Curt Gowdy Football League
1972 Preview
A rundown of the 1972 season, predicting winners, losers and key players on each team:
NFC East
Cedarhurst - The defending CGFL champs return in 1972 with a solid defense and a respectible offense. Their 81 points on D rank 2nd in the league, with only one starter rated lower than a 7. The offense will thrive behind the superb offensive line of Bob Brown, Bruce Van Dyke and Forrest Blue. John Fuqua, Doug Dressler and Jim Bertelsen will share the ball, and offset a slightly subpar year by Len Dawson. Prediction - 12 wins, home field throughout the playoffs.
Iron Mountain - The Miners will ride the passing game in 1972, as Francis Tarkenton will take full advantage of the league's best receiving trio, Otis Taylor, John Gilliam and Bob Tucker. Calvin Hill and Altie Taylor will provide a solid running game, enough to keep the defense honest. The defense is a solid 74 points, ranking in the upper half of the league. The Miners would win the West, but will settle for a wild card in a toughly fought battle in the East. Prediction - 10 wins, wild card #1.
Jersey - The Giants will again look to the ground game in their efforts to make the playoffs. There is potential for a pair of 1000 yard rushers, with Ron Johnson running outside and John Riggins running inside. QB Greg Landry is as much a threat on the ground as he is in the air, but he and partner Steve Spurrier are going to be hampered by a less than adequate receiving corps. Bob Newland is the only threat at WR, so look for a lot of passes to Johnson and receiving back Fred Willis. The defense has some weaknesses in the middle, and the secondary is pourous at best. Teams like Iron Mountain will be able to stay away from Lem Barney and go to their 2nd and 3rd receivers with ease. For Jersey to make the playoffs they must have a strong record in close games. Prediction - 7 wins, in a five-way battle for the final playoff berth.
Reading - The Rage are one of the five teams who should battle for the final wild card in the NFC. The questions begin at QB, where Jim Hart is being groomed for a starting role, but is not quite ready for prime time. To cover for Hart, the Rage picked up Daryl Lamonica in the off-season. The mad bomber may have to tone things down a bit as his receivers are more suited for the shorter passing game. Carl Garrett and Charlie Smith lead a respectable running game. The problems for Reading are on the other side of the ball. Their are weaknesses on the line and at linebacker, which make the Rage succeptable to the run. With division foes who each feature a solid running game, they'll need some big plays and good coaching to make it. Prediction - 6 wins, the least likely of the five to take the wild card.
Gate City - Franco Harris solves one problem, now if the Gunfighters only had an answer at QB. Scott Hunter gets another chance with southpaw Ken Stabler in reserve. Stabler will one take be the leader but he has a problem with interceptions that needs to be corrected. Of course, so does Hunter. The offnesive line is young, which is a nice way to say they aren't real good yet. The highlight for Gate City is on defense...not in performance but in potential. In a few years this unit may be the league's best. For now, their will be growing pains. Prediction - 3 wins.
NFC West
Fort Lauderdale - The Trojans have a trio of 10s on defense, led by the linebacking duo of Chris Hanburger and newly acquired Dick Butkus. Using Tommy Nobis and Fred Carr, Fort Lauderdale will unveil a new twist this year - the 3-4 defense. With Alan Page clogging the middle, and Jake Scott patroling centerfield, opposing teams will struggle to move the ball. On offense, Dave Hampton and a conservative game plan look to be in order, so the Trojans should be in a lot of close games. Prediction - 10 wins, division title.
Minnesota - Having an offense similar to Fort Lauderdale, and a defense just a notch below, it will be tough for the Storm to win the division. However, they can do it. They will need to win the division games and not give the ball away. The special teams are terrific and there is big play potential on defense. Prediction - 7 wins, a player for the final wildcard.
Canton - Turn the Juice Loose! That's the call in Canton, but with a mediocre line there could be problems. OJ is the offense as Gary Garrison is the team's only decent receiving threat. Claude Humphrey leads one of the league's top pass rush units, but weakness at linebacker could be the achilies heel. As is the case with Minnesota, to win the division the Crushers need to win most of the division games. Otherwise, they're in the hunt for a wild card. Prediction - 7 wins.
Duluth - Last year John Brodie led the Rangers to the NFC Championship Game. This year, questions of durability hover around their hero. Brodie has an difficult off-season, so aging John Unitas was brought in to carry part of the load. Certainly there will be no lack of leadership. Steve Owens and Jim Kiick man the backfield, but there are doubts that Owens can repeat his 1000 yard season of a year ago. The defense is pretty good, but like Canton, there are concerns at linebacker. The Rangers are the 5th of 5 teams fighting for a wild card. Prediction - 6 wins.
Chicago - Well, not everyone can make the playoffs. Larry Csonka will be as bruising as ever, but the QB situation is up in the air. The Plunkett/Phipps battle will be for the right to throw to a shallow pool of receivers, led by TE Dave Parks. The defense is the weakest in the league, with Pugh and Wilcox the only anchors. It will be a long year, but the reward should be a decent rookie in 1973. Prediction - 2 wins.
