A Passing Fantasy Issue 86
NFLBP Player Newsletter 2001 Week One
ed Robert Crowther
First off, I've moved and not just across town. I've spent most of the last week driving a van between Edinburgh and London. At the minute my computer is in London but I will be going back to Edinburgh for another week, so this newsletter may be a little hurried and it will also be missing any letters that arrived in Edinburgh over the weekend. Apologies if this means I've missed your contributions. The new address is:
79 Petworth Road
The email remains '[email protected]'.
2001 Season Preview
Season previews this week from Darren Birtchnell and Martyn Williams.
DB New England will once again be the team to beat and will again be one of the top teams in the league. The roster looks very strong on both sides of the ball but the only question I have is why have 5 DB's when there's a space on the D-line? Miami are another team with 5 DB's but it's hard to see where else they could have picked someone. The offense may not be as strong this year but the defense could be even better as the Dolphins will again make the playoffs. Buffalo have finally got themselves a secondary but the O-line looks poor. They would probably be better off waiving an RB and TE and using the LP's to upgrade the line. They'll win more games than last year but that shouldn't be too hard. The Jets continue to overload the skill positions and neglect the O-line. We could see a record for sacks conceded. 1. Patriots 2. Dolphins 3. Bills 4.Jets
MW The strongest division in the AFC. Both New England and Miami will enter the season knowing that a Superbowl run is a real possibility. Of the two New England look the stronger, their monster OL should enable them to run and pass the ball with ease. If Miami are to win the division they will have to at least split their games against the Patriots, week 16 at Foxboro should be interesting! Buffalo will have a much better season than last under new Coach Williams but the team still has obvious weaknesses at OL and LB and will struggle to finish above .500 in this division. I find it hard to see the Jets winning any games with no OL, lets just hope their QB(s) have good private healthcare plans! 1. Patriots 2. Dolphins 3. Bills 4. Jets
DB Cincinnati should again have an easy ride to the division title as none of the other teams will offer much of a threat. The Bengals' defense has remained intact and could get even better while the offense will be a lot more balanced than recent seasons. A lot of people will expect Cleveland to be much improved, but they will only flatter to deceive. Their roster is clogged up with too many one value players and until that changes they won't mount a serious challenge. Pittsburgh have been going nowhere ever since their coach retired. They don't have a bad roster but the lack of inspiration that a live coach would give could be the difference between them being winners or losers. Jacksonville are obviously hoping their offense will overpower opponents this season but their defense looks very weak and they will again prop up the division.
MW Another division title for the Bengals, whose season won't really start until the playoffs (again). Look for the Browns to continue to improve and possibly snatch the last wildcard spot, however they look an O Lineman short of being real contenders. The Steelers decline will continue and the Jaguars will have a good scrap with the Jets for last place in the AFC. 1. Bengals 2. Browns 3. Steelers 4. Jaguars
DB Oakland should be able to retain their division title without too many problems. They look strong on both sides of the ball and a very strong O-line makes up for a slight lack of talent at the skill positions. Kansas City should finish second again and claim the final wildcard spot. Their O-line isn't the best but they're still capable of putting up big numbers. On defense the front seven looks very good but the secondary could prove to be a weakness. Seattle look to have finally got the right personnel on defense, the only problem is they've lost half their offense in the process. They will be looking for a good start to the season to make up for the last two years but will just miss the playoffs. Denver's offense looks good on paper but that doesn't always translate to success in games. The defense is similar to KC's good front seven but weak secondary, and that added to the lack of a live coach means they'll finish last in a tough division. 1. Raiders 2. Chiefs 3. Seahawks 4. Broncos
MW The Raiders will rumble all the way to the playoffs behind their huge OL, but once they get there a less conservative approach to offence will be required if they are to get back to the big one. This should be the year when Seattle finally live up to the hype - the defence looks strong, but they won't get far in the playoffs without adding more beef to the OL. The Chiefs will struggle to contain passing teams this year (yes I do mean the Seahawks) and so will slip to third, but will still give most teams a good fight. Denver to revert back to the disappointing norm unless a new coach can be found. 1. Raiders 2. Seahawks 3. Chiefs 4. Broncos
DB A hard division to call, as none of the teams really stand out. Philly probably have the most balanced roster but they've never really fulfilled their potential. However, someone's got to win the division so why not? Dallas have a good roster in terms of total strengths but I think they need to move a few players around to get the best out of their team. Arizona have really struggled since the sudden disappearance of their coach and without the blitzing on defense they are a much easier proposition. Washington are likely to struggle even more this year as their roster is very inexperienced only three players have seven or more years experience. Look for them to challenge the Jets for top draft pick. 1. Eagles 2. Cowboys 3. Cardinals 4. Redskins.
