A Passing Fantasy Issue 89
NFLBP Player Newsletter 2001 Season Week Four
ed Robert Crowther
Thanks, once again, to Martyn Williams for writing half the newsletter this week. Where are all the rest of you? Not tired of hearing all about the Rams yet? The address for comments and contributions is:
79 Petworth Road
Or email to '[email protected]'. The newsletter usually gets finished off on the Monday before the deadline, so you've all go plenty of time to think about something to write...
Week Three Review
New England finally gave someone a thrashing, but Pittsburgh gave them some cheap fourth quarter points to pad the scoreline. The Patriots got enough points for the win in the first quarter but didn't put the Steelers away until the fourth. Cincinnati went to Miami and gave the young pretenders a dose of championship football reality. The Bengals started fast and kept on going, the Dolphins never stood a chance. Seattle were piling up the yards again, this time in Buffalo. The Bills' defense was able to keep them out of the endzone for most of the first three quarters but were always fighting a losing battle. Cleveland faced their third playoff team in three weeks and racked up their second win. Kansas City were unable to stop the Browns moving the ball and suffered for their lack of big play offensive ability. Oakland travelled to Jacksonville and, after some initial turnover trouble, had little trouble in racking up the expected victory.
Detroit couldn't stop Arizona moving the ball and, apart from one quarter, couldn't get into the endzone themselves. Of course, the Lions wouldn't let little things like that get in the way of victory... Philadelphia tightened their grip on the NFC East with a come from behind win over the slumping Bucs. Tampa Bay built a first half lead with two second quarter touchdowns but then watched their once dominant defense give it all away in the second half. After a slow start New Orleans out offensed the Redskins, racking up over 450 yards on the Washington 'defense'. St Louis got some big plays offensively but a lack of consistency kept the Cowboys in the game until the fourth quarter. San Francisco dealt comfortably with the resurgent Packers, marching up and down the field with ease. Green Bay struggled to get their ground game going and their offense spent most of the game watching the 49ers. In Chicago, Carolina were surprisingly lacklustre offensively. However, the Panthers got some early points on the board and, once again, the defense was more than good enough.
Offensive performance of the week goes to Cincinnati for blowing away a previously dominant looking Miami defense. Defensive performance of the week goes to San Francisco for holding a Green Bay team that was averaging 30 points a game to just 12. Special teams performance of the week goes to Tampa Bay, whose kick returner is obviously benefiting from all the extra practice.
ST LOUIS POST-DESPATCH
Post Game Press Conference - NFLBP 2001 Season Week 3
St Louis Rams 38 at 21 Dallas Cowboys
You would expect most people to be more than satisfied with an offensive performance that averaged 4 yards a run, 26 yards a completion and racked up 38 points, but not Coach Williams of the Rams. "We weren't sharp today with our passing game. Sure, we burnt their secondary for some long completions but I'm not happy at giving up three picks, especially when one is returned for a touchdown which gets them back in the game. And only completing 50% of our attempts is not good enough. Today our running attack picked up the slack and won us the game and all credit to them but against better defences our passing game will need to improve. We just need to get a little tighter with our distribution of the ball through the air." And despite the Rams defence currently being ranked 1st in the league they weren't spared a tongue lashing either. "On a couple of occasions today the defence just lost concentration and that worries me. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt this week and put it down to us having a lot of young players and new faces on that side of the ball, but against a better ballteam just one lapse in concentration could cost us the game". When this reporter asked if there was anything he was happy with that he'd seen against Dallas he replied, "Our running game and 38 points. I'd like to see anyone show me a free agent signing on another team that has had as much of an impact as Marshall Faulk has for us. He has brought consistency to our running game and is doing a great job of making Trung Canidate's transition to pro football a hell of a lot easier. And a special mention for our punter, Rick Tuten. When he hit that 85 yarder my eyes almost popped out of my head!"
Week Four Preview
Predictions and commentary from myself, other predictions from Martyn Williams and Darren Birtchnell.
Seahawks at Patriots
RC After a dodgy start New England look to be edging back to championship form. Seattle are coming off their first win of the season, but thrashing the Bills is a lot easier than beating the Patriots. Patriots by 10
MW Patriots by 10
DB Patriots by 14
Broncos at Dolphins
RC After looking like contenders for two weeks, Miami were embarrassed by Cincinnati last week. Denver represent an easy opportunity to regain some confidence, the Broncos have been struggling to score against mediocre defenses and the Dolphins are well above average in that department. Dolphins by 14
MW Dolphins by 13
DB Dolphins by 14
Browns at Jets
RC New York surprised many with their first win last week but I expect them to struggle here. Cleveland are rarely explosive but they move the ball consistently and have a good enough defense to contain the Jets 'throw or die' offense. Browns by 14
MW Browns by 14
DB Browns by 10
Jaguars at Bills
RC Someone here will pick up their first win of the season, the loser will likely never get a better chance (and end up picking number one come draft day). Neither team has much offense to speak of, but Buffalo has the slightly less dire defense. Bills by 3
MW Bills by 3
DB Bills by 3
Raiders at Bengals
RC Round ten of the biggest rivalry in the AFC, if not the whole BP. Oakland struck a blow in the last regular season encounter but Cincinnati rebounded with their third successive playoff win over the Raiders to stay ahead on points. Both teams appear to have developed passing threats in the offseason, but it is usually defenses that dominate in these encounters.
