Winner’s and Loser’s Brackets Qualifying Games

Winner’s Bracket

New England 55, Houston 34

The Houston Texans, fresh off their upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, showed the world they could move the football, piling up 461 yards against the New England Patriots, but four turnovers did them in in a 55-34 loss. The victory propels Tom Brady and company into the championship round of sixteen, while Houston goes into the last qualifying round.  Brady was 26-36 for 346 yards and two touchdowns, but was matched nearly pass-for-pass by Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson, who threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns, but suffered three picks at the hands of the Pats’ defense.  All-Pro wide-out DeAndre Hopkins hauled in 8 of Watson’s passes for 220 yards and three TD’s.  New England ran the ball well against Houston’s defense, finding pay-dirt five times on the ground in their convincing victory.

Philadelphia 32, Tampa Bay 3

Jameis Winston and the Bus moved the ball all over the field . . . they just couldn’t seem to get it in the end zone. Winston threw for 365 yards, connecting with nine different receivers, seemingly having his way with the Eagles’ defense.  But scoring was elusive for Tampa Bay as they dropped a 32-3 decision to top seeded Philadelphia.  Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz enjoyed a very productive day, connecting on 19-25 passes for 336 yards and three scores, including a 70-yarder to Nelson Agholor.  Philadelphia advances to the championship round, while Tampa Bay needs to win a qualifying game to move on.

Baltimore 13, Buffalo 3

Buffalo’s starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, was nursing an injury and not able to go against the Ravens, and the Bills had to start untested Nathan Peterman against a tough Baltimore defense . . . and, it didn’t go very well for the young quarterback. He only hit on 8 of 24 passes for 106 yards and the Bills never really threatened in this game, despite a great game from their defense, holding the Ravens to only 13 points.  Baltimore quarterback, Joe Flacco, was effective, if not spectacular, finishing the day 20-30 for 167 yards, and Alex Collins added 90 yards on the ground and scored the game’s only TD.  The Ravens advance to the Championship round, while Buffalo, who hope Taylor will be healthy, move on to the qualifying round.

Detroit 27, Atlanta 20

The Falcons racked up 507 yards to the Lions’ 310, but four Matt Ryan interceptions, two of them inside Detroit’s 15 yard line, was the difference in this game as the Lions prevailed and move on to the Championship Round. Perhaps the player of the game was Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman, who ran 25 times for 181 yards and caught 4 passes for another 84 yards.  Matthew Stafford, Detroit’s signal caller, was on target most of the game, connecting on 20-30 for 241 yards and a touchdown.  With the game tied 20-20 with only 5:00 left to play, Stafford led Detroit on a 8-play, 75 yard drive culminating with Ameer Abdullah’s 1-yard, game-winning touchdown.  The Falcons now move to the qualifying round.


Loser’s Bracket

Pittsburgh 16, Cleveland 10

What the heck is wrong with the Steelers? After losing their opening game in a huge upset to the Houston Texans, they barely got by the lowest seed in the AFC, the Cleveland Browns to avoid being eliminated from the tournament altogether!  Pittsburgh ran up 406 yards of total offense, while holding the Browns to only 144 yards.  But, two Ben Roethlisberger interception tosses in the Cleveland red-zone kept the game close – much closer than it should have been.  Cleveland, with two losses, is now bounced from the tournament, while Pittsburgh moves on, probably to host Houston in a rematch of their round one loss.

L.A. Rams 38, N.Y. Giants 16

The Rams, led by quarterback Jared Goff and running-back Todd Gurley, easily handled the Giants and remain alive in the NFC qualifying round, with their 38-16 victory. Goff was 20-31 for 271 yards and three touchdowns, while Gurley carried the ball 18 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ dominating victory.  The Giants, the lowest seeded team in the NFC, played well on offense behind quarterback Eli Manning, who threw for 230 yards, but their defense had no answer for the Rams, who move on, while New York goes home.

Miami 29, Oakland 9

Dolphin quarterback, Jay Cutler, had one of his best games of the season, completing 19 of 27 for 281 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers! Kenyan Drake, Miami’s talented young running-back, added another 111 yards and a TD on 20 carries.  Meanwhile, Oakland QB, Derrick Carr, was frustrated all day, hitting only 17 of 41 passes for 168 yards.  Oakland, with the loss, sees their season end, while the Dolphins move on to the qualifying round and keep their hopes alive.

