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?
26 May 2005
Guest column by Ian Hollohan
The race for the World Bowl is in full flight as NFL Europe heads into the final two weeks of the season. Berlin and Amsterdam control their own destiny, while Cologne and Hamburg are still alive but need help.
Frankfurt has played fairly well the last two weeks, and only a horribly shanked field goal prevented them from being 4-4 and still in the World Bowl hunt. They gave Cologne everything it could handle in Week 7 before losing 20-17 in overtime. Kicker Stephen Scaldaferri (Ind) had a 33-yard field goal attempt to win the game in regulation, but missed low and right with one of the ugliest kicks I've ever seen. QB Kevin Eakin (NYJ) continues to play well, and has found a new weapon in WR Aaron Hosack (Min) over the last two weeks. Returning from an injury, Hosack has three touchdown catches in the last two games, enough to lead the Galaxy on the season. CB Lamont Brightful (NYG) and the rest of the defense have played better in the last few weeks. In Week 8, Frankfurt dominated Rhein in the Deutschland Derby rematch, winning 20-13.
The Fire have been back to their losing ways over the last two weeks, and QB Scott McBrien (GB) is doing everything he can to undermine my faith in his abilities. Despite 166 yards on the ground from RB Joe Smith (Ten), Rhein squandered yet another second-half lead and lost 24-15 to Berlin in Week 7. The following week saw the Fire play the role of gracious hosts to the Galaxy, barely putting up a fight against their oldest rivals. The highlight of the game (for me at least) was when McBrien dropped an "F-bomb" on live TV near the two-minute warning after yet another botched play. Apparently the FCC hasn't had time to send a memo to the NFL Network just yet.
Amsterdam lost 30-24 to Hamburg in Week 7, in one of the more entertaining games so far this season in NFL Europe. Entertaining for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately for Amsterdam, as the Admirals combined with Hamburg to set a new NFL Europe single-game record with 10 interceptions. Amsterdam QB Kurt Kittner (Chi) was responsible for four of those 10. Yet it was actually his only fumble of the day, with seconds left in overtime, that led to Hamburg's victory. CBs Jeff Sanchez (Det) and B.J. Tucker (Sea) played well defensively in the losing cause with Sanchez returning an interception 92 yards for a touchdown. In Week 8, the Admirals rebounded with a 30-12 win over Cologne in an important game with considerable World Bowl implications. The win means Amsterdam now holds the tiebreaker over Cologne (2-0 head-to-head this season) and can earn a place in the World Bowl with wins in Week 9 and 10.
Cologne survived a scare against Frankfurt in Week 7, coming from 14-0 down to eventually win in overtime, 20-17. RB Kory Chapman (NE) had his most impressive game of the season running for 118 yards and a touchdown. The defensive line stepped up in the second half of the game to prevent the Galaxy from finding much offensive rhythm. The Centurions' Week 8 loss to Amsterdam, however, means they'll need help to get to the World Bowl.
Berlin has been the class of NFL Europe this season, and has all but assured itself of a place in the World Bowl with wins over Rhein and Hamburg in Weeks 7 and 8, respectively. Week 7 saw the Thunder hold off Rhein 24-15, riding the strong play of their defense, which forced three turnovers. In Week 8, QB Dave Ragone (Hou) put up NFL-quality numbers, going 22-of-31 for 258 yards and three TDs. WR Aaron Boone (Car) followed up his strong Week 7 showing (112 yards, one TD) with six receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. On the defensive side of the ball, CB Willie Ford (KC) had two interceptions.
Hamburg won a thriller, 30-24 in OT in Week 7 when DE Ivor McCoy (unallocated) returned a fumble for a 29-yard touchdown with less than half a minute to go in OT. S Shawn Mayer (Atl) had three interceptions, tying the NFL Europe record. WR Chris Collins (Pit) had a big day in place of the injured Scott McCready, grabbing 11 catches for over 100 yards. The Sea Devils were unable to carry the momentum into Week 8 however, losing to Berlin despite another fine day from Collins and fellow wideout Terrance Metcalf (TB), as well as a rare 54-yard (worth four points in NFLE) field goal from K Todd France (TB).
Frankfurt is playing better as of late, but Berlin has played well all season. I expected a slip-up by the Thunder in Week 7 vs. Rhein, but I don't expect one here.
This is the second huge showdown between these two teams in three weeks (Hamburg won in Week 7). Hamburg must win to have any chance at the World Bowl, while the Admirals know if they win out, they are in. Should be the game of the weekend.
A must-win for Cologne, and I think they'll get it at home. The Centurions haven't been very hot of late, but Rhein has really been awful the last two weeks. FOX might have a clunker on its hands here.