Lots of contributions again this week, thanks to all who've written. I've also had a message from Dave Pinder who would like to point out that, while he is flattered by all this talk of Superbowls, he still has the toughest part of his season to come and will be lucky to escape weeks eleven to sixteen with a 3-3 record. I've also been asked by Martyn Williams to notify everyone of his new email address, it is '[email protected]', feel free to drop him a line. As usual, I can be contacted at:
2 Lily Terrace
Or email at '[email protected]'.
New England gave up a couple of early touchdowns to the visiting Jets but, once their defense settled down, there was only going to be one result. The Bills added another hard luck story to their 2000 collection, taking the in form Dolphins to overtime before succumbing to a field goal. The champions returned to winning ways with a comfortable win over the struggling Jaguars. Cleveland finally got their first win of the year with a fine defensive display in Pittsburgh. Oakland were able to take advantage of five Seattle turnovers to turn a close game into a comfortable victory. The Broncos wagon fell right off the rails in Kansas City, with their defense doing an excellent job the Chiefs were able to take advantage of the change in strategy of Denver's defense. Philadelphia were untroubled by the Redskins' offense and managed a comfortable victory to keep them in the playoff hunt. The Arizona defense was once again on top form, shutting down the Cowboys, while their offense did more than enough to win. The Bucs set out to stuff the run in Green Bay and produced one of the best run defense performances ever, the offense was a bit more consistent than usual with eighteen first downs. Chicago's horrible season continued in Detroit where, despite gaining four hundred yards of offense, they managed only two touchdowns - the Detroit offense was not so inhibited. Carolina's much maligned defense put up it's best performance of the season, holding the Rams to just ten points, to offset an unusually poor offensive showing. The 49ers built a strong first half lead but went to sleep somewhat in the second and the Saints nearly caught them napping.
Offensive performance of the week goes to Detroit who put in yet another impressive display. Defensive performance of the week goes to Kansas City for completely shutting down what had been one of the league's best offenses. Special teams performance of the week goes to Buffalo who nearly pulled off an upset.
1 Darren Birtchnell 16.43 (7) 2 John Coleman 13.57 (7) 3 Martin Devine 13 (2) 4 Quentin Jenkinson 12.6 (5) 5 Rob Crowther 11 (8) 6 Martyn Williams 10.67 (3)
A review of the season so far from Darren Birtchnell and Martyn Williams.AFC East
DB - The Patriots have been the best team in the AFC so far and are deservedly unbeaten, with good wins over Green Bay and Denver being the highlight. They should be able to retain their division title without too many problems although they have some tough games after week ten. Miami have re-discovered how to win and will get a wildcard, although they also have some tough games in the second half of the season. Coach Scott will be hoping to avoid the losing streak which ruined a good 1997 season. Buffalo have slipped badly this year, thanks to their pass defense, and have joined New York in the division basement. Expect both teams to stay there.
MW - The Patriots have carried on their good form from last seasons playoffs and are deservedly unbeaten at the halfway point of the season, and looking like Superbowl Champions elect.The Dolphins are the only team that look anywhere near capable of giving them a fight for the division title but I think that is asking too much, and they will settle for a wildcard berth.The Bills should just hang on to third place over the Jets.AFC Central
DB - The defending champions, Cincinnati, made a good start but since playing Pittsburgh in week five the offense has struggled badly. The signing of free agent WR James Hundon in week seven was a panic reaction so don't be surprised if he gets waived. The rest of the AFC Central isn't worth talking about as the Steelers, Jaguars and Browns have only five wins between them.
MW - The Bengals don't look quite as all conquering as last season, but in this division it doesn't matter. With the surprising decline in Pittsburgh it will be another division title for the Superbowl Champions, but I think they will struggle to repeat. Jacksonville will probably sneak another couple of wins, while apparently Cleveland have already started scouting for the next college draft....AFC West
DB - The AFC West title will likely go back to Oakland this season. The Raiders defense has improved after a poor start and the pass rush is looking very good. The Chiefs are now favourites to clinch the other wildcard as Coach Gamble has quit the Broncos after being in charge for only half a season. They will likely fall away over the next few weeks. Seattle has been a big disappointment this season. The defense hasn't improved despite the draft picks and the offense is struggling as the QB can't even complete 50% of his passes.
MW - Even tighter than the NFC West! After week 4 I'd have predicted Denver to win this division by a mile but now? I'll stick with the experience of Coach Crowther to bring the Raiders in first, with the winner of the next Chiefs and Broncos matchup in week 10 finishing second. Unfortunately for the 3rd placed team I think the Dolphins will pip them for a wildcard berth, thanks more to their easier division rather than being the better team. The disappointing Seahawks can only look to next year.NFC East
DB - The NFC East is all about the Cardinals defense, which has allowed a league low 83 points. The offense has looked very good at times although Tampa Bay showed they're not unbeatable. With games against Carolina, St Louis and Detroit coming up we should find out how good they really are. The Eagles have bounced back from a bad start but are already behind in the wildcard race and will do well to make the playoffs. Dallas and Washington have both been very poor.
MW - Arizona's defense will see them win the division with ease, and progress to the championship game. The Eagles have begun to turn their season around but will need a run in like last seasons Rams to reach the playoffs. Dallas will have no trouble finishing above the Redskins.NFC Central
DB - Detroit have surprised a lot of people by topping the NFC Central, but their passing game is unbelievable at the moment. However, the defense is still struggling so don't expect them to go far in the playoffs. Tampa Bay have been inconsistent so far, beating the Cardinals but then losing to the Jets. Their defense has been impressive but the offense is very ordinary and I think they'll just miss out on a wildcard. Green Bay have really suffered since the departure of Coach Baird, it looks as though they will continue to struggle for a while. Chicago have been surprisingly bad this season and look a good bet for top draft choice.
