An Extra Coat Of Matt Paints Bleak Blades Picture
Shady McCoy gets the New Rebs rolling with this 3 yard plunge.
The Wrecking Rebels guaranteed Bon Accord Division representation in ALFF Bowl 24 as they battled through to a 3rd Round clash with the 2 Minute Drillers after seeing off the disappointing Westburn Blades 25-18 in a record setting sixth straight play-off win for the defending League champions. The Double Mac’s new franchise success has been largely based on big kicking numbers with “ A N Other” stepping up on a rotational basis …. and it was same again Lorraine here, as Shady MCoy stepped up to compliment the irrepressible Matt Bryant to set a total the Blades simply could not match. The clash was off and running on Thursday night with Jimmy Graham the first in action for either side and although the big Westburn TE was unable to make his mark, it did take an amazing defensive play to stop him from scoring. The following day a series of unfavourable injury reports made coach Stuie question his decision not to start Tyler Lockett (6(3)pts) alongside Graham as he set to end a dismal post season run that has featured only 1 play-off victory since landing the whole enchilada back in 2005. In the end Bothwell the Younger opted to start QB Derek Carr ahead of Tom Brady for tactical reasons but the loss of Julio Jones though injury was harder to overcome, final choice Gary Barnidge receiving less than a ringing endorsement from his sun basking head honcho. Rob Kelley came in for Doug Martin in the 12th ranked RB attack with Matt Asiata also an injury concern. The same Pats @ Denver sentiment that led to Carr replacing Brady, was the driving force in the Westburn coaching committee handing Dan Carpenter the kicking role ahead of incumbent Brandon McManus. Not one of the Blades three scorers (Brady, Asiata and McManus) survived from their Week 5 line up that overcame the Wrecking Rebels 25-23 in regular season action. The coaches McConnachie’s one week flirt with remembering Thursday proved just that… leaving the pundits to ponder who would start at QB. Remarkably it was a first outing of the year for back-up Tony Romo but given all that has gone before in this department …. perhaps remarkably is not the right word. Injury problems at WR were a concern for the champions also, as they sought to end coach Youngblood’s knock-out interest for a second straight year, Sammie Coates and Robert Woods coming in to make up the numbers. The opening Sunday activities were wholly focussed on three distinct venues with most attention on Orchard Park Buffalo where the Blades Dan Carpenter and Gary Barnidge strutted their stuff in opposition to New Rebs pairing Shady McCoy and Robert Woods. Of course there was still more than a little interest in Le’Veon Bell v Sammie Coates at Paul Brown and also in proceedings at arctic Arrowhead where Youngblood’s Kansas D went head to head with his opponent’s Spencer Ware and Jeremy Maclin. Conventional wisdom suggested that the defending champions had to take something in the margin of 2 scores from the early Sunday phase to keep Matt Bryant in the hunt later, and despite the widespread forecast of cold weather at each of the first phase venues, Vegas still favoured the Rosemount based outfit by a slender 1pt margin. There was not much in the way of scoring early on but what little there was, did give some hope to the Pittodrie Div side they could upset the pundits predictions. Up in Buffalo, Shady McCoy did most of the work to get the Bills inside the redzone but was not featured at the business end leaving Dan Carpenter to convert a 21 Yd FG to open the scoring for the Perth based combo. The next Buffalo possession saw more of the same, only for goal line back Mike Gillislee to vulture the TD and Stuie had to be thinking his gameplan was on track with his kicker tacking on the resulting PAT. There was a brief moment of excitement over at Arrowhead at the sight of WR Tyreek Hill streaking 68 yards to the EZ.. but this time round, the rookie’s effort was a straight forward offensive play and not one of the special teams variety that would have impacted this contest. Meanwhile over at Paul Brown an ominous pattern was being set of stalled