Over the last couple of weeks the Weekly Recap has been dedicated to writing about Division standings, playoff implications, and future USFFL games that I am looking forward to watching and reading about. Now that we have just completed Week 16, and most of the playoff positions have been secured, I’d like to take a second to thank the men behind keeping this league going. Furthermore, Commissioner Tim Ervin has done an amazing job in the weekly Playoff Overview Slack Channel analyzing all of the possible outcomes and what-if’s that could happen in Week 17. If you have not read his thorough analysis, head over to slack right now and check out #wk17_playoffoverview it’s a great read.
I’d like to dedicate the first half of this column reflecting on the season and thinking about how we got here. For me, the USFFL Season XX was my favorite season yet. I joined the USFFL in 2017 and got lucky enough to manage my home town favorite team the Los Angeles Rams. The 2016 cards were terrible (as you recall 2016 was Jeff Fisher’s last year), and the Rams had just returned to LA. Case Keenum was my starting QB. But I didn’t care. I had played the board version Strat-o-matic Football in Jr. High School and High School, and the computer version for the 98-99 seasons, but it had been almost two decades since I last played the game. And it was fun to be back!
I played the next couple of seasons and had middling results, but I was really looking forward to the 2018 cards. This was the season that the Rams went all the way to the Super Bowl for goodness sake.
Then September 2019 slipped into October 2019. The cards had been out for months and the USFFL had not started. Finally, on October 7 the founder and original commissioner of the USSFFL posted an email stating that he was busy with a new job and would not be able to continue running the league. We ruminated over the news that the USFFL was going to collapse for a few weeks, and then Vince Trivelpiece posted the following:
Tim Ervin was quick to pick up the mantle and before you knew it we had volunteers to be the League Commissioner, Software Administrator, Recruiter, Slack Admin, Team Assignment Coordinator, Email Group Admin, Injury Tracker, Web Admin, and general software technical support. Before you knew it a few weeks later the USFFL was back in action and we had a league again!
So for those of you enjoying this USFFL season, know that it was the hard work of many of your fellow league members who stepped up, took over leadership positions and got this league back up and running when it could have easily folded.
So, why was this season the most fun for me to date? Well, first of all, I feel like I am finally starting to really understand the strategy of the game. It was only after watching (and losing) to many of you tremendous coaches that I realize the nuances of specific play calls and defensive sets. This year I was only one loss below the expected number of wins for my team, and next year I am hoping to do even better. But even more important than wins and losses is the fact that my best friend and one of the guys I played Strat-o-matic football with 35 years ago back in High School, Tim Hay, joined the league with us. This season has been so much fun to have a real community around the USFFL. I feel like the weekly winner’s slack post, the playoff overviews and the Game of the Week have really created a fun experience that I look forward to being a part of this year and moving forward. I am also looking forward to joining the league Live Broadcasts that Anthony and Tim kicked off this week.
So as the regular season turns to the excitement of the playoffs, remember that this whole thing could have easily gone another direction. I am glad for the fact that Tim Ervin, Scott Mueller, Dennis Crowley, Mike Niemczura, and Tony Telleria stepped up and kept this league going. I truly enjoy these games and this community and I truly appreciate the work these guys have done to make the league possible. Thanks guys!
And now, back to our regular programming:
Game of The Week
The Dallas Cowboys held off the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-24 in a big Week 16 NFC East matchup. The Eagles had a chance to send the game into overtime on the last play of regulation. They had a first down at the Cowboy’s 13 with one second left. Carson Wentz’s pass was intended for Nelson Agholor who was in single coverage. Defense guessed right. His pass fell incomplete. The roll was receiver on Wentz’s card. A roll of a nine on Agholor’s card would have been a TD. The roll was an eight. and the game was over. The first quarter was scoreless. Dallas missed a 48-yard field goal. The Eagles drove deep into Dallas territory. There drive was ended when Sean Lee intercepted a Wentz pass. The Cowboys got on the board first on a nine-yard TD pass from Dak Prescott to Amari Cooper with 9:36 left in the half. Ezekial Elliot scored on a three-yard run with 5:42 left in the half to put the Cowboys up 14-0. The Eagles got on the board with a 42 yard field goal with 1:52 left in the half. The field goal was set up by a fumbled punt return that Philly recovered at the Dallas 22. Dallas took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Eagles’ 11-yard line before setting for a 28-yard field goal with 1 second left in the half to go up 17-3.Prescott connected with Michael Gallup for a 48-yard TD pass on the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half and Dallas was up 24-3, which as we know in Strat, is not a safe lead. The Eagles woke up. They drove 75-yards in four plays and scored on a 5-yard TD pass from Wentz to Dallas Goedert. Wentz hit DeSean Jackson on a 50-yard pass on the first play of the drive. Miles Sanders followed with a 20-yard run. Wentz hit Zach Ertz on a 4-yard TD pass with 18 seconds left in the third quarter to close the gap to 24-17, which was the score after three quarters. The Cowboys drove 70 yards on 13 plays on the ensuing drive to go up 31-17. The drive culminated on a 10-yard TD pass from Prescott to Amari Cooper with 9:54 left in the game. The Eagles drove 75 yards on 12 plays on the next drive to score a TD and bring the score within seven again at 31-24. The Eagles converted a 4th and six and a 4th and ten on the drive. (They were six-for-six on 4th down conversions in the game.) The drive culminated in a 5-yard TD pass from Wentz to Ertz with 4:30 remaining. Dallas started the next drive at their own 25. They converted two first downs, including one on a defensive holding penalty. The drive ended at the Phllly 45 when Dallas elected to punt on 4th and 2. The Eagles BLOCKED the punt. The Cowboys’ Elliot picked up the ball and tried to advance it but ended up five yards short of the first down. Philly took over at its own 47 with 1:37 left and down by seven. The Eagles converted a 4th and two at the Cowboy’s 33 when Sanders ran for seven yards. They had a 4th and seven at the Cowboy’s 23 that they converted on a 10 yard pass from Wentz to Goedert which set up the final play, which saw Wentz’ pass fall incomplete in the end zone. The win improved the Cowboy’s record to 11-4, while the Eagles fell to 10-5. The win likely clinched a playoff spot for the Cowboys (though I’m not 100% sure). The Eagles are still in the playoff hunt. They have qualified for the Coach of the Year playoffs in the event they don’t make the regular playoffs. Both teams have tough division matchups next week, as Dallas hosts the Washington Football Team and the Eagles travel to the Giants. As always Bruce coached a good game. It was a real battle. Dallas felt fortunate to get out of Philly with a win after losing to them 27-14 in Dallas early in the season Elliot finished with 128 yards rushing on 28 carries. Prescott completed 20 of 30 passes for 338 yards with no interceptions and three touchdowns. Wentz threw for 279 yards, completing 24 of 43 passes. He did throw one pick. Sanders was held relatively in check with 63 yards rushing on 19 carries.