A Passing Fantasy Issue 77
NFLBP Player Newsletter 2000 Season Week Thirteen
ed Robert Crowther
Welcome to another bumper issue, this week we have all the usual stuff plus a review of all the playoff contenders from Martyn Williams. If you have any views on the playoffs then send them to me at:
2 Lily Terrace
Or email at [email protected]'. Before I start I have an apology to make, for the second consecutive issue John Coleman's predictions failed to make the newsletter but this time was entirely my fault. I left the letter under a pile of other stuff and completely forgot about it. Sorry! John's predictions are included in the updated standings below.
Week Twelve Review
The 49ers were destroyed in New England, the Patriots' defense was in a nasty mood and got six sacks and six turnovers. The San Francisco defense struggled to defend a short field. Carolina added to the 49ers' disappointment with a comfortable win over fallen Buffalo. The Bills' controlled the ball but couldn't match the Panthers in scoring efficiency. St Louis suffered another blow to their playoff hopes in Miami. The Dolphins were able to shut down the Rams' running game and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. The Jets were able to throw the ball on the New Orleans secondary but were let down by pass protection once again. The Cincinnati defense was on top form against the Eagles. Philadelphia were limited to three yards per pass attempt. Dallas finally picked up their first win under Coach Passey with strong defense and, in marked contrast to BP Cowboy's tradition, big play offense. The Arizona juggernaut rumbled onwards in Cleveland, the Browns' offense was simply overwhelmed. Washington fell behind in the race for top draft pick with an impressive rushing display against Jacksonville. Green Bay failed to live up to my hopeful shock prediction in spectacular fashion in Kansas City. The Chiefs were all over the Packers' offense and humiliated the Green Bay secondary. A tight first half in Detroit was followed by an explosive third quarter for the Raiders. The Lions' offense wilted under the constant pressure from the Oakland defense. The Seahawks repeated their winning formula, another big day offensively and the defense held the Bears to less than thirty. Tampa took advantage of defeats for all of the immediate playoff rivals with a win over Denver. The Broncos' defense was effective in the redzone but they couldn't match the Bucs' five field goals.
Offensive performance of the week goes to Oakland, because we don't crack the 400 yard barrier that often. Defensive performance of the week goes to New England for their big plays. Special teams performance of the week goes to Tampa Bay for perfect kicking and a punt return touchdown that accounted for all of their points.
Playoff Run-in & Preview
Patriots - A tough final month, only the Bills match-up in week 16 will be easy. After last weeks demolition of the 49ers I think they will beat the Raiders (just), and expect them to finish 15-1. With homefield advantage through the playoffs it will be tough for anyone to stop them making the Superbowl.
Dolphins - Still to play the Patriots and Bengals, but at least both games are at home. It's not impossible to see the Dolphins beating one of these teams, but they have struggled against the really strong opposition this season and so I think they will finish 10-6. Playing the wildcard game away will see an early end to their post-season, but expect a stronger team challenging the AFC's best next year.
Bengals - The easiest run-in in the AFC, the only possible stumbling block being the trip to the Dolphins week 15. A 14-2 finish will see them host the Raiders in the playoffs, one of only two teams to beat them this year. This game will be a real clash of the titans, whoever wins will barely have time for the bruises to heal before facing the Patriots - a scary prospect.
Raiders - Even if they beat the Patriots this week, and win the last four I don't think they can secure homefield advantage, which could cost them. I expect a close loss to the Patriots, followed by three victories, including the crucial week 16 game at Arrowhead, resulting in a 13-3 finish. I really can't predict who will win the game between the Bengals and the Raiders, but whoever does will find raising their game to beat the Patriots a week later tough.
Chiefs - Losing their final two games to the Patriots and Raiders will end the Chiefs Superbowl hopes for another year, seeing them finish 11-4-1. They should see off the Dolphins in the wildcard game, but beating the Patriots would be tough enough when you've had the week off, when they've had the rest it'll be near enough impossible.
Cardinals - Can anyone stop them? The Lions failed the test against the Raiders' strong defence, and they looked the only team left who could give it a good shot, so I think the Cardinals will finish the last four weeks unbeaten and the season at 15-1. The only team to beat them this year, Tampa, could meet them in the playoffs. Everybody else (except for the 49ers and Rams) will hope that is the case, but I expect any team travelling to Sun Devil Stadium in the playoffs to wilt under the constant pressure. The Cardinals look virtual Superbowl certainties.
Eagles - A team that will rue it's slow start to the season, a tough final four weeks looks like giving them only one chance of victory, against the new look Cowboys, and even that is no longer certain. A 7-8-1 finish will give the Eagles ample time to watch tape of the Cardinals D, and workout how to beat them next season.
Lions - Will finish 11-4-1, losing to the tough defences of the Cardinals and Bucs but beating the Redskins and Packers. Their playoff game against the Panthers will set a new record for the number of commercial breaks on TV during a game, so many points will be scored! It could be a case of who has the ball last wins... If the Lions can improve their defence in the off-season, they could be next season's Cardinals.
