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.


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.



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.




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.



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.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 12.10.54 AM

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.



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.

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 9.28.56 PM

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 8.21.57 PM

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.


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.



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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.54.29 AM

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…




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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 8.24.00 PM

  • 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.




Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 6.21.48 PM

In real life the 1988 season became known as when Joe Montana won his third Super Bowl in come-from-behind fashion in the final moments against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In this alternative universe however, the San Francisco 49ers found way too much competition within its own conference while the Buffalo Bills got continued their head start losing Super Bowls.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 9.17.39 PM

  • In the actual NFL season, the Bills and Bengals tied for the AFC’s best record at 12-4. Buffalo held their end of the bargain in the sim as they easily earned the number one seed at 13-3. Meanwhile the Bengals found themselves up against it in the AFC Central and Sam Wyche’s ball club finished last at 7-9.
  • The numbers simply did not add up for the New England Patriots, who would go winless until the final game of the season. In real life the team went 9-7, things would not really fall apart in Foxboro until two years later.
  • Jerry Glanville earns a playoff appearance as Houston managed the AFC’s number two seed at 10-6.
  • The newly rebranded Phoenix Cardinals crashed the NFC playoff party, but their 12-4 record would only give them a number five seed behind the Giants, Bears, Vikings and 49ers.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recorded a rare winning season at 9-7
  • Note the 49ers were not especially dominant in the actual regular season, they finished at 10-6 as opposed to 13-3 in the sim.
  • The Bears and Vikings met on the final Monday night of the regular season. The Bears recorded a 17-0 shutout to earn the number one seed while the Vikings would be forced to navigate the difficult wild card waters.

Form would hold in the AFC as the Oilers and Bills met for the conference championship in upstate New York with the Bills winning easily, 41-10 to earn their second Super Bowl trip. Along with his previous appearance with Kansas City, Marv Levy joins George Allen, Don Coryall and Chuck Knox in making Super Bowls with multiple franchises.

The Vikings opened up the postseason with a come-from-behind 21-14 win over Phoenix. The Vikes followed up with a 27-6 win at the Giants while the 49ers and Bears met in an instant classic at Soldier Field. The winners of the previous four Super Bowls battled into overtime with San Francisco earning a 23-20 decision.

Minnesota traveled to San Francisco for the NFC Championship, a game that proved even more memorable. The Vikings look a late fourth-quarter lead on a 58-yard Wade Wilson to Hassan Jones touchdown followed by a Chuck Nelson field goal. The Niners Mike Cofer would force overtime with a 55-yard field goal before Nelson sent the Vikings to the Super Bowl with a walk-off 57-yarder. The Vikings would deliver their third Super Bowl title in as many appearances with a 20-9 win over the Bills.

Was Minnesota’s win a fluke going up amongst the other NFC heavyweights? The metrics say no, the Vikings lead the NFL with a point differential of +174, the Los Angeles Rams ranked second at +114 while the 49ers were a mere +74.


Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.03.32 PM

During the 1970 season, the Cincinnati Bengals represented a nice little story. The franchise had been awarded to Paul Brown as the AFL’s 10th and final entry. Brown preferred a franchise already in the NFL, but took the AFC charter with the understanding that the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers would become division rivals two years later in the AFC Central Division and under the consolidated NFL banner.

For the first half of 1970 the Bengals played the part of a third year expansion team and started 1-6. But then Cincinnati caught fire, winning its last seven games to claim the division crown. No other team would start as bad as 1-5 and then make the playoffs until the Kansas City Chiefs pulled the trick in 2015.

In the 1970 NFL sim I played out through WhatIfSports, the Bengals decided to play like gangbusters all season.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.45.43 PM

The Bengals advanced all the way to Super Bowl V, where they fell to Minnesota 17-9, giving Bud Grant and the Vikings consecutive world championships, this time with career backup QB Gary Cuozzo. The Bengals success as a third year franchise in professional sports would be rivaled by the Milwaukee Bucks, who won the NBA Championship in their third year of existence in 1970.

With no real dominant teams in the real-life NFL in 1970, the Bengals coming out of nowhere is probably not that much of an anomaly.

The other story of the sim 1970 season involves the Pittsburgh Steelers, who in the real world were still in rebuilding mode and would finish 5-9. In the sim Pittsburgh claimed its first playoff berth in the franchise’s 38-year history as AFC Wild Card with a 9-5 record, and then shocked the heavily favored Colts in the division round before falling in the AFC Championship.

In the NFC the Vikings and Rams won their divisions while the Cowboys and 49ers struggled. The two real-life NFC title game participants went 7-7 and 6-8 respectively.

Dave Osborn and the Vikings would meet the Rams in the sim NFC Championship.



Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 10.54.30 PM_Kapp

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..

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.15.50 PM

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.