FALCONS DREAM SEASON NOT SEEN BY MANY

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons

Despite throttling both the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers en route to Super Bowl LI, the talent of the Atlanta Falcons remain unknown on a national level.

The reasons are obvious. Atlanta was not tabbed for a Sunday Night appearance and not even flexed into a late season game, as was the case with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For other late afternoon national broadcasts, FOX likes to roll with known brands such as the Cowboys, Packers and Seahawks while CBS’s number one crew typically work  Broncos, Patriots and Steeler games. The two networks also make sure to get at least one interconference game that involve such teams.

That left Atlanta with a Week 3 Monday night game at New Orleans that drew alarmingly low ratings against a presidential debate, a Week 8 game v. Green Bay and a Thursday night game in Tampa for a national audience. Most other Falcons games were shown regionally.

Week 1 v. Tampa Bay – The season began with the Falcons in the shadow of the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers, who opened on a Thursday night. With the New Orleans Saints also in action, the game aired in Georgia, the Tampa area and some other southern locations.

Week 2 at Oakland – This interconference game would normally air on FOX, but was flexed to CBS. Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon called this game while Colts v. Broncos got the Jim Nantz/Phil Simms treatment.

Week 3 at New Orleans (MNF) – The aforementioned 45-32 Atlanta victory that drew low ratings against Trump v. Hillary.

Week 4 v. Carolina – With the Panthers in town, the Falcons 48-33 victory was shown in most homes in the south during the 1 p.m. Eastern window. A Seahawks v. Jets game aired everywhere west of Denver and in the northeast.

Week 5 at Denver – The Falcons took down the other Super Bowl 50 participant in a 4:05 Eastern start shown to most of the south and west while a Cowboys v. Bengals game aired in the 4:25 window on FOX

Week 6 at Seattle – The Falcons controversial loss in Seattle was shown regionally in Atlanta and the Pacific Northwest as the rest of the nation got Cowboys v. Packers in the 4:25 window.

Week 7 v. San Diego – Another 4:05 start only shown in the Chargers and Falcons markets, while Patriots/Steelers was shown to a national audience on CBS.

Week 8 v. Green Bay – The Falcons 33-32 marked Atlanta’s lone national 4:25 appearance, shown everywhere with the exception of Denver as the Broncos had a home game.

Week 9 at Tampa Bay (TNF) – The Falcons Thursday night appearance fell here, the first game done with the NBC crew and Al Michaels.

Week 10 at Philadelphia – Headlined FOX’s 1 p.m. slate and shown in many regions that included the West Coast and Texas.

Week 12 v. Arizona – This game again got FOX’s number two team of Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch. The 1 p.m. start was only seen in Georgia, Arizona, the Carolina and other upper Midewest areas.

Week 13 v. Kansas City – CBS’s number two team handled this game which aired mainly to the Kansas City and Atlanta markets. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms worked Houston at Green Bay in the 1 p.m. window.

Week 14 at Los Angeles – By this point in the season it became obvious that the Rams did not make for good TV viewing. Dick Stockton called the one-sided contest aired to the Los Angeles and Atlanta markets.

Week 15 v. San Francisco – Another 4:05 local start against a subpar opponent aired regionally. CBS carried Patriots at Broncos in the 4:25 window.

Week 16 at Carolina – Christmas Eve game went out regionally as most of the nation received Vikings v. Packers in 1 p.m. window.

Week 17 v. New Orleans – Aired in the 4:25 window, the Falcons regular season finale played second fiddle to Giants/Washington in the same time slot.

Division playoff v. Seattle – The first true look to many of this team nationally, but got Burkhardt/Lynch as Joe Buck/Troy Aikman worked Packers/Cowboys.

NFC Championship v. Green Bay – Joe Buck finally got his first look at the Falcons, as he was on his World Series assignment during the previous Packers/Falcons meeting.

Talk about a lack of respect. But with a new stadium on the horizon coupled with this year’s success, the Falcons can look forward to infinitely more television exposure in 2017.

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WHO RUNS TABLE TO SUPER BOWL LI?

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Aaron Rodgers made good on his six-week promise to ‘run the table’ towards a division title, and it was nice.

