The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 10, 2021

Introducing The PiRate Football Game

The PiRate Ratings have created a new pro football tabletop strategy game, called PiRate Football. You can purchase the game at the following link.

Our first set of teams in this new game is our salute to the venerable American Football League. Ten great franchises made the AFL exciting, entertaining, wide-open, and star-studded.

The teams you will get in this game are:

1961 Houston Oilers

1963 San Diego Chargers

1964 Buffalo Bills

1964 Boston Patriots

1966 Kansas City Chiefs

1967 Oakland Raiders

1968 New York Jets

1972 Miami Dolphins

1973 Cincinnati Bengals

1977 Denver Broncos

This new game comes with 26 offensive and 14 defensive plays, expanded special teams options, a unique way to play this as a solitaire game, and everything you need to play a football game other than the dice you need to supply plus a pencil to keep stats.

100% of all the proceeds of our games, Sabertooth Baseball and PiRate Football, go to local charity with no administrative costs or other junk. We just give the money to our selected charity. We specialize in helping elderly on fixed incomes. We have recently purchased and had installed a hot water heater for two 80+ year old sisters thanks to proceeds from the Sabertooth Baseball Game. Our goal is to supply a washer and dryer to an elderly couple who had a 15+ year old washer and 20+ year old dryer quit working in 2020.

Our gratitude goes to all that purchased the two baseball sets this Spring and Summer. Please help us this Autumn to make the Winter Holidays really happy for a paid of 80-somethings.

December 3, 2013

PiRate Ratings: NFL–December 5-9, 2013

Greatest Moments

The finish to the Iron Bowl drew headlines all over the nation, as well as Canada.  Even the network nightly news’ ran the story on Monday.


The NFL is jokingly referred to as the “no fun league,” but this is not true.  There are numerous exciting single plays as well as a set of plays for every team in the league.  Here are our selections for the AFC; the NFC comes next week.  Yours may be different, but we are basing most of these on being around when they happened.


AFC East

Buffalo: The big hit in the 1964 AFL Championship Game is a close second, but the great comeback in the 1993 NFL Playoffs has to trump it.  The Bills trailed Houston 35-3 into the third quarter, before emergency fill-in QB Frank Reich led the most amazing comeback in NFL history.  The Bills forced OT at 38-38 and then won on a Steve Christie field goal.


There were two big plays in this game.  Christie personally recovered his onside kick in the third quarter, which seemed to ignite the spark for the amazing comeback.  In the overtime period, Nate Odomes intercepted a Warren Moon pass to give the Bills excellent field position.


Miami: We had to choose between a half dozen excellent options, but we went with the one that preserved the undefeated season of 1972.


In the conference championship game on New Year’s Eve, the surprising Pittsburgh Steelers, in their first playoff in years, appeared to have destiny on their side.  They had just knocked off the Raiders in the most incredible play in the NFL in decades (see Steelers’ best moment), and they seemed to have the 15-0 Dolphins on the ropes.


Trailing 7-0 and showing nothing on offense against the Steelers’ emerging dominant defense, punter Larry Seiple faked a punt and ran almost 40 yards for a first down.  The Dolphins went on to score a TD to tie the game at 7-7, and the Steel Curtain defense was not the same the rest of the game as Miami went on to win 21-17.


New England: The entire 2001 playoffs could qualify for the Patriots.  However, one play stands out above all others.  Adam Vinatieri booted a 45-yard field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime against the Oakland Raiders.  Normally, a 45-yard field goal would not qualify here, but this kick was special—it took place in a driving snowstorm (close to a blizzard) with icy field conditions.


New York Jets: Super Bowl III was the greatest game for the Jets, but it was a 60-minute effort.  The 1968 AFL Championship Game produced the biggest play in Jets’ history.  The Jets trailed Oakland 23-20 after a Joe Namath pass attempt to star receiver Don Maynard did not connect.  Star cornerback George Atkinson has read the play and jumped in to pick off the pass and return it to the Jets’ five yard line.


