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.

1991 NFL SIMULATION: TURNOVERS SERVED CAJUN STYLE

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Another year and another shocker provided in KACSPORTS simulation where the past 50 NFL seasons are played in an alternative reality.

With Mark Rypien under center, Joe Gibbs Washington team piled up points at a ridiculous pace en route to securing the franchises third and most impressive Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XXVI.

But the New Orleans Saints had a good team in their own right, especially on the defensive side with a generational linebacking crew of Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swillig and Vaughan Johnson.

Problem was, the playoffs and coach Jim Mora just never got along.

Playoffs!?

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A few bullet points

  • An even weaker year than normal for the AFC. The Broncos earned a first-round bye with an 11-5 mark and the Steelers and Browns filled out the playoff field with respective 8-8 records.
  • The Green Bay Packers defied odds and appeared headed to the playoffs with a 9-3 record after 12 games. But the Pack would lose their last four games to miss the postseason. New General Manager Ron Wolf would clean house shortly thereafter.
  • The Phoenix Cardinals went 0-16, the seventh team in the simulation to record a winless season.
  • In real life, the San Francisco 49ers missed the playoffs despite an 11-5 record. In the sim, the Niners clinched a first round home game on the final Monday night of the regular season while eliminating the Chicago Bears from playoff consideration.

As a number six seed, the Detroit Lions repeated their real-life run to the NFC Championship Game. Rodney Peete threw a late touchdown pass to eliminate the Vikings in the wild card round, the Lions then shocked top-seeded Washington the following week with Peete scoring himself in the final seconds. The Lions season would end at the Louisiana Superdome as the Saints defense completely shut down Barry Sanders.

In the AFC, the Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills reprised the real-life classic wild card game from a year later in the conference championship. Warren Moon threw two touchdown passes in the waning minutes to force overtime at 31-31. The Bills won  the overtime coin toss, and despite going into a frigid wind Thurman Thomas scored on a 48-yard touchdown run as Buffalo reprised their actual Super Bowl appearance.

The Saints made the trip upstream to the frozen section of the Mississippi River for the Super Bowl at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. For three and a half quarters the Saints defense shut down the Bills just as they did Detroit. Jim Kelly threw two late touchdown passes, but it would not be enough as the Saints prevailed 21-16.

In their first Super Bowl appearance the Saints got the championship that did not come until 18 years later in the real world while the Bills dropped to 0-3 in simulation Super Bowls.