MW - Surely this division is upside down? The decline of the Packers is shocking, the failure of the Bears to live up to pre-season promise surprising, Tampa Bays winning record amazing and Detroit's offense simply stunning. Do you go with Tampa's defense or Detroit's offense to win the division? I'm going with Detroit's offense, Tampa need to draft some offensive talent before making the playoffs next year.NFC West
DB - In the NFC West there are three teams good enough to win any division. Carolina have been very impressive on offense so far completing an incredible 73% of their passes. The defense still isn't right and it will need to improve for the Panthers to win the Superbowl. St Louis have maintained their form of late last season and now have a defense to go with the high scoring offense. However, they will need to figure out how to beat Carolina to go far in the playoffs. San Francisco are unspectacular but very effective and will get the last NFC wildcard. Coach Devine knows how to win the big one and they could be a dark horse in the Superbowl race.
MW - With the Panthers managing to pull off another victory over the Rams last week, the Rams and 49ers now have it all to do if either of them are to be division champions. I can't see the Panthers losing three games and so as much as I hate to say it, the division title is theirs. The fight for second place will go down to the wire, the 49ers trip to the Trans World Dome in week 14 probably deciding which of the two teams has homefield advantage for the wildcard game. The Saints are a team in serious decline.Playoff Outlook
DB - The postseason in the AFC should feature New England, Miami, Cincinnati, Oakland and Kansas City. New England will be favourites to reach the Superbowl, however Cincinnati and Oakland will fight them all the way and the AFC championship game should be a cracker. In the NFC it will be Arizona, Detroit, Carolina, St Louis and San Francisco in the playoffs. Arizona and Carolina will be favourites but any of these five teams are good enough to win it all.
MW - I'm sticking with my pre-season prediction of the Panthers to beat the Raiders in the Superbowl (but the Pats and Cardinals may have something to say about that)!
Predictions and commentary from John Coleman, other predictions from Darren Birtchnell, Martyn Williams and myself.
Jaguars at Patriots Poor old Jacksonville, Bengals last week New England this. Same
result but worse. The Jaguars' punter will have a sore foot.
PATRIOTS BY 21
DB - PATRIOTS BY 20 MW - PATRIOTS BY 21 RC - PATRIOTS BY 14
Browns at BillsThe Browns are undefeated since week seven. Will this roll
continue? Unfortunately it's uphill to Buffalo. BILLS BY 3
DB - BILLS BY 3 MW - BILLS BY 10 RC - BILLS BY 7
Raiders at Dolphins This is an important match for both teams. I reckon the Raiders
will just sneak it despite not dominating the clock. RAIDERS BY 3
DB - DOLPHINS BY 1 MW - RAIDERS BY 7
Chiefs at JetsThe Jets did well to score two touchdowns against New England, so
they should do the same here. Unfortunately KC will score four.
CHIEFS BY 14
DB - CHIEFS BY 17 MW - CHIEFS BY 21 RC - CHIEFS BY 14
Broncos at BengalsA crunch match here too. The Broncos need a big defensive display
to stay in the match. Will they blitz, blitz, blitz? Cincinnati
will add impetus to the Denver demise. BENGALS BY 14
MW - BENGALS BY 7 RC - BENGALS BY 3
Seahawks at Steelers Seattle are due a large slice of luck. The Steelers' secondary
should be on full alert. Over fifty points on the board?
SEAHAWKS BY 14
DB - STEELERS BY 6 MW - SEAHAWKS BY 7 RC - SEAHAWKS BY 7
Bucs at EaglesTampa can cement their challenge to top the NFC Central by
sneaking a road win. I'm not sure how, probably with a run, run,
run approach. BUCS BY 7
DB - EAGLES BY 1 MW - EAGLES BY 3 RC - BUCS BY 1
Bears at CowboysDallas should have it easy on their bye week. COWBOYS BY 3
DB - COWBOYS BY 3 MW - COWBOYS BY 7 RC - COWBOYS BY 7
Panthers at Cardinals Gulp! It would be amazing for the Panthers to win.
Unfortunately the Cardinals have to win, to challenge for
homefield advantage. CARDINALS BY 10
DB - CARDINALS BY 6 MW - CARDINALS BY 7 RC - PANTHERS BY 3
49ers at Redskins Not a good time to play San Francisco, home or away. Let's hope
the Redskins give up rushing and take to the air, it might make it
more interesting. 49ERS BY 14
DB - 49ERS BY 17 MW - 49ERS BY 14 RC - 49ERS BY 10
Saints at PackersBoth teams can remember better times. The Saints are the better
team ... aren't they? SAINTS BY 7
DB - PACKERS BY 3 MW - PACKERS BY 7 RC - PACKERS BY 3
Rams at Lions The Rams have added a real defense to their lightening strike
offense. The Lions are equally as good with the ball. Whoever
has the ball last will win. LIONS BY 3
DB - RAMS BY 3 RC - RAMS BY 3
JC : Lock - Patriots; Shock - Bucs; Blowout - Chiefs; Shootout - Seahawks at
Steelers; Slugfest - Browns at Bills.
DB : Lock - 49ers; Shock - Dolphins; Blowout - Patriots; Shootout - Rams at Lions; Slugfest - Bucs at Eagles.
MW : Lock - Patriots; Shock - Dolphins; Blowout - Chiefs; Shootout - Rams at Lions; Slugfest - Bucs at Eagles.
RC : Lock - Chiefs; Shock - Panthers; Blowout - Patriots; SHootout - Rams at Lions; Slugfest - Bucs at Eagles.