1969 PRO FOOTBALL SIM: UP, UP AND AWAY!

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The 1969 season represented ordinals for both the AFL and NFL. The NFL celebrated its 50th season while the AFL played its 10th and final season.

For its farewell campaign, the AFL expanded its playoff field to include the first and second place teams in each division. The NFL format remained with just the four divisional winners advancing to postseason play.

As in real life, the Vikings hosted both the divisional playoff and NFL Championship Game. The temperatures at Met Stadium for the two games were 10 and 8 degrees, respectively.

The season concluded Jan. 11, 1970 at Tulane Stadium complete with the halftime Civil War re-enactment and the gondola of the Vikings hot air balloon crashing into Row 6, that on the heels of a December regular season game at Metropolitan Stadium where another balloon with an 11-year-old occupant got airborne and landed in the nearby Minnesota River.

The sim version of Super Bowl IV came without Hank Stram yakking away on the sideline. Unlike real life, Joe Namath got another crack at the big game after the Jets loss to the Cowboys the previous year. Standing in his way would be a less-heralded Joe, who came via the University of California and the Canadian Football League.

What followed was something not seen in the actual 50 Super Bowl’s played to date..

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Dave Osborn scored in overtime to give Minnesota and Bud Grant the World Championship that proved so elusive in real life, while Namath’s Super Bowl record fell to 0-2. The Vikings also went 13-1 in the regular season, the lone loss came in Week 2 to Baltimore, a team Minnesota destroyed 52-14 in real-life behind a record-tying seven touchdown passes from Kapp.

After the Super Bowl Kapp disappeared from Minnesota and the NFL as quickly as he arrived. The Vikings did not offer him a contract, Kapp held out the following year and ultimately signed with the Patriots with Minnesota compensated two first-round picks in return.

Kapp stunk it up in his one year with Boston, last seen by the Vikings on an icy field at Harvard Stadium that NFL Films set to a football follies theme. The Patriots drafted Jim Plunkett (like Kapp a Mexican-American) the following year and Kapp left football, and like Curt Flood in baseball filed suit against the NFL’s reserve clause.

In 2011 Kapp became remembered for a viral video where he came to blows with Angelo ‘King Kong’ Mosca at an alumni function over a play in the 1963 Grey Cup that knocked one of Kapp’s B.C. Lions teammates out of the game.

Among other notable events in the 1969 sim season, the New Orleans Saints finished their third season with a winning record of 8-6, a feat the real team did not accomplish until 1987. A 5-9 team that year, the Saints got a lot of favorable results due to the mediocrity (outside of the Cowboys) of the NFL’s Eastern Conference that year.

1968 PRO FOOTBALL SIM: DANDY DON TURNS OUT LIGHTS ON BROADWAY JOE

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(This simulation of a professional football season is a dramatization – It did not actually take place in any way, shape or form.)

In real life Super Bowl III became Joe Namath’s defining moment as the New York Jets gave the American Football League its first win against the NFL.

But before he went to the Monday Night Football booth, Don Meredith played nine years as Dallas Cowboys QB. In this sim, Meredith takes the Cowboys to the Super Bowl to take on Namath and the Jets. As much as Namath officially made Super Bowl week a media circus in the real Super Bowl, it is hard to imagine if Miami Beach would had been big enough for Meredith and Namath to sling one-liners in the days before the big game.

This time Meredith and the NFL got the last song in.

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One year after the Oakland Raiders went 16-0 in the 1967 sim, the Baltimore Colts threatened to go one better. They went undefeated in the regular season and won in the divisional round before being shut out by the 13-1 Cowboys in the Championship round.

Since there is overtime in the WhatIfSports simulations, fictional fans became equally irate when Heidi pre-empted the end of the Raiders 13-10 OT regular season win over the Jets. It would prove to be the only regular season loss of the Jets campaign while the Raiders finished third in their division with a 10-4 record.

The Raiders 21-game win streak ended with a 30-17 loss to the Chargers in Week 6. The Cincinnati Bengals lost their first 12 games before they defeated the Patriots 14-9 at Fenway Park.

With the Raiders stealing the Jets thunder by winning the AFL/NFL Championship the previous year, the Jets did not have quite the motivation of their real-life counterparts. In a great battle of one-loss teams, the Cowboys gave Tom Landry his much deserved late-1960s championship with a 24-10 win.

The win gave Meredith a lifetime pass to gloat at Howard Cosell in the Monday Night booth.

 

1967 FOOTBALL SIM: RAIDERS GO 16-00

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My first Oakland Raiders memories included quarterback Daryle Lamonica, glue-fingered (literally) receiver Fred Belitnikoff and center Jim Otto, whose unique numeric selection made him one of the most recognized offensive lineman of all-time.

