Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
11 May 2005
Guest Column by Ian Hollohan
The 2005 NFL Europe season has passed the midway point (plus a week), what better time to hand out some midseason awards?
FYI -- these are based solely on my current opinions. Things could change drastically over the final four weeks of the season.
Scott McBrien (GB), QB, Rhein Fire. It might seem strange to pick a guy on a 1-5 team who has thrown 9 INTs in six games as having the most NFL potential in Europe. All I can say is that NFL Europe is a strange league sometimes. McBrien is allocated by Green Bay but has about as much chance of seeing playing time there as I do, which is to say, no chance at all. The Packers may have allocated McBrien, but he's playing to impress other teams. He's been one of the very few players who I've watched who has stood out because of an NFL-quality play, or series of plays. I've seen him drop some beautiful passes over good coverage by the corner, and make some nice tosses over the middle. He leads the league in yardage and TD passes, but also INTs, and some of those interceptions have been bad, admittedly. If they are something experience and good coaching can overcome, McBrien could find a home in the NFL somewhere. WR Carl Morris (SD) of Cologne gets an honorable mention here.
Scott McCready, WR, Hamburg Sea Devils. McCready has played four years in NFL Europe, most of those as an allocated member of the New England Patriots. He's the only English-born player to have a Super Bowl ring, earning one as a member of the Patriots practice squad in 2001. This year he's unallocated, but has been one of the best receivers in the league. He's big, quicker than he looks, and has good hands. When I watch him, I'm surprised he can't find a roster spot somewhere in the NFL, but I think that speaks to just how much talent there is in the league.
Marcell Allmond (Jax), CB, Hamburg Sea Devils. Hamburg is home to several of the better defensive players in Europe; in addition to Allmond, LB Nick McNeil (GB), CB Rufus Brown (Was) and DE Aaron Hunt (Den) have all looked impressive.
Joe Smith (Ten), RB, Rhein Fire. Smith has been pretty solid the last 4-5 weeks. But the likelihood of him ending up on my fantasy roster has more to do with the Titans lack of depth at RB than it does with Smith standing out in Europe. He's been good, but there really hasn't been any running back that's looked like a game breaker in NFLE so far this season.
Akili Smith (TB), QB, Frankfurt Galaxy. I love a good comeback story, and I'm sure many people out there are pulling for Akili to make it back to the NFL, even as a third-stringer. But he just hasn't looked good so far this season. It's hard to tell if Frankfurt's offense is so bad because Smith (and Kevin Eakin) haven't been able to really get going, or if Smith hasn't looked overly impressive because he's stuck with such poor offensive weapons. Regardless, when you're only No. 2 in Frankfurt, it's going to be really hard to become No. 3 in Tampa Bay. Hopefully Akili can finish the season strong.
Frankfurt won the prestigious Deutschland Derby in Week 5, knocking off Rhein, 23-20. Kevin Eakin (NYJ) was able to hit TE Brock Edwards (unallocated) on 4th-and-goal from the 11 with only 18 seconds remaining in the game to give the Galaxy the win and hand Rhein yet another tough loss. Frankfurt followed up their big win by getting absolutely manhandled in Week 6 by Amsterdam, 48-10.
After losing to the Galaxy in the Deutschland Derby, Rhein finally broke the goose egg in Week 6, hanging on to beat Hamburg, 24-19, after dominating for much of the game. RB Joe Smith (Ten) has been a workhorse the last few weeks, and the defense has stepped up.
Amsterdam currently leads the league in both total offense and defense. QB Kurt Kittner (Chi) filled in admirably last week for the injured Gibran Hamden (Sea). The trio of Jarrett Payton (Ten), Jonathan Smith (KC) and Sandino Octobre (French national) tied the NFL Europe single game rushing record with 331 yards on the ground, leading Amsterdam to a 48-10 victory over the Galaxy.
In Week 5, Cologne hung close with Hamburg until late in the fourth quarter despite the loss of their starting QB, Kevin Thompson (Buf). Backup Chris Lewis (Ari) wasn't able to manufacture much offense, but the Centurions' defense held them in the game until two late turnovers sealed their fate. Cologne had Thompson back in Week 6, but it was mainly their control of the ground game that earned them a 23-17 win over Berlin. Keylon Kincade (Dal) and Kory Chapman (NE) combined for over 130 yards and three TDs on the ground.
Berlin pulled off a big win over the Admirals in Week 5, when CB Jermaine Mays (Min) picked off Kurt Kittner (Chi) on his own goal line and took it back 100 yards for the TD that sealed the game late in the fouth quarter. In Week 6 however, the Thunder were unable to pick up a win on the road at Cologne, despite a huge day (165 yards, 2 TDs) from WR Michael Jennings (NYG).
LB Nick McNeil (GB) returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown with under three minutes to play in Week 5, giving Hamburg a win over Cologne. McNeil's touchdown broke open what was a tight 9-6 game up until that point. Quite often, a low scoring game is labeled as "boring" when in actuality it simply showcased good defensive football. Unfortunately, that was not the case in this instance. This was ugly offensive football rather than good defense. In Week 6, Hamburg ran into a motivated Fire defense and fell to Rhein, 24-19.
Rhein looks for its second win on the trot. The Fire defense is coming off its best performance of the season. Berlin is right in the thick of the World Bowl race, and this is the type of game they can't afford to lose. Despite this, I still like Rhein to pull off the minor upset.
It's never easy to win on the road, but Frankfurt has simply been too inconsistent this season to beat Cologne in a key game for the Centurions. I think Cologne will be alone in first place at 5-2 after Week 7.
A huge game for Hamburg to keep its World Bowl hopes alive. The Admirals' top-ranked running attack is coming off a record-tying game against Frankfurt, but they'll be up against the stingiest rushing defense in the NFLE in Hamburg. This should be a great game between two hungry teams.