Scrambling – Week 10
By: Connor Lenahan
We have now reached a crucial point. I have mentioned in the past couple of weeks of XFL columns that we had an abundance of contenders. Teams simply were not falling by the wayside. By my count we had, technically, 14 contenders as much as a week ago. This has since changed. Because of this past week we now have a clearer picture of what is going to happen with the playoffs. As always, the Minnesota Buzzsaws (9-1) and Seattle Rage (8-2) have the top two seeds locked in and ready to go unless something wacky goes on. Sean and Greg are playoff bound no matter what happens now – Weeks 11-13 are a hope that no one major gets hurt.
Besides them everything is up in the air. With his loss this week Matt Gronsky and his Pittsburgh Spikes team – which is way too talented to be out of playoff contention, let alone the bottom three in the standings – is done for the season and looking for a top pick. While not formally out of the playoff hunt, we can comfortably say goodnight to the seasons of Jason Kohn’s Chicago Hitmen and Matt Pettinato’s Philadelphia Panthers who would both have to win out and have others lose out to make it. Not happening.
Then there’s Green Bay. Again, they aren’t technically out of the running. That said, it looks far less than promising for the Blizzard. Matt Bruzzano’s squad needs to win out to finish above .500. This appears to be where the projected 8th seed will be at wither (7-6) or (8-5). Matt could still make this mark, but it doesn’t look all that likely. Philip Rivers has turned into a glacier following his red hot start to the year. Matt’s team is also hit hard by bye weeks this week while having to face a current playoff team in Houston. Then he plays a solid Denver team. He finishes the year against his father Paul’s tied-for-last Tigers team. There is a real chance that he could win all three of those games. But at the moment I look at it as such: Matt would have to win all of those games and potentially kill it, scoring over 1200 points a game, to help his potential to win a tiebreaker.
So, given this, we have eight teams in the running for six playoff spots. The quarterbacks of the eight contenders are the ones pictures at the beginning of this story. Let’s now take a look at the chances for each of these teams to end up in the final eight
Oklahoma City Lions (6-4) – Seattle, New Orleans, Philadelphia
Andrew Rebensky’s Lions team will most likely lock down a playoff spot. I highly doubt that it will come this week. Andrew is finally having to deal with DeMarco Murray, his best player, being on bye week and is doing so with third string Philadelphia Eagle Chris Polk. Drew Brees may very well obliterate the Bengals, however not having the 300 point bump from Murray will hurt. Given that Andrew then closes the year against below-average teams, there is a good chance he goes (8-5), which puts him comfortably in the playoff hunt. Things could go wrong should his backfield of Murray and Eddie Lacy get hurt, but at the moment it appears as though Oklahoma can lose this one without panic. Don’t forget – a win gets him in. This is an admirable position.
Denver Blaze (6-4) – Minnesota, Green Bay, Pittsburgh
Denver is on thinner ice. Ryan Gilbert and Pat Haggerty only need to win one more game but that is almost assuredly not coming this week. Minnesota looks like a war machine. They get back Tom Brady this week, have Mark Ingram running wild, and are built to win. Denver would need gigantic games from a few sources while Chris Johnson and Eric Decker are out. Should Green Bay get feisty and make a late run – which is not out of the question, then (6-6) isn’t out of the question. Pittsburgh is a great (3-7) team that could play spoiler, especially because it’s Gronsky playing Haggerty. Realistically this team should, and probably will, make the playoffs. But there’s so much that could potentially go wrong that it will be a constant watch until the last regular season snap is played. Also, no, I don’t reflexively root against Peyton Manning every year regardless of owner, what are you talking about?
Miami Typhoons (6-4) – New York, Seattle, Kansas City
I firmly believe that Bub, the Ol’ Ball Coach himself, will win this up coming week and lock down that playoff spot. This is further than the logic that New York is a dying 2-8 team. Instead I believe in the fact (read: FACT) that Bub is magical and will most likely win the title this year. I can’t prove this to be true, but, then again, you can’t prove it isn’t true. So there.