Pittsburgh drives ending in Chris Boswell FG’s and while the New Rebs probably hadn’t put much stock in Sammie Coates being their potential matchwinner… coach Bothwell the Younger was certainly heavily invested in Le’Veon Bell. Back in upstate NY, Buffalo went the aerial route to a TE for their 2d TD of the day, which again took McCoy (and Woods) out of the equation , as the Blades edged 05-00 in front courtesy of Carpenter’s 2nd PAT. As time drifted by the extreme temperatures at Arrowhead were having an effect ( -17°C before factoring in the wind chill) with Spencer Ware fumbling and then seeing a reduced role, while Jeremy Maclin was rarely a threat. Unfortunately for the No 5 seeds their KC D did not feature. In Cincinnati the script didn’t change as the Bengals defence largely kept the Steelers under wraps and it seemed it was all about what was happening in Buffalo… with Youngblood still in control. With just under six minutes of the 3rd quarter remaining the tide suddenly turned. Another Bills drive against a hapless Browns defence featured everyone but LeSean McCoy … but it was the Wrecking Rebels runner who finished the job off with a short 3 yard TD blast. With Carpenter doing the needful with the XP, the game was suddenly tied at 06-06 and there definitely was a sense it was game on !! When Shady repeated the dose early in the 4th quarter and Carpenter missed the PAT… momentum had clearly shifted the Wrecking Rebels way. Stuie looked vainly for any crumb of comfort from Bell or his KC defence although his kicker did partly redeem himself by grabbing a late 34 Yd FG that completed the early period points tallying with the New Rebs 12-09 in front. Having got the two early scores everyone suggested they needed, the Mac’s² now looked to Matt Bryant (or their Atlanta D) to come through in the Georgia Dome , while coach Bothwell Jnr relied on QB Derek Carr to limit the damage at Qualcomm. Last week the champion kicker was reduced to kicking a basket full of PAT’s and it seemed we may be on for a repeat as he swiftly rattled off 3 on the bounce in Atlanta to make it 15-09…… which was just as well for Youngblood as Raiders turnovers in San Diego, including a Carr pick, severely limited the Blades opportunities. For a spell it looked as if momentum may be swinging back the Pittodrie Div outfit way as a series of events aided their cause…. Atlanta fumbled on the goal-line losing possession.. Bryant’s PAT No 4 was swiftly followed by Derek Carr finally getting on the board with a 13 yard TD grab (awarded after a challenge) to make it 16-12… Atlanta fumbled again on 3rd down to take them out of FG range…. but the New Rebs seem to have a knack of turning up plays in the play-offs when they need them most and so it was here. Matt Bryant’s run of 10 straight PAT attempts came to an end with a FG .. which even more significantly was from bang on 50 yards. … and with time now a factor the hybrid Rosemount side were a more comfortable 21-12 to the good. A score from his QB at this stage now seemed imperative for the Westburn fortunes but a series of Raiders infractions into the Chargers red zone were routinely thwarted by a mixture of good defence and poor play selection… although Bryant’s 5th PAT of the evening (which put the Dirty Birds 38-13 in front v the world beating Niners) surely marked the end of his contribution as the specialist added another point to the champions now 22-12 lead. Surely I said… not actually. For reasons possibly based on Chip Kelly’s history of running up cricket scores (more in college that in the NFL !!) the Falcons kicked one final FG (from 41 yards) with just over 3 minutes remaining. Had I been in coach Youngblood’s shoes I would have been raging … but them’s the breaks as they say. The significance of that “run up the score FG” was to turn a 10pt deficit into a 13pt one, at 25-12, and now the Blades Monday night Skins pairing of Rob Kelley and Jordan Reed had to score at least 3 times between them in the nation’s capitol to keep their season alive. Before that of course, in the NBC stanza we had the New Rebs now traditional Brian Rix QB cameo as their last combatant Tony Romo marked the 8th time this season the coaches McConnachie