A PASSING FANTASY   ISSUE 63   1999 SEASON SUPERBOWL

NFLBP PLAYER NEWSLETTER   ed Robert Crowther

Slightly different look this week, I'm staying with my brother and I didn't get the newsletter finished before I left so I've had to contend with Word once again (I think I'm winning - found the Auto Correct menu and turned everything off).  Before I get on with the newsletter I'd like to make a last call for pro bowl votes - only three sets received so far so we could do with a couple more.  The address remains:

2 Lily Terrace

Edinburgh

EH11 1PN

Or email at '[email protected]'.

CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES REVIEW

The Patriots built an early lead on the back of some early turnovers by Cincinnati but struggled to move the ball the length of the field on the Bengals’ defense.  Cincy were in the lead by halftime and didn’t look like giving it up, the league’s top defense was able to offer little opposition as the Bengals controlled the game in the second half.  New England managed one field goal in the second half but Cincinnati were able to repeatedly take advantage of the weaknesses in the Pats’ secondary.  Reigning champions Green Bay had an ominously impressive victory over the visiting 49ers.  San Francisco found it difficult to get any sort of scoring opportunity while the Packers’ offense was marching up and down the field with ease.  The 49ers limited the Pack to only three scores in the first three quarters but, with little support from the offense, their defense wilted in the fourth.

DIVISIONAL BOWL REVIEW

The Chiefs joined the disturbingly long list of teams to take advantage of the Raiders’ secondary this season and were comfortably in control by halftime.  The Panthers came out passing and built an early lead in Philadelphia but ran out of steam in the second half, the Eagles took the lead in the third and held Carolina scoreless in the fourth.

SILVER BOWL REVIEW

Seattle racked up four touchdowns in the first half and, surprisingly, that was too much for the normally potent Steelers to make up.  The Dolphins look likely to shoot their kicker after he missed two field goals in Arizona, Miami failed to take advantage of a lot of good drives while the Cardinals were perfect on four field goal attempts.

BRONZE BOWL REVIEW

Denver found it tough going in Jacksonville but looked in control until two fourth quarter touchdowns got the Jaguars back in contention, a fourth quarter field goal made up for the Broncos’ earlier extra point miss.  Buffalo struggled to move the ball on the visiting Saints but got a kick return touchdown to give them the edge.

DRAFT REVIEW

The grades below do not take into account retirements, step reductions or drastic changes in strategy.  They are just a reflection of how well I think the players acquired fit the needs of the team, given the draft position.

Denver Broncos

Offense 21                Run 6        Pass 23                    Defense 21                Run 17      Pass 20

1 RB 4 ORI                2 WR 2 OPL*1           3 OL 2 OQB              FA DL 8 3 DBZ           DL 4 3 DBZ

Free agents should have immediate impact and offense should have more variety, but missed opportunity to upgrade secondary.  GRADE B

Washington Redskins

Offense 9                  Run 4        Pass 20                    Defense 24                Run 18      Pass 24

1 WR 2 OPL*2           2 QB 3 OPS               3 DL 2 DBZ

A receiver they won't throw to, a QB to hand it off and not nearly enough help for the defense.  GRADE E

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offense 14                Run 9        Pass 19                    Defense 18                Run 10      Pass 22

1 OL 3 OQB              2 DB 3 DPL               3 DB 2 DPL               FA DB 3 1 DPS

Did very well to wait for the DB with the second pick, obviously not planning to pass much next year.  GRADE A-

New York Jets

Offense 24                Run 24      Pass 7                      Defense 3 Run 16      Pass 1

1 TE 3 OPS               2 WR 2 OPL*1           3 OL 1 ORI

New receivers can help dig up the QB after every pass attempt.  GRADE E-

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offense 20                Run 18      Pass 14                    Defense 11                Run 20      Pass 3

1 RB 3 ORI                2 WR 2 OPL               3 OL 1 ORO

Run defense will continue to be a problem.  GRADE D

Miami Dolphins

Offense 18                Run 20      Pass 11                    Defense 6 Run 5        Pass 5

1 QB 5 OPS               2 DL 3 DBZ                3 LB 2 DRO               FA DB 6 2 DPL

Picked up a one man offense and enough defensive help to be up there with the Bills and Pats.  GRADE B

Cleveland Browns

Offense 22                Run 21      Pass 12                    Defense 14                Run 22      Pass 2

1 RB 3 ORI                2 WR 1 OPL*2           3 DL 2 DBZ

Offense needed a shot in the arm but perhaps should have got more help for the run defense, especially when they have to face Cincy twice a season.  GRADE B

