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!)

2016 GREEN BAY PACKERS PLAYOFF SCENARIOS – WEEK 16

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On Sunday the Packers won while the Bears, Lions and Vikings all lost as Aaron Rodgers added to his legend. It was a good day, and vastly improves Green Bay’s chances to qualify for postseason.

Colin Cowherd now endures another week without digging dirt from ex-teammates about Rodgers. The Packers now ‘control their own destiny’ for the NFC North crown should they beat the Vikings and Lions over the next fortnight and finish 10-6. Green Bay would likely finish as a four seed and host the New York Giants in a first round playoff game.

The Packers could finish as high as a number two seed and earn a first round bye. Green Bay would have to win out coupled with two Seattle losses, two Atlanta losses and possibly one Tampa Bay loss. That is asking a lot.

Should Green Bay defeat the plummeting Vikings at home on Saturday, look for the Week 17 game in Detroit to air on Sunday Night Football.

CAN GREEN BAY WIN THE DIVISION AT 9-7?

A home loss to Minnesota does not necessarily doom the Pack, provided the Lions lose at Dallas next Monday night. Then Week 17 still decides the division. The Vikings can finish 9-7, but are eliminated from division title consideration. Should the three teams finish at 9-7 the Packers would prevail due to a 4-2 divisional record. In head-to-head play, the Vikings would have swept the Packers who swept the Lions who swept the Vikings.

Minnesota needs monumental help on multiple fronts to get a wild card spot, which includes two Packers losses.

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CAN GREEN BAY GET A WILD CARD AT 9-7?

If the Packers beat Minnesota but lose in Detroit, the waters become much murkier with Washington and Tampa Bay in the mix.

Starting with Monday night’s home game v. Carolina, Washington would have to lose two of their last three contests to finish 8-7-1. The Dan Snyder-owned team will also be slightly favored in Chicago and against a Giants team likely be locked into the number five seed.

The Packers would also need Tampa Bay to lose at least once. Should Green Bay and the Buccaneers finish tied at 9-7 the scenario becomes complex as both teams finished 3-2 against common opponents and would be 7-5 in conference.

The next criteria involves ‘strength of victory’ and currently too close to call. Should Carolina beat Washington, both the Pack and Bucs would have 49 1/2 wins over the eight teams they have beaten. Should strength of victory end tied, strength of schedule would be the next determining factor, Green Bay holds a slight edge there (115 wins of their 16 opponents v. Tampa’s 111).

Combined conference rankings (or league rankings if necessary) for net points scored and allowed would be the tie-breaker after strength of schedule . The criteria of net points was deemphasized by the league following the 1999 season when the Packers and Carolina Panthers ran up the score in their respective season finales played simultaneously.

However, it is highly unlikely much math will be needed to determine the Packers ultimate playoff fate.

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.

2008 NFL SIMULATION – MCNABB MUTES CRITICS

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Throughout his 11-year tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles, Donovan McNabb went through his share of criticism despite six Pro Bowl appearances and leading his team to a Super Bowl and five conference championship appearances. It came with the territory of playing in a vocal East Coast market.

In the simulation the Eagles appeared in Super Bowls following the 2000 and 2001 seasons, but came up short in the big game both times – so McNabb underwent the same criticism in this alternate reality as in real life.

But in the 2008 simulation, the stars aligned for McNabb and the Eagles despite playing in the NFC East Group of Death.

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The story of the season regarded disparity of records between divisions. The AFC South  and NFC South dominated the NFC North while the AFC East and NFC East destroyed the NFC West.

All four AFC East teams won at least 10 games, but only two made the playoffs, with Brett Favre’s Jets and Matt Cassel’s Patriots missing out. Three teams in the AFC South finished 8-8, but far behind the 15-1 Tennessee Titans. The Chargers easily won the AFC West as the rest of the division had down years. The Chicago Bears and New York Giants likewise both missed the postseason despite 10-6 campaigns.

Then there was the amusing NFC West, won by the 6-10 Seattle Seahawks via tie-breaker over the Cardinals and 49ers. The Seahawks went 4-2 in the division, their only other wins came at Buffalo and at Green Bay.

Adrian Peterson, Larry Johnson and Tennessee rookie Chris Johnson were among those who produced monster numbers on the ground. LaDainian Tomlinson also found pay dirt seven times in a two-game span.

And yes, the Detroit Lions successfully reprised their 0-16 real-life record. The Lions best chance came in the season finale at Green Bay, only for Dan Orlovsky to throw a pick six in the waning minutes. The Packers finished 4-12 in Aaron Rodgers first season behind center, only winning two games outside their wins against Detroit.