had put out a passer warming the bench.. with entirely predictable results….. leaving the field clear for the last Blades standing to attempt that campaign saving comeback. In the end the size of the task proved too big for Fat Bob and his side-kick Jordan Reed. The former did score on a short TD run but with only 11 carries total for the team, there was never any sense he was in line for a multi TD contribution as the Redskins offence largely struggled at Fedex Field. Reed played manfully with a partial shoulder separation but had zero red zone opportunites before being ejected (for slugging) and any slender hopes the Oz based head honcho still harboured were over. The hybrid Rosemount ball-club are now just two wins away from the long sought after successful title defence and although they are threadbare at both QB and WR, do have the NFL match-ups at RB and K that could see them make history… as long as Matt Bryant keeps scoring in double digits. Next up are Division rivals the 2 Minute Drillers, with the two sides already splitting the 2016 RS series, that could go either way. The good news for the Mac’s² is they have no options in this week’s Thursday fixture… which should aid their team selection strategy. Rumours they have found Bobby Hebert in the locker room and will start him next week at QB are being checked for authenticity. Some ALFF pundits were throwing rocks at Atlanta coach Dan Quinn for Bryant’s ridiculous late FG but thankfully that proved to be a total non factor as the Blades bowed out in timid fashion, posting their first sub 20 total since Wk 3. QB Derek Carr ultimately proved to be a better option than the man he replaced but a collective goose egg from Le’Veon Bell and the entire wideout corps put too much pressure on the rest of the side to deliver. Over the season as a whole their 12th ranked ground game improved markedly down the stretch but that was neutralised a little by an almost in step drop off from a wide out unit that dried up to some extent as Julio Jones played through injury. Some would argue coach Stuie’s boys actually outperformed to snatch the single bye week off the Scunthorpe Steelers with two OT wins all that stood between them and an actual 8-5 record and a more sober 6-7. A 3rd straight one and out in the knock-out competition will not sit down well in Australia…. especially having done so twice on the bounce versus their New Reb rivals. K Brandon McManus is the only real candidate for Westburn MVP this term for a team that many thought would catch fire after the return of suspended duo QB Tom Brady & RB Le’Veon Bell. On reflection Youngblood may have cause to ponder his 1st Rd selection of the often (playing) injured Julio Jones with Drew Brees still on the board but with Carr & Bell already on his roster, 2nd Rd pick-up Doug Martin should have given the “Skypeing in” supremo a very solid foundation to go forward with confidence. Unfortunately Martin was another regular attender on Sick Note parade… and his early departure allied to the scheduled “late start” for Bell was a hole coach Bothwell the Younger struggled to dig himself out of all season long. Jordan Reed looked a great selection in Rd 3.. but fell short of expectations due to an injury or two while it will be no surprise if 4th rounder Gary Barnidge does not feature in the All ALFF Bust select. Tom Brady looked to be a steal in the 5th round with Derek Carr already in place to hold the fort through the opening four games but after a hot start the veteran tailed off to the point there was a real QB controversy in Western Australia. With 6th rounder Le’Veon Bell on the retained list, Brandon McManus was easily the best of a heavy duty 5 kickers taken in the first 7 rounds in what has to be said was a Grade A draft for the Westburn outfit. Stuie now has 8 months to ponder how he can up his post season threat level, as he plans his 2017 draft from 8th spot overall. The two sides are now tied at 2-2 in the ATS… with the Double Mac’s two victories both coming in the play-offs.
Play-Off's 3rd Rd Round
2 Minute Drillers v Wrecking Rebels
Laurel Lions v Scunthorpe Steelers
Steelers Brees Through Fins
QB Drew Brees sets up to throw one of 4 Scunny passing TD's.