MW All change in the East, this all depends on who gets the better of the Philadelphia-Dallas match ups. I'll stick my neck out and go for the Cowboys, but it will be close. Whoever wins will struggle in the playoffs. The Redskins will shock a few teams this season but won't be major players, and the Cardinals better hope they are good at running the ball because I can't see their QB tossing many TD passes without a quality receiver. 1. Cowboys 2. Eagles 3. Redskins 4. Cardinals
DB After winning their first division title last season Tampa Bay are a good bet to repeat that feat. The defense may not be as good as last year but the offense should pick up the slack and get them back into the playoffs. The rest of the division looks fairly even as all three teams have strengths and weaknesses. Green Bay look to have the best balanced roster while Detroit and Chicago will probably be involved in a few shootouts again. However, none of them are good enough to challenge Tampa and I can't see any of them making the playoffs. 1. Bucs 2. Packers 3. Lions 4. Bears
MW The same as last season, but Tampa will be stronger and the Lions weaker. If the Bucs can successfully implement more passing in their offensive gameplan they could get to the Championship game, but I think it is a season too soon for the Superbowl. Detroit will stop anyone from running at them and will always have a chance with their offence, but against quality passing teams they better get to the QB fast or they'll get burned. Green Bay's fall from grace will gather momentum, and the Bears will win one or two but linebackers can't win games on their own! 1. Buccaneers 2. Lions 3. Packers 4. Bears
DB It's hard to look past Carolina again here, even with their well documented defensive problems they were comfortable winners in the superbowl. If coach Coleman does leave mid-season it will open the door for San Francisco and St Louis to make a bid for the division title, but I think he'll stay on. The 49ers have the edge over St Louis, both in personnel and coaching experience, but the Rams are improving all the time. Both teams will again reach the playoffs and battle it out in the wildcard round. The Saints roster looks very patchy and they will again finish well adrift in fourth place.
MW The NFC Superbowl representative will once again come from the West, and it could be any one of three teams. The 49ers start as favourites, they have the most balanced team and Coach Devine is about as good as they get. The Rams? Well, if two key offensive stars hadn't retired when they were still in their prime I'd think I had a legitimate shot at winning the division, but as it stands second place with more than ten wins looks more realistic (next season the title). The Superbowl Champion Panthers have a tough schedule and will need to sweep the 49ers and Rams to win the division again. If Coach Coleman stays for another year then I would say the Panthers will finish above the Rams, if he leaves halfway through the season as suggested during pre-season then they may just sneak into the playoffs as the second wildcard. Personally I hope he stays, even if it does make my job tougher! The Saints just don't have the defence or OL to make waves in this division. 1. 49ers 2. Rams 3. Panthers 4. Saints
MW AFC: Patriots, Bengals, Raiders, Dolphins; Seahawks or Browns; NFC: Cowboys, Buccaneers, 49ers, Rams; Panthers or Eagles; Superbowl: 49ers to beat Bengals; Superbowl darkhorses: Dolphins and Buccaneers
Darren Birtchnell to John Coleman So it's easier to win the superbowl than the NFC West? OK then, prove it by sticking around and defending your title. If you can.
Week One Preview
Predictions from Darren Birtchnell, Martyn Williams and myself.
DB Patriots by 10; Dolphins by 14 (Lock); Raiders by 17 (Blowout); Chiefs by 6; Broncos by 3 (Slugfest); Packers by 3 (Shock); Eagles by 7; Panthers by 14; 49ers by 10; Rams by 1; Lions by 10 (Shootout).
MW Patriots by 14 (Shock Browns, Shootout); Dolphins by 21 (Blowout); Raiders by 21 (Lock); Chiefs by 7 (Slugfest); Bengals by 14; Broncos by 7; Cardinals by 7; Eagles by 10; Panthers by 17; 49ers by 10; Lions by 14.
RC Patriots by 10 (Lock); Dolphins by 20 (Blowout); Chiefs by 3; Bengals by 7; Steelers by 3 (Shock); Cardinals by 3 (Slugfest); Eagles by 3; Panthers by 10 (Shootout); 49ers by 7; Rams by 3; Lions by 7.
ST LOUIS POST-DESPATCH
GAME OF THE WEEK
Each week the St Louis Post-Despatch will provide an in-depth preview of their chosen game of the week, which will usually feature the Rams (what do you expect from a St Louis broadsheet?!), however on occasions games of more interest or importance that involve other teams will be previewed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St Louis Rams, NFLBP 2001 Season, Week 1
Recent History 2000 Season, Week 13: Buccaneers 0 at 28 Rams
The toughest match up of week one kicks off the new season at the Trans World Dome. The Rams played their best game of last season when these two met last but it is unlikely that this contest will be as one sided, as many predict Tampa to take over from Green Bay as the next NFC Dynasty.
The Buccaneers are still expected to have a run first mentality this season, but steps have been taken during the off-season to improve QB Shaun King's pass protection, and to give him a wider choice of receivers. TE Dave Moore has been drafted and RB Warwick Dunn has arrived via free agency, adding an extra receiving threat from the backfield. The key for the Rams will still be success at stopping the Buccs running game however, and it is hoped that the new look DL, anchored by 11 year veteran NT D'Marco Farr will compensate for the slightly weakened linebacking corps. It is important for the Rams to put the Buccs into passing situations on 2nd down as often as possible as it is suspected that Coach Drew's pass offence may still be work in progress. On passing downs much will be expected of new FA signing Kevin Carter at DLE, the Rams are looking for him to spearhead their pass rush and set a hard and aggressive example for the other defensive players to follow throughout the season.
On the other side of the ball, the success of the Rams offence all depends on who wins the battle in the trenches. The strong Tampa front four will make it difficult for the Rams to get their running game going, but the Rams do have one of the biggest OLs in the league and FA FB Marshall Faulk. He has the strength and durability to consistently gain yardage inside, and this will allow speedy rookie HB Trung Canidate to concentrate on the outside run and receiving. Once you get past the DL Tampa's defence looks a little weak, especially in the secondary, but most pundits expect Tampa to add at least one defensive FA signing in the week leading up to the game. Tampa's young secondary match up well with the Rams young receivers, so how well veteran TE Ernie Conwell plays could well hold the key to the success of the Rams offence.
NFLBP Player Newsletter
ed Robert Crowther