Bowl season begins with the unheralded and unranked, but features several tight pre-Christmas matchups.
27 Apr 2005
Guest Column by Ian Hollohan
While the football world has been focused on the NFL Draft these past two weeks, the NFL Europe season has rolled right along, and already is approaching mid-season. Amsterdam, Berlin and Cologne sit atop the league at 3-1, while Rhein remains the only winless team in NFL Europe after suffering through two heartbreaking losses in Weeks 3 and 4.
Frankfurt has dropped to 1-3 with losses in Weeks 3 & 4 to Cologne and Hamburg, respectively. The Galaxy haven't been able to get much of anything going on either side of the ball, and a rash of injuries over the past few weeks hasn't helped matters. They started out hot in Week 3 with CB Lamont Brightful (NYG) returning the opening kickoff for an 84-yard touchdown. After that however, it was a whole lot of nothing, as Cologne controlled the game and earned the win. Neither Akili Smith (TB) nor Kevin Eakin (NYJ) has done enough at quarterback to emerge as the true starter. Smith turned the ball over three times in the Week 4 loss to Hamburg. Running back Ahmed Galloway (SD) was injured early in Week 3 and although FB J.R.Niklos (Oak) had a Nick Goings-esque day carrying the load in a depleted backfield, it wasn't enough to take down Cologne. The defense has played well at times, but not well enough to make up for the Galaxy's weak offense.
Editor's Note: Last week's report mistakenly labeled Ahmed Galloway as being allocated by Denver, not San Diego. He was originally drafted by Denver and allocated by the Broncos year.
The Fire have become the hard luck story of NFL Europe after dropping to 0-4 on the season. Only a handful of plays (and penalties) have kept this team from a 2-2 record. The first half of Week 3 was a total debacle for Rhein, and they trailed Hamburg 31-0 at halftime. The Andy Hall (Phi) led offense was ineffective, amassing just 21 yards in the first half. Scott McBrien (GB) started the second half at QB in place of Hall and immediately provided a much-needed spark. McBrien led the Fire to within 31-24 on the strength of a season-high 325 yards passing and a 43-yard scamper of his own for a touchdown. Despite pulling to within seven points with over five minutes remaining, a series of defensive penalties allowed Hamburg to all but run out the clock and hang on for the win. In Week 4, Rhein went toe-to-toe with Berlin until a late interception thrown by McBrien allowed Berlin to kick the game-winning field goal. Wideouts Cedric James (NE), Glenn Martinez (Det) and Jeris McIntyre (KC) have been impressive at times, usually when McBrien is in the game.
Amsterdam is tops in NFL Europe after consecutive wins over Berlin and Cologne. The Admirals lead NFL Europe in total offense, but suffered a big blow to their World Bowl hopes in Week 4, with both QB Gibran Hamdan (Sea) and TE Tony Donald (Sea) being lost (likely for the season) to injuries. It will be interesting to see how the Admirals fare through the rest of the season without those two big guns. RBs Jonathan Smith (KC) and Jarret Payton (Ten) rank first and second in the league, respectively, in total yards from scrimmage. QB Kurt Kittner (Chi) hasn't looked nearly as good as Hamdan so far this season, but with Smith and Payton in the backfield, and WR Ruvell Martin (SD) as the big-play threat (four TDs in four weeks), the Admirals' offense should remain tough to stop.
The Centurions easily handled the Frankfurt Galaxy in Week 3 before suffering their first loss of the season in Week 4 at the hands of Amsterdam. WR Carl Morris (SD) continues to stand out. A big guy with great hands, he might have a shot at the Chargers' special teams next year, if he keeps up his high level of play. RB Keylon Kincade (Dal) had a big game in Week 3, collecting 152 yards from scrimmage and a couple of TDs. He's short but bulky, and he's run as hard as any back in NFL Europe when he's gotten the carries. Kory Chapman (NE) is a similar back and has also run well for the Centurions.
Berlin continues to be one of the most consistent teams in NFL Europe. They bounced back from a loss against Amsterdam in Week 3 by slipping past Rhein on the road in Week 4. Little John Flowers (NYJ) and Cal Murray (SD) continue to run well behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. The Thunder lead the league in total defense through Week 4. They also lead the league in takeaways, including an interception by CB Jermaine Mays (Min) that set up the winning field goal against Rhein last week.
Hamburg has bounced back with consecutive wins in Weeks 3 and 4 to even their record at 2-2. They've won despite having the worst rushing attack in NFL Europe, which is somewhat atypical for this league. Those of you who were in extremely deep fantasy football leagues last season might remember wavier-wire wonder RB Larry Croom (Ari), who saw action in a few games down the stretch (including a start) for the Cardinals. Maybe I was the only guy desperate enough at RB to pick him up last year. Anyway, he was pretty ineffective for the Cards, and so far has been disappointing for the Sea Devils. Croom is averaging 3.3 yards/carry while Zack Abron (Chi), isn't much better at 3.7. Hamburg has only 308 total yards on the ground, a league worst through four weeks. Quarterbacks Casey Bramlet (Cin) and Ryan Dinwiddie (Chi) have been efficient through the air despite the lack of a strong running game, and the defense has been one of the best in the league, led by DE Aaron Hunt (Den) upfront and CBs Rufus Brown (Was) and Marcell Allmond (Jax) in the secondary.
A rematch from Week 3 (you tend to get a lot of rematches in a six-team league) where Amsterdam handed Berlin its only loss of the season. Should be another good match-up, the league's best offense vs. the league's best defense. Amsterdam will have to adjust quickly to the losses of Hamdan and Donald.
This shouldn't be as bad a game as their records may indicate. Rhein are always entertaining, at least for the maddening amount of mistakes they make if nothing else. However, the mistakes are getting fewer, and McBrien and the offense are getting better every week. I think Rhein breaks through and gets their first win of the season.
Hamburg goes for their third win in a row over Cologne who is looking to bounce back after falling to Amsterdam in Week 4. Two teams that play a similar style usually means a close game. Hamburg's defense has been better overall, but Cologne is number one in the league in red zone defense.