The Scunthorpe Steelers advance to the 3rd Rd for a second straight year as they switched into top gear to pound the unfortunate Arnhall Dolphins 41-20 in this first ever play-off meeting between the two ball-clubs. Over the past two games Adamski had to be concerned his Brees & Bailey brains-trust had gone off the boil at just the wrong point in the season but both were back in top form as the Bon Accord Division outfit swept to their highest ever knock-out score, with their suddenly in form running game again laying the early foundation. Neither side had a dog in the race on Thursday night, so both coaches had the full week to ponder their definitive team selections. Coach Meek debated long and hard on whether to include WR Chris Hogan ahead of the ineffective Kelvin Benjamin but ultimately stuck with the Panther as he named the same starting eight that had just limped past the Caledonia Express last time out in Round 1. Coach Sutherland, inactive since Week 13, made no changes to a side that had scored 30pts or more in their last five RS match-ups while piling up 5 wins out of 6 in the run in. This clash was always going to be about the two big hotspots that dominated the pre-match analysis with a very rare post season QB mano a mano between Palmer & Brees taking centre stage in the late Sunday action in Arizona, with K Chandler Catanzaro’s inclusion as Arnhall kicker adding to a potent mix. The assorted ALFF experts suggested it was essential for coach Sutherland’s chances that his players at least won that overall skirmish on aggregate points. That said , whichever way events in the desert panned out, the Ezekiel Elliott v Dan Bailey at Jerryworld in the NBC stanza would almost surely decide the outcome ... with Vegas favouring the lower seeded Sowf London outfit by a 2pt margin. With all the “big guns” to come later, the opening Sunday action presented both sides with an opportunity to establish an early advantage and it was the Steelers who took command. The Meekster must have had a sense of déjà vu carrying over from last weeks’ contest as RB Jeremy Hill quickly got his name on the scoresheet with a 4 yard TD run at Paul Brown and it wasn’t long before Lamar Miller, aided by a QB change at Houston, was crashing in from a yard out to give the No 5 seeds a promising 12-00 lead. There should have been another “mini hot-spot” on the agenda with Arnhall’s recently prolific WR Donte Moncrief due to go toe to toe with Scunny top pass catcher T Y Hilton in Minnesota, but the former was a late inactive to rob coach Percy of an almost unbroken source of points since Wk 8. Hilton was unable to cash in on the mis-match in starting numbers however, as he returned a goose egg. Missing his talisman wideout , the Border Trimmer looked to RB 2 Jeremy Langford and WR Delanie Walker to get his side off the mark, but frankly both struggled in frigid outdoor conditions… -12° C at Soldier Field in the case of the RB and an even colder -17°C at Arrowhead for the receiver… both not surprisingly recording frozen doughnuts. Try as they might coach Adam’s charges could not build on those opening two scores from their running attack, with nothing to show from WR Terrelle Pryor or his Detroit D in the opening period, but a 12-00 lead certainly gave the Sowf London combo a very useful edge moving on to the University of Phoenix Stadium cauldron. Things began relatively positively for the newly crowned Granite Div champions as Chandler Catanzaro opened their account with a PAT at the end of the Cards opening possession, while the Saints were forced to kick a FG at the end of theirs…… but Catanzaro coming up short on a 55 yard combined with a rare Larry Fitzgerald fumble dramatically changed the tone of the contest which swiftly turned into a wild, wild shoot-out. Brees started the ball rolling with a 10 yard TD toss that made it 15-01 and was then complicit in an Arizona fumble return for a TD.. but incredibly Catanzaro missed the PAT. Two offensive play later Brees hit paydirt with a 65 yard TD toss and all of a sudden the Steelers were 21-01 in front and it seemed the Bon Accord challengers has broken the game open. Carson Palmer did offer some resistance for the Umpire’s charges by pitching a prompt 10 yard score (with added PAT this time) but they were punished further when Brees hooked up on his third score of the night, this time a 44 yarder. From that stage on, events in the desert were reduced to pretty much a tit for tat exchange of points with rushing scores to the fore and at the end of it all, the respective signal-caller’s had exchanged another score apiece with Catanzaro adding 3 XP’s for the Granite Div’s finest. In the middle of that mayhem somewhere, over at Qualcomm forgotten WR Michael Crabtree had pulled in a sensational 13 yard