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Veras last won the day on October 28 2015

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About Veras

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  1. On paper, they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the league. The question is how much longer that can last. Their superstars on offense are mostly around the age of 30 (Hart and Meredith are 31, Jim Hill is 29), so they will likely begin regressing, but still have a few years left. Despite the fact that they haven't had high draft picks in recent years, they've done an excellent job of identifying defensive talent, so they have quite a few very good defensive players who are still in their 20s. The biggest question mark going forward is their offensive line. It has been the core of the team since before Hart even arrived, but the unit is now very old. C K.C. Payne (34) and RT Carl Yates (32) have both been struggling with knee problems over the past year, and are weighing retirement. The Guardians with a poor to mediocre offensive line are still very good, but they're not a 14-2 team, and they might not be able to hold off Detroit and Cleveland in the North. There isn't an expansion scheduled, though I would expect the league to go to 30 teams no later than the mid-1990s. How things go with the USFA will have an obvious impact on expansion. If the AFA wants to kill the rival league, expanding into the most successful USFA markets could help to destabilize it. Additionally, successfully supporting a USFA team can be seen as almost an audition for a potential AFA franchise. For example, Birmingham and Salt Lake City have repeatedly been snubbed when it comes to expansion. If the Hammers and Pioneers are wildly financial successful, the league (and the council) may rethink their position.
  2. I haven't worked out the details on that yet, so I'll address it in the USFA season post. I'm going to start introducing the teams within the next day or two. The USFA season actually kicks off two weeks after the Victory Bowl, so that post will go up even before the AFA offseason does. You didn't just go 9-0, you called that the Victory Bowl would be a blowout, as did @officerpain138. Imperials-Miners would be an interesting one for sure. They are number 1 and 2 in championships and championship appearances (NY is tied with WAS and MIN on the former), and it would be the first time that two teams from the same division have faced off in the Victory Bowl. I'm actually surprised that it hasn't happened yet, given that there have been numerous instances of three teams from the same division going to the postseason. Chicago is a long shot, for sure. The expansion council seems pretty against putting two teams in the same market. New Jersey arguably had the strongest bid in the most recent expansion council, but were undeniably hurt by the fact that they would effectively be a second NYC team. Likewise, a lot of voters argued against San Diego in the mid-70s because Southern California already had a team in LA. They ended up winning anyway, but the competing bids weren't very strong (Birmingham ended up finishing in third). If the council is reluctant to give teams to markets adjacent to NYC and LA, it's hard to imagine them granting a second franchise to Chicago. As for realignment, the North does pose an interesting question. If two new teams join, and one isn't in the Midwest (Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville being the most likely candidates in the region), then somebody will have to move. Milwaukee would be a good choice geographically, given their location on the Great Lakes and proximity to Chicago, but they have a long history with Minnesota, and I wouldn't want to split that up. Pittsburgh was in what is now the North (it was then the West) for decades, and Pittsburgh-Detroit is one of the AFA's fiercest rivalries. They have some historic rivalries in the Northeast, too, but that's basically just because everybody hates the Miners. It really depends on where the next expansions take place. If Buffalo rejoins the league along with a Southern team (San Antonio, for example), then Pittsburgh would likely move to the North. The South isn't that hard to deal with no matter what, because Atlanta or the Floridian teams could easily move in. The most interesting realignments take place if expansion happens on the West Coast. Regardless of whether it happens in SoCal (Inland Empire or LA) or NorCal (Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose), the Western Division would have to split in two. Colorado and Arizona would end up joining them to fill the gap, and the South and/or the Central would have to be completely reformed. If it's Buffalo and a Pacific team, then every single division will likely see a change.
  3. The Hurricanes got the ball first, and immediately put the Guardians on their heels, driving 77 yards to the Cincinnati 1 in 2:20. The Guardians attempted a goal line stand, but on third and goal from the one inch line, RB Matt Cotten managed to fight his way into the end zone to put the Hurricanes up 7-0. This would be the high point of the day for Houston. They were able to fend of the Guardians offense for quite some time. Cincinnati advanced into the red zone midway through the first and nearly scored a touchdown, but SS Brett Dworakowski made a heads up play and knocked the ball out of TE Vic Meredith’s hands in the end zone as he came down with a pass. The Guardians were forced to settle for a field goal, and the Houston lead held until the final seconds of the quarter, when Jim Hill scored on a 3 yard run to put Cincinnati up 10-7. From there, the Guardians simply ran away with the game. Early in the second quarter, RE Mark Rotermund hit Tom Hudson from behind as he threw. The ball landed in the arms of DT Andrew Gray, and the interception ultimately set up another touchdown run for Jim Hill. They added a field goal midway through the second quarter, and a pick by S Dirk Hammen shortly after the two minute mark allowed Hart to hit Meredith in the end zone with 12 seconds remaining in the half. Tom Hudson took the field, and then took a knee to send the game to halftime with his team down 27-7. In the locker room, Houston coach Roosevelt Brown, who had been Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator from 1978-1984, gave an impassioned speech to his team, urging them not to give up, even in the face of the 20-point deficit. The Hurricanes came out of the tunnel at the start of the third quarter in a near frenzy, only to allow Cincinnati KR Stephon Lockett to take the kickoff all the way back for a 99 yard touchdown. This completely broke the young Houston squad. They went three and out, and then allowed an easy touchdown as Hill crossed the goal line for the third time of the day. Already holding a 41-7 lead, and not wanting to run up the score against their former coach, the Cincinnati offense went into cruise control. They would connect on a field goal with five minutes remaining in the third, and another with six minutes remaining in the fourth, but they didn’t press hard for more points for the remainder of the game. During that time, the defense recorded two more takaways, picking off Hudson once and recovering a Matt Cotten fumble. When time ran out, the score was 47-7. The Guardians were champions for the second time in three years, while the Hurricanes gained the distinction of being victims of each of the two worst blowouts in Victory Bowl history.