MW Bengals by 3
Chiefs at Steelers
RC Pittsburgh made a surprisingly good start to the season but were demolished in New England last week. Kansas City have struggled to put points on the board but have been playing solid defense, the Steelers will struggle if they don't pick up some early scores. Chiefs by 7
MW Chiefs by 7
DB Steelers by 3
Rams at Cardinals
RC Arizona racked up a lot of yards last week but are unlikely to offer too much of a challenge to St Louis. Rams by 10
DB Rams by 10
Saints at Eagles
RC New Orleans have made a good start, albeit against weak opposition. Philadelphia are a playoff calibre team who already look all set for the NFC East title. Eagles by 7
MW Eagles by 10
DB Eagles by 10
Packers at Redskins
RC Neither team looked very good last week, but up until that point Green Bay looked ready to relive former glories. Washington offer little defensive resistance and have so far struggled to score points. Packers by 10
MW Packers by 7
DB Packers by 7
Bears at Cowboys
RC More jockeying for draft position going on in Dallas. Chicago haven't won a game for a long time and, despite their defense improving somewhat, I don't think they'll win here. The Cowboys have hardly been consistent but sporadic bouts of mediocrity should be too much for the Bears. Cowboys by 7
MW Cowboys by 7
DB Cowboys by 3
Panthers at Bucs
RC At the start of the season this looked like one of the crunch matchups. It's not really worked out for Tampa this season, their defense has deserted and the offense hasn't taken up the slack. For all the slagging Carolina's defense gets in the newsletter, it currently leads the NFC in points conceded, even a little bit of offense will be enough for the Panthers. Panthers by 7
MW Panthers by 17
DB Panthers by 10
49ers at Lions
RC Detroit are once again in playoff contention, through no fault of their own. San Francisco are good enough to contain the Lions' offense and exploit the defensive weaknesses. 49ers by 10
MW 49ers by 14
DB 49ers by 10
MW : Lock Panthers; Shock Seahawks; Blowout Panthers; Shootout 49ers at Lions; Slugfest Raiders at Bengals
DB : Lock Dolphins; Shock Steelers; Blowout Dolphins; Shootout Packers at Redskins; Slugfest Raiders at Bengals.
RC : Lock Rams; Shock Bucs; Blowout Dolphins; Shootout Rams at Cardinals; Slugfest Jaguars at Bills.
ST LOUIS POST-DESPATCH
Game of the Week
St Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals, NFLBP 2001 Season, Week 4
Recent History, NFLBP 2000 Season Week 11, Arizona Cardinals 38 at 20 St Louis Rams
The last match up between these two was close up to halftime, but the Cardinals ran away with the game in the 2nd half to end up easy victors and end the Rams unbeaten home record under Coach Williams. This game should be a lot closer come the 4th quarter - the Rams have continued to make progress this season while the Cardinals seem to have taken a step backwards and may need a new coach to bring them back to contender status.
The stats show the Cardinals to have a balanced offensive unit that has been struggling to find consistency in the redzone. They have been running the ball successfully in terms of yardage but a quick look at the TD column shows only 2 trips to the endzone. It is the same story when passing the ball, a good completion percentage and yardage per completion has been let down by averaging only 1 TD per game. The Rams will be confident that their defence can shut down the Cardinals rushing attack as they are only giving up 2 yards per attempt and are yet to concede a rushing touchdown. Which means that the main threat from Arizona will come through the air. Arizona have very little skill at receiver but QB Jake Plummer has been using his experience to make up for this and the Cardinals 3 and 4 receiver sets may well test the Rams young corners. 11 year veteran FS Keith Lyle will need to step up and lead the secondary by example. Overall the Rams pass defence is strong but it does let itself down by giving up two or three big plays every game, so they'll be looking for some interceptions and sacks to even things out. For Arizona to put enough points on the board to win they must begin to convert their redzone possession into TDs rather than FGs.
Defensively the Cardinals no longer have the unit that terrorised the NFL last season and their strong DL is struggling to stop the run due to the lack of support from an under-strength linebacking corp. A quick look at game film will make Rams FB Marshall Faulk's eyes light up, as there is nothing he likes more than to spend all day beating up on a demoralised DL. The Cardinals D continues to stick with the ILB blitz but they don't have anyone who is good enough to shut down Faulk using that play. In stark contrast to their abysmal run defence the Cardinals do have the top ranked pass defence in the league thanks to a strong pass rush which is coupled with a secondary that includes 5 star players. This could be a tough game for QB Kurt Warner as he tries to avoid the pass rush long enough for his receivers to get open, and a lot could depend on getting favourable match ups between Rams TE Ernie Conwell, HB Trung Canidate and the Cardinals LB's.
The Rams will hope that their running game will lead them to victory and help keep long passing downs to a minimum. The last situation they want is Kurt Warner V Cardinals Secondary to win the game as he is just as likely to throw an interception as a TD.
NFLBP Player Newsletter
ed Robert Crowther