A win over Philadelphia, followed by home wins over Houston and Seattle before the Packers swept through the remnants of the NFC North.

But will Rodgers and Green Bay double-down and run the table straight through January and first Sunday in February?

My heart roots for a Chiefs/Packers Super Bowl, 50 years after the original. But my gut say it is turn for someone else to run the table, a movie we have seen before.

Trust me, I deeply root for this to be dead wrong.

WILD CARD

  • Oakland (11-5) at Houston (9-7) – In a switch from last year, all four home teams on Wild Card Weekend actually come in favored. I congratulated the Texans back in October for earning their annual place on ESPN’s 4:40 p.m. Saturday telecast, the NFL’s version of March Madness’s First Four. At this point a Ravens/Broncos pairing holds more intrigue, in their current state the Raiders and Texans represent the two worst playoff participants. Who do you have, Connor Cook or Brock Osweiler? I take Khahil Mack. WINNER: Raiders
  • Detroit (9-7) at Seattle (10-5-1) – The Lions limp into Seattle as eight point underdogs, I say they cover. This will follow the script of most Seahawk home playoff/prime time games. Matthew Stafford has a huge night on a depleted Seattle secondary but Pete Carroll’s proxy army ultimately escapes with their patented psy-op/roller derby-like finish. WINNER: Seahawks
  • Miami (10-6) at Pittsburgh (11-5) – The Dolphins also likely go into postseason with a backup quarterback, and anything beyond this stage would be a bonus. The Steelers have lost at home to lesser opponents in postseason in the past, but not this time. WINNER: Steelers
  • NY Giants (11-5) at Green Bay (10-6) – Packers fans flooded Vegas and have bet Green Bay down to 8-1 to win the Super Bowl, yet only find themselves as 4 1/2 point home favorites against the Giants, who the bookies have at 20-1. This feels just like 2008 and 2012.Temperatures are expected to climb all the way to 12 degrees at Lambeau come game-time, that may be too warm for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, who torch what’s left of the Packers secondary. WINNER: Giants

DIVISIONAL

  • Seattle at Atlanta (11-5) – The NFL stuck the Falcons in the early Saturday window, another franchise the league cannot see eliminated as possible. This one could go either way, but look for the Seahawks luck running out in the divisional round for a second straight year. WINNER: Falcons
  • Oakland at New England (14-2) – You know a 15th anniversary of the Tuck Rule game has to happen. And how do the Patriots get away with signing Michael Floyd straight off a DUI arrest? Anyone for Sheriff Joe as NFL commissioner? This will serve as a scrimmage on the Pats yellow-brick road to the AFC title game. WINNER: Patriots
  • Pittsburgh at Kansas City (12-4) – The teams met early in the season, with Al Michaels forced to dig into his blowout material early after the Steelers hung 36 points in the first half. And why does Mike Tomlin go for two? Because he cannot go for three. Tyreek Hill returns an early punt for a score, other than that I do not see too much that has changed. Add this to the list of Kansas City postseason disappointments. WINNER: Steelers
  • NY Giants at Dallas (13-3) – The league predictably puts the top-seeded Cowboys in the late afternoon window, as they have for more than 40 years. Here Jason Garrett, Dak Prescott and company meet their worst nightmare, the one team that has their number. Eli Manning also tore through Dallas in 2008 and left Terrell Owens in tears. Do not tell Skip Bayless, but history repeats. WINNER: Giants

CHAMPIONSHIP

  • NY Giants at Atlanta – Anyone think the Giants would tear through Green Bay and Dallas, only to lose in Atlanta? New York condemns the Georgia Dome and the Manning family qualifies for their sixth Super Bowl in 11 years. WINNER: Giants
  • Pittsburgh at New England – The Jim Nantz special sees the latest playoff scrum between the Steelers and Patriots. Tom Brady gets his vindication and punches his franchises seventh Super Bowl ticket in 16 years. WINNER: Patriots

SUPER BOWL LI

  • New England v. NY Giants – Fans have feared a Patriots/Cowboys Super Bowl all year, a.k.a the Skip Bayless Bowl. This would be worse, but who thinks Eli Manning rolls over and just be satisfied tied with his older brother with two Super Bowl rings. A late Patriots drive ends in controversial fashion, the final karma on Tom Brady and the team signing Michael Floyd. Eli gets another title and quickly returns to relative obscurity for another four years.