  4. See, by saying that you were going to miss on your predictions, and then correctly picking the next two games, you ensured that you would be both right and wrong, no matter what. Good job on the predictions, though. I noticed that you got them all right in the quarterfinals, but I don't remember if you took a shot in the wildcard round. Are you 6-0 or 8-0 so far? As for the Benham trade - they didn't have a whole lot of leverage. He's 30, hasn't been good in years, displayed a poor attitude in his divorce with the team, and expressly didn't want to be there. They managed to get two conditional picks, one in 1988, and the other in 1989. The 1988 pick will be a second rounder, while the 1989 pick could be anywhere between rounds 2-4, depending on how many games he starts and whether or not the Whales make the playoffs. It's just a typo. I even have it right if you look at the quarter-by-quarter score. I just hit 3 instead of 7 somehow. Thanks for the heads up, I'll fix it right away. Avoiding repetition is a big concern. I developed the simulation method that I use for playoff games to add an element of randomness, but even that doesn't always work - I had to rewrite the first two rounds of the postseason last year after realizing that 6 of the first 7 games had at least one team scoring either 24 or 17, with 3 or 4 of them actually having a score of 24-17. Once it comes to the writeups, I worry about overusing certain words and phrases (how many ways are there to indicate that someone scored a touchdown?). Some of the ones that I worry about are "struck back," "settled for a field goal," "made the most of the situation/opportunity/good field position."
  5. The first quarter was largely uneventful. The teams traded punts through most of the quarter, with each squad managing a single field goal. However, the fireworks began 10 seconds into the second, when Reggie Hart threaded a perfect pass between the safeties for a 41-yard touchdown to speedster Stephon Lockett, giving the Guardians a 10-3 lead. Less than 5 minutes later, rookie DT Ray Ray McLellan came up with a Sikai Afamasaga fumble, setting up the Guardians offense at the New York 24. RB Jim Hill lost two yards on the next play, but on second down, Lockett got behind the safeties again, and Hart hit him for his second touchdown of the game. The Imperials struck back near the end of the half. Shortly after the two minute warning, Ron Adams found TE Rob House for an 11 yard touchdown. The Guardians two-minute offense took the field, but with just under a minute to play, a pass bounced off the hands of WR Bill Alexander, and was picked off by LeRoy Jones. Adams led the offense on a 46 yard touchdown drive, tying the game at 17 with a 6 yard pass to WR Martin Hutley. The Guardians reestablished their dominance in the third with a pair of rushing touchdowns, one by Hill and the other by Hart. Going into the fourth quarter down by 14, the Imperials came out with an aggressive game plan. Facing 4th and 6 from the Cincinnati 17 five minutes into the quarter, Adams and the offense stayed on the field. The gamble paid off, as House came down with an 8 yard reception for the first down. Two plays later, Sikai Afamasaga was wrapped up a few yards short of the end zone, but extended his arms over the goal line to make it a one-score game. With just under 4 minutes on the clock, future hall of fame safety Guy Vacilis made a diving pick on an overthrown ball at the Cincinnati 32. New York made the most of the opportunity, and tied the game at 31 with a Roby Hayward touchdown reception 90 seconds later. The Guardians offense came out, and methodically drove down the field. They advanced to the edge of field goal range, running down the clock in the process. Then, on 2nd and 8 from the New York 36, Hart took the snap, rolled to his right, and hit Vic Meredith on the sideline at the 22. They were in position for a 39-yard field goal with 10 seconds to play, but there was a flag on the field. TE Jeff Gulley was called for holding, and the ball was moved back to the 46. Lloyd Hammond would ultimately have to attempt a 63-yard field goal, which fell well short. Fortunately for Gulley and the Guardians, then penalty would only prolong the game, not change the outcome. Nine minutes into overtime, Stephon Lockett took a screen pass to the New York 12 before being tripped up from behind. Hammond made the chip shot, sending the Guardians back to the Victory Bowl for the second time in three years. As expected, Minnesota CB Scott D’Angelico was assigned to cover Houston’s top wideout, Ernest Hoskins, and essentially removed him from the game. Surprisingly, however, the Hurricanes responded with a monumental performance from the unheralded Rudy Denise, a rookie out of Tulsa who was selected in the 6th round. Denise, who was listed 4th on the Hurricanes depth chart, would have a career day, making 12 receptions for 213 yards and 3 touchdowns (his numbers for the regular season were 8/120/0). It did not take him long to make his mark. He had a huge third down reception on the teams opening possession, which kept the drive alive and allowed them to pick up a field goal, and a 3-0 lead. Eight and a half minutes later he scored his first career touchdown, a 13-yarder in which he barely managed to drag his toes in the back of the end zone. The Hurricanes would go up 13-0 on another field goal early in the second, before Minnesota finally got on the board after Hudson attempted a pass to Hoskins for the first time of the day. It was a wide receiver screen, but D’Angelico saw it coming, slipped through the blockers, and didn’t even break stride as he picked it off and took it 93 yards to the end zone. The Angels would add a field goal to cut the deficit to 13-10 with three minutes to play in the half, and then managed to get the ball back and take the lead with an 18 yard touchdown reception by WR Cedric Harrison with 33 seconds on the clock. The lead would hold for the first 9 minutes of the third quarter, until Rudy Denise struck again, putting the Hurricanes up 20-17. The Angels were poised to answer immediately, driving into the red zone on the ensuing drive, but an off-target pass to TE Stephen Blaber was picked off by LB David Rowe for a touchback. Houston ran away with the game in the fourth quarter. Minnesota even went so far as to reassign D’Angelico to cover Denise, but not even the All-Pro could stop the rookie. The only consequence of this change was that Hoskins was suddenly a viable threat again. Denise beat D’Angelico for a 24 yard touchdown with 7:18 to play, extending the Houston lead to 10, and James Pickle added a 52 yard field goal six minutes later. Houston pulled off the upset with a 30-17 victory, and will finally have the chance to redeem themselves after the 50-0 shellacking that they suffered at the hands of the Pittsburgh Miners in the 31st Victory Bowl AFA Magazine 42nd