XFL 2015: Super Bowl 9
By: Connor Lenahan
And then there were two. After months of research, drafting, trading, games, trash talk, victory, defeat, and craziness, we have reached the final game of the XFL season. This is the Super Bowl. This is what we all hope to win in our (fake) coaching careers. This year’s final game will have a heavyweight fight between the reigning, defending champions, the Oklahoma City Lions (7-6) coached by Andrew Rebensky, and the rookie team, league leader in scoring Baltimore Bears (9-4) coached by Laura LaBrecque.
Two decisive Final Four games gave us our championship game this year. And because there needs to be drama, there is plenty of drama for both sides as we head down to the most important Sunday of the season. Skeptics could look at this game as evidence of a potential blow out, but this game projects fairly close. Let’s run down the Tale of the Tape for Super Bowl IX.
OKC: Drew Brees/Matt Stafford
BAL: Tom Brady
The drama starts early for Oklahoma City here. Drew Brees holds the unenviable position of Saints QB, meaning he is physically impossible from facing his own defense, widely regarded as the best matchup for any quarterback this season. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars are not far behind. Brees is the best hope for the Lions this season, much like he was for Andrew’s championship win a year ago. But, now there is a huge question mark for the rest of this week. Brees reportedly suffered a torn plantar fascia in his right foot last night, leaving his availability in question for Sunday. If Brees is held out by the Saints, then Lions QB Matt Stafford will start in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2011 when he was with Waverly. Stafford faces the San Francisco 49ers, not as attractive a matchup, but not a nightmare. This is the worst time of the season for Andrew to have Brees in question, but should he suit up Sunday, Brees will likely put up big numbers against the Jags.
Tom Brady, ironically, is looking to avenge losing to Drew Brees in last year’s Super Bowl matchup. Then the QB for the Minnesota Buzzsaws, Brady was similarly the headlining talent of a monstrously loaded team. Best of all, one could easily argue that this year’s team is better than the last. Brady will also be on the road this week, visiting AFC East rival New York. As if Laura, a Patriots fan since birth, didn’t have enough to root for already, her championship hopes will largely ride on the Patriots-Jets tilt Sunday afternoon. In their previous matchup this season the Patriots struggled somewhat, but Brady still finished with 545 points. A rumored return from Julian Edelman could only help push his projection higher, and the loss of LeGarrette Blount only pushes the need for the Pats to pass higher. This season if any I’m afraid of Brady, especially when the Jets playoff spot is largely on the line.
OKC: Matt Jones & Bryce Brown (Duke Johnson, Fozzy Whittaker)
BAL: Matt Forte, Devonta Freeman & James White
Since Justin Forsett broke his arm a few weeks ago running back has been a bugaboo for the Lions. The situation has largely become plug-and-play, with no clear starters really emerging. But now something attractive appears to be forming, at least in theory for the champs. Matt Jones has gotten a large amount of work for the suddenly NFC East leading DC team. He’s had moments of looking really strong this season, and was a member of the Bears for a long chunk of this season. Bryce Brown, meanwhile, has suddenly come in for the Seahawks to cover for the season-ending injury to Thomas Rawls and continued absence of Marshawn Lynch. Brown isn’t necessarily getting all the work for Seattle, Christine Michael got carries as well, but Brown projects to get the first crack at making an impact. He has done just that in the past. Again, not exactly an unstoppable backfield, but they do get work, and that’s a key this late.
Matt Forte and Devonta Freeman are the largely unsung workhorses for the Bears this season. Forte has had a decent season, aside from an MCL sprain that kept him out for a stretch. Freeman lit the world on fire for a few weeks early before the Falcons came crashing to Earth. Both players have continued to contribute for their teams and the Bears for the past few weeks, even with their seasons quickly finishing. Matt Forte remains one of the few players in sync with Jay Cutler and Freeman has covered for Matt Ryan quietly imploding over the course of nine weeks. Then theirs flex man James White, who has come in for Dion Lewis both in the NFL and XFL. The pint-sized back has made the most of his crack at starting recently, quickly finding success with the same mentality that Dion Lewis used pre-ACL tear. Tom Brady loves looking for running backs that can catch the ball, and having White as a check down option against a strong Jets pass rush could be lifesaving.