 

SUPER BOWL LI CHAMPIONS: New York Giants (run to the window now!)

THE 2017 NFL ‘BOWL SEASON’

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As writers and college football executives clamor for an expanded College Football Playoff, someone has to wonder if it is actually the National Football League that must change course.

I feel the NFL product must ensure that their best products appear in the Super Bowl. Based on the standings, chances seem good for a Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks or Oakland Raiders to make an appearance in the big game.

That would be good, all four franchises bring either tons of recent success and/or huge fanbases. But a 12-team playoff can jeopardize that possibility. What if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dare crash the party?

That can be solved with a ‘Pro Football Playoff’ along with a bowl season. Four teams get a chance at the Lombardi trophy while nine other games give the majority of teams a taste of the postseason life and massive bowl playoffs paid by the television networks.

Through Week 13, 20 teams stand ‘bowl eligible with 6-6 records. That can be stretched into an 11-game bowl season over one weekend, perfect for the daily fantasy industry.

Here is the projected model:

Pro Football Playoff:

  • PlayStation Bowl: No. 2 New England Patriots (10-2) v. No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
  • Chick-Fil-A Bowl: No. 1 Dallas Cowboys (11-1)  v. No. 4 Oakland Raiders (10-2)

The Patriots and Seahawks return to Phoenix for a sequel of their Super Bowl XLIX classic while two of the league’s flagship franchises square off in Atlanta. The winners square off in Super Bowl LI, which for the first time could feature two conference rivals.

Can their possibly be a better format!

‘Week After New Year’s Six’:

  • Rose Bowl: Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) v. Detroit Lions (8-4) – The Raiders/Chiefs Thursday night game in frigid Arrowhead Stadium already looms large. But imagine if a PFP spot was on the line? It would be the NFL version of Michigan v. Ohio State. Whatever the case the game and setting sells itself with its traditional ‘West Division’ v. ‘North Division’ matchup.
  • Sugar Bowl: Atlanta Falcons (7-5) v. New York Giants (8-4) – The Sugar Bowl committee gets its ‘SEC’ team in the Falcons while Odell Beckham makes his New Orleans homecoming.
  • Orange Bowl: Miami Dolphins (7-5) v. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) – The Orange Bowl often has problems selling tickets. That would be solved this year with the hometown Dolphins and the Steelers traveling fan base.
  • Cotton Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) v. Denver Broncos (8-4) – The Bucs late season surge lands Tampa into the Week After New Year’s Six while Cotton Bowl officials are overjoyed to see the Broncos still available.

Rest of the Bowls:

  • Citrus Bowl: Baltimore Ravens (7-5) v. Washington (6-5-1) – The newly sponsored B-Dubs bowl lands the two Beltway teams, not bad for the local hotel business.
  • Outback Bowl: Green Bay Packers (6-6) v. Tennessee Titans (6-6) – The Packers late-season surge earns them a postseason bid where they try to avenge a regular season humiliation at the hands of Marcus Mariota and the Titans.
  • Holiday Bowl: Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) v. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) – That tie against the Seahawks could come back to haunt the Cardinals although their APR score (least amount of suspensions and fines) should help Arizona get in at 7-8-1 if necessary.
  • Pinstripe Bowl: Minnesota Vikings (6-6) v. Buffalo Bills (6-6) – The Vikings really need to finish the season at 8-8 because the franchise usually does not do well on APR. Meanwhile Buffalo fans will be overjoyed to make the trip downstate for postseason action.
  • Independence Bowl: Houston Texans (6-6) v. New Orleans Saints (5-7) – In real life, the Texans could very well host an AFC Wild Card Game at 4:30 ET on Jan. 7. Here their 6-6 record only gets Brock Osweiler and company a short trip to Shreveport to take on New Orleans in a regional clash.

2009 NFL SIMULATION – TYRANNOSAURUS REX

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To imagine a place where in just one year Rex Ryan can trump Bill Belichick..

