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2019 IFL PRESEASON
RAVENS HOPE BAKER CAN COOK
The Baltimore Ravens traded a package that included defensive stars Joey Bosa and Leonard Williams for the opportunity to select what they hope is a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield with the first overall selection of the 2019 IFL draft. Detroit, who also traded up, selected another potential franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold with the number two overall pick. The Cardinals then used their third overall pick to draft running back Saquon Barkley. San Francisco took the first defensive player off the board by selecting linebacker Darius Leonard with the number four overall selection. The Jaguars finished off the top five by selecting another quarterback in Josh Allen.
Daniel Jeremiah's 2019 IFL Mock Draft
Daniel Jeremiah is an analyst for the NFL Network, and a writer with NFL.com. He also serves as a color commentator for Los Angeles Chargers games on KFI radio. Jeremiah was a starting quarterback at Northeastern Louisiana in 1997 and Appalachian State from 1998 to 2000. Wikipedia
It's quite the privilege to share my analysis on the 2019 IFL Draft and to follow in the footsteps of some of the greats like Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, and Mike Mayock. This should be an exciting draft.
1. RAVENS - Baltimore went out and did what they have needed to do for a few years, trade up to draft a franchise quarterback. Of course that franchise quarterback will be Baker Mayfield.
2. LIONS - Another franchise that finally bit the bullet and traded up to draft their potential quarterback. Their decision isn't as easy as Baltimore's. I think Sam Darnold is the odd's on favorite but Josh Allen is rising.
3. CARDINALS - There are "leaks" from the Arizona draft room that some front office officials are dismayed with CEO Jim Heaton's insistence that the Cardinals select guard Quenton Nelson. Nelson is a great prospect but I think this is another one of Heaton's smoke screens. No one takes a guard third overall when they have an opportunity to take a complete running back like Saquon Barkley.
4. 49ERS - I think San Francisco will focus on the defensive side of the ball with this pick and there are a couple players I really like. Derwin James looks to be an all-world safety and the 49ers need another quality defensive back. On the other hand Darius Leonard would be a very nice book-end to Clowney. I'll go with James but you can't go wrong with either pick.
5. JAGUARS - Another team that has been looking for a quarterback. I like Josh Allen here with some consideration for Lamar Jackson.
6. PATRIOTS - After two straight IFL Championships, New England struggled last season. My sources indicate the Patriots aren't sold on taking Jackson sixth overall even though they could use some youth in the QB room. The Patriots usually take the highest player on the board and from my board that is Quenton Nelson.
7. BEARS - Chicago will give some thought to upgrading their receiving corps with maybe Calvin Ridley but I think linebacker Darius Leonard fits like a glove. It would be "Monster's of the Midway" all over again with Leonard joining Kerrigan and Wagner.
8. CHARGERS - I think the Chargers will debate the merit of taking one of the Chubbs but Denzel Ward would significantly upgrade the secondary.
10. TEXANS - Houston needs help on the offensive line and tackle Mike McGlinchey should be there. However, they need to find more weapons for Cousins so let's go with the top receiver on my board Calvin Ridley here.
11. REDSKINS - With the first of three first round picks Washington will take the best pass rusher in the draft Bradley Chubb.
12. BILLS - Buffalo's linebacking group looks like a ghost town. Leighton Vander Esch will help rectify that.
13. RAMS - The Rams could go in a couple different directions but I think Mike McGlinchey offers the biggest upgrade.
14. PATRIOTS - With their second of two first round picks New England could go linebacker here but I think now is a good time to gamble on Lamar Jackson.
15. CHIEFS - For years the Chiefs have used LeGarrette Blount as a battering ram against opposing IFL defenses. With Blount starting to slow down I could see Kansas City investing in a new weapon, running back Nick Chubb.
16. REDSKINS - I think Washington goes the hometown route and zeros in on versatile defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick with their second of three first round picks.
17. BILLS - I was just notified by my producer that Buffalo also owns three first round selections in this draft. My apologies to the fine folks in Buffalo for my oversight. Anyway, with their second of THREE first round picks the Bills will gamble on wayward signal caller Josh Rosen here.
18. STEELERS - The Sam Alberry era begins in Pittsburgh. Left with little in the cupboard, receiver D.J. Moore fills a need and gives Brady someone to throw to besides Gronk.
19. COWBOYS - Dallas fills a need and gets a heck of a football player at this point in the draft in linebacker Roquan Smith.
20. TITANS - Lots of options available here for Tennessee. They could go with one of the promising young running backs, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, or cornerback Jaire Alexander. I lean toward Alexander here.
