XFL 2016: Overreacting To Week 1
By: Connor Lenahan
It’s over 80 degrees outside in Boston right now and there is no snow on the ground, but you can’t tell me today isn’t Christmas. With the return of the NFL comes the return of the XFL. For the third consecutive year here on Unbreakable, every Tuesday will feature the latest and greatest from the storied fantasy football league.
For those unaware, I founded the XFL when I was in 7th grade. The league is comprised of 14 teams, played with custom scoring (that makes Quarterbacks far more valuable), and filled with characters. The collection of friends and family has now entered our tenth season together, and somehow we still don’t really know what we are doing. Be sure to check out coverage from last season to catch yourself up on what you’ve missed. Our biggest storylines this season coming into Week 1 have been:
- The Baltimore Bears (Laura LaBrecque) and their second season after winning the XFL Championship in 2015.
- The ongoing quest for the first championship for coaches who have been in the league since its inception – Seattle Rage (Greg Fenn) and Green Bay Blizzard (Matt Bruzzano).
- The return of Matt Stafford to his long-time home, the Waverly Chargers (your’s truly).
- How teams will fare with suspensions to big name players like Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell, and Josh Gordon to begin the season.
- How young players will fare after early success (Allen Robinson), continue to develop (Derek Carr & Jameis Winston), or perform in their first seasons (Ezekiel Elliott).
We’ve seen our teams take the field for the first time this year, so let’s jump to conclusions as we head into Week 2.
Oklahoma City Lions – Andrew Rebensky (1-0) def. Denver Blaze – Ryan Gilbert and Pat Haggerty (0-1)
Seemingly before every season we collectively have the same conversation. “Is this the year Drew Brees falters?” And for the third straight year, Andrew Rebensky has been the man to bet his team’s fortunes on the New Orleans Saints QB. The Saints may have fallen in ridiculously entertaining fashion to the Oakland Raiders, but Brees’s league-leading 710 points made the Lions look like a juggernaut out of the gate. Last year’s championship runner-up returned their leading scorer, who will almost certainly grind out another season of 4,700+ yards and 30+ TDs despite not being selected until the 13th overall pick and after Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers. Add in impressive afternoons from Melvin Gordon, who has found the end zone for the first two scores of his career and Mike Evans, who reeled in a bomb from Jameis Winston against the Falcons that nearly caused me to fall off my bed in stunned excitement, and the Lions have impressive contributors throughout their lineup. An interesting development to watch? Andrew has Tevin Coleman stashed on his bench, and on Sunday he didn’t just steal carries from Devonta Freeman but looked good doing so.
The Denver Blaze opened the season up with a loss that cannot possibly be blamed on them – the Lions led all teams in scoring this week. This week’s matchups for the Blaze were markedly unfair for comparison and prediction, which makes them an interesting watch going forward. Cam Newton did fairly well despite being massacred by the Broncos defense last Thursday, but Kelvin Benjamin looked terrific in his first game back from a torn ACL. The Buffalo Bills and by extension LeSean McCoy were terrible against the Ravens, which is a red flag of the highest order for the lead back in the Mile High City. If Shady can get moving next week then the Blaze have a fairly dependable roster for the first time in a while.
New Orleans Tigers – Paul Bruzzano (1-0) def. Philadelphia Panthers – Matt Pettinato (0-1)
Heading into Monday Night Football the Philadelphia Panthers were down against the New Orleans Tigers, but certainly not out. They had the lurking monster of Todd Gurley, one of the most talented players in the NFL, waiting to take on a sub-par 49ers defense. But in outright concerning fashion, Gurley looked mortal. 70 points on 17 carries and 47 yards during an awful game is not a great sign for the young dynamo. This is almost certainly the byproduct of a goofy first week and opening the season on the road – remember, the 49ers looked good in Week 1 last year too – but as long as Case Keenum is lining up under center for the Rams, Gurley is going to be drawing a lot of attention. On the brighter side, holy shit Matt Ryan. The Falcons QB had himself a day, tossing the ball for 337 yards and 2 TDs against the Buccaneers in a loss but worked the ball to new options including Mohammed Sanu and Tevin Coleman as opposed to last year’s gameplan of “Throw the ball to Julio Jones and pray.” The Panthers have the makings of a team primed to bounce back after some early jitters – Brandon Marshall, a top-10 receiver last season won’t finish with 45 points weekly.