The 2009 NFL simulation completes a decade where neither the New England Patriots or the Indianapolis Colts did as much as even win a conference championship. Prior to the ’09 sim – the AFC crowns were won by the Ravens, Steelers (twice), Dolphins, Broncos (twice), Bills, Jaguars and Titans.

Well at least Pittsburgh and Denver made some sense along with the 2000 Ravens, the rest of the results prove much more goes into the making of a championship team than data fed into software programs.

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There would be no Vikings v. Saints reprise, as both teams missed the NFC playoffs. The Patriots also missed the postseason with a 9-7 record while the Colts had one of their best simulation campaigns, easily winning the AFC South at 12-4.

The Favre/Brad Childress marriage began well enough with a 42-0 win in Cleveland and a 5-0 start, before losses in eight of the final 11 games.

The Detroit Lions picked up where they left off in 2008 with losses in their first 13 games before defeating the eventual NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals 44-28. All told, the Lions lost 30 straight in simulation – besting a 29-game losing streak the Cardinals franchise was involved in during World War II (merged with the Steelers for one year).

Then there was Chris Johnson, who rushed for 293 yards in an early season game v. the New York Jets and closed the season with a 307 yard rushing performance in Seattle. Johnson finished the year with a ridiculous 2,568 yards on the ground.

The Jets shored their run defense soon enough.

The postseason began with a Marvin Lewis playoff victory, as the Bengals beat the 8-8 Denver Broncos, who won the AFC West because the San Diego Chargers went 7-9 in sim opposed to their actual 13-3 record.

The Steelers and Ravens also met in the Wild Card round, as Pittsburgh secured a 23-0 shutout. As in real life, the Colts faced the Jets for the AFC Championship, but in New York as the Jets won 41-13 for the franchises fourth Super Bowl appearance.

The Giants got the NFC’s top seed, marking the second time in sim in which both New York teams were top seeds. The Packers received the NFC’s other first round bye, but suffered the latest in a string of home playoff string defeats as Aaron Rodgers threw a fatal pick-six in a 32-22 loss to Philadelphia in the divisional round. The sixth-seeded Cowboys would then defeat the fifth-seeded Eagles in the NFC Championship to give Dallas just their third Super Bowl appearance.

The Jets and Cowboys represent just the second sim Super Bowl where two teams played each other twice, the Cowboys won a faux Super Bowl III while Super Bowls VII and XIV featured the Steelers and Rams.

It appeared Dallas would win that first championship in 41 years with a 10-3 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Tony Romo threw an interception returned 74 yards for a score by Eric Smith and the Jets rode the momentum to a 20-10 win, making Mark Sanchez the parallel universe’s version of Joe Willie Namath.

2007 NFL SIMULATION – VI SEED, VI-TIME KINGS

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The 2007 NFL season provided many talking points and storylines. Tom Brady broke the single-season touchdown record as the Patriots eyed a historic mark, on the other end of the spectrum, the Miami Dolphins chased 0-16. Terrell Owens made a spectacle of himself as the Dallas Cowboys earned the NFC’s number one seed. Adrian Peterson broke the single-game rushing record as part as his rookie season and Brett Favre led the Packers back into contention in what appeared to be his NFL swan song.

In November the league was rocked by the death of Washington safety Sean Taylor at age 24, a number five overall pick who became a two-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the league’s most feared players in his all-too brief time win the league.

In real-life the New York Giants parlayed their spot at the playoff table into a Super Bowl championship. In the simulation the Green Bay Packers suffer an even worse gut punch as an even more hated rival won the championship – again.

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In Week 1 the Patriots lost, and the Dolphins won. As late as Week 6 the Patriots and Dolphins tied for the division lead at 4-2. Miami remained in playoff contention for the entire season and finished 8-8 compared to their actual 1-15 mark.

2007 marked a rare year where the Cleveland Browns contended. In real life they missed the playoffs at 10-6 but made the postseason here at 9-7.

The Patriots, Steelers and Jaguars all finished the regular season at 13-3, but a late-season home loss to the Steelers dropped New England to the number three seed. The San Diego Chargers also easily won their division with an 11-5 mark.