OKC: Jeremy Maclin, Allen Hurns, & Emmanuel Sanders (Brandon LaFell, Tavon Austin)
BAL: DeAndre Hopkins & Brandon Marshall (Danny Amendola, Cecil Shorts III, Keshawn Martin)
Here is where the Oklahoma City Lions become dangerous. They didn’t break the bank by getting one of the “elite” wide receivers on the market. No, they don’t have an Odell Beckham Jr. or Antonio Brown, but they do have three strong targets that get stuff done for their respective teams. Allen Hurns is a touchdown machine when paired up with Blake Bortles. Jeremy Maclin is seemingly the only wideout in Kansas City, or at least the only one Alex Smith targets. Emmanuel Sanders ended my season with a 10 catch, 181 yard, 1 TD (for 64 yards) performance Sunday that netted him 500 points. Where other positions may leave question marks for the Lions, their wideouts can keep the champs competitive by themselves.
Then we come to the Bears, who alternatively employ two of the top five wide receivers in fantasy football. DeAndre Hopkins made good on plenty of preseason predictions this season by exploding to the top of the ranks for his position. He’s also done it with C-Level play from his quarterbacks too. The Texans are somehow still alive in the playoffs and will likely be sending Brandon Weeden out on Sunday to throw jump balls to Nuk Hopkins. Then there’s Brandon Marshall, who has this season convinced me he might be the most underrated wide receiver in the league over the last decade. A guy that has bounced around the league quite a bit, yet has been dependable everywhere he’s called home. This Sunday they Jets will need him more than ever to help tackle the Patriots and keep their playoff hopes alive. Both players draw top level attention from defenses, so it will all come down here to their athleticism to break away and get some open looks.
OKC: Austin Sefarian-Jenkins/Tyler Eifert
BAL: Rob Gronkowski
The final question mark is fairly important for the Lions. Buccaneers TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins has missed a great deal of this season with injury, but returned a few weeks ago and resumed being an attractive target for Jameis Winston to target, especially in the end zone. However, he’s not nearly the touchdown-hawk that Tyler Eifert is for the Cincinnati Bengals. Eifert is currently in the NFL concussion protocol, meaning we may not know if he’s available until closer to Christmas. Worst of all, he plays Monday, meaning he may come available late. ASJ isn’t a bad option by any means, but Andrew would certainly like Eifert on the virtual field if possible.
Baltimore has Rob Gronkowski. I feel as though we can just move on here, because you don’t need a paragraph to explain what we already know, that Gronk is the best tight end in the history of football.
Where does that leave us? Well, certainly hooked to Saints beat reporters and Adam Schefter for who will get the call for the Lions Sunday. If Brees goes then OKC will be happy to throw punches with their franchise guy and their trio of wideouts to try and bring the title to the midwest for the second straight year. The Bears will have almost their entire roster play in the Patriots-Jets game alone, but their entire lineup will be done by the 4PM games. Only Emmanuel Sanders goes Monday, unless Tyler Eifert returns in time. This is far from a one-sided contest. This will, for the ninth time, be an exciting end to another XFL season.
And, for the eighth straight year, yours truly will go back to the drawing board without the trophy in hand.
2016 Draft Order
- Kansas City Killers – (3-10) – Dan Schlosser
- Denver Blaze – (3-10) – Pat Haggerty & Ryan Gilbert
- Seattle Rage – (4-9) – Greg Fenn
- New Orleans Tigers – (4-8-1) – Paul Bruzzano
- Philadelphia Panthers – (5-8) – Matt Pettinato
- Chicago Hitmen – (5-8) – Jason Kohn
- New York Titans – (7-6) – Chase Lenahan
- Las Vegas High Rollers – (7-5-1) – Dan Griffith
- Pittsburgh Spikes – (8-5) – Matt Gronsky
- Green Bay Blizzard – (10-3) – Matt Bruzzano
- Waverly Chargers – (8-5) – Connor Lenahan
- Washington Senators – (10-3) – Cary Lenahan
- OKC/BAL Loser
- OKC/BAL Winner