Victory Bowl Preview – Guardians of Cincinnati vs Houston Hurricanes This is Cincinnati’s sixth Victory Bowl appearance, moving them into a tie with Minnesota for third most behind Pittsburgh and New York. They lost each of the first three Victory Bowls to the New York Imperials by the scores of 24-13, 20-17, and 34-31, and then lost the 9th Victory Bowl to Boston (19-13) in 1954. They finally won a title two years ago, defeating Atlanta 34-13. The Hurricanes have made only one championship appearance. They played against Pittsburgh in the 31st Victory Bowl and were crushed 50-0. This still stands as the worst defeat in AFA postseason history. This matchup is all about the quarterbacks. The Victory Bowl in recent years has been dominated by defensively-oriented and run-first teams, to such an extent that this will be the first time that two elite QBs have one toe to toe in the big game since the early 1970s. Indeed, this may be the best quarterback matchup since Kadlec vs. Ridley in the first three Victory Bowls. On paper, the Guardians are the better team. RB Jim Hill was less effective this year than he has been recently, but he is still dangerous, and much better than Houston’s Matt Cotten. The Guardians also have better receiving options, both in terms of talent and depth (assuming Rudy Denise’s incredible performance in the semifinals was a fluke). The teams are fairly evenly matched along the offensive line, but the Guardians have a team of grizzled veterans, while the Hurricanes are young and inexperienced. The defenses are more evenly matched. The Guardians are better up front, with a very strong defensive line, but there are significant holes in the second and third levels. Houston, on the other hand, has a very talented, athletic linebacker corps and secondary. Still, slowing down Hart and company will be a difficult task. This could be a very high-scoring game. In Reggie Hart’s final college game, he led USC to victory in the Rose Bowl over Michigan. He will return to that field for the Victory Bowl, and will again come out on top. Cincinnati wins, 34-30.
  6. The quarterback class this year is garbage, maybe the worst ever. Actually, it isn't a great year for offensive players in general. There are a couple of highly-rated running backs, and several top-tier offensive lineman, but most of the premier prospects are on defense. Cornerback is particularly deep. The guy you're thinking of , Greg Benham, isn't in Canada. I apparently deleted it from the regular-season writeup somehow, but Kansas City traded him to California three weeks into the regular season. Thanks for pointing it out. The writeup was correct, the graphic was wrong. I forgot to change it from last year's postseason, where the third semifinal game was in Miami. Very different weather conditions.
  7. The Imperials came out of the gate strong. They took the lead on a 28-yard field goal midway through the first, and then added a 38-yard touchdown pass from Ron Adams to speedy RB Markus Warner near the end of the quarter. Atlanta would advance well into New York territory early in the second, but a pick by Rocky Belle ended that drive, and ultimately set up a 52-yard field goal which gave the Imperials a 13 – 0 advantage. In the final seconds before the half, it looked like New York would have a chance to extend the lead even further. Rookie CB LeRoy Jones picked up his first career postseason interception, and brought it back to the Atlanta 38 with just 15 seconds remaining. The Imperials ran a play with the goal of gaining enough yards to reduce the difficulty of the kick, but CB Tony Febbraio read it perfectly, jumped the route, and took the ball 69 yards to the end zone, which let the Rebels go into the locker room trailing 13-7. The maintained momentum in the third, forcing a punt on New York’s opening possession, and then setting up Joe Tooley for a 49-yard field goal. It would take a little more than ten minutes for New York to answer, but they did so with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Martin Hutley. The Rebels cut the lead back down to 3 on the ensuing drive, which ended with a 16 yard pass from Wesley Marx to Emmett Fairvalley. They quickly got the ball back and drove into Imperial territory, but their efforts were derailed by another turnover. TE Lee Flynn caught a pass across the middle before being levelled by S Guy Vacilis. Flynn fumbled (unless you ask an Atlanta fan – then it was an incomplete pass), and Vacilis recovered. The Rebels kept it closer than the final score would suggest, but mistakes cost them dearly. With 8:23 to play, Markus Warner returned a punt 68 yards for a TD, extending the lead to 10. Ron Adams put the icing on the cake with 2:32 on the clock, when he scrambled into the end zone from the 2 on a 3rd and Goal. New York is headed back to the semifinals for the first time since 1983. The offenses both started conservatively as they tried to feel one another out. They traded punts through the first 9 minutes of the game, until Houston took the lead on a 4-yard run by Matt Cotten. It looked like the Gladiators would answer with a touchdown of their own, as they drove to the 1, but a false start and a sack forced them to settle for 3. Houston extended their lead midway through the second, as Tom Hudson hit Ernest Hoskins in the end zone from 11 yards out. However, with just 35 seconds left in the half Detroit pulled within 4 when QB John Lewis faked a spike. The defense fell for it and left WR Ray Carroll wide open for an easy 63-yard touchdown reception. Though the defenses had held strong to this point, the next 15 minutes would be the most prolific quarter of point-scoring in AFA history. Houston got it started with a 31-yard field goal. Detroit answered with a 9-yard run by RB Willie Hewitt, tying the game at 17. The Hurricanes jumped back in front with another field goal, this one from 21 yards out. The Gladiators then took their first lead of the day on an 11 yard pass from Lewis to Hewitt. They seemed to be in position to seize control of the game from there, forcing the first punt of the quarter and driving deep into Hurricane territory, but SS Brett Dworakowski stepped in front of a pass to TE Tim Saget in the end zone, and then took it 103 yards for a touchdown. Trailing 27-24, Lewis bounced back immediately, leading a drive that ended with a touchdown pass to WR Jim Azira. However, the lead would last only 12 seconds, as Houston’s Thomas Ashe returned the kickoff 92 yards to put the Hurricanes back in front 34-31. Houston extended their lead to 10 four minutes into the fourth quarter as Cotten picked up his second rushing touchdown of the day, but the Gladiators answered with a rushing touchdown of their own, with Johnny Hewitt leaping the line to make it 41-38. For the first time since the half, two consecutive drives ended with punts, but the Gladiators were able to tie the game at 41 