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!)

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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.

FORMER NFL QB DAVID CARR STILL ALIVE

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If you watched the Texans v. Raiders Monday Night Football from Mexico City, you heard the family lineage of Oakland  quarterback Derek Carr. Older brother David Carr was drafted by the Houston Texans in 2002 and had a nice decade-long NFL career but did not reach the lofty expectations expected of a number one draft pick.

Today, David Carr does work with the NFL Network and coaches high school ball in Bakersfield along with his middle brother and father.

At the end of the game I received a strange text from someone who (a) does not watch the NFL and (b) does not watch ESPN.

It said ‘David Carr died?’, along with a Bing screenshot.

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At this point I checked sources from that old globalist standby Google along with Wikipedia, who said the retired QB is still alive.

But I remained curious on where Bing dialed up the February 12, 2015 death date.

It turns out a public figure named David Carr did die that day. He was age 58 and said to be an acclaimed columnist for the New York Times.

So there you have it, quarterback David Carr alive – reported by me, confirmed by ESPN and why I stay away from Bing.

 

1978 NFL SIM: LA DYNASTY AS DALLAS DOOMED AGAIN

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1978 represented a huge year for the National Football League. The schedule expanded to 16 games, from Labor Day weekend through Christmas. An additional wild card team was also added in each conference along with an additional tier of playoffs. New rules also ushered in a new era of offensive-minded football.

In the KACSPORTS sim version of the season, the Dallas Cowboys stood poised to make history after a 16-0 regular season to go along with the Cowboys 14-0 season in 1971.

In the postseason however, Dallas would be doomed on its own turf by the same familiar nemesis.

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Highlights of the 1978 included…

  • The NFC East’s dominance of the AFC East and the AFC West over the NFC Central were both reflected in the final standings. 1978 marked the first year of rotational inter-conference play.
  • Doug Williams joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and immediately led the third-year expansion club to respectability, winning the NFC Central with a 9-7 record. A closer look at the real-life point differentials explains the parity of the division Chris Berman would soon re-name the ‘NFC Norris’ –  Buccaneers -18, Bears -21, Vikings -12, Lions -10, Packers -20. Another 16-game sample size would produce a different result.
  • In real-life, the Houston Oilers burst onto the scene behind rookie running back Earl Campbell. But the sim was not nearly as kind to Luv’ Ya Blue as Houston finished 7-9.
  • The San Diego Chargers stumbled out of the gate in the actual season thanks in part to the ‘Holy Roller’ loss to the Raiders. Although they also lost to the Raiders in Week 2 of the sim, the Chargers still finished 10-6 and earned a wild card spot.

All signs pointed towards a reprise of the actual classic Steelers/Cowboys Super Bowl in Miami. It would not happen.

The Chargers won the Wild Card Game in Cleveland and then shocked Pittsburgh at Three Rivers, as the Steelers season would end with a home playoff loss for a fourth consecutive year. San Diego’s run ended with a loss to Oakland in the AFC Championship, sending the Raiders to their first Super Bowl in 11 years.

Dallas had the fortune to draw and easily dispatch the upstart Buccaneers in the divisional round. Unfortunately, the Rams arrived for the NFC Championship Game and for the fifth time in seven season ended the Cowboys season at Texas Stadium with a 14-13 win, giving the Rams their sixth Super Bowl trip while Dallas has not won a single NFC title despite a 99-15 regular season record over eight years.

So Steelers lose four years in a row at home and the Cowboys to the Rams at home five times. Still think Hillary Clinton winning six coin tosses in a row is not a coincidence?

It must be noted the Cowboys did win at Los Angeles in a faux-regular season game.

The Raiders and Rams made the cross-country trek to the Orange Bowl in Miami. New coach Ray Malavasi picked up where Chuck Knox left off, and the Rams completed the unprecedented three-peat and fourth Super Bowl title overall with a 10-7 win. The Raiders would be doomed because of four missed field goals by Errol Mann.

He had to be sickest man in America.

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John Madden made a Super Bowl appearance in his final season as Raiders coach.

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1976 NFL SIM: CHUCKY MEETS CHUCKY

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In 1976 all the pieces seem to have suddenly fallen into place for the New England Patriots. They earned the AFC Wild Card and traveled to Oakland for a divisional playoff against a team they beat 48-17 in the regular season. The Patriots lost largely due to a roughing the passer call in the final minutes.

25 years later the Patriots evened history with their own controversial playoff win over the Raiders in Foxboro. Officiating psy ops become magnified in the playoffs, would home field advantage have changed anything in 1976?

Here is the sim, with one glaring exception it played similar to the actual season.

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  • The Patriots also finished 11-3 in real life and were the AFC Wild Card
  • The Colts are 10-4 and the Wild Card opposed to 11-3 and AFC East champions.
  • The Steelers go 13-1 in the sim v. 10-4 and also division champs in real life.
  • The Raiders win the AFC West at 10-4 v. their actual 13-1 record.
  • Dallas finishes 13-1 in the sim v. the real-life 11-3 division championship.
  • Washington finishes 11-3, in real life the team also earned the NFC Wild Card at 10-4.
  • Minnesota misses the playoffs at 9-5 in the sim, opposed to actual 11-2-1 record.
  • The Rams went through the sim at 12-2 opposed to their actual 10-3-1 finish.

