A PASSING FANTASY ISSUE 64 2000 PRESEASON
NFLBP PLAYER NEWSLETTER ed Robert Crowther

Finally the AFC has a Superbowl champion! Full report from Darren below and congratulations from us all. The address for contributions is:

2 Lily Terrace
Edinburgh
EH11 1PN

Or email at [email protected]'. A note on the emails, I've had some trouble recently with file attachments, from a number of different people which leads me to believe there is some sort of problem at my end. I'll look into that but, if possible, please paste any files directly into your messages rather than attaching them.

SUPERBOWL REVIEW - DARREN BIRTCHNELL

Both teams came into the game in good form, Green Bay had won eight straight games while Cincinnati had won 11 out of 12. Cincinnati were the favourites, which surprised me considering Green Bay were two-time defending champions and had never lost a playoff game in NFLBP, but the Bengals were well prepared and were looking for revenge after losing to Green Bay in Superbowl III.

Cincinnati got the ball first and picked up a first down before Corey Dillon fumbled at the Bengals' 32. Green Bay looked as though they would take advantage of the good field position but, on 3rd and 7 from the Bengals' 10, Brett Favre was picked off and the ball was returned to the 33 yard line. Cincinnati's offense then got on track, moving 67 yards in a 15 play drive that took six minutes off the clock, culminating in Ki-Jana Carter's one yard run for the game's first score. Green Bay replied straight away, though, as they gained 60 yards in 11 plays before Ryan Longwell kicked a 37 yard field goal to end the quarter. Cincinnati's next drive was going well but they couldn't convert a 3rd and 6 at the Packers' 38 so were forced to punt. However, Favre was sacked twice on the next series and after a short punt the Bengals had a first down at the Packers' 34. They picked up a first down but then looked to be struggling as they faced a 3rd and 11, but Akili Smith found TE Tony McGee open and he broke out for a 24 yard touchdown which made the score 14-3. A good kick return gave Green Bay good field position for their next drive and they moved into scoring range before Favre was picked off again. But the Bengals' joy was short lived as Akili Smith was picked off two plays later. This time Green Bay were able to capitalize on the turnover and Longwell hit his second field goal making it 14-6 with under a minute to play in the half. It looked as though Cincinnati would run out the clock but on the last play of the half Smith again went deep for McGee and he broke free for a seventy yard touchdown.

Cincinnati carried the momentum into the third quarter as Favre threw his third interception of the game on the first play of the second half. Even though they were gifted the ball at Green Bay's 22, Cincinnati didn't take advantage as a run for a loss and two sacks knocked them out of field goal range. The rest of the quarter was scoreless as good punts pinned both teams back inside their own ten yard line. The fourth quarter began with Green Bay, still trailing 21-6, going for a fourth and ten at the Bengals' 36. They couldn't get the yardage and so turned it over on downs. Cincinnati then moved down to the Packers' 37 before Smith was intercepted for a second time and, with a last throw of the dice, Green Bay brought on rookie QB Aaron Brooks. He was able to move the Packers into scoring range but fumbled a snap from the shotgun and Cincinnati recovered. The Bengals only gained 16 yards but the drive lasted three minutes, leaving only three and a half minutes for Green Bay to get back into it. Brooks gave the Packers a faint hope when he hit Derrick Mayes for a 68 yard touchdown at the two minute warning, but Cincinnati recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock to give the AFC it's first Superbowl victory.

It was a close decision but the MVP award went to McGee who had three catches for one hundred yards and two touchdowns.

BOWL GAMES REVIEW

San Francisco struggled with the league's best run defense but got a good performance from their QB despite the persistent pressure. Philadelphia got in a scoring contest with the high octane Chiefs but triumphed in overtime. The Seattle offense had one of its good days and managed to score faster than their defense could give them up. Denver abandoned the running game which, against Buffalo, is not such a bad idea and their pass offense came up with several big plays.

MESSAGE BOARD

Darren Birtchnell to Mark Gamble : I'll take that as a yes on both counts, then.

Darren Birtchnell to Quentin Jenkinson : Don't count your chickens before they hatch, I'm not going to give up my title without a fight.

Darren Birtchnell to Christopher Baird : How about a best of three decider next season?

Darren Birtchnell to Rob Crowther : Feel free to use the phrase 'Superbowl champions' as many times as you like in next season's newsletter.

Darren Birtchnell to All Coaches : If you heard someone cheering at about 10:15am on 19th May, don't worry, it was just me celebrating.

Rob Crowther to Darren Birtchnell : Finally a Superbowl for the AFC, my turn next year...

OFFSEASON REVIEW - QUENTIN JENKINSON

Broncos: Strengthened the team all over the place and has more LP's to spend after waiving his rookie RB. A genuine contender to go from worst to first. Grade: A+ Redskins: The 3rd round pick was good, replacing a retired player, but they needed help at LB and DB and didn't get it. The QB and WR were wasted picks. Grade: D Bucs: The draft choices were top notch, but five DB's? An OL to replace the retiree might've been wise. Grade: B

Jets: This draft sucks, where's the pass protection going to come from? Grade: F

Jaguars: The 'over the hill gang' just checked out to cash in their pensions - five retirements, four of whom were ten years plus. The defense is going to have a lot of trouble next season. Grade: C

Dolphins: A very good draft, needed help at LB, DB and QB and filled them well. Grade: B

Browns: OL and DB were needs even before retirements and they didn't even replace those guys. Run defense was another priority which got overlooked. Grade: D

Bears: A good draft, replaced a retired LB and picked up another to strengthen run defense. Drafted another 'monster' for the OL to make that unit even more effective. Grade: B