Namath did not let the pick deter him.  Immediately on the next possession, he went back to Maynard.  Maynard gave a little fake to the inside and then sprinted deep on a fly pattern.  Namath dropped back and quickly released a long bomb that fell into Maynard’s hands as Maynard and Atkinson fell into the slop at Shea Stadium.  It left the Jets just a few yards from paydirt, and they scored on the next play to go ahead 27-23.  The Jets’ defense and the swirling wind and mud stalled the great Daryle Lamonica, and the Jets were on their way to Super Bowl III.


AFC North

Baltimore: In the Ravens’ short history, there are a few exceptional plays, but this one is rather obvious.  Jacoby Jones’ 108-yard kick return to start the second half of the most recent Super Bowl is clearly the best play in Ravens’ history.  The 2000 champs had several excellent defensive stops, but none of them caused a power failure.


Cincinnati: We are going with our own trick play here.  The Bengals have a lot of exciting plays and games in their history, including the 1981 AFC Championship Game in weather similar to the Ice Bowl of 1967.  However, we are going with a game that our leader watched by the fireplace in 1969.


Many of you reading this may have never heard of Greg Cook.  A local boy, he played college ball at the University of Cincinnati.  In a day when most QBs were 6-0 to 6-2 in height, Cook was 6-04.  He had a rifle arm and could throw the ball accurately 60 yards downfield.  He had a quick, on the mark release, and he could set up in the pocket faster than most of his peers.  Basically, he had all the tools.


And, he had Paul Brown as his head coach and Bill Walsh as his teacher.  How good was the rookie?  Walsh calls him the best QB he ever coached, and that includes Joe Montana and Steve Young.  Walsh once described Cook as combining the accuracy, poise, and instincts of Montana with the speed, power, and cockiness of Terry Bradshaw.


Cook was perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but he never got a chance to show it.  A rookie in 1969, he began his career with impressive victories to send the second year Bengals out to a 2-0 start.  The week two game was no fluke, as the Bengals blew a very talented San Diego Chargers team off the field, as Cook threw for more than 300 yards.  The Bengals would win game three over the Super Bowl Champion-to-be Chiefs, but it would cause them dearly.  Cook had just directed the Bengals on a scoring drive on the previous possession, when he seemed to have Cinti on the move again.  He rolled to his right to attempt a flood pattern pass when he was sacked from his blindside.  He landed on his throwing shoulder and tore his rotator cuff.


1969 was five years before Tommy John became the first athlete to undergo the new surgery for torn rotator cuffs, and it was 18-months before John could throw a baseball again.  Cook did not undergo surgery.  In 1969, the protocol was to shoot cortisone into the shoulder.  Cook missed time, but he made a comeback five weeks later against the undefeated Raiders.  The Bengals had lost all four games in his absence, and the Bengals were now in fourth place in the five-team AFL West Division.


Cook felt obligated to return, even though his shoulder could take little additional damage.  On this day in question, the Bengals-Raiders’ game was the early AFL game on NBC.  For one half, Cook was able to play near his peak, and the 3-4 Bengals looked to be poised to blow the 7-0 Raiders off the field, leading 17-0 at the half.  Cook’s arm tired quickly in the second half, but by then the Bengals were in control of the game.  They cruised to a 31-3 lead before Oakland scored two TDs in the final two drives to make it 31-17.  It was the last great game Cook ever played, as his arm fell apart and slowly weakened after every pass the rest of the season.  Cook finished out the season with no additional wins.


After the season, he underwent multiple operations and tried to return to the game, but his arm was shot.  He served as Ken Anderson’s backup at the start of the 1973 season and saw brief action in the first game, but he never played again. 


That game against Oakland in 1969 serves as our most exciting moment in Bengals’ history.


Cleveland: Little can be said about the second incarnation of Browns’ history.  The first version produced all the highlights.  For the best moment, it is hard to go against the final game of the 1964 season.  The Browns were 9-3-1, needing to beat the New York Giants in the 14th game to play the overwhelming top team in the league, Baltimore.  A loss would send the St. Louis Cardinals to the championship, as the football Cards had just defeated Philadelphia to finish the season 9-3-2.


This Browns team had a dominating offense, but the defense was suspect.  Any attack with the greatest running back in the history of the game and one of the greatest receivers in the history of the game had to be good, even if the rest of the offense was just average.  Cleveland had Jim Brown at fullback, and Brown needed little blocking help to gain five yards up the middle and just one block to turn a short off-tackle play into a 20-30 yard run.