on a 31-yard field goal with 2:23 to play. That score would stand, and the game would go to overtime. Detroit won the toss, and elected to receive. Instead of sending out Pete Foster, the team’s normal kick returner, they instead sent out All-Star RB Johnny Hewitt. This was not the first time that he had filled this role – he had returned kicks and punts frequently during his college career at Iowa – but the Gladiators were generally unwilling to risk his health by allowing him to play special teams. With their postseason lives on the line, however, they chose to put the ball in his hands. Hewitt’s rust would make for a short overtime. He attempted to field the kick in the end zone, but misjudged it. The ball hit his shoulder, and bounced out of the back of the end zone for a safety, and a Hurricanes victory. Several AFA playoff records were broken during this game, including most total points scored (84), most points scored in a quarter (third - 38), most combined total yards (711), and shortest overtime (1.4 seconds). While there is no record for the most heartbreaking loss in history, Gladiators fans will forever argue that it should claim that title as well. Following a pair of incredibly high-scoring games the day before, neither offense could get moving early, thanks in part to very windy, sub-zero field conditions. The Miners advanced into the red zone twice in the first quarter. The first trip ended without points after QB George Gilbert lost the ball on a sack by DE Robert Haile, and on the second they settled for a field goal. Minnesota’s Martin Jasso tied it up early in the second quarter, but Pittsburgh quickly retook the lead as Gilbert atoned for his earlier fumble with a 4-yard touchdown pass to WR Joe Wise. The Angels drove as far as the Pittsburgh 4 to start the second half, but they failed to make it into the end zone, and had to take the field goal. Midway through the quarter, the Miners defense came up with a big takeaway, recovering a fumble by RB Tommy Howard, which gave the offense a chance to start at the Minnesota 41. This would ultimately set up a 30-yard field goal attempt, but, to the delight of the crowd in St. Paul, it went wide right in the swirling winds of Twin Cities Stadium. Fired up by their opponent’s missed opportunity, Tim Kewley led the Angels offense back onto the field, and two minutes later he hit WR Terry Croze down the sideline for an 18-yard TD, giving Minnesota their first lead of the day. From that point forward, the game was all Minnesota. They extended their lead to 16-10 with a 29-yard field goal four minutes into the final quarter, and added a Tommy Howard TD run five minutes after that. With 3:30 left to play, CB John Hastings made a back-breaking interception at the Pittsburgh 33-yard line. The Angels were able to run the clock down to 1:33 before kicking a field goal which put them ahead 26-10. The Miners failed to pick up a first down, and the Angels are headed to their fourth semifinals game in the past nine years. As the two teams took the field in a light, freezing rain, Cincinnati fans quickly had reason to fear that they were about to witness their team go down in another quarterfinal upset. After forcing a 3 and out to start the game, the California Whales marched down the field and scored a touchdown on a 17 yard pass from Greg Benham to WR Mark Sweeney. The Cincinnati offense continued to struggle throughout the first quarter, with the team’s only points coming on a pick 6 by LB Tony Galvin. The second quarter was halfway over by the time the Guardian offense finally hit paydirt when Reggie Hart threw a jump ball to Vic Meredith, who came down with it over two defenders. Cincinnati had a good opportunity to add to the lead before the half, advancing into California territory before the two minute warning, but DT Leroy Mulligan managed to get a hand on Hart as he dropped back to pass. LB Van Tellis slammed into the immobilized quarterback, who fumbled. Both teams dove for the ball, and when the pile was cleared, Whales DE Greg Rohr had the ball. Benham responded by running the two-minute drill to near perfection, tying the game at 14 with 38 seconds in the half by connecting with Sweeney for the second time of the day. The Guardians put up a pair of field goals in the third quarter, but California retook the lead, 21-20 thirty seconds into the fourth on a 1-yard run by RB Hank Albert. Their hopes for an upset would soon be dashed. Guardians RB Jim Hill responded with a touchdown of his own on the ensuing drive, and the Guardians made it a two-score game with four and a half minutes to play as Lloyd Hammond connected on his third field goal of the game. The 30-21 score would hold, and the Guardians will head to the semifinals, where they will face the New York Imperials – the first time that these two teams will meet in the postseason since the 3rd Victory Bowl. AFA Magazine Semifinal Previews Guardians of Cincinnati vs New York Imperials This matchup features two of the three best quarterbacks in the AFA in Cincinnati’s Reggie Hart and New York’s Ron Adams. Both defenses are pretty good, especially Cincinnati’s front seven, but this looks like it could be a high-scoring game. The New York offense will receive a boost from the return of RB Sikai Afamasaga, who has been out for six weeks with an ankle injury, but that probably won’t be enough. Even with a healthy unit, Hart simply has a stronger supporting cast than Adams. TE Vic Meredith in particular looks to be a threat, as the Imperials simply do not have anyone who will be able to cover him. CB Rocky Belle is good, but the size mismatch between the two presents a huge problem. SS Guy Vacilis is one of the best in the history of the game, but he’s 38 now, and may not be able to keep up with a guy 8 years his junior. The Guardians have been waiting four decades to get revenge on the Imperials for defeating them in each of the first three Victory Bowls, and they will finally do so. Cincinnati 27-24. Minnesota Angels vs Houston Hurricanes This game will pit a young, up and coming Hurricanes squad against the greybeard Angels. As with the first matchup, it will be a duel between two of the league’s best quarterbacks in Tom Hudson and Tim Kewley. Hudson is widely considered to be the better of the two, in a class with only Reggie Hart and Ron Adams. However, the Angels are the better team. Their defense isn’t what it used to be, but most matchups seem to lean in their favor. CB Scott D’Angelico will shut down WR Ernest Hoskins. RE Lee Thomas and LE Robert Haile should be able to get into the backfield quickly enough to harass Hudson and disrupt RB Matt Cotten. The Houston defense has the personnel to badly stifle the Angel attack, but it seems unlikely that they will be able to completely shut them down. Minnesota wins in what could be an oddly low-scoring game, given the abilities of these QBs. Minnesota 14-10.