Cardinals: A very busy offseason, replaced retired RB and WR, strengthened the OL (which was always my No 1 priority), brought in another RB to give some punch to the offense, waived a QB and my PN and KK, strengthened the defense by drafting a LB and by coaching players and switching to a 3-4 formation. Grade: B+

Saints: Needed help at WR and DB, got two WR's but no DB's. Retirements weren't addressed fully. Grade: C

Cowboys: Free agent DL was bad, 4 DL's in a 3-4 defense? Draft choices were good. Grade: B-

Lions: Could have done with another DB or a LB in round two, the WR they picked was a waste. Grade: B-

Seahawks: Could have done with another LB in round two, but pretty good other than that. Grade: C+

Rams: Got exactly what they needed, an excellent draft. Grade: A+

Bills: First round pick was a waste, needed a LB or DB. Grade: C

Patriots: A very good draft, needed OL and DB's and got them, replaced retired WR and picked up a good TE to help pass offense. Job done. Grade: A+

Steelers: A fair draft, nothing spectacular. Needed help at OL, LB and DB and suffered retirements at RB and OL so first two picks covered those. LB and DB taken in round three and FA were solid picks. Grade: C

Panthers: First and third rounds were good picks but the QB was a waste as the secondary needed more help. Grade: B-

Eagles: This draft was very useful, but I have to wonder about their QB situation. They could've fixed Bobby Hoying's step loss and placed him as the starter, waiving Ty Detmer instead, and then picked up some help for the OL in round two instead of another QB. Puzzling! Grade: B

49ers: A solid draft, their defense will be difficult to penetrate next season. Grade: B+

Packers: I've a feeling that the Pack aren't finished in their dealings, waiving the rookie QB will give them LP's to go after their defensive needs (DL and LB) in free agency. Grade: B

Raiders: A pretty good draft, always difficult this far down. Grade: B

Chiefs: Second and third rounds were good. First round pick was debatable, an OL would've been just as good. Grade: B

Bengals: With the last pick you've got a job on your hands to get good players, so this was a good effort. I'd say the Bengals are 'treading water' with these picks, they covered their retirements from this season and so couldn't go after their 'needs' (such as they are when you're the champions!). Grade: B

CAMP REPORT - DENVER BRONCOS

What an offseason the Broncos have had. Drastic changes were needed if this franchise were to be competitive this season and the first thing they did was to get a coach who is one of the best when it comes to turning a team from chumps into champs. Coach Gamble's first task was to sort out the mess on the defensive side of the ball. The D could not stop the run or the pass so, to address that, they turned to free agency and got themselves two DL who are very capable of making the Pro Bowl next season. There was a comment in the last newsletter saying that they missed the opportunity to upgrade the secondary. Well, they did last turn, dipping into the free agency market again and signing DB Ray Crockett. He will be moved to SS. He was a real find as he can cover the pass underneath as well as blitz when the need arises. The offense was just woeful last season, so they concentrated on drafting future stars to put that right. Coach Gamble did not pick their first player (HB T Davis) and consequently he was waived in training camp. Their second pick, WR Rod Smith, will add what the receiving corps has been missing, SPEED. In order to throw deep you have to have time to do it, so it was no surprise that they drafted OL M Schlereth. He will slot in nicely at RG as he is excellent at pulling on sweeps. Draft grade : A-. Training camp went really well as players in key positions have gained in specific strengths needed in order to play the O and D schemes Coach Gamble likes to run. Coach Gamble had a grin as wide as a cheshire cat when he was asked how the offseason went: "I am over the moon with the way things have gone. I have got all the players I went for in the draft and free agency. I am going to love seeing the opposing QB's faces when they take the field. My defense is going to ragdoll them all over the field. You can't beat having a defense capable of sending home the opposition's QB in a hearse! My only concern is with the offense as the players lack the experience needed in order to be consistent and error free. If we can avoid the turnovers, then I think we will take the Vince Lombardi Trophy back to Mile High."

PRO BOWL

Here are the Pro Bowl squads for the 1999 season. In the case of tied voting I've gone for the players of coaches who voted, also I combined the votes of players on the same team in most cases because it seemed more fair that at least one of the made the squad.

AFC
QB Warren Moon (SS)DL Ted Washington (BB)
RBCorey Dillon (CI) Chad Eaton (NE)
 Howard Griffith (DB) Jevon Langford (CI)
TERickey Dudley (OA)  
OLWalter Jones (SS)LBWillie McGinest (NE)
 Tom Nalen (DB) Sam Cowart (BB)
 Max Lane (NE) Takeo Spikes (CI)
 Jeff Criswell (KC) Greg Biekert (OA)
 Willie Anderson (CI)DBOtis Smith (NJ)
WRMike Pritchard (SS) Terry McDaniel (OA)
 Andre Rison (KC) Ashley Ambrose (CI)
   Aaron Beasley (JJ)
KKMichael Husted (OA)PNLee Johnson (CI)
NFC
QBTony Banks (SL)DLSimeon Rice (AC)
RBRay Zellars (NO) Jared Tomich (NO)
 Kevin Turner (PH) Les Miller (CA)
TEJohn Allred (CH)  
OLClarence Jones (NO)LBJames Willis (PH)
 Todd Perry (CH) Ken Norton Jr (SF)
 Lester Holmes (PH) George Koonce (GB)
 Duval Love (AC) Seth Joyner (AC)
 Andy Heck (CH)DBDarren Woodson (DC)
WRCurtis Conway (CH) Ron Rice (DL)
 Eddie Kennison (SL) Leroy Butler (GB)
   Tom Knight (AC)
KKJason Hanson (DL)PNScott Player (AC)

Next issue will be the season preview spectacular, get your predictions in now.