Buccaneers - Their most important remaining game is against the Rams this week. If they win this they have a good chance of beating the Lions and winning the Central. If they lose then they have to hope the 49ers do them a favour by beating the Rams in week 12. I think they will finish 11-5 and be pipped for the final playoff spot by the Rams on points difference. Next season the Buccs will be a major force though....
Panthers - Will have won the NFC West before losing to the 49ers in week 16, finishing 13-3. Should win a shoot-out with the Lions and progress to the Championship game, but if they meet the Cardinals they will get no further.
49ers - Two tough divisional games to come against the Rams and Panthers, will win one and lose another (here's hoping it's the Rams game they lose!!) and will finish 11-4-1. Homefield advantage in the Playoff game will see them through a tough matchup against either the Rams or Bucs, but I can't see them beating the Cardinals, even if they have had since week one to work out how.
Rams - What's happened? At 6-1 the Rams looked a good team who could go all the way, since then they have gone 1-4 and look anything but - until the offensive line learns how to pass block again this team is going nowhere. Which is why I predict they will win their last four games, finish 11-5 and sneak into the playoffs with the final wildcard spot. Go Rams! Of course if the Bucs have just knocked Kurt Warner out of his third consecutive game I'm going to look rather stupid saying that......
OK, I know I've said all season Panthers to beat Raiders but I now think the most likely Superbowl will be Patriots v Cardinals, and I'll back the Patriots to win. But I'm still going to cheer on the Panthers all the way, and if they win you will all get very bored with me reminding you how I beat the Superbowl Champions in week 10, holding them to seven points!
Darren Birtchnell to Dave Pinder: Thanks for the compliment, hopefully we'll meet again in the playoffs.
Week Thirteen Preview
Predictions and commentary from myself, other predictions from Darren Birtchnell, John Coleman and Martyn Williams.
Patriots at Raiders
RC A real test for both teams. New England coped well with the blitzing tactics of Denver earlier in the season and have a strong run defense to go up against Oakland's main strength so start as favourites. The Raiders will be looking to turnovers and special teams to provide victory.
DB Raiders by 1
JC Raiders by 3
MW - Patriots by 1
Bills at Chiefs
RC The Bills have never recovered from missing out on the playoffs in the last week of last season. KC are proving that last year was no fluke. Chiefs by 10
DB Chiefs by 10
JC Chiefs by 14
MW - Chiefs by 14
Dolphins at Steelers
RC Miami should have no difficulty in condemning Pittsburgh to a losing season. Dolphins by 10
DB Dolphins by 7
JC Dolphins by 7
MW - Dolphins by 10
Jets at Bengals
RC New York have no chance, Cincy will bury their QB by halftime. Bengals by 21
JC Bengals by 21
MW - Bengals by 28
Jaguars at Seahawks
RC Seattle have come on in recent weeks and should pick up another win here. But, too little, too late. Seahawks by 7
DB Seahawks by 3
JC Seahawks by 14
MW - Seahawks by 14
Browns at Broncos
RC Denver will be able to keep their playoff hopes alive for one more week. Broncos by 7
DB Broncos by 6
JC Broncos by 3
MW - Browns by 3
Eagles at Panthers
RC Philadelphia have been a disappointment so far this year but still have enough talent to upset the Panthers' weak run defense. Eagles by 1
DB Panthers by 10
JC Panthers by7
MW - Panthers by 14
Cowboys at 49ers
RC San Francisco will be looking to bounce back from last week's defeat but Dallas are playing better and could provide some stiff opposition. Don't expect the 49ers to repeat their six turnover performance, however. 49ers by 3
DB 49ers by 7
JC 49ers by 10
MW - 49ers by 14
Cardinals at Lions
RC Detroit had trouble with the Oakland defense, so it's hard to see them getting anywhere with Arizona's. Cardinals by 14
DB Cardinals by 10
JC Cardinals by 17
MW - Cardinals by 14
Redskins at Packers
RC Washington showed some promise last week, which is more than Green Bay have shown this year. Redskins by 7
DB Packers by 3
JC Packers by 3
MW - Packers by 3
Bucs at Rams
RC A crucial matchup as far as the playoffs are concerned. It is entirely possible that the loser of this game won't make the playoffs. In times of crisis I always favour defense. Bucs by 1
DB Rams by 1
JC Bucs by 3
Bears at Saints
RC Chicago might be able to exploit the New Orleans secondary, but their bottom ranked run defense won't give them too many chances. Saints by 7
DB Saints by 3
JC Saints by 14
MW - Saints by 10
DB: Lock Bengals; Shock Raiders; Blowout Bengals; Shootout Cardinals at Lions; Slugfest Browns at Broncos.
JC: Lock Saints; Shock Raiders; Blowout Bengals; Shootout Bills at Chiefs; Slugfest Redskins at Packers.
MW: Lock Bengals; Shock Cowboys; Blowout Bengals; Shootout - Cardinals at Lions; Slugfest - Patriots at Raiders.
RC: Lock - Cardinals; Shock - Eagles; Blowout - Bengals; Shootout Bears at Saints; Slugfest Cowboys at 49ers.
NFLBP Player Newsletter
ed Robert Crowther