Green Bay 13, Dallas 12

The “stats” told one story . . . the line-score, another. The Cowboys’ one-two punch of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were both solid – Prescott tossing for 243 yards and Elliot scampering for 133.  But, they just couldn’t get the ball in the end zone and settled for four Dan Bailey field goals in a one point loss to the Green Bay Packers, 13-12.  What made this loss particularly tough for Dallas is that, for the second week in a row, the Pack had to go without their great quarterback Aaron Rodgers, instead, turning to Brett Hundley, who played error-free ball in leading Green Bay to their win.  Now the Packers hope they get Rodgers back for their qualifying game, while the Cowboys will be watching from home, because their season is over!


Round Two Matchups

Just to recap – I am playing a tournament with the current NFL card set.  Each team was seeded in it’s division by their regular season record from #1 to #16.  The first round was #16 @ #1, #15 @ #2, etc.  Winners advance into the “Winner’s Bracket” while the losers move to the “Loser’s Bracket.”

In the Loser’s bracket, a second loss eliminates them.  In the Winner’s bracket, another win moves them automatically into the “Sweet 16” single elimination portion of the tournament.  Once Round Two is complete, there will be four teams from the Winner’s bracket who are 1-1, and four teams from the Loser’s bracket who are 1-1.  They will play in Round Three (again, based on their initial seeds) with the winners moving on and the losers eliminated.

Here are the matchups for round 2 of my tournament:


Winner’s Bracket

Houston (#15) vs. New England (#1)

NY Jets (#13) vs. Jacksonville (#3)

LA Chargers (#8) vs. Tennessee (#5)

Baltimore (#7) vs. Buffalo (#6)

Loser’s Bracket

Cleveland (#16) vs. Pittsburgh (#2)

Indianapolis (#14) vs. Kansas City (#4)

Denver (#12) vs. Cincinnati (#9)

Oakland (#11) vs. Miami (#10)


Winner’s Bracket

Tampa Bay (#14) vs. Philadelphia (#1)

San Francisco (#13) vs. Minnesota (#2)

Arizona (#10) vs. Carolina (#5)

Detroit (#9) vs. Atlanta (#6)

Loser’s Bracket

NY Giants (#16) vs. LA Rams (#3)

Chicago (#15) vs. New Orleans (#4)

Washington (#12) vs. Seattle (#7)

Green Bay (#11) vs. Dallas (#8)

First Round Playoff Leaders


Dalton (Cin)                        25-43 455 Yards  0 Int  1 TD

Winston (TB)                      22-32 355 Yards  1 Int  3 TD

Roethlisberger (Pitt)       25-44 340 Yards  2 Int  1 TD

Goff (LAR)                           22-31 331 Yards 0 Int  3 TD

Rivers (LAC)                        19-39 299 Yards  0 Int  3 TD

Palmer (ARZ)                     18-30 279 Yards  1 Int  1 TD

McCown (NYJ)                  23-35 262 Yards  1 Int  1 TD

Stafford (Det)                    17-31 261 Yards  0 Int  0 TD

Cutler (Mia)                        19-40 260 Yards  0 Int  1 TD

Brady (NE)                          19-29 257 Yards  0 Int  2 TD



Howard (Chi)                     20-133  1 TD

Gordon (LAC)                    18-131  1 TD

Powell (NYJ)                       14-129  1 TD

Bell (Pitt)                             28-127  1 TD

Elliott (Dal)                          21-89    1 TD

Hunt (KC)                            18-85    0 TD

Ivory (Jax)                           17-84    1 TD

Hyde (SF)                            14-83    0 TD

Ingram (NO)                       16-83    1 TD

Blount (Phil)                       10-80    0 TD



Evans (TB)                           8-208  2 TD

Brown (Pitt)                       7-143   1 TD

Green (Cin)                        8-137  0 TD

Hopkins (Hou)                   5-130    1 TD

Kupp (LAR)                         7-129  1 TD

Fitzgerald (ARZ)                10-124  1 TD

Ertz (Phil)                             6-119  0 TD

Gurley (LAR)                      6-117    2 TD

Gronkowski (NE)              6-114    1 TD

Sanders (Den)                   6-107    1 TD

First Round of Playoff Tournament Complete!