21. FALCONS - I could see Atlanta trading down from this spot. They really have no need for Edmunds or a running back otherwise I could see the Falcons having interest in Marcus Davenport here.
22. JAGUARS - The Tremaine Edmunds fall stops here. A nice pick-up for the Jags with their second of three first round selections.
23. RAIDERS - Oakland could use another receiver and Courtland Sutton should be there for the taking.
24. EAGLES - The Eagles have a need at running back and any of the three of Lindsay, Michel, or Kerryon Johnson would fill the bill. For the sake of dropping a name let's go with Phillip Lindsay.
25. REDSKINS - Washington could use a guard and after Nelson, Will Hernandez is the best on the board.
26. BENGALS - Cincinnati is another team that could go in a lot of different directions. One of the remaining running backs or receiver Christian Kirk would fill needs on the offensive end. But if hometown safety Jesse Bates is available I think that is the direction the Bengals will go.
27. JAGUARS - Jacksonville wrap up a very productive first round with the selection of receiver Christian Kirk.
28. BRONCOS - Sony Michel is a nice value pick here for Denver and will help ease losing Kareem Hunt for half a season.
29. PACKERS - Green Bay is another club happy to boast their rushing attack with the additions of Kerryon Johnson.
30. BILLS - Buffalo finishes off the first round with the selection of defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne.
IFL SUPER BOWL XVIII
MIAMI 26 GREEN BAY 23
The Packers and the Dolphins meet at the Superdome to finish the 2018 IFL season. The Dolphins hoping to finish a storybook season and going undefeated and capturing the Crown and the Packers looking to finish their unexpected ( at least by some, certainly not by the Packers) post season run and win the Championship. Both Teams would enter the game healthy which is somewhat of a rarity this time of year, and although the point spread was double digits, the match ups looked pretty even for both sides of the ball for each Team. Both Teams were looking for an exciting game and this one would not disappoint.
The Dolphins would win the toss and defer to the 2nd half. Green Bay gets the ball at their own 32 and look to go deep on the 1st play from scrimmage but with no one open Big Ben checks down to Ajayi for a quick 34 yard pickup and just like that the Packers are at the Dolphins 34 yard line. Through a series of passes and runs the Packers would push the ball down to the Miami 13 but fail to convert on the 3rd and 5 and settle for the FG to open the scoring and lead 3-0. The Dolphins would answer with an 11 play, 63 yard drive but would also stall at the Green Bay 17 yard line and kick the FG to tie the game at 3 with 5:33 remaining in the 1st quarter. On their 2nd possession Green Bay would march 91 yards on 8 plays aided by two big Ajayi runs, but this time no settling and the Packers push it into the end zone for the TD and take the 10-3 lead with 1:57 left in the 1st quarter. Miami would go 3 and out to finish the quarter and give Green Bay the ball back and put the Miami defense back on the field.
Starting at their own 14 the Pack would once again mix it up keeping the Miami defense off balance, and boosted by a Big Ben to Terrance Williams 61 yard bomb fly to the Dolphin 19 yard line, but thanks to a Timmy Jernigan sack on 3rd and 6 from the 15, the Pack has to again kick the FG to take a 10 point lead at 13-3 with 10:35 left in the half. Miami would get the ball back and only able to convert one 1st down punts the ball right back to Green Bay, pinning them at their own 13 with 8:29 to go in the half. The Packers take the ball to the Miami 36 but the drive stalls and Parkey attempts the 54 yard FG but hooks it. That sets the Dolphins up in excellent field position at their own 44 with 5:01 left in the half, but on 3rd and 5 from the Miami 49, Brent Grimes steps in front of a Jared Goff pass and makes the pick and returns it to the Miami 25 and the Packers are in business. They push it down to the Miami 7 yard line but the defense holds and they again kick the FG to push the lead to 16-3 with 2:41 left in the half. Miami gets the ball at the 25 and quickly covers the field and moves it to the Packer 9 yard line but with only 1 timeout and 11 seconds until halftime Miami chooses to run the clock down to 3 seconds and kick the FG and go into the half trailing 16-6.
Miami gets the ball to open the 2nd half and promptly marches down field with a series of runs and 2 passes one of which was a 33 yarder to Cooks, but once again on a 3rd and 6 from the Green Bay 11 yard line, the Dolphins can't convert or get it into the end zone and kick the FG to close it to 16-9 Packers but it has become a one score game with 9:17 left in the 3rd. Green Bay manages one 1st down but aided by a Connor Barwin sack have to punt the ball back to the Dolphins at their own 9 with 6:59 left in the 3rd quarter. Goff seems to be shaking off his slow start and takes the Dolphins on a 17 play, 91 yard drive and on the 1st play of the 4th quarter, Goff hits Chris Thompson on a 9 yard fly for the TD and with 14:54 left in game, it's a whole new, a one Quarter game for the Championship. Miami did take a big risk on the 6th play of this drive from their own 30 on a 4th and inches, Mark Ingram goes over the top to get the 1st down and continue the game tying drive (Whew).