  8. Damnit! I had a migraine all last week, which is when I wrote all of this. I knew that there were going to be errors, but I hoped I caught them all after making all of those mistakes in the regular season post. Thanks for pointing it out, of course. I've corrected it.
  9. I can't believe I never noticed that...
  10. I think I said it during the preseason - they always seem to underperform when they have a solid roster and overperform when they have a weak one. The Wolves did the same thing in the late 1960s. They really were the best team in that division this year. They just couldn't get it done. To be fair, their schedule was much tougher this year. Houston is now a real contender for the first time, and they had to play every team in the North, which is a nightmare. Then again, that isn't the reason that their record was so poor. They split the series against Houston, winning at home. They also beat Cleveland and Chicago in New Orleans, while losing in Detroit and Cincinnati. The real cause of their troubles was that they played like garbage on the road, going 1-7 with losses to some pretty mediocre teams. Bruce Rankins looks good. At just 23 years old and in his second season, he is already better than about half the quarterbacks in the league. There are some concerns, though. He is very conservative in his approach to the game, which is nice in that he almost never throws interceptions, but it can lead to him holding onto the ball for too long. That, combined with the fact that he is playing behind a weak offensive line, means that he takes way more hits than he should. Injuries are a concern, too. He's not the biggest QB in the league, and while he's only missed a few games, the punishment could start to take a toll. The defense is probably more responsible for their success than Rankins, though. After going 3-13 in 1985, they shuffled the linebacker corps, and the trio of ROLB Jay Kershaw, LOLB Brian Blackwell, and MLB Jeff Worthington is as good as anybody in the league. The description was wrong. They were 4-11 going into that game. I've corrected it, thanks for the note. They may make an effort to patch some holes and make another run. A big part of their drop off this year was that age finally caught up with ROLB Bob Jonas. He was selected for his 12th All-Star Bowl in 1986, but was not the same player this year. His abilities as a pass rusher have always made everyone else on the field better, and the team was not prepared to deal with him playing like a mortal. He is very likely to retire this season, but if the Cents can bring in an effective pass rusher through the draft or via trade, they may take another shot. Even if they do decide to rebuild, they won't be taking a quarterback this year. The QB class is projected to be one of the worst ever, plus they used their first round pick a year ago on Rod Crichton (QB - Iowa). The team is really excited about him. He's not particularly polished - he threw 4 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while starting the final three games of the season, but they believe that he really has the potential to grow into a solid starter. That's the danger of sharing a division with Cincinnati. Thanks for the heads up. I've corrected both. The second error happened because I made a mistake in the playoff seeding, and didn't catch it until after I wrote up the regular season. The first error was just dumb. Now that is possible. One of their few bright spots this year was CB Marius Emmons, their first pick from 1981. He has been a solid starter his entire career, but something clicked with him this season, and he really stepped up his game. He made the All-Star Bowl for the first time, and won Defensive Player of the Year. He didn't get much help, though. To much of the team are fossils remaining from their 1980 title run. DT Greg Karzenko and especially RE Roy Lowe are old, slow, and completely ineffective. LB Shell Thompson is still good, but can no longer take over games. Neither RB Randy Klein nor QB Walter Dodd are terrible, but neither can really take over a game either. They may look to shed some veterans this year and gather draft picks. At this point, I don't think many people would be all that surprised.