I have to share here that I am having more fun with this year’s tournament than I have ever had!  We’ve seen some amazing upsets and some great performances so far!  Sixteen games in the book . . . . . .39 to go!!


Houston 24, Pittsburgh 23

Every now and then you play a game that is so fun and so memorable that it becomes an “instant classic!” This was one of those games.  The #15 seeded team in the AFC (Houston) faced up against the #2 seed, the big, bad Steelers . . . and came away with an improbable one point victory!  Texan quarterback, Tom Savage, only completed 11 passes in the game, but averaged over 22 yards per completion.  Pittsburgh truly dominated the statistical battle, rolling up 465 yards to Houston’s 298, but two costly interceptions thrown by Roethlisberger and four critical sacks recorded by the Texans led to the surprising outcome.  Pittsburgh held a two-point lead with 2:00 left to play, but Savage connected on a 54 yard pass to Will Fuller and a 20 yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins setting up Ka’imi Fairbairn’s game winning Field Goal with only 53 seconds left in the game!

Buffalo 31, Oakland 16

Great defense and a pounding running game was the difference in the Bills 15-point victory over the Raiders. Buffalo runningback, LeSean McCoy ran for two scores and Mike Tolbert added another, as Buffalo piled up 185 rushing yards on 41 carries.  Bills QB Tyrod Taylor, who played hurt most of the second half, was steady, connecting on 18 of 31 passes for 183 yards, and Buffalo’s tough defense held Derrick Carr and the Raiders to only 246 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers.

Atlanta 31, Green Bay 7

The Packers, playing without injured quarterback Aaron Rogers, really struggled against Atlanta in a 31-7 loss. Brett Hundley, Rogers’ replacement, connected on 20 passes, but for only 150 yards, and the Green Bay finished the day with seven starters injured and only 194 yards of offense.  Meanwhile, Matt Ryan did NOT have a very good game for the Falcons, hitting on only 16-30 for 203 yards.  But, Atlanta’s “1-2” punch at runningback, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman each ran for two TD’s, and Julio Jones hauled in 6 passes for 90 yards in the victory.

Jacksonville 19, Indianapolis 15

This was truly an odd game. Jacksonville scored a touchdown on their very first drive, when Chris Ivory hauled in a 25 yard pass from Blake Bortles and then ran 46 yards for a touchdown.  And that would be their only touchdown!  Three field goals by Josh Lambo and a punishing defense that held the Colts to only 214 yards of offense, including five sacks of Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett, was the story of this game as the Jaguars barely move into the winner’s bracket for round two.  Amazingly, there were 14 punts in the game for a remarkable 609 yards!!

Tampa Bay 37, LA Rams 30

In a game that saw six lead changes, it was Jameis Winston and the Bucs holding on for a seven point upset victory in Los Angeles against the Rams. Winston was terrific, completing 22 of 32 for 355 yards and three touchdowns.  Ram’s QB, Jared Goff, had almost identical stats, however, connecting on 22 of 31 for 331 yards and three scores.  Tampa Bay wideout, Mike Evans was sensational in the victory, rolling up 208 receiving yards on 8 catches.  And the Bucs’ defense was able to frustrate All-Pro runningback, Todd Gurley all day long, holding him to only 35 yards on 14 carries.

Baltimore 24, Miami 12

The Ravens and Joe Flacco had a relatively easy time of it at home against the Dolphins, doubling them up 24-12. Flacco completed 20 of 29 passes for 229 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns.  Miami struggled in their running game all afternoon, picking up just 54 yards on 22 carries, and quarterback Jay Cutler connected on less than 50% of his passes.  In fact, we saw something I’ve never seen before in over 50 years of playing APBA Football.  In the third quarter, through a combination of a sack, rushing loss and three penalties, the Dolphins ended up with a 4th and 52 from their own 31 yard line!  And, on their punt, they still ended up short of first down yardage!

Arizona 16, Seattle 10

In a mild upset, Carson Palmer and the Cardinals held off a furious rally by the Seahawks to win by six in Seattle. Palmer had 18 completions on 30 attempts for 279 yards, including 10 passes hauled in by Larry Fitzgerald for 124 yards.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, Seattle signal-caller, Russell Wilson, connected on 16 of 33 passes for 202, but threw two picks, including one to Tyrann Mathieu in the Cardinal end zone with only 2:45 left in the game, effectively ending the Seahawks comeback.

