XFL 2015: The New League Power
By: Connor Lenahan
Guess who’s back, back again? The XFL is back, tell a friend. It’s been nine long months since Andrew Rebensky’s Oklahoma City Lions team took home their first championship just after Christmas 2014. Since then a lot of things have changed around football, both real and fantasy. But we are mainly focused on the latter here today.
Yes indeed ladies and gentlemen it’s time to welcome the XFL back into our lives once again. The annual draft, held every August near my birthday, has come and gone and so too has the first week of action.
There’s a chance you may not already be a fan of the XFL, or even know what it is. Here’s the SparkNotes version to get you caught up. The XFL was a former professional football league that operated for one season in 2001. Where the real one flamed out, the fantasy league lives large. I’ve been the commissioner of the league since 2007 and have been joined in statistical combat by my friends and family for the last eight seasons. As we head into our ninth season playing, we are shaping up for yet another crazy year together.
But, as mentioned before, a few things have changed. One such change was our latest new owner to come into the league. Unbreakable regular, my girlfriend Laura LaBrecque, has joined us this year for her first season playing fantasy football. Over the summer she ran an online campaign – #GiveLauraATeam – that led to her Baltimore Bears franchise. We will go more in depth about Laura’s debut in the league shortly.
However, one of the major changes that must be address is a sad one. Earlier this year we lost a close friend to all of us in Cole Srebro. One of my best friends since middle school passed suddenly in early June and ever since we have missed him dearly. Cole played in our league for seven years and was one of the universal favorites among us all. This season we retired his team in honor of our friend, and this week we all played as the Typhoons to pay homage to Cole’s Miami Typhoons team.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at this week’s scores and talk about the biggest stories of Week 1 of the XFL.
Green Bay Blizzard (Matt Bruzzano) def. Waverly Chargers (Connor Lenahan), 1050-865
The opening game of the XFL season has forever been the rivalry game between Green Bay and Waverly. Matt Bruzzano and I have known each other since 2002 and have been competing with each other ever since. This year, however, marked Green Bay’s first win in the rivalry since 2010. And if ever there were one for Green Bay to win, this was the game. Matt had changed his logo to the Typhoons icon and made his team’s initials, normally GBB, to Cole’s, CES.
The Blizzard were crazily active this offseason on the trade market. Green Bay made for trades, including the biggest blockbuster in league history. That blockbuster netted Green Bay Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson, and Harry Douglas. The cost for the Blizzard was the lot of Antonio Brown, Marshawn Lynch, Ty Montgomery, and Michael Crabtree. This swap will likely be the defining moment of the season, as multiple top players got moved.
But Green Bay was able to pull out a win and look good while doing it. If Adrian Peterson’s poor outing – 30 rushing yards on the night – is purely him shaking off rust from missing last season, then the Blizzard are in good shape. If Peterson isn’t a monster anymore, then there could be issues ahead. I’m completely a believer in the former.
Meanwhile Waverly is in the midst of some awful injury luck early. The team’s drafted starting backfield was Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley. The problem is that Bell is serving a two game suspension for substance abuse and Gurley is recovering from an ACL tear with an unknown timetable for his debut. Add in hamstring injuries to Mike Evans and Tre Mason and Waverly was playing their “C” team roster. This team needs some time to get healthy and to full strength before panicking.
Philadelphia Panthers (Matt Pettinato) def. New Orleans Tigers (Paul Bruzzano), 1285-1020
The opening week also saw a battle between two teams that had picked in the top 5 of this year’s draft. New Orleans owned the rights to the #1 overall pick after falling from 2013 champion to 2014 last place finisher. Paul Bruzzano opted for Andrew Luck, last year’s leading scorer with his top choice. In fact, he had all but announced Luck’s selection after his top pick became official in 2014. Luck’s struggles against the Bills, along with Sammy Watkins’ 0 point game, doomed the Tigers this week. Given the reliance the team has on rookies – Ameer Abdullah and TJ Yeldon – Luck will likely have to play lights out ball to carrier the Tigers this year.
Meanwhile week one of the Sam Bradford Experiment has proven worthwhile for Philadelphia in the XFL, but not in the NFL. Matt Pettinato’s gamble on Bradford – who has missed the past two seasons due to torn ACLs – was one of the more noteworthy of the draft. Bradford will likely need to both perform well and stay healthy, lest the team be handed to Jameis Winston, for Philly to contend, but a good base of Eddie Lacy, Demaryius Thomas, and Randall Cobb makes the Panthers season look optimistic.
Oklahoma City Lions (Andrew Rebensky) def. Denver Blaze (Pat Haggerty and Ryan Gilbert), 1230-920
The reigning champion continues his winning ways into a new season, but it’s at a cost. Right before the season kicked off last Thursday, Andrew traded Joseph Randle to my brother Chase for Andre Ellington. Ellington appeared to suffer a knee injury against the Saints that now has him listed as doubtful. OKC is already thin at running back, so Ellington’s health could be a season changing diagnosis. Here’s hoping that he’s back soon and DeMarco Murray, a similar injury risk, holds up for another strong season.