Green Bay is a little stunned but undaunted by the 10 unanswered points, and get the ball with 14:49 in the game and run 7 plays to the Miami 48, but Ben tries to go long and it's picked off by Marcus Peters who promptly pitches it to Adrian Amos before going down, Amos returns it 40 yards to the Green Bay 36 with 10:04 left in the game. On the 1st play from the Packer 36, Goff goes deep to Brandin Cooks and with the Packers looking run, he hits Cooks in stride for the TD to take the 23-16 lead. Miami's 1st lead of the day comes with 9:52 left in the game. But there is absolutely no quit in Green Bay. Starting from their own 20, Green Bay, having given up 20 unanswered points to the Dolphins and not scoring since late in the 2nd quarter, they put together a drive of mixing the run with the pass, gets a big play from Ben Watson who turns a short hitch into a 40 yard gain, aided by a Eric Weddle missed tackle down to the Miami 19 yard line and the Packers are in business and 4 plays later Ajayi catches a 2 yd Touchdown, the XP is good and with 5:36 left in regulation, Green Bay has answered and knotted the score at 23. Miami gets the ball at their own 19 and get nothing on 3 plays, but on the 3rd play a flag comes out and Linval Joseph is called for a facemask giving new life to the Dolphin offense. They run 6 more plays and get the ball to the Packer 30, and with 1:44 left in the game, Matt Prater hits the 48 yard FG to give the Dolphins the lead at 26-23. Green Bay gets the ball on their own 26 and move quickly to the Dolphin 37 yard line with 29 seconds left and one timeout after a Roethlisberger spike. Big Ben throws a quick 5 yarder to Jeremy Kerley but he's hit and fumbles and the Dolphins Kareem Jackson recovers to secure the Dream for one Team and dash it for another. After a kneel down the game ends with a 26-23 Miami Dolphin Superbowl win to complete the unbeaten season from start to finish.
Congratulations to John and a excellent Green Bay Team. his play calling on both sides of the ball, kept the Dolphins off balance all day. The Packers out gained the Dolphins 445 yards to 382, forced 7 bad Goff passes by the defense, but in the end it was the 2nd of 2 turnovers that sealed the win for Miami. So ends the 2018 IFL Year with a exciting, start to finish nail biter, in this type of game it's a shame one team has to lose, Green Bay played all out, but the Dolphins caught a couple of breaks late to get the win.
Everybody can now turn their attention to the 2019 draft, the ratings should be out in a couple of months and the dream starts all over, thanks to everybody that made my dream season possible.
IFL SUPER BOWL WEEK
IFL Super Bowl XVIII features what many are calling a David versus Goliath match up. After all, Miami ended the 2018 IFL regular season with a perfect 16-0 mark including a 42-23 week nine win over their Super Bowl opponent. The Dolphins then cruised to a 39-19 win over Oakland in the divisional round and distinguished a hot Denver squad 41-17 in the conference final. The Dolphins feature the number one offense in the IFL led by quarterback Jared Goff and his league leading 132.1 Passer rating. Doug Baldwin is Goff's favorite target finishing the IFL regular season with 88 receptions for 1,253 yards AND 23 touchdown receptions. If you focus too much on Baldwin, Brandin Cooks is a dangerous secondary receiver as the Broncos found out in the AFC Championship game. Cooks hauled in four touchdown passes. Ted Ginn Jr. provides a capable third receiver and running back Chris Thompson is about as good as it gets as a third down back and a perfect compliment for bruising running back Mark Ingram. Ingram rushed for 1,323 yards, averaging just under six yards a carry to balance the offensive attack. And, oh yeah, Miami features three "9" rated players on their offensive line. Defensively the Dolphins ranked "only" third overall in the IFL. If Miami has a weakness, it could be getting to the quarterback as Everson Griffin led the Dolphins with nine sacks. Besides Navarro Bowman the linebacker corps is pedestrian. However, Miami makes up for it with a lockdown secondary featuring one '9" rated defensive back and three "8's". Miami has a chance to become the third IFL team to go 19-0. Considering this is their first season the team experienced a winning season since 2014, that is amazing!
