A Passing Fantasy Issue 81

NFLBP Player Newsletter 2000 Season Wildcard Week

ed Robert Crowther

The playoffs are finally here and we should have some great games in store. All ten playoff teams won ten or more regular season games, I think the first time that has happened, indicating the overall quality of this year's contenders. Whoever wins the superbowl this year is going to have to earn it. A full breakdown of all the playoff teams appears below. For those now eliminated from championship contention there is the draft to look forward to and the chance to start building for next year. On that note, welcome to Richard Williams, new coach of the Bills, hopefully you can revitalise a once formidable team. As usual, send any comments, opinions, predictions or articles to:


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Or email at '[email protected]'.


WEEK SIXTEEN REVIEW


The Patriots warmed up nicely for the playoffs with a comfortable shut out victory over the disappointing Bills. Miami secured homefield advantage for the wildcard with three first half touchdowns that the Jets never looked like matching. Cincinnati completed a season sweep over all their Central division rivals with another fine defensive display against Pittsburgh. The Cleveland offense, rampant in recent weeks, couldn't get it going against Jacksonville but still racked up more than enough points thanks to special teams and defense. Seattle cruised to their sixth consecutive victory against a demoralised Denver. Oakland built an early lead in Kansas City and were never seriously troubled by the Chiefs after that.


Philadelphia finished their disappointing season on a high note with a win against Dallas, both teams will be expecting more next season. The Redskins gave the champions elect a severe fright, the Cardinals second close game in a row against also-ran opposition might give their NFC rivals some encouragement. Green Bay struck a decisive blow in the NFC playoff battle, though this year it was on behalf of the Rams. Detroit have slumped to five consecutive defeats and miss even a wildcard. Tampa Bay scored their eightieth point in the last two weeks with a fourth quarter touchdown in Chicago, setting off alarm bells among all their playoff rivals. St Louis cruised to victory against the Saints and head into the playoffs thanks to the Lions' defeat. In the big game in the NFC the Panthers snatched the divisional title from the 49ers' grasp with a fourth quarter touchdown pass.


Offensive performance of the week goes to Washington who received scant reward for a massive amount of yards against what was the league's most feared defense. Defensive performance of the week goes to Jacksonville who completely shut down a Cleveland offense that has been in top in recent weeks (shame their offense gave up 11 points...). Special teams performance of the week goes to the Jets, who averaged over thirty yards a return.


Predictions Standings

Darren Birtchnell


Congratulations to Darren on becoming this season's champion prognosticator. The following table includes Martin Devine's week fourteen predictions for which I have calculated the score, so any error there is my fault.


Darren Birtchnell

15.43

(14)

John Coleman

14.93

(14)

Jon Cullen

14.00

(1)

Martin Devine

12.75

(4)

Quentin Jenkinson

12.60

(5)

Rob Crowther

12.33

(15)

Martyn Williams

12.18

(11)


PLAYOFF PREVIEW – AFC


Abbreviations:R: Record; H: Home record; A: Away record; P: Record versus playoff teams; F: Current streak; O: Offensive ranking; R: Rush rank; P: Pass rank; D: Defensive ranking. (All rankings are by conference)


Patriots

R:14-2;H:8-0;A:6-2;P:4-2;F:W3

O:3;R:4;P:7;D:4;R:1;P:8

Lost to main rivals the Bengals and the Raiders but both on the road, but will be keen to take them both on at home where their strong run defense could give them the edge they need.


Raiders

R:14-2;H:7-1;A:7-1;P:5-0;F:W12

O:6;R:1;P:11;D:5;R:6;P:6

Performed well in the big games, great recent form culminated in three away wins without conceding a touchdown. Are going to need to make some big plays through the air if they want to return to the superbowl.


Bengals

R:13-3;H:8-0;A:5-3;P:2-3;F:W1

O:8;R:2;P:12;D:1;R:7;P:2

Have found it tough going on the road against playoff calibre opposition, and offense could be too one dimensional – but great defense will always give them a chance to win. May regret missing out on homefield, but won't give up their title without a fight.


Dolphins

R:11-5;H:6-2;A:5-3;P:2-4;F:W2

O:4;R:5;P:6;D:3;R:2;P:7

Improved as the season has gone on, wins over the Rams and the Bengals in the last five weeks indicate how strong they've become.


Chiefs

R:10-5-1;H:7-1;A:3-4-1;P:1-4;F:L3

O:5;R:10;P:2;D:8;R:4;P:9

Poor road form has let them down, only win against playoff opposition came in week one against the Dolphins.


PLAYOFF PREVIEW – NFC


Cardinals

R:15-1;H:8-0;A:7-1;P:3-1;F:W9

O:1;R:6;P:2;D:1;R:2;P:3

For much of the season looked almost invincible, were unlucky to lose to the Bucs in week seven and beat their other playoff rivals by more than two scores. Recent narrow victories have sown some seeds of doubt.


