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.

1989 NFL SIMULATION: XXIV BELONGS TO NO. 24

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In our simulation of the 1989 National Football League season, the New York Giants had a nice 11-5 regular season but finished a distant second in the NFC East.

Meanwhile the Los Angeles Raiders entered the final five games of their season at 4-7, their playoff hopes non-existent and Head Coach Mike Shanahan was shown the door.

For the second time in the history of this simulation two Wild Cards met in the Super Bowl, with the New York and Los Angeles markets both involved. That would be the hype to end all hype.

The 1989 NFL Draft also brought an incredible infusion of fresh talent into the league, a rookie class that included Troy Aikman, Derrick Thomas, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders and Tony Manderich.

Whoops – someone on this list is not like the others.

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  • 1989 also marked the year of Don Majkowski, in real life the University of Virginia product rallied the Green Bay Packers to unlikely wins on a weekly basis and nearly to a playoff berth. That did not translate over to the sim as Green Bay finished a quiet 5-11.
  • In the actual Super Bowl XXIV, Joe Montana coronated his career and legacy of the 49ers in a 55-10 rout over Denver. In the sim Montana went 21-24 in a 55-0 thrashing of Atlanta. Montana and his wife also welcomed a baby daughter named Hannah.
  • Another impact rookie was Dave Meggett of the Giants, a return man who ran wild in a snowy 26-0 late-season win at Denver.
  • Bo Jackson highlights included a 194-yard effort in a 46-7 win over Seattle, 168 yards and 2 TD against Kansas City, 189 yards in a win over the Eagles, three scores in a 58-6 annihilation of Cincinnati, 161 yards and three TD’s in a 62-10 win over New England and 221 yards and two TD in a must-win over Phoenix.
  • Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears somehow finished 1-15, don’t ask how.

As the fifth and final AFC seed, the Raiders playoff run began in Denver, where Jackson ran for 147 yards in an easy Raiders win. The Browns opened the season 11-0 and earned the AFC’s number one seed, but lost four of their last regular season games. Browns faithful waited for the other shoe to drop as the Raiders came to town for the second time in three years. Jackson ran for 152 yards and Bernie Kosar threw a disastrous pick six to send the Raiders to the AFC Championship. Counting a Super Bowl II loss, the Browns dropped to 0-3 against the Raiders in postseason play.

The Rams and Giants hooked up in the Meadowlands for the Wild Card round as they did in real life in a division playoff, a game that ended when Flipper Anderson caught the game-ending TD pass and ran straight to the locker room. In simulation Bill Parcell’s team held on for a 27-21 victory.

The rest of the playoffs had a similar feel to the 1990 conference championships. The Giants defense rattled Joe Montana at Candlestick Park to earn a 20-17 upset over the 14-2 49ers. The Raiders traveled to upstate New York to face the Bills, and unlike the actual title game a year later had Jackson in the fold. Bo rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown to send the Raiders to their second Super Bowl in three years, the ninth Super Bowl appearance for a tenant of the Los Angeles Coliseum. New coach Art Shell also becomes the first African-American coach to take his team to the big game.

The Giants went to RFK Stadium in Washington to face Joe Gibbs 14-2 team, and won in even more dramatic fashion. Eschewing a game-tying field goal, Lewis Tillman ran 19 yards with five seconds remaining in regulation to give the Giants a 28-24 victory and their long-awaited first simulation Super Bowl appearance.

The Raiders eight-game winning streak ended when Raul Allegre’s 33-yard field goal attempt sailed through the uprights to end the second overtime Super Bowl game in simulation history. Bo Jackson did his part with 105 yards and a touchdown, but was upstaged by 33-year-old Ottis Anderson who ran for 173 years and named game MVP. The Giants won their four playoff games by a combined 16 points.

The 1980s ended with the NFC victorious in all ten Super Bowls, expanding their all-time count in the series to 18-6. The Raiders and Miami Dolphins remain the lone two Super Bowl wins by original AFL teams.

Two-time winners for the decade included the Eagles, Bears and 49ers – along with the Lions, Vikings, Giants and Washington.

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In simulation, the Majik show fell flat.