After a disappointing 7-9 finish in 2017, the Green Bay front office landed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to turn around their fortunes. Big Ben mirrored his 2017 NFL performance, tossing 28 touchdown passes with a 94.0 passer rating. Veteran Ben Watson led the team with 61 receptions but when the chips are down Roethlisberger turns to Josh Gordon if he is available. Emmanuel Sanders is another potential game breaker with his 15.5 yards per reception. Green Bay uses an array of running backs featuring Jay Ajayi, who led the team with 956 rushing yards. Veterans Jamaal Charles and Danny Woodhead will spell Ajayi when he needs a breather and for certain third down packages. The Packer offensive line features road-grading guard Brandon Brooks but overall is a little over league average. Green Bay's 46 sacks were nine more than their opponent. The Pack needs a good game from Calais Campbell, who tied for second overall in the league with 13 sacks. Defensive tackle Chris Jones and veteran edge rusher Brian Orakpo added seven sacks each. Besides Orakpo, Clay Matthews has the potential to get to Goff. Middle linebacker Ryan Shazier, one of the best in the IFL, rounds out a solid Green Bay linebacker trio. The Packer secondary is solid with two "8" rated players plus a couple "7's" and a "6" for a solid nickel package. Bobby Rainey is a dangerous returner. He returned two kickoffs for scores in the regular season and averaged 45 yards per return in the NFC Conference final. There is no denying Green Bay is battle tested, winning the toughest division in the IFL. Then escaping with a win against a very good Eagles team in Philadelphia in the Divisional round and dominating a division rival in the conference championship game. It's been an impressive run by a team viewed as a prohibitive underdog in the Super Bowl. Perhaps, they have one more magical "blue" collar game in them.
Vegas list the Dolphins as an 11 point favorite. Some believe this is conservative. Green Bay does have a puncher's chance. What do they have to do to win? One, hope Goff has a "off" day. The Miami quarterback has played a little over his head this season, 132.1 passing rating compared to 100.5 rating during the NFL season. Two, keep the Miami offense off the field as much as possible. The Packers ability to run the ball will determine their success. The most points the Dolphin defense allowed during the regular season was the 23 points by the Packer offense. But the Green Bay defense will have to do much better than the 42 points allowed in week nine.
IFL CONFERENCE FINALS
Denver 17 at Miami 41
Denver comes to Miami with a berth to the IFL Superbowl on the line. These 2 Teams did not meet in the regular season, but Denver came in hot off a win at Cincinnati and looking to advance.
Miami won the toss and deferred. Denver goes 3 and out on it's 1st possession and punts to Miami. Miami promptly goes on a 9 play 73 yard drive, culminating in the TD for a 7-0 lead halfway through the 1st quarter. With their 2nd possession the Broncos go on a 10 play drive that stalls at the Dolphins 6 yard line and have to settle for the FG to make the score 7-3 with 2:28 left in the first quarter. After a 3 and out for the Dolphins, the Broncos get it back. On the 2nd play of the drive, the 1st of 3 Denver turnovers, a fumble gives the Dolphins the ball with a short field and 3 plays later on the 1st play of the 2nd quarter the Dolphins score to push the lead to 14-3 Miami with 14:50 left in the half.
The Broncos get the ball and convert 2 quick 1st downs, but Bortles throws the INT, returned 19 yards to the Broncos 32 and 4 plays later the Dolphins take it in for the 21-3 lead with 10:23 left in the half. Denver fails to move the ball on it's next 2 possessions, Miami gets the ball back with 2:59 in the half and travels 54 yards in 2:40 and kick the FG with .19 seconds left to take the 24-3 lead to halftime.
Miami gets the ball to start the 2nd half, and moves 75 yards in 5 plays and scores the TD, to push the lead to 31-3. Denver gets the ball back but on the 2nd play of the drive, Bortles throws his 2 pick of the day and 6 plays later the Dolphins score the TD to take a commanding 38-3 lead with 9:34 left in the 3rd quarter. After an exchange of punts Denver goes 61 yards in 10 plays and get the TD to cut it to 38-10 with 2:53 left in the 3rd.
Miami looking for the on sides, recovers at their own 45 and travel 50 yards and kick the FG to take the 41-10 lead with 12:23 to go in the game. There is no quit in the Broncos and aided by a 78 yard check down pass to Hunt, the Broncos get the quick TD to cut the lead to 41-17 with 10:37 left in the game. Sadly, for Denver, this is how the game would end. Denver had a exceptional season, making it to the Conference Championship game, Doug called a great game, but Miami scored 3 TD's on all 3 Denver turnovers and it was too much for the Broncos to overcome. Miami advances to the Superbowl to face the winner of the Green Bay/Tampa Bay winner with a perfect season and the Superbowl championship on the line for the Dolphins.