The Cowboys won a competitive NFC East, but the worst amongst NFC division leaders. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came away with the top seed at 14-2, followed by the Cardinals whose 13-3 record bested the Packers via tiebreaker.

Being forced to play on Wild Card weekend proved to be Green Bay’s worst nightmare as the Vikings snuck in with the number six seed. The Packers easily swept the regular season series in both real life and simulation. Did not matter, the Vikes won easily at Lambeau 31-21 and Brett Favre would next be seen in purple two years later. Terrell Owens and the Cowboys also went home crying early, losing to Carolina 23-17.

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The Browns playoff appearance was short-lived, and am not even sure they got the memo that they made the postseason, falling to New England 31-0. The Chargers advanced behind a LaDainian Tomlinson touchdown run in the closing seconds to defeat Indianapolis 24-20. The Chargers also won a regular season meeting between the two teams by scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter.

As in real life, the Patriots and Jaguars met in the divisional round, this time in Jacksonville where the Jaguars prevailed 34-24. The Jags bid for a second consecutive faux-AFC Championship ended the following week with a 24-17 loss to the Steelers.

On the NFC side, the Vikings were just warming up as they traveled to Tampa and defeated the Buccaneers 17-13. In the NFC Championship at Carolina the Vikings jumped off to a quick start, Adrian Peterson rushed for 144 yards and scored twice, and the Purple Express was headed to Arizona with a 37-27 win.

Super Bowl XLII featured teams with faux Super Bowl records of 5-0 and 4-0 respectively. Fast Willie Parker scored his fifth touchdown of the playoffs with a late fourth quarter score, but proved as just a consolation tally as Minnesota won 26-13 with Adrian Peterson taking MVP honors.

1998 NFL SIMULATION: ELWAY RIDES OFF

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As the 1990s drew to a close, time was quickly running out for quarterbacks such as Troy Aikman, John Elway and Dan Marino to win a Super Bowl. 1998 represented their last best chance to grab the brass ring.

1998 also represented the rookie year of Randy Moss and I completely expected him and reborn quarterback Randall Cunningham to dominate the sim as they did in real life until kicker Gary Anderson clanged the upright in the NFC Championship Game.

The 1998 simulation throws some curveballs.

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  • As in real life, the AFC East became a grudge match between the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots and Bills. Peyton Manning also arrived on the scene in 1998, he and fellow draft choice Ryan Leaf would go on to dominate the 2000s – well at least Peyton did.
  • While the Packers and Cowboys surprisingly cruised to the NFC’s best records at 15-1 and 14-2, Minnesota surprisingly staggered to a 10-6 campaign and the Purple’s bid for a sixth simulation championship quietly died in the Wild Card round.
  • The Arizona Cardinals earned a rare playoff berth in real life with a 9-7 record and proceeded to upset the Cowboys in the Wild Card round. The Cardinals also finish 9-7 here but squeezed out in the tie-breaking procedures by several other teams.

In real life, Dan Marino’s career ended unceremoniously at the hands of Jacksonville in the 1999 Divisional playoffs. In the 1998 sim, the Dolphins win in North Florida to advance one step closer to hosting another Super Bowl in Souuth Florida. The Broncos and Jets, who met in the actual 1998 AFC Championship, met in the Meadowlands for the fictional divisional round. The Broncos won behind 196 rushing yards and 2 TD’s from Terrell Davis.

In the NFC, the Packers suffered yet another devastating home upset, this time at the hands of Atlanta. In the other game Dallas faced a familiar nemesis in the St. Louis Rams. Behind 140 yards by Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys advanced to their 12th conference championship game.

For the first time since a snowy late-September Sunday in 1985, Dan Marino and John Elway met at Mile High Stadium. The weather would be warmer that late-January day, about all you need to know about Denver weather. Terrell Davis rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown to give Denver its second AFC Championship in three years. In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys broke a 30-year Super Bowl curse behind four Troy Aikman touchdowns in a 31-21 victory over the Falcons.