A native of Wausau, Wisconsin, Otto became a territorial selection for the AFL’s perspective Minneapolis franchise. When the owners accepted the NFL’s charter instead, Otto’s rights transferred to the replacement Oakland franchise, and 00 would go on to play 15 seasons and endure 74 trips (anyone still counting?) to the operating room.

In this 1967 sim, 00 also came to mean something else…

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The Raiders first came of age in 1967, a prequel to the franchises legendary success of future years. The team’s lone regular season loss came to the New York Jets in October. The team was the first to truly live by Al Davis’s philosophy of a vertical attack. The team scored 468 points during the season, they exceed 50 points twice and hit or exceeded 40 points on four other occasions, including the 40-14 rout of the Houston Oilers in the AFL Championship.

However the ’67 Raiders are simply remembered for being methodically beaten 33-14 by the Green Bay Packers in Vince Lombardi’s last game as coach.

In the sim, the Raiders complete the regular season undefeated and ultimately win the AFL/NFL Championship with a 22-14 win over the Cleveland Browns.

On the NFL side, the playoffs provided chaotic due to a realignment into four four-team divisions (Capitol, Century, Central, Coastal). The NFL’s best two teams, the Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams, both resided in the Coastal.

In real-life, the Rams won the division title by defeating the Colts in the seasons final week. Both teams finished with identical 11-1-2 records.

The first shock to the 1967 NFL sim came when the Atlanta Falcons (0-14 the previous sim season) defeated the Colts in Week 1. The Falcons would win a second time the following week. Meanwhile Baltimore ran the table and met the Rams in Week 14 with both teams at 12-1. In the sim the Colts win, only to lose to the Packers in the Division Playoff. The Packers in turn lost to the Browns in the NFL Championship, a rematch of the two teams who played for the 1967 Championship.

To reduce time, not to mention that it would be practically impossible to find the weather conditions of all pro football games over the past 50 years, I ran the WhatIfSports simulations under default weather conditions. I did sim Browns/Packers under Ice Bowl conditions (-15 with medium wind) 20 times, the Browns won 11 of the 20 games.

The other question is how the Raiders would do against the rest of the NFL, so I played the Raiders against all 16 NFL teams. Oakland went 13-3 in those sims, losing to both the Colts and Rams by one point and upset by the 49ers by three points. Many of the other games the Raiders won handily.

The data suggests the Raiders to indeed be amongst the best teams in all of pro football in 1967. Because of the 33-14 loss, the second AFL/NFL Championship narrative is viewed as anti-climatic following the Packers Ice Bowl victory with Lombardi literally ridden off into the sunset.

But in this sim, Perfectville resides on the East Bay.

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1966 SIMULATION: FOUR-PLAY, RAMS WIN FIRST AFL/NFL CHAMPIONSHIP

Fearsome_FoursomeHistory says the first AFL/NFL Championship was played to a less than capacity crowd in Los Angeles, as just over 61,000 saw the Green Bay Packers 35-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Given the fact that fans did not travel like they do today and with the jury still out on the success of an AFL v. NFL championship, the initial lukewarm response made sense.

Had the Los Angeles Rams had been involved, the game would had sold out like the 49 Super Bowls that followed.

Here is the final standings of KACSPORTS simulated 1966 AFL/NFL season through WhatIfSports

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Both leagues welcomed expansion teams in 1966. The Atlanta Falcons became the NFL’s 15th franchise while the Miami Dolphins entered as the AFL’s ninth team. In this sim, the Dolphins won their second game in franchise history against the New York Jets and finished a very respectable 5-9, better than two of the AFL’s original eight. The Falcons did not fare nearly as well with a 0-14 record.

The most stunning result of the simulation involved Green Bay’s collapse, the Packers lost their final seven games to finish tied for last in the Western Division, as opposed to 12-2 for their real-life counterparts. The Chicago Bears provided the simulations surprise team with a 11-3 record, led by the electrifying running of second-year back Gayle Sayers and a devastating defense led by Dick Butkus. The Bears routed Washington 38-0 in the sim’s second-place ‘Playoff Bowl’.

With the odd number of teams in each league, bye weeks occurred throughout the season. The AFL’s regular season would be spread out over 16 weeks, the NFL was more clean-cut with each of the 15 teams utilizing an off week throughout the season.

This era saw the home sites of playoff and league championship games awarded on a rotational basis. In 1966 the AFL and NFL Championships were played at East Division venues. For purposes of the sim, home field advantage is given to the team with the best record as done today.