Tampa Bay 13 at Green Bay 37
It was an all NFC Central showdown for a trip to the Super Bowl.
The upstart Bucs (5 seed) traveled to Lambeau to face the equally surprising 3rd seeded Packers. Things started off on a bad note for the Pack after K Cody Parkey's opening kickoff went out of bounds giving Tampa Bay the ball at their own 40. The Bucs moved quickly into Packer territory using a pair of Todd Gurley runs and a TE Hunter Henry reception. On first and 10 from the Green Bay 37, ILB Ryan Shazier stepped in front of a Derek Carr pass to end the drive.
On the Packers first play from scrimmage, Ben Roethlisberger checked down to RB Jay Ajayi. He was hammered by LB Kyle VanNoy and coughed up the football. Two plays later, Carr hit WR Davonte Adams for a 24 yard TD. 7-0 Bucs less than 5 minutes in.
The early score seemed to rattle the Packers as they struggled to get anything going offensively. Bucs would tack on a Chris Boswell 24 yard FG goal with just over 3 minutes left in the 1st to go up 10-0
On the next Green Bay possession the hosts got the spark they needed after WR Josh Gordon got behind the defense for a 65 yard catch and run TD. The convert was missed 10-6 Bucs after the 1st.
Tampa looked a little rattled after Gordon's big play and proceeded to go 3 and out.
The Packers then put together their first long drive of the day. Roethlisberger used Ajayi's running and multiple RB check downs to move 65 yards in 12 plays. TE Ben Watson's 5 yard TD reception finished it off. Pack had their first lead of the day 13-10 at the half.
Green Bay got a big play to start the second half when returner Bobby Rainey took the opening kickoff back 52 yards to the Tampa 45. After two Ajayi runs went nowhere the Pack faced a 3 and 11. TE Ben Watson caught a seam pass but was held 3 yards short of the first down. Coach Conners took a gamble and brought in long FG ace Cody Parkey to try a 56 yarder in the 31 degree conditions. He nailed the kick to put the hosts up 16-10 early in the 3rd
On the Bucs next possession, Shazier got his second pick of the day as Carr overshot TE Richard Rodgers. Big Ben went to work and found Gordon for another big play (39 yard reception) setting up a Robbie Gould chip shot 22 yard FG. Pack had a 2 score lead. 19-10 Green Bay.
Tampa Bay responded with a nice drive of their own but it stalled out at the Packers 21. Boswell hit from 39 to bring the visitors back to within a touchdown. 19-13 Packers with 4:21 left in the third.
After another good Rainey return, Big Ben started to dial it in. He found WR Emmanuel Sanders for a 13 yard gain (strangely that would be his only reception of the day). Gordon and RB Danny Woodhead added long receptions to take it all the way down to the Bucs 17. Ajayi did the rest on the ground capping it off with a 1 yard TD run. Woodhead would convert the 2pt convert attempt. 27-13 Green Bay after the 3rd.
Early in the 4th Carr threw his 3rd pick of the day. This time CB Brent Grimes made the play and brought it all the way back to the Tampa 15. The Packers went for the jugular on first down. Roethlisberger checked down to Ajayi who took it to house. 34-13 Green Bay
From there on in the hosts would just try to not give up the big play and it worked. Bucs moved the ball well, but, desperate for TD's, turned the ball over on downs
on their next 2 drives. Before it was all over Green Bay tacked on a FG and Carr threw his 4th int.
Final score 37-13 Packers
Mike coached a great game (and had an impressive playoff run) but Carr's 4 interceptions were just too much to overcome on this day. The final score was not indicative of how tight most of this game actually was.
Carr finished with a 24.3 rating. 19 of 45, 180 yard, 1 Td, 4ints
Gurley had another strong outing 113 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving.
Davonte Adams led the Bucs with 70 yards on 4 rec.
Hunter Henry took a hit to the head and missed a good part of this contest.
Big Ben was efficient: 17 of 25, 219 yards 3TDs 134.8 rating
Ajayi rushed 25 times for 84 yards
Gordon had 117 yards and a TD on 4 receptions.
Packers head to their first ever IFL Super Bowl and take on the undefeated Dolphins
Miami will go into the game as 11 point Action PC favorites
IFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF ROUND
Oakland 19 at Miami 39
Oakland came to Miami off a sound win over Indianapolis in the wild card game, a team the Dolphins struggled with in the next to last game of the regular season. The Oakland Fans would not be disappointed early.
