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HISTORY SAYS: EXPECT LOW SCORING AFTER THE LAYOFFS

Reality has overwhelmed fantasy the last 10 days.

But what can we expect from our fantasy players when they get back to business?

Thankfully, disaster is something the sports world has precious little experience with since World War II. Every player who pulls a jersey over his shoulders deals with the nation's grief differently.

From a pro football standpoint, the only tragedy that comes remotely close to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

The National Football League elected to play its games as scheduled two days later and it was a mistake. The Dallas Cowboys were booed unmercifully at Cleveland in a loss to the Browns, as if they stood for all that ached in a mourning nation.

The American Football League postponed its games, creating the same two-week layoff the modern-day NFL players now face.

When play resumed, AFL teams showed their rustiness on offense. They combined to put up an average of 46.1 points per game during the 1963 season, but in the four games played immediately after the layoff, they combined to average 26 total points.

Three of the eight teams, including the Buffalo Bills, scored seven or fewer points. Two were shut out.

The Bills and Boston Patriots, in fact, combined to tie a league record for most punts in one game (19).

Normally, it takes a couple of weeks into the regular season for the offense to catch up with the defense, but in 1963, that gap occurred between games 11 and 12 in the 14-game AFL schedule.

Granted, offense is more dominating and high-powered these days, but this season, with the layoff coming between Weeks One and Two, the scoring dropoff could be nearly as substantial. That's because many of the top fantasy players don't get much work in preseason and need the first game or two to hit stride.

Player strikes created longer gaps in both 1982 and '87. After the 57-day strike of '82, scoring was way down, especially for AFC East teams, when play resumed. Four of the five teams in the division, including the Bills, scored nine or fewer points in the first game back. Miami showed the biggest letdown, scoring just nine after piling up 69 points in the first two prestrike games.

In '87, after a 24-day strike, the offense didn't miss a beat when the regulars came back to work following three weeks of games with replacement players. The Bills scored a 34-31 win in Miami and other scores were similarly high - Houston 37, Atlanta 33; Green Bay 34, Detroit 33; San Diego 42, Kansas City 21.

Miami and New England got an unscheduled week off in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. But both teams held form upon return, the Dolphins beating the Cleveland Browns, 27-23, and the Patriots losing, 14-0, to the Los Angeles Rams. New England went 2-14 that season and averaged only 12.8 points per game. That was the first of three shutout losses.

Some teams handle bye weeks that are regularly scheduled better than others, too.

The Bills are 9-2 since 1990 after bye weeks, but the two defeats have come in the last two years. Miami, Denver, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago are all 8-3 following byes, while Seattle and the New York Giants are 3-8 and Cincinnati is 2-9.

Since the NFL was forced to include a bye in the weekly schedule in 1999 with the addition of a 31st team (the Browns), those who have endured a bye in Week Two have done what you'd expect the next week. In 1999, the Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams came back in Week Three by thumping Atlanta, 35-7. Last year, a mediocre Pittsburgh Steelers team returned with a 23-20 loss to Cleveland.

The unexpected week off may be particularly tough for the Arizona Cardinals, who had their bye in Week One. When the Cards host Denver on Sunday, it will have been 24 days since they've played.

The same may be true next week for the New Orleans Saints, Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have byes this week. They'll all be facing 21-day layoffs.

Week Two matchups

yards last season against Tennessee, which yielded only 86.9 yards per game on the ground. . . . St. Louis RB Marshall Faulk scored seven TDs against San Francisco last season. . . . Minnesota WR Randy Moss has 36 catches in his last five games against Chicago.

and WR Marvin Harrison have been more like the timid trio in the last three games against the Bills. Manning has thrown for 160.7 yards per game against the Bills in those games and 273.4 against other foes in that span. James runs for 73.7 yards against Buffalo and 109.6 against everybody else. Harrison averages three catches for 41 yards against Buffalo and 6 1/2 grabs for 89.4 yards against others.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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