Minnesota 20, Chicago 13

The Bears came so close to pulling off a major first round upset! Late in the third quarter this game was tied 6-6, when Viking rusher, Latavius Murray, scored from 2 yards out to give Minnesota a 7 point lead.  But, on their very next possession, Bears’ runningback, Jordan Howard, scampered 49 yards to tie it up with 14:00 left to play in the game.  Vikings QB, Case Keenum, led his team on a 75 yard TD drive, scrambling in from ten yards out.  But, Bears QB, Mitch Trubisky, seemed undaunted, driving Chicago the length of the field, helped out by a 26 yard defensive pass interference penalty on 4th and 13 from the Vikings 31 yard line, giving him a first and goal from the Minnesota 5 with only 2:00 left to play.  But, three incompletions and a sack by Everson Griffen on fourth down sealed the victory for the Vikings.


My Tournament Has Begun!!

Here are the write-ups on my first eight games:

NY Jets 22, Kansas City 16

Well this one is for Barath and Zarb – two die-hard Jets fans!! Now, I can’t explain why they’re Jets fans . . . maybe they were dropped on their heads too many times as children!  Anyway . . . they would have LOVED to see this game!    The Jets, down 16-9 to the heavily favored Chiefs with only 3:15 left to play and 68 yards to cover, got a 26-yard TD run from Bilal Powell to tie up the game with one minute left!  Then, in overtime, they won the coin toss and, without ever letting Alex Smith and Kansas City touch the ball, marched 75 yards for the winning score – a 13-yard touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Jermaine Kearse!  Powell was terrific, running the ball 14 times for 129 yards and McCown completed 23 of 35 passes for 262 yards and the winning TD.

New England 40, Cleveland 26

Well, at the end of the first quarter, the Browns and Patriots were actually tied 3-3! That’s when New England quarterback Tom Brady got serious, hitting Rob Gronkowski for a 54 yard TD and Brandin Cooks for a 29 yard TD, en-route to a two-touchdown victory over hapless Cleveland.  Brady was efficient, if not spectacular, connecting on 19 of 29 passes for 257 yards and those two TD’s, runningback Dion Lewis added two rushing TD’s, and Cleveland recorded a remarkable 15 penalties for 133 yards as the #1 seed Patriots easily handled the Browns.

Philadelphia, 20, NY Giants 3

Eli Manning of the Giants was awful. He completed only 3 of his first 16 passes and finished the day 9-36 with 4 interceptions.  But, as bad as Manning played, the Eagles didn’t really look much better.  They fumbled the ball away four times, and saw ten of their players carted off the field during the game, including Pro-Bowlers Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz.  But two Jay Ajayi touchdown runs, one in the first quarter and one in the final quarter, marked the difference in the contest.  Still, for a #1 seed, Philadelphia didn’t really impress anyone in this game.

LA Chargers 31, Cincinnati 27

This was a remarkable game with an amazing finish! In a game that saw five lead changes, the Bengals took their last lead 27-24, when QB Andy Dalton hit Giovany Bernard with a five-yard score with only 1:30 left in the game.  That was the culmination of a 98 yard drive by Cincinnati!  But, Charger quarterback Philip Rivers needed only 37 seconds to lead Los Angeles on a furious 75-yard march, hitting two huge 35-yard passes to both Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen, before finding Allen again alone in the Cincinnati end-zone for the game winning TD – Allen’s third TD of the game!  Dalton was terrific, throwing for 455 yards in the loss, while Gordon ran for 131 yards on 18 carries for the victors.

Detroit 27, Dallas 17

Dak Prescott has had some bad games . . . but, maybe never as bad as this one. The Cowboys’ signal-caller threw a remarkable five interceptions in Dallas’ 27-17 loss to the Lions.  Detroit, on the strength of touchdown runs by Matthew Stafford and Ameer Abdullah, along with three field-goals from Matt Prater, took a 20-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter.  Dallas did score two touchdowns late in the game to make the score look closer, and they actually out-gained Detroit in the game 337 yards to 303 yards, but five picks, including one returned for a TD by the Lions’ Glover Quin, was enough to spell doom for the Cowboys.