Oakland takes the opening KO and drives 75 yards and gets the TD but can't get the extra point, but start the day with a 6-0 lead over the Dolphins. The Dolphins get the same 75 yards on their opening drive and take it down field and get the TD and convert the PAT to take a 7-6 lead with 3:36 left in the 1st.Oakland fails to score on it's next 2 drives, but with the Dolphins 3rd possession they travel 78 yards and score the TD to take a 14-6 lead with 7:10 left in the half. After an exchange of punts the Raiders get the ball on a Goff INT with 4:46 left in the 2nd quarter. Oakland would take it down the field and get the TD with 1:25 left in the half, the 2 pt try failed and the score was 14-12 Miami and that's the way the half would end.
The Dolphins would get the ball to open the 2nd half, and would drive into Raider territory but stall and settle for the FG to make it a 17-12 Miami lead. Oakland's 1st possession would be a 3 and out and Miami would get the ball on it's own 30, but own the 2nd play of the drive Ingram would take a screen 70 yards to the house for the TD and a Dolphin 24-12 lead. The Raiders aren't finished and on their next drive they cover 75 yards in 15 plays and get the TD to cut the lead to 24-19. Miami goes nowhere on it's next possession but pins the Raiders at their own 2. On the 3rd play Stafford gets sacked in the end zone for a safety and a 26-19 Dolphin lead. Miami takes the kick after the safety and marches 71 yards and gets the TD to go up 33-19 with 10 minutes left in the game. Oakland gets the ball back and goes on a 15 play drive but a sack creates a Stafford fumble and it's picked up and returned for a Miami TD, although the PAT is blocked it puts the game on ice at 39-19 with only 3:41 to play. That's the way it would end, but a hard fought game and effort by the Raiders. Miami advances to face the winner of the Denver / Cincinnati game for the right to move on to the IFL Superbowl.
Denver 20 at Cincinnati 8
The Broncos came into Paul brown Stadium in Cincy and came away with a 20-8 victory over the Bengals. The Broncos defense held the Cincy offense at bay for most of the game and the Denver Offense did just enough to get the Win.
Denver got on the board first with a 57 yard FG from Justin Tucker and then Cincy kicker Fairbairn tied it with a 31 yarder to end the scoring in the first quarter.
In the 2nd quarter Denver had a nice drive of 75 yards before Bortles hit WR Murphy from 14 yards out for a 10-3 lead. Cincinnati would then sack Bortles in the endzone for a safety and then tack on another FG before halftime to make it 10-8 at the intermission.
The Denver defense came to play today and forced a 3 and out on the Bengals first possession of the 2nd half. However, Bortles would throw a pick on the next series and as Cincy had some life. But, after a 9 yard run from Gordan left the Bengals with 2nd a 1 from the Denver 39, a Cincy penalty and two incompletions ended the drive with another punt.
Starting another drive back up to the end zone the Broncos offense moved the ball mixing in runs and passes as they went 80 yards in 16 plays taking just over 8:00
of playing time before Tucker hit another FG to get the lead back to 13-8. The Bengals drove down close enough to try a FG but the 52 yard attempt sailed right and the Broncos had the ball again.
Denver once again moved the ball slowly as they ran 10 plays and gained 58 yards before QB Bortles would take a bootleg around the right end for a 3 yard TD and a 20-8 lead with 8:16 remaining to play. The Bengals would throw an interception and then turn the ball over on downs on their next two possessions and the Broncos were able to run out the clock for the win.
It was a great game and season by John and the Cincinnati team.
The Broncos will now travel to Miami to take on the undefeated Dolphins for a trip to the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay 35 at New Orleans 31
Tampa Bay travels to New Orleans for the second time this season. However, this game is for a spot in the NFC championship game. The previous match up was a tight game with New Orleans coming out on top 14 to 7.
New Orleans took the first possession for an eight minute drive. The combination of Jonathan Stewart and Jamaal Williams were effective running the ball. Add in a 18 yard Joe Flacco to Dez Bryant long cross and New Orleans was near pay dirt 2nd down and 2 yards to go. Twice Williams was judged to be into the end zone and twice the calls were reversed. New Orleans goes for it on 4th and inches... Williams over the top puts the Saints ahead by 7!
After exchanging punts, the Buccaneers tie the game up early in the second quarter. The drive included a Hunter Henry lateral to Tyler Lockett on 3rd and 8 yards to go for a 15 yard first down play. (That was the courtesy of Mr. Koch. Nothing to do with the coach Chase’s play call.)
With 5:44 left in the half, coach Rice catches the Buccaneers playing the run and dials up Joe Flacco to Dez Bryant on a bomb fly to put the Saints back ahead by a score of 14 – 7.