Chalk prevailed in the AFL, as Buffalo and Kansas City played for the sim championship. The Chiefs earned home field and would defeat the Bills 31-24. On the NFL side, the Los Angeles Rams and their Fearsome Foursome front line stunned the Dallas Cowboys 17-0 at the Cotton Bowl.

The inaugural AFL/NFL Sim Championship game played out in front of a sellout crowd exceeding 100,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The closely contested game proved the AFL to already be on par with their older NFL counterparts. A late Mike Garrett touchdown closed the gap to 13-10, but the Rams secured the championship after they recovered the ensuing onside kick and soon delirious fans ripped down the Coliseum goalposts.

RELIVING THE PAST 50 NFL SEASONS

What if we just revised the NFL history of the Super Bowl era?

  • Would Vince Lombardi again ride off into the sunset with the Packers victorious in the first two AFL/NFL championship games?
  • Can the American Football League again shock the world with an early Super Bowl win?
  • Could the Miami Dolphins go undefeated again? Or another team such as the 1985 Bears or 2007 Patriots.
  • Can Bud Grant finally win a Super Bowl for the Minnesota Vikings?
  • Can the Cleveland Browns just get to a Super Bowl?
  • Would teams come from absolutely nowhere to win it all?
  • Would the championship trophy even be named after Lombardi?
  • Can O.J. Simpson replicate or even exceed 2,003 rushing yards in a 14-game season?

KACSPORTS has started an exhaustive project where entire seasons will be replayed through WhatIfSports. The games will be simulated once (not a thousand times) with the entire schedule and playoff formats for appropriate eras intact, with a few exceptions.

There will be surprises some years, and other seasons that will look much like their real-life counterparts. This special series will commence shortly, get ready to feel like 1966 all over again!

 

 

Canada Dry In NHL Playoffs?

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It has become a dire time for anyone who roots for Canadian-based National Hockey League Teams. With just over a month left in the regular season it can be said with more than 90 percent certainty that none of the NHL’s seven Canadian entries will advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That means 16 of the league’s 23 U.S. based entries will be playoff bound. Just last year five Canadian teams made the playoffs as the first round featured an Ottawa v. Montreal and a Vancouver v. Calgary series.

It gets better – in recent weeks the scoring leaders in the NHL, AHL (AAA-hockey), ECHL (AA), the Federal League, the Southern Professional Hockey League (not to be confused with the Southern Poverty Law Center, NCAA Division I mens hockey and NCAA Division I women’s hockey are all American-born. Canadian Seth Griffith has tied American Chris Borque for the AHL scoring lead.

But as far as an Canadian-team advancing to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the outlook gets grimmer each day.

(probabilities per hockey-reference.com)

Ottawa Senators (6.2 percent) – With 69 points in 66 games the Sens are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils. The Detroit Red Wings (75 points in 64 games) and Pittsburgh Penguins (74 points in 64 games) hold down the Wild Card spots with the Philadelphia Flyers (71 points in 64 games) close behind. Those three games with two games in hand will make it difficult for the Sens to overtake. Another possibility will be to overtake the Boston Bruins (79 points in 66 games) for third place in the division.

Montreal Canadiens (1.2 percent) – A trendy pre-season pick to go deep into the playoffs, the Habs have trended in the wrong direction ever since All-everything goaltender Carey Price went down. Montreal has lost its last four games and a slew of teams they will need to somehow leapfrog.

Toronto Maple Leafs (0 percent) – The Leafs continue their 50-year rebuilding project and traded high-salaried players in recent days to clear salary cap space in hopes of landing Steven Stamkos in free agency. They still sell out every game charging ridiculous ticket prices.

Winnipeg Jets (0.5 percent) – After last year’s playoff appearance, the Jets have reverted back to the Atlanta Thrashers in drag. With 59 points, the Jets stand 13 points behind the Minnesota Wild, who have been on a roll since they fired their coach. Even with two games in hand, it will be a tall order for the Manitobans.

Vancouver Canucks (2 percent) – It has been five years since the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins and known patriot goaltender Tim Thomas. With 62 points, the Canucks stand 10 points behind the Wild with two games in hand. Vancouver is also 14 points behind the third-place San Jose Sharks with the same amonut of games played.

Calgary Flames (0.1 percent) – The Flames stand four points behind the Canucks with one more game played. It should be a quiet spring on the Red Mile, to the delight of those in the neighborhood who hate post-game parties that go late into the night.

Edmonton Oilers (0 percent) – The Oilers sit at 57 points, but have played a league-high 67 games. The good news is the team showed respectability after years of selecting top overall draft picks and finally move into a new arena next year. Connor McDavid (34 points in 30 games) missed much of his rookie season but appears as good as advertised. They could be the 2018 Stanley Cup champions.