Thursday, September 09, 2004

NFL Preview: Tecmo-style

Those of us in the Nintendo generation know that God has blessed us with no greater gift than an eight-bit jewel of fun known as “Tecmo Super Bowl.” With its revolutionary eight-option playbook, use of real NFL team names and players, and ability to compile statistics throughout an entire NFL season, it single-handedly changed the lives of millions of studious 10-year-olds. All of my sub-90 grades in middle school are owed to that game.

With a new NFL season dawning, I got to thinking the other day: What if Tecmo Super Bowl only appeared now? Which would be the best teams (think Bills and 49ers) and which would be the dregs? (think Packers and Colts).

With everyone offering their own perspectives and predictions on the season before us, I don’t see my system as anything crazier than anyone else’s. So without further adieu, here are Mike’s AFC predictions – Tecmo Bowl-style.

AFC EAST:

1. Patriots – Tom Brady doesn’t have the strongest arm, but his accuracy will help avoid those pesky interceptions. Corey Dillon’s combination of speed and power make him a dangerous back, particularly on those off-tackle runs. On defense, I’m scrolling over to Ty Law to harass quarterbacks with the occasional blitz, sprinting all the way across the screen to defend passes over 15 yards. Adam Vinatieri bombs field goals from behind the 50-yard line. (11-5)

2. Bills – No doubt Tecmo would have highly overrated Drew Bledsoe’s throwing arm, making him and receivers Eric Moulds, Lee Evans, and Josh Reed nearly unstoppable. Travis Henry and Willis McGahee make a decent one-two punch at back. On defense, Takeo Spikes crushes any running play. (9-7)

3. Jets – Even with Chad Pennington and Santana Moss hooking up for 2-to-3 touchdowns a game, the Jets’ lack of superstars is their downfall. There is no clear standout on defense, and with a slogging Curtis Martin running the ball, the best they can hope for is an 8-8 season. (8-8)

4. Dolphins – No Rickey, no QB, no chance. No Tecmo team can succeed without stars at one of the two backfield positions. With Williams gone and Jay Fiedler at QB, it’s going to be a long, painful year, Fins fans. Use Sam Madison on defense and hope you can shut down the opponent’s passing game. Stay close with a few Randy McMichael button-hooks. Prepare for the worst. That’s all you can do. (4-12)

AFC NORTH:

1. Baltimore – Jamal Lewis. How can you stop him? Bo Jackson he’s not, but with power, speed, and still more power, he’s going to run over a lot of LBs. Think Christian Okoye in ‘excellent’ condition. On defense, Ray Lewis is a sure-fire sack leader. Just run him right through the line at the snap, evading and obliterating blockers. Expect a 64-sack year. (13-3)

2. Pittsburgh – Call us crazy, but this is an offense with potential. Tommy Maddox may be a bust, but Ben Roethlisberger could be golden off the bench. Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress will devastate on deep routes, and Antwan Randel-El is a kick returner extraordinaire. Kendrell Bell and James Farrior are solid options on defense. I’d take Farrior for his all-around skill. (10-6)

3. Cincinnati – Tecmo doesn’t think much of rookie quarterbacks, so Carson Palmer – or should we say QB Bengals? – will struggle to move the ball. Rudi Johnson is OK at tailback, but he can’t do it alone. The defense lacks true playmakers, but Kevin Hardy at least brings respectability. (8-8)

4. Cleveland – Yuck. No top QB, RB, or WR means the Dogs get pounded this year. Run all the rollouts you want, Jeff Garcia; your best receiving option is still Andre Davis. Linebacker Andra (yes, Andra) Davis is your only hope on ‘D.’ (3-13)

AFC WEST:

1. Kansas City – Priest Holmes may be the best RB in the game, but he’ll struggle due to his lack of pure speed and power. With Priest, it’s all about a nose for the endzone, and that just doesn’t translate in TSB ratings. Trent Green and Tony Gonzalez help move the ball through the air. Defense just doesn’t seem the same without Derrick Thomas, but one of the Chiefs linebackers could still emerge as a star. (11-5)

2. Denver – After KC, this division’s a toss up. Losing Clinton Portis hurts the Broncs offensively, but they still have enough firepower to be competitive. On defense, Champ Bailey could be the most dominant DB in the game. Get a few INTs, a few sacks, and Denver should be good to go. (9-7)

3. Oakland – It’s hard to pick these guys over a team with LT, but how can you turn down Warren Sapp? Sapp will terrrorize quarterbacks with his deadly off-the-snap strength and quickness. It will be tough for anyone to put a block on him. On the offensive side, Rich Gannon and Tyrone Wheatley won’t get anyone too excited, but Jerry Porter could be a star at receiver. (7-9)

4. San Diego – Up-and-comers, but still at least a year away. LaDainian Tomlinson is unstoppable coming out of the backfield or taking the ball on an outside sweep. He and Tim Dwight might even hook up on the occasional reverse to really throw the defense for a loop. We have to put these guys last because they just have no reliable defenders. (4-12)

AFC SOUTH:

1. Indianapolis – Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison. They don’t call ‘em the Triplets for nothing and they’re still the best QB-RB-WR trio since Aikman-Irvin-Emmitt. I don’t see them dominating on defense, but when you’re putting up 60 points a game on offense, who really needs defense? (12-4)

2. Jacksonville – TSB fans would surely love Byron Leftwich’s mobility, although his accuracy might leave something to be desired. A very solid Fred Taylor in the backfield and Jimmy Smith and Reggie Williams on the flanks completes a very nice offense. I foresee a lot of flea-flickers, and a lot of QB draws. (10-6)

3. Tennessee – Steve McNair can still throw the ball off the screen, but his options are just too limited. Promising running back Chris Brown could help relieve some of the pressure, but with no standout WRs and a gaping hole filling Jevon Kearse’s left end spot, the Titans could disappoint some country fans. (9-7)

4. Houston – David Carr is coming along, but Domanick Davis isn’t ready to be a star yet. Andre Johnson will haul in some of those sick leaping catches, but the defense and the supporting cast aren’t ready for prime time… Yet. (6-10).

Coming tomorrow….. NFC!

E-mail Mike at michael.casey@newsday.com

6 Comments:

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