The next time with the ball Tampa’s coach Chase feels the pressure of the consistently strong New Orleans offense and decides to go for it on 4th and 2 at the New Orleans 43 yard line. A Derek Carr check down to Todd Gurley falls to the turf and New Orleans makes good use of the short field to go-ahead 21 to 7 just before the teams’ head to the locker room.
Tampa Bay gets a break they sorely needed after punting their initial second half possession away and seeing the Saints score 14 unanswered first half points. On the first Saint play after the punt, Joe Flacco finds Stewart short over the middle, but he fumbles the ball away after a Demario Davis hit! Bucs ball at the Saint 28 yard line. Three plays later a medium out to Gurley goes for 26 yards to the end zone. Saints ahead 21 to 14.
The teams exchanged three punts and then Tampa Bay was able to tie the game up. The two big plays in the game tying drive were Derek Carr to DeSean Jackson via a 38 yard bomb post and then a Carr to Jackson check down that went 15 yards for the touchdown. Tie game at 21.
The Saints reinvigorated their mojo on the ensuing possession. The drive was started with a 30 yard scamper by Stuart. New Orleans moves the ball down to the Buccaneer 17 yard line. On 3rd and 10 Flacco checks down from a long cross to Dez Bryant and finds Williams for 8 yards. On 4th and 2, New Orleans boots the ball through the uprights to take the lead 24 - 21 with 11 minutes left in the game.
The New Orleans defense does their job and forces a Tampa Bay punt. Two plays later Mathieu steps in front of a short cross and gives the Bucs life with a possession starting at the Saint 30. For the second time in the game the Buccaneers turn a turnover in the seven points. And for the second time, the touchdown comes via a check down, this time to Gurley from 9 yards away. Suddenly Tampa Bay is ahead 28 – 24 with 5:48 left in the game!
Next up…. The Saints and coach Rice turn in a humongous clutch drive. The possession consisted of seven plays. Six of them were rushing plays to Stewart, (no panic in the play calling,) one of which was a 3 yard scoring play on 4th and goal from the 2! In the middle of these runs was a 46 yard bomb post to Sterling Shepard. New Orleans is back in the lead 31 – 28 with 2:10 left!
One of several successful New Orleans squib kicks leaves Tampa Bay starting with the ball at their own 16 yard line with 2:06 left and a single time out. Gurley gets the corner on the first play for 18 yards and sets up Tampa at their own 34. Derek Carr goes 3 for 3 and moves the Buccaneers to the 13 yard line with 13 seconds left and still holding that one time out. Tampa was also helped by a 17 yard PI on Jordan Hicks along the way.
For the third time in the game, the dice roll in Tampa Bay’s favor big time on a check down. Carr comes off a medium slant called for Tyler Lockett and finds Gurley in the flat with nobody in front of him. Final score Tampa 35 - New Orleans 31.
Jim called a great game and had Tampa on their heals using 36 rushes for 175 yards in combination with long passing. Tampa managed to come out ahead due to two turnovers that set them up with a short field and the benefit of big play makers Todd Gurley and DeSean Jackson on check down passes for three combined touchdowns. I think straight up New Orleans has a better roster, but lady luck was dressed as a Buccaneer today.
Tampa Bay awaits the winner of the Green Bay - Philadelphia game to play for an opportunity to be part of an IFL Super Bowl.
Green Bay 18 at Philadelphia 13
Packers and Eagles would face off at Lincoln Financial. The winner would get to host the upstart Buccaneers next week in the conference final. Wet, windy and cold conditions, turned this contest into a defensive struggle.
On the first play from scrimmage Packers starting corner Brent Grimes was lost for the entire game with a knee injury. After the Green Bay defense forced a three and out, WR Josh Gordon went down the on first offensive series. Things did not look good for the visitors.
The Eagles snatched the early momentum on the next series. They went 87 in yards 12 plays using a mix of RB Demarco Murray and WR Mohammad Sanu. QB Jamis Winston finished off the drive tossing a 10 yard TD strike to Sanu.. 7-0 Eagles early.
Green Bay responded with a 10 play, 39 yard drive but it stalled out at the Philly 32. Packers settled for a 49 yard Robbie Gould FG...7-3 Eagles.
After another Eagles three and out, the Packers got the ball on their own 23 to start the second quarter. They would put together an 8 play, 77 yard touchdown drive that was highlighted by TE Ben Watson's 40 yard reception. QB Ben Roethlisberger would find WR Emmanuel Sanders for an 11 yard TD pass to give the Packers their first lead 10-7. (this would turn out to be Green Bay's only TD drive of the game). The hosts looked like they would answer right back but on 4th and 1 from the Green Bay 30 a Jamis Winston sneak was stuffed at the line for no gain. Packers would dodge a bullet and go to the half up 3.