Panthers

R:13-3;H:8-0;A:5-3;P:4-2;F:W1

O:5;R:4;P:7;D:10;R:7;P:10

Weak defense hasn't prevented them winning a very tough division, in fact the D has improved considerably over the later part of the season and may be better than the ranking suggests.


Buccaneers

R:11-5;H:7-1;A:4-4;P:2-3;F:W3

O:12;R:1;P:12;D:2;R:1;P:7

Great defense gives them a chance of beating anybody, but their offense isn't good enough to consistently drive home their advantage.


49ers

R:11-4-1;H:5-2-1;A:6-2;P:4-4;F:L1

O:6;R:10;P:6;D:4;R:4;P:5

Survived the toughest schedule in the BP, half their games were against playoff opposition. It won't get any easier but at least they'll know what to expect.


Rams

R:10-6;H:6-2;A:4-4;P:3-4;F:W2

O:3;R:7;P:3;D:3;R:3;P:2

On paper the best balanced team in the NFC outside Arizona, but paid for their inability to beat the 49ers.


Wildcard Preview


Predictions and commentary from John Coleman and Martyn Williams, other predictions from Darren Birtchnell and myself.


Chiefs at Dolphins

JC – Kansas have found themselves in a tricky situation. Having lost their last two they will try to pull out all the stops against a moderate Miami. Not that the Dolphins are anyone's pushovers as they proved against the superbowl bound Patriots a couple of weeks ago in a tight game. The defense has kept Miami in touch at the top and need to perform well here. Kansas will have to avoid spilling the ball over in their air attack. With 22 interceptions so far this season I feel Miami will win this game with one more important pick late in the fourth. Dolphins 21-20


MW - The Dolphins have more than met the expectations of many people's preseason predictions by comfortably securing a wild card berth and 2nd place in the AFC East. The Chiefs meanwhile have had a solid season, finishing second in the tough AFC West but will be worried by losing three straight to finish the regular season, even against three quality teams. When these two teams met way back in week 1 at Arrowhead the Chiefs won a defensive game 12-3, despite Miami piling up over 450 offensive yards with no turnovers. Miami have improved since then and silenced their remaining critics by beating the Bengals in week 15. With homefield advantage and the greater momentum, Miami seem to have everything in their favour. I don't see the Chiefs, on recent form, putting up much of a fight. Dolphins by 10



DB – Dolphins by 10

RC – Dolphins by 7


Rams at 49ers

JC – The Rams have amassed 81 points in their last two games. Their attack is much more balanced and you ignore their ground game at your peril! The 49ers are a class act, nothing ultra special but very good in all departments. It is a shame one of these excellent teams is going out at this early stage. Either side would compete with honour in the superbowl, the NFC West is a toughie! The 49ers have beaten the Rams twice this season, all be it by less than 7 points both times. I'm going to stick my neck out and call it a home win... 49ers 27-14


MW - Once again the NFC Wild Card features two NFC West teams, though this time the Rams are travelling to San Francisco rather than Carolina. The Rams have lost twice to the 49ers already this season, but on paper have the 2nd ranked offence and 3rd ranked defence in the NFC Playoffs. If they play to that potential they can win, their main deficiency is a lack of big game experience and the self-belief that comes with winning them. The 49ers, on the other hand, have as much big game experience as you could ask for and are expert at winning games, albeit unspectacularly. This is the more difficult of the two Wild Card games to call, but unfortunately I can't help thinking the most likely result will be another close game won by the 49ers special teams.


DB – 49ers by 1

RC – rams by 1


Silver Bowl Preview


Predictions and commentary from myself, other predictions from John Coleman.


Seahawks at Lions


RC - Two teams going in opposite directions, Seattle finished on a six game winning streak, Detroit on a five game losing streak. Both streaks should continue. SEAHAWKS BY 10


JC – lions by 7


Broncos at Eagles


RC – Denver have slumped badly since the departure of their coach, Philly are more than good enough to take advantage. Eagles by 7


JC – eagles by 10


Redskins at Steelers


RC – The Washington offense has been in impressive form in recent weeks, and should be good enough to see them past Pittsburgh. Redskins by 10


JC – redskins by 3


Packers at Cowboys


RC – An intriguing matchup, the former champs have shown some signs of a return to form in recent weeks while Dallas have shown some flashes of brilliance under their new coach. Cowboys by 3


JC – cowboys by 10


Browns at Saints


RC – Apart from last week the Cleveland offense finished the season looking like the league leading unit of a couple of seasons ago. New Orleans are notoriously weak against the pass and could find themselves a long way behind very quickly. Browns by 14


JC – saints by 10


Jaguars at Jets


RC – Jacksonville have no run defense, New York have no run offense – should be a low scoring game. Expect the Jags pass defense to make a few big plays to turn the game in their favour. Jaguars by 7


JC – JETS by 7

NFLBP Player Newsletter

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ed Robert Crowther