AFC East
Willamette - This could be the best team in the AFC. Get ready for Billy Kilmer deep to Charley Taylor, Marv Hubbard up the middle and Bob Trumpy grabbing short tosses over the middle. The Wolverines should be able to control the ball on offense, then use the league's 4th best defense to shut down their opponents. A team effort on D, only Dick Anderson will catch your eye. This is a solid unit that looks to end up in the AFC Championship Game. Prediction - 10 wins, AFC East title.
Waikiki - Two words: Bobby Douglass. Stop laughing, I'm serious. Bobby could easily be the team's top rusher, perhaps even breaking the 1000 yard mark. Running with Douglass will be Leroy Kelly, Art Malone and Josh Ashton. The line is terrific - Winston Hill, Larry Little and Bob Johnson. If teams play the run too tight, Fred Biletnikoff and friends are ready to grab a short toss and scramble for big yards. The defense is weak, especially against the pass. Hopes are for a wild card as one of 5 teams looking at 2 spots. Prediction - 8 wins.
Hudson Valley - Defending AFC East Champs, the offense is much the same as last year. Mike Garrett and Willie Ellison will run behind a pair of 10s, Rayfield Wright and Tom Mack. The strong ground game should allow Bob Berry to enjoy the same type of success as he had last year. The defense is strong against the pass, but weak vs. the run. A wild card contender. Prediction - 7 wins.
Marathon - A new logo, new uniforms, a new RB in Mercury Morris, but unfortunately, a new QB as Roger Staubach will miss most of the year. In his place, Marty Domres gets his chance of a lifetime. Domres will have a pair of good receivers in the Washingtons, Vic and Gene. The defense is not so good, except for Bill Stanfill, Bobby Bell and Isaiah Robertson. Another wild card contender. Prediction - 7 wins.
New York - The AFC Super Bowl representative was dealt a blow similar to that received by Duluth and Marathon. QB Bob Griese was injured in the off season and will miss a big part of the season. So Dennis Shaw was brought in to try to save the day. His supporting cast is decent, but not deep. Harold Jackson and J.D. Hill are a great WR duo, but RBs Mac Lane and Wendell Hayes will need relief from time to time. An ordinary defense, plus a tough schedule will keep the Knights out of the playoffs. Prediction - 5 wins.
AFC West
Rhinelander - Norm Snead and Earl Morrall are an experienced team at QB. Floyd Little carries the ground game, while Chip Myers is the best hope at WR. Ron Yary is a top lineman, while Willie Brown leads a tough secondary. A weaker schedule may help too, but clearly the Hodags are the best in the West. Prediction - 10 wins.
Woodbine - Led by a defense which features Joe Greene and Nick Buonicounti, the Tigers look to win a lot of close games. A lot depends upon the play of Roman Gabriel and whether the running game can outperform their mediocre label. They'll be in the hunt for a wild card, but a division title looks unlikely. Prediction - 8 wins.
San Antonio - Larry Brown and John Brockington are the AFC's toughest 1-2 punch, and with Cid Edwards in reserve, the Renegades could challenge Hudson Valley's record from last year. It looks like another year of rotating QBs with Joe Namath having the inside track. Whoever gets to throw the ball their should be plenty of candidates. Kwalick, Caster, Abramowicz, Jefferson and Bell all will be part of the receiving team. So why not a higher prediction? The defense, and specifically the line is very weak. A running team should be able to easily move the ball. Prediction - 6 wins, but a chance at a wild card.
Houston - The Oilers give the reigns to Ken Anderson in hopes that he can get more going than last year's man Bill Nelsen. Anderson has mostly the same crew, but most of them are too young to be reliable. The defense is weak except in one area - Houston has the league's top pass rush unit. As bad as they are against the run, the rush should be a non-factor. Prediction - 4 wins.
Miami Valley - Virgil Carter makes 4 QBs who will miss a lot of time after a successful 1971 campaign. Carter's replacement, John Reaves is, well, young. Essex Johnson must duplicate his monster season if the Madcats are to have a chance at the playoffs. A look at the receivers and the defense, and I'm not going to hold my breath. Prediction - 4 wins.
The Playoffs
NFC - Which ever team wins the wild card, they will face the Cedarhurst monster and likely go down to defeat. Iron Mountain at Fort Lauderdale will be an interesting matchup, but I think the Rage will shutdown Archie Manning and Dave Hampton. In the Championship Game, look for Cedarhurst to win in a close game.
AFC - So many wild card candidates, but both of them will go down to defeat to the division-winning Willamette and Rhinelander teams. The Wolverines have a slightly better running game, and I think Marv Hubbard will be the difference as Willamette goes to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl - On paper it looks close, but on the field the Wolverine ground game goes for close to 200 yards and brings a title to Willamette, 31-14.