The Broncos and Cowboys traveled to Miami for Super Bowl XXXIII, and per league rules someone must win. Terrell Davis turned the game into his personal showcase with a Super Bowl record 199 yards and three touchdowns while Emmitt Smith was held to 33 yards on 17 carries. Ed McCaffrey also caught a 38 yard TD pass in the 34-8 rout and John Elway and owner Pat Bowlen finally delivered their championship – the first time since the 1985 Bears that a team replicated its Super Bowl championship in the sim.

1996 NFL SIMULATION: FLIP THE SCRIPT

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1996 proved to be a fascinating NFL season. The 49ers and Cowboys were still considered the class of the NFC, with the Green Bay Packers quickly closing the gap as Brett Favre’s career peaked. The Packers goal was to finish with the conferences best record and get the 49ers and Cowboys at Lambeau in Januaray. Then there was the second-year Carolina Panthers, who did not get the memo that they weren’t supposed to compete with pro football’s upper echelon so fast.

Behind John Elway, Terrell Davis, Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey and Shannon Sharpe, the Denver Broncos had passed the eyeball test and graduated from merely a good team capable of winning the AFC to a squad capable of winning it all. Then there was the second year Jacksonville Jaguars coached by Tom Coughlin, a team that jelled late in the ’96 season and suddenly proved a squad not afraid to play anyone, anywhere.

In the actual season the Packers took advantage of winning the NFC’s number one seed and ultimately won Super Bowl XXXI while the Broncos were derailed by the Jaguars in a divisional playoff. In what ways would a random simulation play different?

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  • The sim produced not one, but two undefeated teams in the regular season. The Packers appeared to have exorcised their last demons with a Monday night win in Dallas and also defeated the Broncos in December. The Bills also ran the table, which seemed more puzzling. Pro-Football-Reference had an expected win total of 9.7 for the Bills, compared to 13.8 for Green Bay.
  • The AFC Central became ultra-competitve, with the Steelers crowned division champs via a three-team tie-breaker with the re-branded Baltimore Ravens at 8-8. Unlike real life, the Jacksonville Jaguars 9-7 season did not earn a playoff spot.
  • In their second year in their new venue, the St. Louis Rams crashed the NFC playoff party with an 8-8 record while the Detroit Lions qualified at 10-6 behind 2,074 rushing yards by Barry Sanders.

The top seeds prevailed in the AFC divisional round, the Broncos defeated the Steelers 33-12 behind a 48-yard Terrell Davis touchdown run and 68-yard Ed McCaffrey touchdown catch. The NFC divisional playoffs featured the same teams as real life. The San Francisco 49ers visited Green Bay while the Carolina Panthers played the Cowboys, only in Dallas instead of Charlotte.

Steve Young tried to play hurt in the actual 49ers/Packers clash, taking numerous injections for what had been reported as bruised ribs that were actually broken. Desmond Howard broke two punt returns early in the game and the Packers cruised to a muddy 35-14 victory. In the sim Steve Young is healthy and throws an early TD pass to Brent Jones – field conditions then deteriorate and Brett Favre throws three devastating picks in a 16-6 loss. The Panthers/Cowboys result also flipped from real life, as home field was good enough to give Dallas a 14-6 win.

Not surprisingly, the Bills bid for a 19-0 season went by the boards in the AFC Championship. Steve Atwater scored on a first quarter pick six, Terrell Davis rushed for 138 yards and the Broncos finally earn their first ever simulation Super Bowl berth with an easy 37-3 win. For the second consecutive year the 49ers and Cowboys clashed for the NFC crown to the joy of television executives. Deion Sanders had joined the Cowboys by this juncture of his career while San Francisco had a young receiver named Terrell Owens whose talent and volatility would also make an impact on both franchises over the next decade.  The game lived up to all expectations, as Troy Aikman rallied Dallas from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit with a 62-yard TD pass to Kevin Williams and a Chris Boniol FG with 34 seconds left. However that gave Steve Young just enough time to put his team into position for Jeff Wilkins to hit a 58-yard bomb to send the Niners to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year and fifth overall, and the Cowboys to their 10th consecutive conference championship loss.

Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans would be a reprise of the actual Super Bowl XXIV between Denver and San Francisco. The Broncos defense kept the game close for three quarters, but the 49ers pull way in the fourth quarter to give the 49ers their third Super Bowl crown as Coach George Seifert and Defensive Coordinator Pete Carroll rode off to their next career endeavors while Steve Young got his elusive first title as quarterback.

With Denver finally making an appearance 19 years after their actual Super Bowl XII debut, the Oilers, Buccaneers and Falcons remain the lone teams not to play in the Super Bowl along with the newbie Jaguars, Ravens and Panthers.

 

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1993 NFL SIMULATION: CROWN FOR DENNIS GREEN

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Throughout the 1993 Sim NFL season it appeared two franchises would break long-standing hexes. The Dallas Cowboys (hexed in the sim) and Houston Oilers (hexed in sim and real-life, cruised through the regular season and earned first-round byes.

Then the playoffs began.

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  • In real life, there was no dominant team in 1993, the Cowboys and Oilers were among those with the best record at 12-4.
  • Sim-wise Joe Montana did not go well in his first season with Kansas City. The Chiefs finished dead last at 6-10 as opposed to their actual 11-5 AFC West championship record.
  • The San Francisco 49ers had an off-year in virtual reality, although the 8-8 record still won the NFC West. The real-life version won the division at 10-6. The Buffalo Bills were not as fortunate, missing the AFC playoffs entirely at 8-8.
  • The Cowboys sim season ended with a win over the New York Giants where Emmitt Smith rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns, in the real-life game Emmitt rushed for 168 yards with a separated shoulder and the division title on the line. Barry Sanders also accounted for 275 yards from scrimmage in a Week 17 sim loss to the Packers.
  • Four of six teams replicated their actual division championships, while 10 of the 12 real-life playoff participants also went to the postseason in the sim.

The carnage started immediately in the playoffs, as three of four home teams lost on Wild Card Weekend. The top-seeded Oilers then lost to the six-seeded Chargers in the Divisional round, as in real-life Warren Moon’s ten years with the Oilers ends without a Super Bowl appearance. The six-seeded Packers lost in Dallas while the Vikings lost in Detroit.

For the eighth time since 1970 the Cowboys played in the sim NFC Championship game, and for the eighth time the Cowboys lost, this time at home to the Vikings 31-17. In the AFC Championship the fifth-seeded Raiders won a 10-6 decision over San Diego to complete the Wild Card Super Bowl matchup. The Raiders Super Bowl XXVIII appearance marks the 10th all-time for a Los Angeles Coliseum tenant.

The uniform combination shown above of the circa-1993 Vikings and Raiders look fantastic on a sunny Southern California afternoon. It would not have looked as sparkling on the artificial turf under the lights of the Georgia Dome.

In real life the Raiders finished 10-6 and the Vikings 9-7, as opposed to 10-6 and 11-5 in the sim. Both teams had negative point differentials at -20 and -13 respectively.

Jim McMahon throws a touchdown pass to Steve Jordan with 2:23 remaining to put the Vikes ahead, Vencie Glenn then picks off a Jeff Hostetler pass and takes it to the house to seal the 31-17 win.

The Vikings emerged victorious for their fourth Super Bowl championship in as many appearances while the Raiders lost their third Super Bowl in seven years and dropped to 1-4 all-time.

 

 

1979 NFL SIM: STEELERS END RAMS FOUR-PEAT BID

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After only six of the first 26 teams replicated their Super Bowl appearances, and just two repeated their world titles – KACSPORTS 1979 NFL simulation delivers a repeat of the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl XIV victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

The simulation also features a wild race in the NFC East and a first-time playoff participant.

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  • Four teams in the jumbled AFC East won 10 games and even the last place Colts finished 8-8. After a series of tie-breakers, Miami would be the odd team out.
  • As expected, the Steelers rolled to a division crown with the league’s best record. More notably the WhatIfSports simulation was not kind to Bum Phillips Houston Oilers, who went 6-10
  • Air Coryell arrived on schedule, as the Chargers pulled away from a competitive AFC West with a 12-4 record.
  • In real life, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington battled hammer and tongs in the NFC East, in the sim Washington came away with the NFC’s number one seed at 13-3.
  • The Bears made the playoffs as a wild card in the actual season, in the sim they cruise to the division championship. The actual division champ Buccaneers got off to a slow start and would be a non-factor.
  • As in the real season, the Rams sputtered throughout the season and finished 9-7. The Saints would beat them in the final regular season game to win the NFC West.

