And Then There Were Four – Week 14
By: Connor Lenahan
This may only be me, but this season for the XFL has been one of the more entertaining I’ve ever seen. There has been more than enough to be interested in from the first snap of the season. Teams getting better, teams getting worse, surprise success, surprise suspensions, trades upon trades – this season has had a little bit of it all. That’s why it’s both exciting and saddening that it will all be over soon. Exciting in as much that there are still three highly intriguing games left to go, and saddening that there are only two weeks left until we all wait until August for the 9th annual draft.
Last week went largely chalk except for the NUMBER ONE SEED LOSING. I wrote earlier this year about how no team had ever won the title coming from the top spot and, yet again, this will not be the case. Seattle is gone. In their place is a suddenly red hot Houston team. Now we must figure out who is going to be able to tag their opponent and make the Championship game.
That’s it. That’s our Final Four for 2014. In many ways it is shocking – only the Buzzsaws made the playoffs last year. The Lions had this year’s first pick, the Chargers had the third. The Extreme was actually drafted by two teenage girls. This is just a weird playoffs year.
So what happens now? Here are the matchups:
#2 Minnesota Buzzsaws vs #3 Waverly Chargers
#4 Oklahoma City Lions vs. #8 Houston Extreme
There are questions to be posed for every team:
Minnesota – When is the shoe going to drop? Let’s be honest here, every team in the league has had to deal with injury in some way. That would be to say that everyone but Minnesota. Tom Brady, Matt Forte, Lamar Miller, and Antonio Brown have all been healthy. The only two injuries the team has had to face in any possible way are those to CJ Spiller, who was traded away a week prior, and Mark Ingram, who returned from injury almost immediately after joining the Buzzsaws. One of the reasons that Minnesota has been able to keep plowing along has been a lack of any dings to key players. Why am I convinced that Sean is going to have someone fall before the season ends? (Also: Note the fact that Minnesota benefitted from Miami having three of their key players lose their entire seasons – Brandon Marshall, Andre Ellington and maybe Andre Johnson – in Round 1)
Waverly – Is Aaron Rodgers going to single-handedly win these games? Has there ever been a team to do better with worse running backs? Seriously, Waverly is putting Ryan Mathews and Travaris Cadet out on a weekly basis. Jerrick McKinnon just got placed on IR, meaning Cadet, the fourth stringer for New Orleans, is getting the call for his (at least) fourth start this year. Even before the aforementioned injury, Mathews and McKinnon was a bad tandem. If any points come out of the backfield then the game is a moral victory. It is worth noting that Aaron Rodgers has played better than anyone in the league since being traded to Waverly, and a Brandon Marshall injury makes Alshon Jeffery look more attractive than ever.
Oklahoma City – Is DeMarco Murray the Energizer bunny? Much like with Minnesota’s team I am awaiting something that seems almost inevitable. Throughout history there is a bad track record for running backs getting crazy high amounts of carries. Murray, who owns a career that has been, to date, defined by injury struggles, is leading the league in carries by a wide margin. His name has been called 320 times already this year. LeSean McCoy is the second most worked back and he has not even reached 260 carries. That’s what I like to call “Alarming.” I love watching Murray just obliterate defenses, but it’s hard not to watch his odometer – he’s rushed for a league high 1,606 yards, almost 400 more than Le’Veon Bell’s 1,231 in second place – keep piling up and wait for something to go wrong. I’m not a pessimist, I’ve just suffered through the same thing as a Shaun Alexander fan, and Alexander was an workhorse in every way. Murray frightens me. OKC without his production is a much different team.
Houston – How? As early as two weeks ago I wrote about how Houston almost certainly wouldn’t make the playoffs. Now they’ve taken out the top seed and are molten magma hot heading into the Final Four. Calvin Johnson is finally back at top strength and Jay Cutler is slinging the ball all over the field. I don’t know how it’s happening. I don’t know how much longer this voodoo magic will continue, but dammit if it isn’t entertaining to watch happen. Realistically Houston could have problems sooner rather than later, but if things keep rolling the Extreme will as well.
Following last week’s playoff round we now have an updated Draft Order for August 2015:
1. New Orleans Tigers (2-11)
2. New York Titans (3-10)
3. Chicago Hitmen (4-8-1)
4. Pittsburgh Spikes (5-8)
5. Philadelphia Panthers (6-7)
6. Las Vegas High Rollers (6-7)
7. Washington Senators (6-7)
8. Denver Blaze (6-6-1)
9. Miami Typhoons (7-6, #7 Seed)
10. Kansas City Killers (7-6, #6 Seed)
11. Green Bay Blizzard (6-5-2, #5 Seed)
12. Seattle Rage (11-2, #1 Seed)