  11. Wildcard Round The Gladiators were the superior team from the opening snap. It took them half of the first quarter to get on the board, but when John Lewis hit veteran WR Frank Jones in the end zone from 12 yards out, they took a 7-0 lead that they would never surrender. Baltimore’s thunder and lightning RB combo of Jim Ingles and Jarl Perkins weren’t able to establish any kind of rhythm, which left QB Derrill Punch repeatedly facing third and long situations. The next major play came on one of these situations. Punch was facing 3rd & 12 from his own 40 when he attempted a pass to WR Audwin Lee. SS Eddie Kosakowski read the throw and jumped the route, setting the Gladiator offense up at midfield late in the first. They made the most of the situation, and RB Johnny Hewitt walked into the end zone three minutes later. The Royals were able to get on the board midway through the second when PR Tim Johnstone brought back an 86-yard punt, but the Gladiators answered with a field goal drive, which sent the game to halftime with Detroit up 17-7. They would only build on the lead in the second half. With 6:34 remaining in the third, former Arizona Firebird WR Frank Azira was left wide open in the end zone, allowing Detroit to go up 24-7. They all but sealed the game 13 minutes later with another Johnny Hewitt touchdown run. Trailing 7-31, the Royals made their first red zone trip of the day in the game’s final minute. They would eventually face a situation with no good options, ending up in a 4th and goal from the 14 with 21 seconds to play. They kicked a field goal, and the game ended with a score of 31-10. Defense ruled the day, and it did not take long for that trend to begin. Less than 5 minutes into the game, Cleveland’s Sydney Smith blocked a punt. Punter Fred Abrams was able to fall on it, preventing a return, but this set up the Ghosts at the Pittsburgh 20. The offense would advance as far as the 9 before the drive stalled, and they settled for a field goal. It would take the Miners only 3 and a half minutes to the game at 3 with a 28-yarder of their own. Cleveland advanced deep into Pittsburgh territory late in the second quarter, but came away with nothing after an out of character fumble by Jose Ortuno at the goal line. Pittsburgh looked good on their first drive of the second half, pushing into Cleveland territory, but as soon as they did so the drive was ended by a Kevin Rubin interception. It wasn’t until 10 minutes into the third quarter that either team managed to find the end zone. Pittsburgh RB Jeff Johnston carried the ball in from four yards out, putting the Miners up 10-3. The teams traded field goals in the fourth. Cleveland’s last hope for a game-winning drive began at their own 34 with 2:42 to play. Things looked good for them at first, but with just over a minute on the clock, LE Sandy Wilson tipped a pass at the line. The ball landed in the hands of LOLB Don Evans at the Pittsburgh 25. He had a clear path to the end zone, but stopped at the 3, allowing George Gilbert to come onto the field and take a knee twice to end the game. AFA Magazine Quarterfinals Previews New York Imperials vs Atlanta Rebels The Imperials are well-equipped to make a run at the title, but Atlanta is a tough draw for them. QB Ron Adams does not have a lot of help on offense – RB Sikai Afamasaga is recovering from an ankle injury, and is not expected to play. That leaves third-year phenom WR Martin Hutley as his lone top-tier weapon. Hutley is more than a match for almost any corner in the league, but the Rebels have two who can give him a run for his money in Tony Febbraio and Rick Roudebush. The Imperials are probably the better team, but if Atlanta can shut down Hutley, they have a very real chance of pulling off an upset. We know this because the two teams met in Atlanta in week 14, with the Rebels holding him to 38 yards on 4 catches in a 23-13 win. The Rebels could win, but they’ll come up short in the Bronx. New York 20-17. Houston Hurricanes vs Detroit Gladiators This matchup will feature two of the best young passers in the game as Detroit’s 27-year old John Lewis travels to H-Town to challenge the 26-year old Hurricane, Tom Hudson. Lewis has the better supporting cast on offense, thanks to All-Star RB Johnny Hewitt, but will go up against a very tough Houston defense which includes a trio of All-Stars in DE Paul Reed, LB David Rowe, and SS Brett Dworakowski. The two teams met in Detroit in October, with the Gladiators coming away with a win in overtime. The Hurricanes won’t come up short again. Houston wins it 31-27. Minnesota Angels vs Pittsburgh Miners This is a rematch of last year’s semifinals, in which the Miners came out on top 27-17 on their way to a title. The teams are similar in a lot of ways – both feature strong defenses loaded with veteran talent. The biggest difference is their offense. The Miners rely heavily on the legs of RB Jeff Johnston, whereas the Angels will put the ball in the hands of QB Tim Kewley. Kewley’s poor play in the first half a year ago was a major contributor to Minnesota’s defeat. This year, playing in the friendly confines of Twin Cities Stadium, he will be better, while Pittsburgh’s rookie signal caller, George Gilbert, will falter. Minnesota knocks off the defending champs, 27-14. Guardians of Cincinnati vs California Whales This should be one of the biggest mismatches in AFA postseason history. California has maybe 1 or 2 players on offense who would be starting in Cincinnati, and while the defenses are a bit more evenly-matched, the Guardians are clearly the superior team. That being said – Cincinnati has a long history of going down to inferior opponents in the quarterfinals. Despite the fact that our confident predictions in their favor have repeatedly made us look stupid, we simply cannot bring ourselves to call for the upset here. Cincinnati wins big, 31-14.
  12. Injuries, and instability at quarterback. Rick Ivery was terrible under center, and FS Sam Barber was the only guy on defense to start all 16 games. In all honestly, they probably over-performed last year and under-performed this year. I'd say that they're probably the most difficult team to project for next year. They'd definitely like to replace Ivery in the draft, but this could be the worst quarterback class in history. The top-rated prospect, Brian Olson, has already announced that he will return to Michigan State for his senior year. Jeff Showalter (North Carolina) is probably the best QB available. He has an absolute cannon for an arm, but he lacks the awareness to move through his progressions quickly, and has a tendency to either decide where he is throwing the ball before the snap, or hold onto it for far too long. There are some extremely talented defensive prospects, so they might pick one of those guys in an effort to get younger on that side of the ball. Alternately, if they're lucky they may be able to get a good price for the top pick, possibly by moving into next year's draft, which is more promising. The division will be tough for a few more years, but Colorado is fading. Minnesota is another story. The team that won two Victory Bowls is mostly gone, but Tim Kewley has deveoped into a top-5 quarterback, and as long as he is around, they're probably going to win a lot of games. Thanks for pointing out the error the record. Sorry, @ItDoesntMatter, it was supposed to be a tie with Philly. I'm not sure how it ended up being wrong. I don't do anything for the simulations by hand anymore. Excel does it all automatically, and it's the same formula for every team and game. Both teams rolled a 16.02. For Boston, it was correctly counted as a tie, while Philadelphia recorded it as an overtime loss somehow. The only thing that I can think of is that Philly's roll must have a value that isn't rounded to the nearest hundredth, but that shouldn't be possible. The rolling function and the overall ratings always get rounded, and even if it didn't, and the Railers actually had a 16.019, then the Captains should have been credited with a win. I guess I'll just have to keep an eye on it. The division was so bad that it's entirely conceivable that any of the five teams could win it next year. The Comets have been bad for a really long time. They have a few solid players, but they need QB Andy Stough, who just completed a disappointing sophomore season, to take a step forward if they're going to become relevant.