The 3rd quarter was all defense. 4 straight punts until the Packers got some good field position thanks to Philadelphia having to kick it away from deep in their own end into the wind. One first down was all it took to get Robbie "Solid" Gould into field goal position. He nailed a 48 yarder to make it 13-7 Packers heading into the 4th.
Early in the final frame the Green Bay defense would come up huge. Veteran punter Shayne Lechler had pinned the Eagles in at their own 3 yard line. After Murray went nowhere on first down, Winston was taken down for a safety by big DT Linval Joseph. 15-7 Green Bay
Packers took the ensuing free kick and put together a time consuming 11 play, 60 yard drive that featured a heavy dose of RB Jay Ajayi. Gould hit a short 24 yard FG to make it a 2 score game with just 5:42 left. 18-7 Packers.
Coach Mason did not panic in his play calling. He stayed patient against the loose coverage of the visitors and watched his team move 76 yards in 15 plays during a drive that took 4:16, but more importantly, burned no timeouts. Winston hit Sanu from 15 yards for the touchdown 18-13 with the 2 point try to come.
Winston looked into the end zone but his receiver could not come up with the ball against tight coverage, the convert would fail as it stayed 18-13 with 1:19 left.
Packers were looking for the onside kick but the Eagles elected to kick deep and hope for a stop. Three Ajayi runs went nowhere but forced Philadelphia to use all of their timeouts.
Lecher booted it away. Bernard Reddy got a great return of 15 yards setting the Eagles up at their own 39 with :42 seconds left and no timeouts.
Packer played the sidelines so Winston found little used WR John Brown over the middle for 17 yards. Winston spiked it at Packers 44 with :28 seconds left. Pack used the same strategy so Winston did the exact same thing. This time Brown gained 16 yards to the Green Bay 28. After the quick spike just :02 seconds remained.
Winston looked to the end zone for Brown but the pass was batted away at the last second preventing the astounding comeback. Packers advance 18-13.
Great game (and season) by Coach Mason
Winston was solid 31-47, 249, 2TD's but was sacked 5 times
RB's Powell (12-57) and Murray (12-34) were kept in check for the most part
WR Sanu had 8 receptions for 85 yards and 2TD's
For Green Bay it was the defense who got it done.
Big Ben threw for just 166 yards as the offense could only muster 12 first downs and went 2-12 on third down.
Ajayi had only 54 yards on 18 carries
Packers move on to host the upstart #6 seeded Buccaneers next week in an all NFC Central showdown.
A trip to the IFL Super Bowl will be on the line.
The forecast for Lambeau is 20 degrees with a nasty wind chill
Hope the Floridians bring some long underwear.
IFL WILD CARD WEEKEND
Tennessee 17 at Denver 38
The Titans came to Mile High to take on the Broncos in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
The game started off like it would be a high-scoring shootout as both teams got TD's on their first possession going 75 yards in just 4 plays.
From there it slowed down as Tennessee would miss a FG, both teams would exchange punts and then Denver QB Bortles would throw a pick.
Titans QB Matt Ryan would quickly find WR Hopkins for a 35 yard TD strike and then Denver would drive 75 yards in 8 plays before Kareem Hunt
caught a pass in the flats from Bortles for a TD and a 14-14 tie to end the first quarter.
Titans Kicker Bailey would nail a FG to start the 2nd quarter but then Denver would go on their 3rd drive of 75 yards as Bortles hit Eckler in the flats for a TD and
a 21-17 lead. After forcing a punt the Broncos would go get a FG to end the half with a 24-17 lead.
The Titans forced a 3 and out on the Broncos opening possession of the 2nd half but the punt would be muffed and the Broncos pounced on it at the
Titans 16 yard line. Kareem Hunt ran the final two yards for the TD and a 31-17 lead early in the 3rd quarter. Tennessee's offense would not be able to muster a 1st down on their next possession and would be forced to punt. Denver's offense once again went on a long drive, this one covered 68 yards in 11 plays before Bortles leaped over the line for a TD and a 38-17 lead with 3:12 left in the 3rd. After both teams exchanged punts, the Titans drove 81 yards in 8 plays but the drive ended when Matt Ryan would throw a pick in the end zone. From this point the Titans turned the ball over on downs and the Broncos just ran out the clock and moved onto the next round pf the playoffs.
It was a great game from Rick.