Chicago Bears

Offense 3                  Run 7        Pass 5                      Defense 23                Run 19      Pass 19

1 OL 3 OQB              2 LB 3 DRI                3 WR 1 OPS               FA LB 4 3 DRI

Another team who waited to get the defensive player they needed, will probably regret not taking another DB when they next play Green Bay.  GRADE B+

Arizona Cardinals

Offense 11                Run 15      Pass 10                    Defense 16                Run 8        Pass 21

1 OL 3 OQB              2 LB 2 DRO               3 RB 1 OPS*1           FA OL 4 2 OQB          RB 9 2 ORI

Had a major need at OL and addressed that, another team that neglected a weak looking secondary.  GRADE B+

New Orleans Saints

Offense 7                  Run 1        Pass 21                    Defense 17                Run 9        Pass 23

1 RB 3 ORI                2 WR 1 OPL*1           3 WR 1 DKR

Still needing secondary help after all these years.  GRADE E

Dallas Cowboys

Offense 17                Run 17      Pass 13                    Defense 20                Run 23      Pass 7

1 OL 3 OQB              2 DB 2 DPL               3 LB 2 DRO

Offense should really improve with the addition of a quality OL, defense will still struggle to stop the run.  GRADE C

Detroit Lions

Offense 6                  Run 23      Pass 2                      Defense 19                Run 24      Pass 4

1 OL 3 OQB              2 WR 1 OPL*1           3 DB 1 DPL

Hello?  Run defense?  GRADE E

Seattle Seahawks

Offense 1                  Run 8        Pass 3                      Defense 15                Run 14      Pass 16

1 LB 3 DRO               2 DL 3 DBZ                3 RB 2 ORI                FA QB 4 3 OPS

The thought of Seattle with a half decent defense is kind of scary.  GRADE A

St Louis Rams

Offense 2                  Run 22      Pass 1                      Defense 22                Run 21      Pass 18

1 LB 3 DRI                2 DB 2 DPS               3 LB 2 DRO

The thought of St Louis with a half decent defense is even more scary.  GRADE A

Buffalo Bills

Offense 23                Run 5        Pass 24                    Defense 2 Run 2        Pass 17

1 RB 3 ORI                2 WR 1 OPL               3 LB 1 DRO

Offense was an obvious target but could have got better value for their picks in the second and third rounds.  GRADE C

New England Patriots

Offense 12                Run 10      Pass 15                    Defense 1 Run 1        Pass 14

1 WR 2 OPL*1           2 DB 2 DPL               3 TE 2 OPS               FA OL 7 3 OQB          DB 7 1 DPL

Addressed all major needs, which is pretty impressive this far down.  GRADE A

Pittsburgh Steelers

Offense 4                  Run 12      Pass 4                      Defense 13                Run 15      Pass 13

1 OL 3 OQB              2 RB 2 ORI                3 DB 1 DPL

Can't help but think that defense was the way to go with at least one of the first two picks.  GRADE D

Carolina Panthers

Offense 19                Run 16      Pass 16                    Defense 9 Run 12      Pass 8

1 DB 3 DPL               2 QB 3 OPL               3 TE 2 OPS

First pick obviously has the Rams in mind, QB seems unnecessary unless they've suffered a retirement.  GRADE C

Philadelphia Eagles

Offense 8                  Run 3        Pass 18                    Defense 4 Run 3        Pass 10

1 WR 2 OPL*1           2 QB 3 OPS               3 PN 1 OPN*2          FA LB 3 1 DBZ

Ran the ball forty times a game last season, will have to change their strategy if they want to take advantage of these picks.  GRADE B

San Francisco 49ers

Offense 16                Run 14      Pass 17                    Defense 10                Run 11      Pass 7

1 DL 3 DBZ                2 LB 2 DRI                3 DB 2 DRO

Building on strength may leave them lacking firepower.  GRADE B

Green Bay Packers

Offense 13                Run 19      Pass 8                      Defense 8 Run 7        Pass 9

1 QB 4 OPL               2 OL 2 ORI                3 RB 1 ORO*1

First pick seems a waste unless incumbent has retired (in which case it was very sensible).  GRADE B

Oakland Raiders

Offense 10                Run 13      Pass 9                      Defense 7 Run 6        Pass 11

1 OL 3 OQB              2 DL 2 DBZ                3 TE 1 OPL

Got all the players I wanted, now we'll see if I wanted the right players.  GRADE B