  13. 1987 Regular Season For the second consecutive season, the Guardians of Cincinnati dominated the league, finishing 14-2 and clinching the top playoff seed in early December. However, despite having an identical record, they look far more vulnerable than they did a year ago. Age is clearly catching up with the offensive line, which has been the league’s best for most of the decade (this is the first time since 1979 that the Cincy o-line will not be represented in the All-Star Bowl), and a nagging ankle injury slowed down RB Jim Hill for most of the season. If not for the heroic efforts of QB Reggie Hart, who won his second consecutive league MVP, then Cleveland or Detroit would likely have dethroned the Guardians in the North. Despite failing to win the division title, both the Ghosts (11-4-1, 3rd seed) and the Gladiators (11-5, 7th seed) will play in January as wildcard teams, and both are worth watching. The Ghosts, as usual, are one Jose Ortuno hot streak from bringing home another title, while Detroit can play with anybody, as is proven by the fact that they are responsible for both of Cincinnati’s losses this year. The Southeastern Division also produced three teams with double-digit win totals for the second year running. The Baltimore Royals (11-5) and Tampa Bay Bobcats (10-6) each repeated their 1986 performances, while a resurgent Atlanta Rebels team improved from 6-10 to 11-5 and the injury-ravaged Miami Suns fell from 11-5 to 4-12. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they missed the postseason on tiebreakers for the second year in a row. The Rebels and Royals will see postseason action, however, claiming the 6th and 7th seeds. Both squads boast dominant defenses, but will need the offenses to step up if they are to win it all. The Rebels running game is one of the league’s worst, and Baltimore QB Derrill Punch has been a liability, throwing a league-worst 28 interceptions. The New York Imperials entered the season being derided as over the hill by most pundits, with many believing that they had wasted Ron Adams’s prime. The team responded with a 11-5 campaign, beating out the defending champion Miners for the Northeastern Division title. The Boston Captains, who were the preseason favorites to win the division, missed the postseason thanks to an inability to win games on the road, going 7-1 in Boston, but 2-5-1 away from the friendly confines of Kenmore Stadium. Even with these struggles, they still had a shot at the postseason, just needing a win in the season finale against the 4-11 Sharks in New Jersey. With 10 minutes to play, they held a 20-7 lead, but gave up 17 unanswered points, to fall 24-20. Adding insult to injury – that playoff spot instead went to the 10-6 Miners, who edged out Kansas City and Tampa Bay on tiebreakers. The race for the Western Division title was the league’s tightest, but nevertheless, least interesting. The division was so bad that it almost seemed as though nobody even wanted to win it. Their performance against non-Western opponents was laughable, with the five teams posting a combined record of 10-30. The almost impressively bad Grizzlies went 1-15, but the four remaining teams were still in the race for the division title until at least mid-December. Going into week 17, California and Portland were the only two teams still standing. The Dragons were in first at 8-7, but the 7-8 Whales held the tiebreaker, having won both head-to-head matchups between the teams. California needed a win and a Portland loss, and they got both, as they were able to take care of business against the Grizzlies and watched the Dragons fall to the Comets in Los Angeles. The remaining two divisions were never really close. Thanks to a 4-0 December, the Kansas City Crows managed to finish two games behind the Minnesota Angels in the Central, but their hot streak was too little, too late, and they never made a serious challenge for the division title. Colorado was surprisingly silent in the race, thanks to a banged up defense and a young quarterback. Houston’s dominance of the South was even more complete, as they clinched the division title on December 4th. QB Tom Hudson made huge strides, finishing only 3 votes behind Reggie Hart in MVP voting. Moreover, the rest of the team is finally playing well enough to support him. Though this squad was widely considered a joke just a few years ago, there are now a serious sleeper pick to win it all, and they appear to have a bright future ahead of them. AFA Magazine Wildcard Previews Baltimore Royals vs Detroit Gladiators Detroit is the better team. Both teams boast a few stars on defense, but while the Royals cannot win unless LB Adrian Doom and DE Joe Oldham have big games, the Gladiators are quite well-rounded. Even more significant to their probability of success is that Detroit boasts a powerful attack, led by QB John Lewis and RB Johnny Hewitt, who are both a class above anyone who will be wearing purple on Sunday. Baltimore’s greatest hope is in the fact that the Gladiators have not played well on the road, especially in poor weather, and the forecast is for wind chill in the low 20s and rain or snow. Regardless of the weather, this game is too important for the Gladiators to slip. Detroit wins big, 27-13. Cleveland Ghosts vs Pittsburgh Miners This has the potential to produce some phenomenal highlights. Both teams are loaded with playmakers on both sides of the ball. There will be some epic collisions between Jose Ortuno and the Pittsburgh linebackers, and Jeff Johnston and the Cleveland secondary. The teams are incredibly evenly matched, but the Ghosts probably have the slight edge. Given the quality of both rushing attacks, the defenses are likely to throw everything at shutting down the run, and daring the opposing quarterback to beat them. Pittsburgh’s offense is run by rookie George Gilbert, while Cleveland has the benefit of a veteran in Therron Nikoloudis. Moreover, Cleveland has a superior secondary that will be capable of shutting down the Pittsburgh receiving corps even if they are focused on playing the run. Cleveland wins it, 17-14.