Paul Warfield had few peers in the game.  The receiver would later become a star with the Miami Dolphins, but he was already a stud.  Having Gary Collins at the other wide-out spot forced defenses to stop the vertical pass first before concentrating on the running game.


Cleveland was only briefly threatened that final day of the 1964 regular season.  The Giants scored a touchdown early to take a lead held for just a few minutes.  Cleveland retaliated with three quick touchdowns to put the game away before halftime.  They added three more TDs in the third quarter and turned the game into a rout.  Quarterback Frank Ryan tossed 5 TD passes on the day as well as long bombs to both Warfield and Collins before sitting out the final quarter.  Cleveland won the game 51-20.  The Giants scored two TDs late, the final coming on the last play of the game.


Pittsburgh: There can be just one choice here, and most every serious fan has heard of “The Immaculate Reception.”  In the Steelers’ first playoff game since the 1962 Playoff Bowl (since reclassified as an exhibition game, making it the first since 1947), Pittsburgh looked to be a one and done participant as the Oakland Raiders had the game secured with seconds remaining.  Pittsburgh faced 4th and 10 at their own 40 yard line with time for maybe three more plays, less if the ball did not get out of bounds.  Of course, the Steelers needed 10 yards to maintain possession.


Terry Bradshaw took a big drop and then rolled right before taking a step back to the left to avoid the pass rush.  He eyed halfback John “Frenchy” Fuqua over the middle more than 10 yards past the first down marker.  The pass sailed toward Fuqua with Raider defensive back Jack Tatum appearing to have the advantage on the ball.  At the last second, Fuqua made a stab at the ball, but it bounced off Tatum’s shoulder pads and caromed several yards back toward the line of scrimmage.  The Raiders’ pass defense for a brief moment less than one second in length began to celebrate, just as they watched fullback Franco Harris scoop the ball inches before it hit the ground.


At this point, Harris’s path to the end zone was anything but clear.  It took a fantastic block from tight end John McMakin on linebacker Phil Villipiano and a strong stiff arm by Harris on safety Jimmy Warren.  The play used up 17 seconds, but it took several minutes for the officials to finally agree that it was a touchdown.  Rumors to this day detail that the head referee went into the PiRates’ baseball dugout to call upstairs to the pressbox to get the head of officiating to look at the instant replay to see if the reception was legal.  In those days, if an offensive player touched the ball first, no other offensive player could make the catch unless it hit a defensive player first. 


AFC South

Houston: There is a flat-footed tie here in the youngest team in the NFL.  The Texans first made the playoffs in 2011.  In their first playoff game against Cincinnati, two plays stand out.  Quarterback T.J. Yates threw deep down the left sideline to Andre Johnson, who had escaped double coverage, for the touchdown.  Maybe more momentous, in that same game, J. J. Watt intercepted an Andy Dalton pass and ran it to the house for the touchdown that put Houston ahead.


Indianapolis: It was hard picking between two great moments, both when the Colts were in Baltimore.  The “Kick heard ‘round the world” (Jim O’Brien’s game winning FG at the end of Super Bowl V), narrowly missed out to the play that made the NFL what it is today.  In the 1958 NFL Championship Game, the great Johnny Unitas led the Colts on a last-minute drive into field goal range to tie the New York Giants as time ran out, forcing the first overtime in NFL history.  The Giants won the toss and received, but the Colts’ defense held them to three plays and a punt.


Enter Unitas one more time.  Unitas was sacked on first down for a huge loss, and two plays later, with Baltimore facing 3rd and 15, he connected with Raymond Berry for a crucial first down, and the Giants seemed in shock.  Unitas directed the offense down the field, where Alan Ameche drove into the end zone from a yard out to end the “Greatest NFL Game of All Time,” at least up until then.


Jacksonville: How could a second year team make it to the AFC Championship Game?  With Tom Coughlin at coach and Dick Jauron at defensive coordinator, any team might have a chance to sneak into a playoff hunt, but to then win two playoff games, it is unheard of!