San Francisco 21, New Orleans 20

In the second major upset of the first round, the 49ers nipped the Saints 21-20. With starting QB, Jimmy Garopollo on the shelf with an injury, it was C.J. Beathard who got the call, and, while he wasn’t spectacular, he kept San Francisco in the game, hitting on 13 of 21 passes for 165 yards and a TD.  It was a night that featured backups for the Niners, with running back, Matt Brieda, rushing for two touchdowns, his last coming with only 4:30 left in the game to give San Francisco a 21-14 lead.  But, Saints’ QB Drew Brees took his team on a tremendous end-of-game drive and hit Alvin Kamara on a 12 yard TD pass to bring the Saints to within one point.  But, amazingly, New Orleans’ kicker Wil Lutz saw his extra point attempt blocked, securing the 49ers victory!

Tennessee 24, Denver 14

The Broncos probably played well enough to win this game, but Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian threw two interceptions inside the Titans’ 15 yard line to squash important drives in their ten point loss to Tennessee. The Titans played turnover-free football and had three rushing touchdowns, two from Derrick Henry and one from DeMarco Murray, while quarterback Marcus Mariota was 17-23 for 185 yards, and added 33 yards rushing on six carries.  Siemian may have had the play of the game, though, when Denver had a 4th and 18 from their own 41 yard line late in the fourth quarter, and he found Emmanuel Sanders open for a 59 yard touchdown.  But, it was too little, too late!

Carolina 21, Washington 18

In another nail-biter, the Panthers held off quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins to eke out a three point victory. Cousins, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two TD’s, was terrific, but, it was Carolina’s ability to control the clock using their pounding running game and great offensive line that was the difference in the contest.  The Panthers amassed 178 yards rushing on 40 carries, and saw Cam Newton, Jonathon Stewart and Christian McCaffrey each run for a touchdown.  Cousins did connect with tight-end Vernon Davis on a 13-yard TD pass with 1:38 left to play to close within three points, but a failed onside kick killed their comeback.

My 2018 NFL Tournament

I envy the heck out of Greg Barath and Mark Zarb.  They are true APBA grinders, replaying entire seasons.  I have attempted to do this about a dozen times, and have never made it past week four . . . so, I know that it is just not in my future to play an entire season replay.

Still, I love the football game and, since I pay for every team when I purchase a card set, I want to use every team!  So I typically will play a single-elimination tournament and end up with a “Super-Bowl” at the end of this exercise.  This year I decided to mix things up a little.  I spend a good hour and a half to two hours per team before I even play a game prepping for these games by doing all the player quotas, and that’s a awful lot of time, especially when I see half the teams play only one game.

So, instead of a single elimination, this year I will do a double elimination until I have 16 teams left, and then it will become a single elimination tournament.  I seeded each team in each conference based on their 2017 NFL won-lost record and the #16 team will play the #1 seed, the #15 seed will play the #2 seed, etc.

Each winner will play another winner . . . . and each loser will play another loser.  This will eliminate four teams in each conference because they will have two losses.  The teams that finish 2-0 will automatically qualify for the single elimination tournament.  The teams that are 1-1 will play each other, eliminating another four teams in each conference.

In total, I will play 55 games between August and February – about two games a week.  This works perfectly with my schedule and is, I think, a very accommodating way to use all 32 teams and to see each team at least twice.

In fact, I would urge anyone out there who knows that they will NEVER complete a full season’s replay to give this format a try.

I will be reporting my results here – and, as always, I welcome any and all comments and suggestions.

Ray Dunlap

Kick-Off Out of Bounds . . .

Mark Zarb asks:  “Hi Ray!!! Just want to double check on the kick off out of bounds penalty. Latest statisticians guide I saw says “no penalty”, wondering if this was changed recently.”

A.  Mark, you are absolutely correct.  Here is the rule:

“When a kickoff goes out of bounds and the ball is awarded to the receiving team, no penalty or penalty yardage is recorded.  The receiving team may elect to take possession of the ball 25 yards from the spot of the kick or at the out-of-bounds spot.  Record an ‘out-of-bounds kickoff’ for the kicker.”