  14. I'll hopefully get the 1987 season up tonight. Everything through the postseason is basically ready to go, but I need to do some editing on the regular season post, and I've had a horrible migraine for about a week, which has made it hard to focus long enough to get that done. They're still hoping that they've got the right roster to make another title run. They're good, and still young enough that the current model of feed Ortuno the ball and shut down the opposing passing attack will be in place for a few more years. Their biggest problem is that, while they're virtually unbeatable when playing with the lead, they're not so great at playing from behind. They need Therron Nikoloudis to do better. Philadelphia was in an odd situation with their stadium. It isn't very old - only about a decade and a half, but it was designed for seating capacity first. It's huge, but it lacks modern amenities. This is a particular big problem given the fact that the Railers have been something of an afterthought for quite a while now. The team isn't very good and the stadium isn't very comfortable, so they have a hard time selling tickets. Part of the reason that they struck the deal was that the league put a lot of pressure on the owner to do so. Buffalo was their most likely destination, and they would have would up in a similar situation - a dated stadium that they couldn't sell out. However, they would have ended up in a smaller market, and vacating Philly would have left it open for the USFA. It's rumored the President Breyer would have done everything in his power to get the Owners' Council to veto the move, which has never happened in the AFA. It happens from time to time. I don't usually mention it because it's not really relevant. The most recent example came in 1984, when the Los Angeles Comets fired Johnny Owchinko after he started the season 0-10. Making that a particularly unusual example is the fact that it was his first year as a head coach. The Imperials hired Peter Langtree. He was defensive coordinator under Clyde Mitchell, creator of the 3-4, at Notre Dame. When Mitchell moved up to the AFA in 1976, he accepted the DC position under WIllie Krause in Pittsburgh instead of following his mentor to the Centennials. The team won the Victory Bowl in his first season, and in 1979 he became head coach of the St. Louis Aces. He didn't have a lot of success there, was fired after the 1983 season, and has been Colorado's defensive coordinator ever since. He will switch the Imperials over to an aggressive 3-4 scheme, which, the owners hope, will shore up the defense and help take pressure off of Ron Adams's offense. I might look into something like that around the 50th season. It might be kind of hard to do, though. I changed how I tracked player ratings in 1980 (the manual method that I had used previously was too time-consuming). As a result, comparing pre-1980 players to post-1980 players is an apples and oranges situation. Actually, even comparing ratings across positions is kind of difficult. Rookie overall ratings are generated the same way for every position, but progression varies by position, so players at positions that peak later in their careers end up with much higher numbers. As an example, the top quarterbacks in the league are in the 120s, while the best wideouts are in the low 90s. The Royals have been hovering just outside of Victory Bowl territory for years. If they're going to win, they need to do it now. The real question is with Derrill Punch. He kind of came out of nowhere, winning the starting job after an injury to his predecessor. For a couple years, it really looked like he had potential, but he just hasn't really gotten any better since about his sophomore season. They need more out of him, or they need to move on. Lee and Barker aren't going to be a tandem. There is no question - Lee is the workhorse, Barker is the insurance policy. There are a few Black quarterbacks in college, but none are exactly Reggie Hart material. USC Junior Charlie Gardner is probably the most likely to make an impact in the AFA, but he is only going to be taking over as a full-time starter this year, so it's too early to judge his abilities. Moreover, unless he has a huge season, he isn't expected to enter the league until 1989. The other possibility is Syracuse Fifth-Year Senior Michael Harris. He's astonishingly agile, maybe even moreso than Hart, and has very good arm strength. Accuracy is a problem, though, and he has a tendency to rely too much on his legs. He certainly intends to declare for the draft this year, but it's not at all clear if he will be an AFA quarterback, play a different position, or go to Canada. They brought in Nelson Bursey, Donny Minor's former coach from Texas. The team will make heavy use of the shotgun and the downfield attack, doing everything that they can to let Minor make big plays with his arm while reducing the need for him to move around in the pocket. Their first-round pick also reflects this philosophy, as Ken Graham is a phenomenal pass blocker. The interesting question is what the line will end up looking like - Minor (who is a lefty) has had his blindside protected by All-Pro Dewey Hartwig for as long as he's been in the league, but Hartwig excels more in the run blocking game. Hartwig and Graham are all but guaranteed to be the team's starting tackles, but it is up in the air which side they will play on. New Jersey is definitely rebuilding. They actually shopped Dick Katz this offseason. They wanted to send him to Colorado, but the Cents picked up Todd Mayo from Chicago instead. The Miners were also interested, but the Sharks weren't willing to give their biggest bullies another weapon at a price that Pittsburgh was willing to pay. The Imperials are a bit of a mystery. Most analysts think that their championship window is basically closed, but the organization strongly believes that they can compete as long as they have Ron Adams.
  15. Remember that the CFF plays a much later schedule than the AFA, so he could theoretically return to the team or be traded once the season starts without any real problem. The funny thing is those are probably my two favorite logos among the bunch. i thought for a long time about whether or not I was willing to use Buffalo Wings as a name, but the USFA is going to be a bit wacky, so I went with it. I wondered if anyone was going to get the reference. I had never heard of the movie until I went looking for it. Remember that the team is owned by Disney, so this is the same idea as the Mighty Ducks. I guess that should also give you some idea of what the team's identity will be. It very closely matches the film. That would be because I debated between putting them in Brooklyn and Connecticut for a long time, and repeatedly changed my mind. I just forgot to update the city when I changed my mind for the last time.