Kansas City Chiefs

Offense 5                  Run 11      Pass 6                      Defense 12                Run 13      Pass 15

1 DL 3 DBZ                2 OL 2 OQB              3 DB 1 DPL

Addressed needs nicely with the second last pick.  GRADE A

Cincinnati Bengals

Offense 15                Run 2        Pass 22                    Defense 5 Run 4        Pass 12

1 DL 2 DBZ                2 LB 2 DPS                3 QB 2 OPS               FA 5 2 DPL

Are obviously expecting improvement in the offense with maturation of young QB, defense will remain one of the best after this draft.  GRADE B

Patriots Camp Report - Dave Pinder

Despite losing to the Bengals in the championship game, spirits are high in the Patriots camp. The side that had developed a nasty habit of picking first in the draft turned around their form and ended up AFC runners-up. After a very successful draft in which the Patriots have shored up their very leaky pass defence and added some new weapons on offence, things look promising for next year. The other major personnel change has seen the Patriots release their long-time starting QB, handing their three year veteran backup the reins. After year one success, the Patriots sights are set high and their coach is confident that they will not disappoint.

Inside the Cardinals’ Mini Camp - Quentin Jenkinson

There’s been a lot of activity at Sun Devil Stadium during the offseason, and it isn’t stopping during mini camp.  Clyde Simmons, the new anchor of the defense, is adjusting to his new nose tackle position by refining his run stuffing and also his pursuit and open field tackling.  Mark Smith, who's moved to the outside of the defensive line, has joined Simmons on his workouts in open field tackling.  Matt Darby has also been busy, perfecting his pass coverage skills, as he anticipates a move to CB during training camp.  The front office are still not finished in the free agent market, as they are looking to sign a player whilst mini camp is in swing and then the possibility of another at the start of the season.  Wholesale changes are expected during training camp and at the start of the season in player positions as draftees and free agents claim their roster spots and established veterans move around to accommodate them.  Once the wheeling and dealing in free agency has finished I'll try to make an assessment of the offseason, but so far it's gone quite well.  We haven't been able to get 100% of what we wanted, but we're still not finished.  Oh, and we've made it to the 'Silver Bowl (sponsered by Armitage Shanks)' final - who cares!  Without trying to sound too confident, I'd say that the Cardinals will make it to Superbowl V, where we'll meet ... the Broncos.  Those of you who are unfamiliar with Mark's style of play will be in for a rude awakening, and I'm also going to be adopting the same style.  There'll be a lot of shell shocked players and coaches in both conferences once next season is underway.

Superbowl Preview

Bengals’ offense vs Packers’ defense : The Bengals like to run the ball, and do that extremely well.  Even facing the league’s best run defense last week they managed over three and a half yards per carry.  The Packers are solid, but not great, on run defense but should have a real advantage in pass defense.  Expect Cincinnati to have reasonable success running the ball but, should they fall behind, to struggle to catch up late in the game.

Packers’ offense vs Bengals’ defense : Green Bay like to pass the football and Cincinnati’s pass defense is only average in terms of yards conceded.  However, the Bengals have been leading in a lot of games and their opponents have had to pass a lot to catch up – the average attempt on the Cincy defense only goes for six yards, one of the best figures in the league.  The Packers will find it tough going but may be able to take advantage of the Bengals’ attacking style to break a few big plays.

Special teams : The Bengals have a slight edge in the return game, but probably not enough to make a difference.  Both place kickers have been extremely consistent this season, so any trips into scoring range are likely to result in points.  It is in punting and punt coverage that Cincinnati have a significant advantage, their punter kicks the ball further and they allow opponents only five yards per return.  In a defensive encounter (which is likely) the Bengals should have a field position advantage, getting them in field goal range more often and reducing the impact of any turnovers.

Keys for the Bengals :                1              Must establish run.

                                                2              Don't fall behind early.

                                                3              Blitzes must get to QB.

Keys for the Packers                  1              Must get big plays against blitz.

                                                2              Need to take the Cincinnati running game out of the equation somehow.

                                                3              Don't turn the ball over.

Quentin Jenkinson - Bengals by 3

Dave Pinder - Bengals by 3

Rob Crowther - Bengals by 1

Predictions

QJ -          Patriots by 1             Eagles by 3                                               Broncos by 10

DP -                                          Chiefs by 7                Cards by 2                Broncos by 7

RC -          49ers by 3                Eagles by 3               Cards by 3                                Broncos by 3