Teams #1-#5 are here. Teams #6-#10 are here.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: I was tremendously bummed out to realize that I couldn’t rightly place the Bengals in the Top 10, but life isn’t fair and football is less so. The Bengals are one my favorite teams to play as, despite their obvious deficiencies on both sides of the ball. QB Boomer Esaison, TE Rodney Holman, and both RBs are all very good, but alas, the WRs barely creep up to average. This may not seem like a all that big a deal when the rest of the offense is so loaded, but it can be a nightmare to work around. None of your receivers (including Holman) are good enough to beat single coverage, so if you fall behind you’ll need to get creative. Everyone on the defense is complete trash except for OLB James Francis and SS David Fulcher. The good news is that Fulcher is so good at absolutely everything that he’s a Top 10 defensive unit unto himself. Use him all the time, even in Bad condition. For best results, use him as a Troy Polamalu-esque Swiss Army Knife.
12. Washington: This is the drop off. Teams #1-#11 are more or less ready-made contenders, but once you get to this point, you’re looking at teams with serious, glaring flaws. It’s possible to win the Super Bowl with every team in the game, but from here on down, expect a real struggle. Washington has everything all the really good teams have, except a QB and an elite defender. RB Earnest Byner and all 3 starting WRs are fantastic; even though their playbook contains multiple play action passes and even a reverse, I recommend leaving it as is. The problem on offense is QB Mark Rypien, whose statistical profile suggests below-average game manager, and yet if you keep these default plays you’re mostly stuck throwing downfield (although all of the plays have at least one dump-off). And yet, to change the plays would be to hold the WRs back or force Rypien to throw even further. Again, keep the defaults. The defense is almost pretty good, and would be quite formidable indeed if Darrell Green were anywhere close to properly rated. Instead, he only has a 44 Interceptions rating to go with his 75 Maximum Speed. Once, in a fit of curiosity, I went to the internet to see if Green had a down year in 1990. He was First Team All-Pro. Sigh. Whatever. Use Martin Mayhew, the other CB, who is a couple steps slower but better at coverage.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers: With a nuclear defense and an atrocious offense, the Steelers are best described as the Bears’ AFC counterpart. QB Bubby Brister is slightly better than either QB the Bears have to offer, but this is only because he has ridiculous arm strength to compliment his horrific inaccuracy; neither Bears QB has even that much. You will want to run as often as possible on offense, even though your running back aren’t any great shakes, either. Your goal on each offensive series is to take as much time off the clock as possible and score if and only if the opportunity presents itself. Promote WR Dwight Stone off the bench to WR2, as he almost has actual speed. If you call pass on 3rd down and no one is open, first you must accept that you already fucked up. Next, free yourself to chuck that sumbitch as far downfield as possible. At best, you’ll get big play and at worst, you’ll have executed a successful arm punt. All of the talent on this team is on the defense, led by CB Rod Woodson, who is essentially a third safety. Use him to wreck everything opposing offenses can possibly throw at you. I have the Steelers this high because I am a defense-first psychopath. If you have no taste for learning how to play great defense, this team plunges many, many spots.
14. Los Angeles Rams: The Rams have one of the most well-rounded offenses is the game. In some ways, they surpass even the mighty Bills for sheer offensive firepower. The key to the Rams is their otherworldly collection of receiving talent. Henry Ellard and Willie Anderson are both elite at WR, and can easily beat single coverage; Ellard has a base Receptions rating of 81, tying Jerry fucking Rice, while Anderson has a mere 75 in that category. TE Pete Holohan is also a damn good receiver, and if you do the smart thing and put in Buford McGee as your RB2, you’ll have five excellent targets for QB Jim Everett, who is damn good and has damn good accuracy. Do try and keep some semblance of balance on offense, though. Starting RB Cleveland Gary is pretty decent, but fumble prone, so get out of bounds; McGee can also pull some weight as a runner. Score as many points as you possibly can, because the Rams defense is but one step above putrid. That one step is solely due to OLB Kevin Greene, the only sane choice for who to control. You’ll need to use him well both a run defender and pass rusher. Drop back into coverage if you don’t think you can get the sack. But really, the key to winning with the Rams is burying the opposition in points.
15. Detroit Lions: As with discussing Dan Marino and the Dolphins, I feel that I needn’t spend too much time or energy espousing the virtues of Barry Sanders. Suffice to say, he’s extremely fast and can also catch, which is a nice luxury. And, contrary to what conventional wisdom dictates with regard to the Lions in this era, the rest of the team around him isn’t all that bad, although Sanders is the only superstar here. Rodney Peete isn’t a great QB, but he’s adequate. At least two and arguably three of the WRs are pretty damn good, so you don’t have to find a way to use Sanders every single down. That might seem like damning with faint praise (and it is), but hey, the Bears can’t even say that much for their passing game. The defense also has a few things going for it. SS William White isn’t elite at tackling or coverage, but he’s pretty good at both, which is ultimately what you want from a safety. NT Jerry Ball is one of the very best at his position if you’re feeling like having a bit more fun, although you’ll inevitably give up a big play when you don’t get a sack or tackle the runner in the backfield.
Next time, I’ll explore the mysteries of John Elway, a cypher who speaks in riddles. What the fuck is Elway’s team doing this far down the list? Is Elway even any good, or does he just have a good arm? What do I speak of when I speak of ‘Elway Things’? I’ll tell ya later!
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