The 1996 Jags won six of their final seven regular season games to earn a wildcard spot at 9-7.  Then, the upstart team knocked off a good Buffalo team in the first round of the playoffs to advance to a game against overwhelming favorite Denver.  This was a Broncos team that went 13-3 with one of the losses coming on the final weekend when most of the key players, including John Elway, were rested since Denver had already clinched home field advantage as the top team.


The Broncos quickly showed the Jags that they were going to show them no mercy, reaching the end zone twice in the first quarter.  However, the PAT on the first TD was missed, and a two-point conversion attempt following TD number two was unsuccessful, leaving the Jags down 12-0 instead of 14-0.


The Jags came to life in the second quarter and went to the half with a 13-12 lead that should have been a 14-13 deficit.  Jacksonville took control in the third quarter and pulled away thanks to the passing of Mark Brunell.  Denver scored twice in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough.


Tennessee: There were some fantastic moments when the team was in Houston, such as winning the AFL Championships the first two years in the league existence.  The 1961 Oilers were one of the most exciting teams in pro football history with George Blanda throwing long and longer to Bill Groman and Charley Hennigan.


However, there can be but one game and one play that qualifies here—“The Music City Miracle” of 1999.  The Titans looked to be cooked with 16 seconds remaining in an opening round playoff game against Buffalo.  Trailing 16-15 following a Steve Christie field goal, Titans’ Coach Jeff Fisher called for his special trick kick return play.  Expecting a squib kick, he expected star tight end Frank Wycheck to field the ball, take a step or two to one side and then throw a long lateral across the field to Kevin Dyson.


Things did not go according to plans.  The Bills did not squib kick; they pooch-kicked the ball high into the air into Loreno Neal’s hands at the Titans’ 24.  Wycheck could not get over in time to make the catch.  Neal took three choppy steps to his right until he could hand the ball over to Wycheck and lead interference for him.  Wycheck took the ball and ran to his right for about a second and a half, turning to throw the ball across the field from the Titans’ 25 yard line.  Wycheck’s front foot toed the 25-yard line when he released the ball with the ball forward of the 25. Dyson’s back foot was clearly behind the 25-yard line when he caught the lateral on line with that back foot, making it a legal lateral.  There were no Bills’ defenders in Dyson’s way, as he sprinted 75 yards to the end zone.


AFC West

Denver: The Broncos have had numerous memorable moments, but two stand out above all others.  Both involve John Elway.  “The Drive” in the 1986 season (1987 playoffs) that defeated Cleveland is a close second to our choice.  In the Super Bowl in 1998 (1997 season), the Broncos and Packers were tied at 17-17 well into the third quarter, when Elway pulled off one of the most heroic runs in Super Bowl history.  Dropping back to pass on 3rd & 6 from the Packer 12, he could not find an open receiver as the pass rush closed in.  From the 21 yard line, he knew he would have to run free for about 16 yards, hoping to get to the five yard line.  He ran to his right and saw that he was not going to make it if he slid in a dive.  He needed to get to just shy of the five yard line and was going to take punishment between the six and seven yard line. 


Elway refused to slide.  Instead, he tucked the ball in and dove into the air.  Three Packers got a lick, with one of them propelling Elway like a helicopter blade.  When Elway hit the turf, the Broncos had a first and goal. 


Kansas City: Here was maybe the hardest team to choose from.  The Chiefs won the Super Bowl as well as two other AFL Championships, one of which came in a long overtime win.  However, we are going to a regular season game in a year where the Chiefs lost a playoff for the AFL West division title.


In 1968, Kansas City had the best defense in the league, possibly the best in AFL history.  The offense was not as spectacular as the 1966 Super Bowl I team, but it was adequate thanks to a couple of big play receivers and one of the most accurate passers of the 1960’s.


In the final four years of the AFL’s existence, Kansas City and Oakland were like Alabama and Auburn.  Games frequently became wrestling and boxing matches between plays.  NBC Television always reserved this game for its second spot in the doubleheader, and the ratings bonanza led to an excellent Sunday night warm-up for Bonanza, their top show.


In the October match against the Raiders at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, the Chiefs had no healthy wide receivers.  Coach Hank Stram, a great offensive innovator, decided the only way to play this game was to do the opposite of innovate; he went retro.  In secret, the Chiefs practiced from a two tight end full-house T-formation like the Chicago Bears made famous in 1940. 