The bad news was the Rams played in the Wild Card round, the good news is they got to go to Dallas and for the sixth time in eight years eliminated the Cowboys at Texas Stadium with a 30-9 win. Roger Staubach’s career ends without a Super Bowl appearance.

Unlike Dallas, the Steelers did not disappoint in the postseason, routing the Patriots 52-21 and throttling the Jets 44-17 on their way to the Super Bowl.

In the NFC, the Rams postseason run continued with a 31-5 win at Washington while the Bears beat New Orleans 22-19 to earn the right to host the NFC Championship at Soldier Field. The Rams would prevail 10-9, their second consecutive one-point win in the conference title game.

The Rams appeared in their seventh Super Bowl in 14 years, and for the fourth time in as many Super Bowls in Los Angeles or Pasadena. As in the actual game, the Rams proved to be a tough out, but Franco Harris rushed for 115 yards for a 27-21 Steelers victory in the most compelling Super Bowl to date.

With their third championship the Steelers improved to 3-0 in the Chuck Noll era, compared to the actual team’s four titles. But with six appearances and three titles, the Rams still own the sim version of the 1970s, the Carter years in particular.

 

1977 NFL SIM: SCRATCH MY BACK WITH A HACKSAW!

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The faux-1970s have come to resemble Ground Hog Day for the Dallas Cowboys. The real-life version of the team made its fourth Super Bowl and won a second championship with a dominating performance over the Denver Broncos.

The sim version? Well, they continue to run into the Los Angeles Rams.

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Season highlights include the following:

  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers losing streak ended at 25 with a 21-7 home win over the Chicago Bears. The Bears backed into the NFC Central Championship despite losing their final three games.
  • The Seattle Seahawks did not improve on their inaugural season, again finishing 3-11. For the 1976-77 seasons the Buccaneers finished 1-25 and Seahawks 4-22 against established NFL teams.
  • For the Minnesota Vikings, the simulation proved especially harsh at 4-10 instead of the team’s actual 9-5 record and division championship.
  • Walter Payton rushed for 246 yards in a Week 2 game,  but the Bears lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 38-34. Later in the season Payton rushed for 241 yards and three scores in a win over Minnesota.
  • And then there is this bizarre scoreline from a Raiders-Browns game…

 

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That is not an NFL score. It is more like what the University of Nebraska did to the Minnesota Golden Gophers back in the day. Guess Cleveland finally got revenge for that Super Bowl II loss.

The Atlanta Falcons finished 12-2 in the sim against their 7-7 real-life record. Partially under the guidance of young assistant Jerry Glanville, the unit became known as the Gritz Blitz, code name for one of the best single-season defenses in league history with only 129 points conceded for the season. The defensive dominance was a one-year anomaly compared to previous and future Falcons seasons. Sadly for Atlanta, quarterback Steve Bartkowski missed much of the season, which rendered the offense as anemic and cancelled out the stellar defense.

The bad news for Los Angeles Rams is they did not win the NFC West. The good news was they went to Dallas as a wild card and eliminated the Cowboys at Texas Stadium for the fourth time in six years with a 34-13 win.

The Denver Broncos won their first division title in franchise history but lost in the divisional round to Cincinnati 17-9. The Bengals advanced to their second Super Bowl with a 23-10 win, handing the Steelers third home playoff loss in as many seasons.

A quick bio blast on Bengals coach Bill ‘Tiger’ Johnson. Son William R. Johnson would become president and CEO of the Heinz Corporation.

The Rams won in Atlanta to earn their fifth NFL/NFC Championship. The Rams then made history successfully defending their title In Super Bowl XII with a 33-0 shutout, a feat that did not occur in any of the first 50 real-life Super Bowls.

Rams Head Coach Chuck Knox resigned after the game to accept a similar position with the Buffalo Bills.