redskins REDSKINS BY 1 Cowboys at Seahawks SEAHAWKS BY 7 Bucs at Jaguars BUCS BY 3 Bears at Cardinals CARDINALS BY 3 Browns at Saints SAINTS BY 3 Jets at Dolphins DOLPHINS BY 4 Lions at Bills LIONS BY 5