In the first half of the game, the Raiders had no answer for the Chiefs’ ancient offense.  Guard Ed Budde looked like a man among boys in the opening 30 minutes, as he opened holes for backs to run free.  The three Chiefs’ backs, Mike Garrett, Robert Holmes, and Wendell Hayes, ran wild as the Chiefs topped 200 yards on the ground before halftime and led 17-0, before cruising to a 24-10 win.  Dawson attempted just three passes, an NFL modern day record, and he completed two.  All three were play-action passes off fake sweeps, one to Garrett out of the backfield.


Oakland: The 1967 Raiders were hands down the best AFL team of all time.  The Raiders dominated the opposition on their way to a 13-1 record.  This team dominated on both sides of the ball.  On offense, “The Mad Bomber,” Daryle Lamonica, was the most exciting quarterback of the time.  He could fire a 40-yard pass on the mark like it was a hitch pattern.  He frequently gave up easy 10-yard passes to throw 25 or more yards down the field.  The Raiders moved the ball with vertical passing setting up power running.  Defensively, the Raiders’ pass rush was scary, especially with Big Ben Davidson leading the way.


In the 1967 opener, Oakland held Denver below 0 total yards in the game!  It has not happened since.  Poor Broncos quarterback Steve Tensi frequently met Raider pass rushers in the pocket before he could finish his drop.  He completed just three passes all day, but one of those was to Raider defensive back Warren Powers, who returned it for the final score of the day as Oakland won 51-0.


That Raider team won the AFL Championship with ease, knocking Houston off 40-7 in a game that was never in doubt, but for the one game that epitomizes this team, we will select the game against San Diego in the middle of the season.  It was the second game of a nationally televised double header.  San Diego actually held the lead in the AFL West with a 5-0-1 record, while Oakland was 5-1, having lost to Joe Namath and the Jets. 


If the Chargers won this game, they would hold a commanding lead.  Quarterback John Hadl had quickly become the elite QB in the NFL with Lance Alworth providing the best target in football.  Diminutive back Dicky Post was a threat to take a simple handoff and turn it into a long gain, thanks to the league’s best tackle, Ron Mix, clearing out defenses.


The game was much anticipated all week among the AFL’s renegade fans.  Youngsters, like yours truly, waited all week for this great finish to the weekend. 


The scoring started early when the Chargers were backed up inside their one yard line.  A handoff to Post never got out of the end zone, and Oakland led 2-0.  It was a lead they would never relinquish.  Enter the Mad Bomber.  Lamonica faked a handoff to Hewritt Dixon and then dropped back and spotted Clem Daniels deep down the sideline.  He placed the ball into Daniels’ hands, and it was quickly 9-0 Oakland.


Following a San Diego field goal early in the second quarter, the Raiders went back on the attack and

Sustained a long drive using many power runs.  Lamonica dropped back to pass from the San Diego three and found a hole wide enough to drive a tractor through.  He quickly ran in for the score to make it 16-3.


San Diego was not ready to throw in the towel.  Hadl finally connected with Bambi, and Alworth hauled in a long pass in stride.  Nobody could stop Alworth from behind, and it became a 70+ yard touchdown strike to make it 16-10, where it stood at halftime.


The second half was all silver and black.  Lamonica tore the Chargers’ secondary apart leading Oakland on five touchdown drives, highlighted by his bomb to Fred Biletnikoff to put the game out of reach, and Oakland won 51-10.  The Chargers collapsed, and Kansas City never posted a challenge.  Oakland won the West by four games over the Chiefs and four and a half over San Diego.  They met their match in the Super Bowl against the greatest dynasty ever, but Oakland was not 19-points weaker than Green Bay that year.  The Packers played their best game of the season for Vince Lombardi’s finale in Titletown.


San Diego:  The AFL first appeared to have become the equal of the NFL during the 1963 season.  Many experts of the time believed the 1963 Chargers were better than the NFL Champion Chicago Bears that year.  They were probably right, because this Chargers’ team was dominating.


