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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.




The Minnesota Vikings could have rested on their laurels after the pieces fell into place en route to winning Super Bowl XXVIII.

Head coach Dennis Green, along with offensive Coordinator Brian Billick, Defensive coordinator Tony Dungy and General Manager Jeff Diamond could not allow that to happen with Barry Sanders and the Detroit Lions along with the rapidly improving Green Bay Packers just in their own division, not to mention the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.

The defense carried the 1993 team, but an upgrade at quarterback was needed. So Diamond triggered a trade to bring Warren Moon to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Moon would delivered as advertised, beginning with a 4 TD performance in an early-season 34-30 win over Detroit and culminating in the Vikings quest for a fifth world championship in 25 years.

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Five of the six real-life division champions replicated their titles in the virtual reality, the exception being the Dallas Cowboys, edged out by the Philadelphia Eagles (actual record 7-9) in the NFC East. The Bills and Raiders replaced the Patriots (somehow 3-13 in the sim) and Chiefs as AFC Wild Cards.

Despite finishing behind the Steelers, the Browns entered the playoffs with sky-high expectations after a 12-4 season. But for the third time in eight years Cleveland lost at home to the Raiders, this time in the Wild Card Round. A back-breaking Greg Biekert Pick Six proved the difference in a 10-9 Raiders win.

In the other AFC Wild Card, Dan Marino and the Dolphins rolled to a 49-17 win over Buffalo. The Packers lost for the second straight season at Dallas while the 13-3 49ers shut out the Bears 34-0.

The Raiders season ended in Pittsburgh a week later, meanwhile the Dolphins traveled to San Diego as they did in real life for a divisional playoff where an officiating crew led by Johnny Grier help hand the Chargers a 22-21 win. The sim proved different with Miami winning 38-21.

In the NFC, the Niners won in dramatic fashion at Philadelphia with a Steve Young touchdown pass in the closing seconds. The top-seeded Vikings prevailed at home against Dallas in an equally contested 23-21 result.

Unlike real-life, the Steelers would not come within three yards of the AFC Championship, the Dolphins booked their second conference championship of the Dan Marino era (and first in 11 years) with an easier than expected 34-16 triumph. In the NFC, the Vikings downed the real-life champion 49ers 23-7.

The Dolphins became the third team in the sim to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium, and either Marino or Moon would be able to get a championship off their late-career bucket lists.

Minnesota won Super Bowl XXIX by the exact same scoreline as they won the NFC Championship with a 23-7 win, as they had the previous year. With a second straight title, the Vikings can now claim the mid-1990s and enter dynasty discussion with three championships over seven years. The Vikings also become the first franchise to win five Super Bowls, with a 5-0 record instead of their 0-4 real-life slate (and 0-0 since 1977).

Just think if they hadn’t made that Herschel Walker trade…



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In 1983, first quickly became worst.

I thought the Buffalo v. Philadelphia Super Bowl from the previous season was bad enough, then came the results that spat out in the 1983 season simulation.

The Bills finished 1-15, the Eagles topped that by somehow going 0-16.

That would be a combined 1-31 and some of WhatIfSports metrics have me scratching my head. The Bills were nothing special with an actual 8-8 record, although the team had a -68 point differential and Pro-Football-Reference game them an ‘expected’ won-loss record of 6-10.

The Eagles 0-16 trophy should look just fine next to their 1981 and 1982 Super Bowl titles and their faux 0-14 season from 1971. The team went an actual 5-11 that season, they did suck – but still should have won at least a few games.

More surprises await in the final standings in a season that saw Eric Dickerson, John Elway and Dan Marino arrive on the scene along with Lawrence Taylor entering his third year. Parity reigned as 12-4 marked the leagues best record.

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Yes, the actual Super Bowl XVII goes down a year later in simulation and Marino debuts in the big game in his rookie season. Without having to worry about Jack Squirek reading a late first-half screen pass ran in the regular season like a book, Joe Theismann completes 16 of 17 passes with four touchdowns while both Joe Washington and John Riggins eclipse 100 yards rushing to earn Joe Gibbs his first championship. The 124 points accumulated in three postseason games was no fluke as Washington racked up 541 points in the actual regular season.

Other bullet points from the 1983 campaign include…

  • In his first year as Seattle coach, Chuck Knox leads the Seahawks to their first playoff berth in the franchises eight-year history. The head-to-head tiebreaker allowed Seattle to edge past the Los Angeles Raiders and San Diego Chargers.
  • In real life, Washington and Dallas not only battled for the NFC East Championship but also the top playoff seed. Despite a real-life 3-12-1 mark, the New York Giants crashed the party and wound up hosting a Wild Card game.
  • The Green Bay Packers sported a 5-7 record and trailed the Chicago Bears by three games with four games remaining. But Green Bay would run the table, including two wins over the Bears to win the NFC Central title for a second straight season.
  • The San Francisco 49ers make the playoffs easily for the first time in simulation during the Bill Walsh era.

A number of simulations repeated events from the actual season. Washington hosted the Rams in a divisional playoff and 49ers in the NFC Championship in both real-life and the simulation. The Seahawks advanced to the AFC Championship with a win in Miami in real life but lose to the Dolphins in the conference title game at home in the sim.

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Wherever Chuck Knox goes, he wins.