The anomaly involves the Detroit Lions, who went 13-1 in the simulation. In real life the team represented classic Lions mediocrity, finishing 6-8 after they fired the coach after four games.

A trip to Wikipedia explains the metric that turns the Lions into world-beaters. Quarterback Greg Landry enjoyed a career season and the team ranked 12th of all teams from 1960-2009 in an advanced stat called Passer Rating Differential. Of the 11 teams ranked ahead of the 1976 Lions, seven either reached either the Super Bowl or a pre-Super Bowl league championship game. One member of the 1976 Lions staff included Bill Belichick.

And they let Tommy Hudspeth call the shots?

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers debuted as historically bad as they did in real life with an 0-14 record. Their closest game was a seven-point loss to the Seattle Seahawks. In the 13 games against other AFC teams the Bucs lost all of their games by at least 13 points. And now that current Commissioner Roger Goodell has scheduled a regular season in Beijing, Bucs coach John McKay can no longer claim a billion Chinese do not care.

The Seahawks faired somewhat better in year one – along with the Bucs, Seattle defeated the Atlanta Falcons (who they also beat in real life) and the Green Bay Packers.

Tampa nearly had company at 0-14 – The New York Giants started 0-11 before they recorded two late-season wins while the Packers averted an 0-14 season with a Week 14 win in Atlanta.

Now on the downside of his career, O.J. Simpson still exploded for a 265-yard rushing day against the Kansas City Chiefs.

In the Divisional playoffs, Baltimore lost at Pittsburgh 13-6 while the Patriots got a controversial call in their favor in a 26-21 win over the Raiders in Foxboro. In the NFC, Washington lost at Detroit 17-14 while the Cowboys lost at home to the Rams for the third time in five years, this time by a 10-9 score. Over the past five years Dallas has a 71-13 regular season record.

The Patriots post-season route continued to replicate their real postseason route of 25 years later. Behind Sam Cunningham’s 199 yards and two touchdowns, New England won at Pittsburgh 24-10 while the Rams recorded a 30-0 shutout at Detroit. The Rams win marked their fourth conference championship and third Super Bowl appearance in as many games played in the Los Angeles area.

In Super Bowl XI at Pasadena, Chuck Knox’s Rams would then defeat Chuck Fairbanks Patriots, 27-20 in the most competitive Super Bowl played to date.

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Steve Spurrier fared better as a future college coach than as the Buccaneers first quarterback.

 

 

1967 FOOTBALL SIM: RAIDERS GO 16-00

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My first Oakland Raiders memories included quarterback Daryle Lamonica, glue-fingered (literally) receiver Fred Belitnikoff and center Jim Otto, whose unique numeric selection made him one of the most recognized offensive lineman of all-time.

A native of Wausau, Wisconsin, Otto became a territorial selection for the AFL’s perspective Minneapolis franchise. When the owners accepted the NFL’s charter instead, Otto’s rights transferred to the replacement Oakland franchise, and 00 would go on to play 15 seasons and endure 74 trips (anyone still counting?) to the operating room.

In this 1967 sim, 00 also came to mean something else…

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The Raiders first came of age in 1967, a prequel to the franchises legendary success of future years. The team’s lone regular season loss came to the New York Jets in October. The team was the first to truly live by Al Davis’s philosophy of a vertical attack. The team scored 468 points during the season, they exceed 50 points twice and hit or exceeded 40 points on four other occasions, including the 40-14 rout of the Houston Oilers in the AFL Championship.

However the ’67 Raiders are simply remembered for being methodically beaten 33-14 by the Green Bay Packers in Vince Lombardi’s last game as coach.

In the sim, the Raiders complete the regular season undefeated and ultimately win the AFL/NFL Championship with a 22-14 win over the Cleveland Browns.

On the NFL side, the playoffs provided chaotic due to a realignment into four four-team divisions (Capitol, Century, Central, Coastal). The NFL’s best two teams, the Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Rams, both resided in the Coastal.

In real-life, the Rams won the division title by defeating the Colts in the seasons final week. Both teams finished with identical 11-1-2 records.

The first shock to the 1967 NFL sim came when the Atlanta Falcons (0-14 the previous sim season) defeated the Colts in Week 1. The Falcons would win a second time the following week. Meanwhile Baltimore ran the table and met the Rams in Week 14 with both teams at 12-1. In the sim the Colts win, only to lose to the Packers in the Division Playoff. The Packers in turn lost to the Browns in the NFL Championship, a rematch of the two teams who played for the 1967 Championship.

To reduce time, not to mention that it would be practically impossible to find the weather conditions of all pro football games over the past 50 years, I ran the WhatIfSports simulations under default weather conditions. I did sim Browns/Packers under Ice Bowl conditions (-15 with medium wind) 20 times, the Browns won 11 of the 20 games.

The other question is how the Raiders would do against the rest of the NFL, so I played the Raiders against all 16 NFL teams. Oakland went 13-3 in those sims, losing to both the Colts and Rams by one point and upset by the 49ers by three points. Many of the other games the Raiders won handily.

The data suggests the Raiders to indeed be amongst the best teams in all of pro football in 1967. Because of the 33-14 loss, the second AFL/NFL Championship narrative is viewed as anti-climatic following the Packers Ice Bowl victory with Lombardi literally ridden off into the sunset.

But in this sim, Perfectville resides on the East Bay.

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