Quarterback Tobin Rote was a fullback disguised as a quarterback.  He had a strong arm, but his strong legs frequently caused troubles for pass rushes.  Halfback Paul Lowe and fullback Keith Lincoln were the best tandem runners until Mercury Morris and Larry Csonka came along in the following decade.  Both had breakaway speed, great hands to catch passes, and no fear to block blitzing linebackers.


When Rote dropped back to pass, he only had the greatest pair of hands in NFL history on the other end of his aerials.  Lance Alworth had no peer at his position.  “Bambi” was agile, quick, intelligent, and when the ball came anywhere near him, he caught it.  Defenses were forced to double team Alworth, which opened up the running game.  Throw in tight end Dave Kocourek, who was a monster over the middle for any safety, and the brilliant play-calling of Coach Sid Gillman, and opposing teams’ coaches spent many a sleepless nights trying to figure out how to slow this team down.


The Chargers faced the Boston Patriots for the AFL Championship, a team they had swept during the regular season, but winning by four and one point.  Boston had to defeat Buffalo in a playoff for the East Division title, while San Diego benefitted from having an extra week to recover and prepare.


The game figured to be a tight, lower scoring than average contest, much like the two regular season games.  Boston’s defense was more than adequate, but the Patriots were not up to the task that January afternoon.


San Diego’s running game was unstoppable from the start.  An inside trap play sprung Lincoln loose on a breakaway until he was brought down inside the Boston five yard line.  Rote snuck into the end zone to begin the onslaught.  On the next Chargers’ possession, Rote tossed a quick pitch to the weak side to Lincoln, and the small but speedy back took off with no defender in his way.  He took it to the house to go over 100 yards rushing in two attempts, and the score was 14-0 quickly.


Boston mounted its only touchdown drive of the day on the next possession, but the Chargers were not through in the first quarter.  Rote went back to the quick pitch, this time tossing to Lowe on the strong side.  Lowe evaded a couple tackles and was off to the races for the score.  San Diego had 200 yards rushing at the end of the first quarter and led 21-7.


Lincoln and Lowe kept breaking free on runs throughout the day, and San Diego turned the game into a laugher winning 51-10.  Lincoln rushed for more than 200 yards on the day, and the Chargers topped 300 as a team.  Rote did not need to rely on his arm, but he did find Alworth on a long pass that Bambi hauled in for a touchdown.


This Week’s PiRate Ratings






Dallas Cowboys




Philadelphia Eagles




New York Giants




Washington Redskins








Detroit Lions




Chicago Bears




Minnesota Vikings




Green Bay Packers








Carolina Panthers




New Orleans Saints




Tampa Bay Buccaneers




Atlanta Falcons












San Francisco 49ers




Seattle Seahawks




St. Louis Rams




Arizona Cardinals










New England Patriots




Miami Dolphins




Buffalo Bills




New York Jets








Cincinnati Bengals




Baltimore Ravens




Pittsburgh Steelers




Cleveland Browns








Indianapolis Colts




Tennessee Titans




Houston Texans




Jacksonville Jaguars








Denver Broncos




Kansas City Chiefs




San Diego Chargers




Oakland Raiders






This Week’s PiRate Spreads

Home Visitor




Jacksonville Houston




Cincinnati Indianapolis




Tampa Bay Buffalo




Washington Kansas City




Baltimore Minnesota




New England Cleveland




New Orleans Carolina




N Y Jets Oakland




Philadelphia Detroit




Pittsburgh Miami




Denver Tennessee




San Diego N Y Giants




San Francisco Seattle




Arizona St. Louis




Green Bay Atlanta




Chicago Dallas





This Week’s PiRate Playoff Projections



1. Denver

2. Cincinnati

3. New England

4. Indianapolis

5. Kansas City

6. Baltimore



1. Seattle

2. New Orleans

3. Philadelphia

4. Detroit

5. Carolina

6. San Francisco


Wildcard Round

New England over Baltimore

Kansas City over Indianapolis

San Francisco over Philadelphia

Carolina over Detroit


Divisional Round

Denver over Kansas City

Cincinnati over New England

Seattle over San Francisco

New Orleans over Carolina


Conference Championships

Cincinnati over Denver

Seattle over New Orleans


Super Bowl

Seattle over Cincinnati

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