counter for coach Sutherland’s cause but with the scoreboard showing 27-14 in the Steelmen’s favour, the result seemed to be beyond doubt. Moving on to Jerryworld , the Meekster might have felt less confident in Dan Bailey’s ability to get the job done if the scores had been closer , given his kicker’s history of two 1pt offerings in his only previous post season outings but Ezekiel Elliott was faced with close to the impossible in somehow clawing back a 13pt deficit without allowing Bailey on the board. The veteran K did open up with a missed 56 Yd FG.. but swiftly followed with a successful 27 yard conversion that all but iced the decision at 30-14. To his credit Elliott did not mail in his contribution, scoring on a 2 yard TD run (that ended in a Salvation Army bucket !) but it was all Bailey after that, with 3 FG’s further FG’s tacked on after his successful PAT. Last man out , Scunthorpe wideout Kelvin Benjamin, lived up to his coaches expectation by not troubling the scorer on Monday night. Adamski moves into the 3rd Rd for the second year on the bounce and will meet a Laurel Lions side he beat convincing in Week 7. The Steelers look the most balanced side in the knock-out competition at this stage although I’m sure the League southernmost based combo would prefer to see a little more from their wide-outs. With all key players set to be relevant thru’ the remaining two weeks of the season there is some clever money going on the Bon Accord Div combo going one better than their 2015 Runners-Up slot. An ALFF Bowl 23 rematch with Wrecking Rebels is still very much on the cards. The Westhill Fins goes out at the 2nd Round stage for only the second time in franchise history and although coach Compost will clearly not be thrilled, 2016 should go down as a big season in the ball-club’s history. A 3rd Granite Div pennant ( 5th Div title overall) on the back of a franchise best 4th straight winning season is not be sniffed at but perhaps more significantly the year will go down in the books as the one Mad Fish drafted Ezekiel Eliott. The runner did come with a first round tag as the 5th player taken overall but barring injury is set to be the engine room of this team for the next three seasons or so. Despite the immediate impact of their No1 draft choice the campaign started patchily for the Fish, but strong all round team performances from Wk 9 onward made them a dark horse… albeit one that fell at the first hurdle !... for a late title dash. Second Rd pick Carson Palmer was central to the Granite Div champs story.. his patchy start and solid finish more or less mirroring the 18 year club’s fortunes over the piece … with the “Cards” effect magnified by having Chandler Catanzaro as their kicker. The Umpire lost his way a little on draft day after two very solid opening selections with injury plagued Jamaal Charles a wasted 3rd rounder followed by arguably more of the same by selecting his back-up QB with his next selection. 5th pick RB Jeremy Langford was well fancied in most mock drafts after his strong finish to 2015 but bottomed out as a scrub and probably should have been replaced rather than remain a non scoring feature at RB2. The ball-clubs fourth ranked WR crew were well served by Michael Crabtree over the opening half of the campaign with Donte Moncrief picking up the torch down the back straight. Both received able ssistance from Delanie Walker … the whole unit picked thru rounds 6 to 8 probably registering as their “Non Elliot” highlight of Draft Sunday. Coach Sutherland, going for an unprecedented 3rd straight Cove bay appearance, will occupy position 7 in the 2017 draft. This play-off win gives Adamski a 3-2 lead in the ATS.
Sleeper of the Week
For a second straight week NFL scoring was weather affected and with the closest game decided by 7pts there simply was no season saving Sleeper. Instead I have deliberately picked on the Westburn Blades "decision" to keep WR Tyler Lockett on the bench. When Stuie made that choice on Thursday he had a compliment of realistically 6 other receivers to plug in to his remaining two berths on Sunday.... but by crunch time that field had effectively shrunk to 3. Had Lockett being playing on Sunday... I feel certain he would have started ahead of Gary Barnidge....so expect a rule change proposal from the Commish on that issue. In the meantime .. coach Bothwell Jnr signs out with a Week 15 SOW for missing out on Tyler Lockett's 6(3)pts (net -6pts).
Play of the Week
The Arnhall v Steelers tie was hanging in the balance at the University of Phoenix Stadium until Scunny QB Drew Brees hooked up on a 65 yard strike (to already eliminated Brandin Cooks). The score forced the NFL match-up he was playing into just the sort of shoot out that served his ALFF team's interest .. and scoops the Rd 2 POW.