The Titans took advantage of their number one seed, dispatching San Diego and Miami en route to the franchises first ever conference championship, leaving Houston and Tampa Bay as the lone teams not to appear in the Super Bowl. The Buccaneers appeared in three faux-NFC Championships in the simulation during the 2000s and lost a back and forth 36-33 decision to New Orleans in the 2008 Wild Card round.

As for the Texans, they have a chance if they get a decent QB and if they scout and draft a certain defensive end with a high motor at the University of Wisconsin.

After claiming the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings appeared in danger of winning a seventh faux-Super Bowl before being blown out 37-7 in the NFC Championship game. The Eagles then proceeded to rout the Titans 29-3 in the Super Bowl, the franchises third championship in five appearances.

In real life the Eagles also finished strong, advancing to the conference championship before falling to the Arizona Cardinals. Per Wikipedia, Football Outsiders also ranked the Eagles as the NFL’s best team on a ‘play-by-play’ basis.

1980 NFL SIM: IT IS DETROIT – IT IS THE SUPER BOWL!

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In recent years Gary Danielson has become known for his college football analysis where he remains convinced that the SEC is the only conference that matters.

But back in the day Danielson was a pretty good quarterback. He played his college ball at the University of Purdue – yes, in the Big Ten, that conference that always gets killed by the SEC come bowl season.

His pro career spanned 13 seasons with the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. He only started all 16 games once – in 1980.

And in KACSPORTS sim Danielson helps lead the 1980 Lions to the promised land in dramatic fashion.

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It should be noted that their were no true powerhouse teams in 1980 – the Raiders and Eagles met in the Super Bowl, a wild card against a number two seed. About a dozen teams could have had a shot if the cards fell right.

The Lions improved dramatically after Danielson missed the 1979 season (when coaches did inane things like play starting QB’s in the final exhibition game) and the team went 2-14.

Behind offensive Rookie Of the Year Billy Sims, the Lions improved to 9-7 in real life, just missing out on a division title. In the sim Detroit exceeded that benchmark with a 12-4 record and the NFC’s top seed.

Don’t ask me about the hate towards the Dolphins (1-15) or Vikings (2-14) in the simulation. Do not have an explanation on the apparent discord towards Don Shula or Bud Grant.

The San Francisco 49ers showed promise with a 9-7 season, although the team claims to remain committed to Steve DeBerg, they also wanted to looked at the second string quarterback they drafted in the third round the year before. The coaching staff feels he provides a change of pace…

The playoffs would begin with a AFC Wild Card clash between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts.

The defending champion Steelers would give up their crown, falling in a home playoff game for the fifth time in six years. The top-seeded Chargers advanced to Super Bowl XV as Don Coryall joined George Allen as the only coaches to coach two different teams to the faux big game.

After six home playoff losses in eight years to the Los Angeles Rams, the Dallas Cowboys returned the favor by defeating the Rams in Anaheim in the divisional round – but Dallas would fall in the NFC Championship to Detroit.

In the Super Bowl, the Chargers appeared headed towards the championship as they went into the fourth quarter leading 24-7. But San Diego would endure a meltdown that will be talked about as long as pro football is played.

  • With 12:40 remaining John Cappelletti fumbles deep in his own territory with the Lions recovering
  • Detroit would do little inside the red zone, as Danielson would be sacked by former teammate Jim Laslavic and the Lions settled for a field goal to make the score 24-10.
  • The Chargers move the ball on their ensuing drive, but Coryall channels his inner-Mike Sherman and elects to punt on fourth and 1 from the Detroit 38. The punt would pin the Lions back to their own three.
  • It would take all of four plays for Detroit to navigate the 97 yards. Billy Sims gained 37 yards on two quick runs, and Danielson fires a 42-yard touchdown to Horace King to make it 24-17.
  • The Chargers move the ball and chew up clock, and Detroit burns its first timeout after the 2-minute warning. San Diego ultimately punts from the Detroit 45 and the Lions would start 86 yards away from the tying score. It would not take long, Danielson throws a 63-yard score to Leonard Thompson to tie Super Bowl XV at 24-24.
  • With less than a minute remaining, the Chargers go hurry up in an attempt to get into field goal range. They get a first down, but a draw play to John Cappelletti goes horribly awry. The Heisman Trophy winner who played on three faux-World Champion Los Angeles Rams teams fumbles for the second time in the quarter, and Detroit recovers.
  • At this point Danielson could just take a knee and then kick a 51-yard field goal, but they attempt to move the ball instead. The first play results in a fumble, but luckily Detroit recovers.
  • The Lions finally get close enough, and the game ends with a 29-yard Eddie Murray field goal, and the Super Bowl trophy went to Detroit.

So Bill Buckner pulled a Cappelletti in the World Series and Jordan Speith Cappelletti’d the 12th hole. Now you know where the term originated…