Injuries have become the norm in Denver as the team had their first round pick, LeSean McCoy hampered by a hamstring injury all preseason. McCoy and Jeremy Hill looked decent on Sunday, but if either reaches their projected talent this season then the backfield could be terrifying. That’s not including the steal of the draft, Arian Foster, reportedly due back quicker than expected in Houston. a McCoy/Hill/Foster trio of backs would be the league’s best backfield overnight. Foster’s return will reveal Denver’s status. Healthy has them in a playoff spot, out for longer has them towards the front end of the draft.
Washington Senators (Cary Lenahan) def. Chicago Hitmen (Jason Kohn), 1220-815
Washington suffered likely the most crippling injury of the preseason when 2nd round pick Jordy Nelson tore his ACL. Suddenly the Senators team looked paper thin. Then unexpectedly huge production from Kendall Wright and Chris Ivory had the Senators looking terrific. The bench is all but non-existent, but should Cary find some bodies to backup his guys, Washington could be interesting. Watch for the development of Marcus Mariota and if he ever challenges Russell Wilson for playing time.
Chicago, alternatively, played through a largely ineffective game from Odell Beckham Jr, their first round pick. Jason’s squad had the lowest score in the league, but remained relatively healthy overall. I’m tempted to chalk this up to a weird first week of football (one where Carson Palmer led all players in scoring… on my bench) rather than a long term problem for the Hitmen. That is, of course, unless this happens next week as well.
Las Vegas High Rollers (Dan Griffith and Eric Pevoto) def. Seattle Rage (Greg Fenn), 1320-1160
Welcome back to the prime time, Las Vegas! The High Rollers had one of their strongest games in recent memory in their week 1 victory. Tony Romo threw up 520 points thanks to his game-winning drive on Sunday night. It’ll be interesting to see if Romo still does as well given Dez Bryant’s foot injury. Missing one of the best wideouts in the league is no joke. In good news, Julio Jones looks to be a gigantic grab for Vegas. Jones could very well make a push for being the #1 WR in the league.
Seattle can’t catch a break with their wide receivers. Kelvin Benjamin was poised to to lead the team this season only to suffer a torn ACL about a week after the draft. Then Sunday DeSean Jackson suffered a leg injury that will keep him out for a few weeks. The saving grace is the potential return of Percy Harvin to a field stretching monster. The depth might be tapped, but should Harvin prosper in Buffalo, things could be good for the Rage.
Pittsburgh Spikes (Matt Gronsky) def. New York Titans (Chase Lenahan), 1460-910
Now we get to meet the first of our two early frontrunners. Matt Gronsky’s Pittsburgh team is loaded with positional talent including Marshawn Lynch, Antonio Brown, TY Hilton, Travis Kelce, and Martavis Bryant (currently serving a 4 game suspension). Should Eli Manning produce even remotely well then Pittsburgh will be a terror to everyone else league wide. Not much to say without getting very repetitive, Pittsburgh is gonna be great.
New York had a week of good news bad news going on. Good news is that Aaron Rodgers will apparently still get numbers without Jordy Nelson. Bad news is that Frank Gore had a poor showing Sunday. Good news is that the Bills defense is one of the league’s best, making this not nearly as shocking. Bad news is Davante Adams is stuck behind Randall Cobb and James Jones. Good news is DeVante Parker is coming back soon from injury to take back a starting spot. Best news of all is that this game looks more like poor matches/crazy week across the board rather than anything to be scared of.
Baltimore Bears (Laura LaBrecque) def. Kansas City Killers (Dan Schlosser), 1685-990
We close out week one with the other early juggernaut, the aforementioned Baltimore Bears. Laura was gutsy enough to draft Tom Brady weeks before his suspension was repealed. When it was announced that Brady could play, meaning that the Bears would field an angered Brady and a fully-healthy Gronkowski, the rest of the league was put on notice, much like the real Patriots. Laura had one of the best debut games in XFL history, with all of her players, save Marques Colston, performing at or above expectations. It’s tough to think 1600+ a game for the Bears will be even remotely sustainable, but like with the NFL, watching the Tom Brady warpath is going to be front and center all year long.
Schlosser had a roller coaster of emotions the last two days. Peyton Manning looked decidedly un-Peyton against the Ravens in what was likely the weirdest of Sunday’s games. Then Dan’s star wideout, Dez Bryant, broke his foot near the end of the game. After Dan’s first playoff berth last season his penchant for crazy injuries has apparently returned. But there is a silver lining here, and his name is Carlos Hyde. Hyde demolished the Vikings last night to the tune of 325 points, over 100 yards rushing, and a pair of touchdowns. Hyde will likely need to help this team a lot, but if he suddenly breaks out, maybe being without Dez will not be so awful.
Baltimore Bears vs. Pittsburgh Spikes
Chicago Hitmen vs. Waverly Chargers
Washington Senators vs. Philadelphia Panthers
Oklahoma City Lions vs. New Orleans Tigers
Seattle Rage vs. Kansas City Killers
Green Bay Blizzard vs. Las Vegas High Rollers
New York Titans vs. Denver Blaze