Houston Extreme (6-4) – Green Bay, Chicago, Washington
This is a genuinely team going forward. During the early part of the season Houston did well enough that they could sputter down the stretch and still make the playoffs. Eric Pevoto’s Houston squad has lost three of their last four and barely had any business winning that singular game – an 835-805 victory over Oklahoma City. There’s a more than good chance that they will beat either Green Bay or Chicago and make the playoffs. What’s fascinating is that they also, potentially, have the chance to determine the fate of Cary Lenahan’s Washington team. Realistically I have concerns about the Extreme’s chances here. I think that injuries have hamstrung a once great team (5-1 through Week 6) and will most likely be fish food for a first round team. Watch for when Houston swings a title.
Kansas City Killers (5-5) – Chicago, Pittsburgh, Miami
This is a tad bit terrifying, but Dan Schlosser may finally snap his curse. Dan has only finished (3-10) and (6-7) in his six seasons in the XFL. Seven may be the lucky charm. Despite losing Carson Palmer to a torn ACL, Dan has Robert Griffin III ready and waiting. Given that DeSean Jackson is torching secondaries like he did once upon a time in Philadelphia it looks like Griffin III has a chance to put up good numbers. Throw in Jeremy Maclin and Jordy Nelson crushing teams and Dan looks great. Then again, he’s cursed. Then again, the Royals just made the World Series. Then again, he has to play the proverbial XFL Gandalf in Bub Week 13. He needs to win two of three. I think he wins against Chicago and it’s straight coin flips from there.
Washington Senators (5-5) – Las Vegas, New York, Houston
Cary just did something no one, except for me, thought was possible. Cary just ripped off four straight wins after starting the year 1-5. He should have been done. He was two losses away from a top 8 draft pick. Now Cary has real potential to make a run. Realistically speaking, Cary has maybe the best chance to make it of all the teams left. This week Cary will almost undoubtedly throw a haymaker at the High Rollers when he gets back Andrew Luck. Then he can run over the Titans to head into the final week against Houston. I like Cary’s team because it is constructed in an odd yet effective way. Luck throws up gargantuan numbers – 500 a game – while he has help from a few others. Randall Cobb and Roddy White grind out enough to throw Cary’s team over 1000 between those three while the other four names tend to help lock up the W. At this point Cary needs to put all his faith in Andrew Luck. But seriously, does that sound like a bad plan?
Waverly Chargers (5-5) – New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas
I’m not sure that I could have gotten luckier with my late season slate. The combined record of my final three opponents is 11-19 and they all fall below me in total points scored this season. Add in Aaron Rodgers playing like a Madden character and gambling on the Chargers is a smart bet. Plus the backfield finally isn’t terrible as Ryan Mathews (who is, shockingly, alive) joins Jerick McKinnon to make a run. The curious part about this team actually ties into our final preview.
Las Vegas High Rollers (5-5) – Washington, Minnesota, Waverly
Similar to how Waverly hit the jackpot with closing opponents, Dan Griffith’s Las Vegas team could not have hit worse luck. First, they lost Nick Foles. Foles was the key to any and all success that the High Rollers were having, and is now replaced by Ryan Mallet, a man with four passes in his NFL career. Dan will immediately have to face a lava-hot Washington team. This presumed loss puts Dan behind the eight ball before facing the menacing Buzzsaws. Finally, he must face a scrappy Waverly team. There is a more than decent chance Dan loses these three games and ends up with a fairly high draft pick. With two championships on his mantle this isn’t exactly torture, but it is a finale to an otherwise disappointing season in the desert.
So what’s going to happen you ask? Well, at this point, I’d be betting on the following teams to make the playoffs. The order is only to reflect that in which we looked over these teams here in this article and not projected seedings.
1. Minnesota Buzzsaws
2. Seattle Rage
3. Oklahoma City Lions
4. Denver Blaze
5. Miami Typhoons
6. Houston Extreme
7. Washington Senators
8. Waverly Chargers
Which leaves Las Vegas and Kansas City outside looking in. You could sell me on Houston (or, actually, Miami) dropping out for Kansas City. All I know is this – we are all scrambling. This is going to be a fist fight.