by Keith Avallone, PLAAY Games
I'm currently working on the ratings for the 2016 Pro Season for SECOND SEASON football. It's always one of my favorite things to do, and also one of the most time-consuming. I go through each team, player-by-player, position-by-position. To me, it's a process that's both fun and educational. Or, maybe it's fun BECAUSE it's so educational! I always learn some interesting things...
The 2016 team cards will have the potential, I think, for some results that are dramatically different than what really happened in 2016. That's because, more than any season I can ever remember, there were teams which under- and over-achieved, when comparing statistical performance with wins and losses. Leading the "under-achiever" category was Arizona, which featured one of the best defenses in the league, a top-ten passing attack, and a decent ground game—yet still somehow won just seven games all season. Chicago, Cincinnati and Jacksonville had similar, though not quite so drmataic, profiles. On the other side of the spectrum was Kansas City, who produced a division-champion season(in a tough division!) with also-ran statistics: KC ranked 15th in rushing offense and in the bottom half of the league everywhere else. New York's "Big Blue" was another over-achieving team. While I haven't completed all the ratings, from this vantage point I feel like a Kansas City season replay could easily generate a 7-9 season, while it wouldn't surprise me to see Arizona finish 10-6. This wouldn't be the fault of the SECOND SEASON game engine: in my view, it's simply the reality of pro league parity in the 21st century. The difference between winning and losing is thinner than it's ever been in the history of pro football.
Maybe you noticed pro football's new trend of five defensive backs being the standard, starting line-up. In the past, of course, it's been referred to as the "nickel defense," with the implication that fielding five DBs is outside the norm. But more and more, it IS the norm. Maybe it's still too early to be seen as "default." But while defenses are still being classified as 4-3 or 3-4 alignments, in some cases they're really 3-3-5, or 4-2-5 defenses. 2016 Miami is a good example, where defense box E will be shared by Michael Thomas, a defensive back, and linebacker Spencer Paysinger. In past years, Paysinger would probably have been listed as the starter, with Thomas listed as a substitute in [pass] defenses. This year, though, I'm listing Thomas as the starter, and Paysinger as the substitute in [run] defenses. There are a number of teams that will be configured that way.
A similar thing is happening on offense. This year, I'm moving a lot of fullbacks to the SB box, where the starter will be a wideout and the fullback will be a situation substitution for [run] offenses. There are still players populating the fullback position in pro football, most notably Balitmore's Kyle Juszczyk, New England's James Develin and New Orleans' John Kuhn. But they're situational players rather than starters. In fact, correct me if I'm wrong (and I'm sure someone will!), 2016 was the first year that no fullback earned all-pro honors. In recent years, I've left these "true" fullbacks in the FB box, usually listing them as the starter even if they actually only started 8 or 9 games. (In many cases, that was still the most starts for anyone at the position.) But for 2016, I didn't find a single team whose fullback started more than 7 games. Virtually every team (I haven't finished yet, so I can't say definitively) will have either a go-to running back or a blocking tight end in the FB box, rather than a true fullback.
Cleveland had an awful team in 2016. (What, you didn't notice!?) As such, its team card is a challenge. Cleveland had five quarterbacks with 20 or more passes, it's been many years since we've seen that. (Speaking of which, here is an interesting graphic, albeit a few years old, but still quite interesting, about which teams have had the most turnover at quarterback over the past 20 seasons!) Throwing 20 passes is usually enough to "make the big time" and get included on the SECOND SEASON team sheet. But, really, there's only room for a maximum of four passers in the QB box. So Charlie Whitehurst will have to be a fringe player. I also feel like Terrelle Prior should be the multi-dimensional threat in SS that he was in real-life, which means his passing data needs to be included in the QB box as well. So, that means Kevin Hogan also gets relegated to the fringe player list! DOH!
No surprise here: sack totals continue to recede. Sack frequency is now below 6% league-wide, from a historical benchmark of 7%. I'm not planning on any changes to the SS game book, though, mainly because so many folks prefer historical seasons and cross-era (great teams) play. Rather, I'll continue to encourage gamers to implement the boutique rule which I've been including for the past several seasons, where the first sack of the game, either team, is recorded as a "throw away," incomplete.
Finally, let me get in a plug for the College All-Stars, who will again get their own team card with the 2016 Pro Season release. As we've done for the past several years, we'll create this card based on the results of the actual pro draft, which will happen this weekend. The top players selected at each position will be the starters, and we'll rate the players based on the official league scouting reports. AND, we'll once again stage our own College All-Star Game, pitting the soon-to-be-pro rookies against the reigning pro champs, New England. I am thinking that we'll make this a live event the night before the HMB Time Machine Tournament (July 7th), as an activity for those arriving in Denver early for the baseball event. Last year's game was streamed live on AFR, with Denver pulling away to a 35-21 win. The pros currently lead the series 3-1. Here are the results from the previous College All-Star Games, along with the city in which the game was played...2013: Baltimore 31, All-Stars 24 (Lancaster, PA)
The 2016 Pro Season for SECOND SEASON Pro Football Game is due on or about July 15th! Let us know if you have questions or comments, the e-mail address is info-at-plaay-dot-com!