The New Orleans Tigers have had an interesting offseason of trades and injuries, more than most teams have by the trade deadline, let alone week one. Heading into their first game not only down running back Jamaal Charles, but Rob Gronkowski, the Tigers were fortunate to draw a matchup without multiple players exploding for big games – which was more common this week than in recent memory. Most impressive was Spencer Ware, who actually plays football for the Kansas City Chiefs and isn’t a create-a-player in Madden, and had 390 points this week. 199 yards of offense is no joke, even against San Diego, making Ware a fun player to follow as Charles recovers from his torn ACL.
Washington Senators – Cary Lenahan (1-0) def. Chicago Hitmen – Jason Kohn (0-1)
The Washington Senators were the unquestioned home to the players with the biggest comeback performances of the weekend. Andrew Luck torched the Lions with 660 points (385 yards, 4 TDs!!), CJ Anderson looked great against the Panthers with 295 points (139 yards of offense, 2 TDs), and Jordy Nelson looked good in a quiet return from, you guessed it, his torn ACL. If that trio plays like they did in 2015 then the Senators will be fairly bad – unfair, again, given Nelson’s knee – but if they play like it’s 2014? The Senators might suddenly be a real problem for everyone else.
The Chicago Hitmen had two great performances on Sunday with Derek Carr and Brandin Cooks lighting the world on fire with the shootout in New Orleans. With both players finishing above 400 points, the duo accounted for 69% of the team’s points this week. But don’t blink twice, the Hitmen have been active this morning in reaction to the poor outing of Devonta Freeman. The Hitmen took advantage of a deep receiver pool, sending Jarvis Landry and Jameis Winston to Green Bay for Eddie Lacy, Terrelle Pryor, and Phillip Dorsett. The Hitmen would have picked up a win against six teams this week, but drew the short straw against a surging Luck. Adding Will Fuller V to the lineup this weekend, with Lacy, should help the Hitmen to better fortune this go-around.
Seattle Rage – Greg Fenn (1-0) def. Las Vegas High Rollers – Dan Griffith (0-1)
Talk about a shootout. In the XFL’s answer to the Raiders-Saints and Lions-Colts duels, the battle between two of the original owners featured some of the most physically impressive performances of the afternoon. Las Vegas took a hard-fought loss but got the important reminder that AJ Green is a bad, bad, bad man. Green turned Darelle Revis into an expensive shadow on Sunday, scoring 430 points. The High Rollers have talent up and down the roster, but potential injuries to Russell Wilson and Sammy Watkins are leaving this team a little uneasy going forward, although Andy Dalton is a capable backup should Wilson’s twisted ankle cause missed time.
The Rage, meanwhile, look really strong. Aaron Rodgers continues to not be human and played well against the spunky Jaguars defense. But with Carlos Hyde, Willie Snead, and Alshon Jeffrey all looking strong as well the Rage might have one of their best possible squads in league history. The strongest feature the team has? A bench that has Jordan Mathews, Derrick Henry, and Travis Benjamin, who all saw their stock rise in Week 1.
Waverly Chargers – Connor Lenahan (1-0) def. Green Bay Blizzard – Matt Bruzzano (0-1)
Good news first: Stafford Back! Matt Stafford looked like his career best in his first game post-Megatron with the Lions. The offense has been fantastic under the guidance of Jim Bob Cooter, and strikes me as fantasy dynamite this season. Yeah, sure, the Lions are still going to go 5-11, but Stafford might be able to do some damage with a team that doesn’t like to run whatsoever. The bad news? For the second straight year, my Chargers and the San Diego Chargers lost Keenan Allen for the season. Allen is a pass catching machine and his torn ACL will certainly crush the NFL’s Chargers season offensively. But for the XFL? Allen is one of the most attractive options in our scoring system given how often he gets looks. A team lining up Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, and John Brown is a whole lot more attractive than one lining up Julio, Brown, and Stefon Diggs.
Meanwhile, the Blizzard continue to mutate away from the roster that was drafted by Matt Bruzzano, but now it’s out of necessity. Robert Griffin III is on the injured reserve with a broken bone in his shoulder. The Blizzard also lost Tony Romo to a broken bone a few weeks ago. Demaryius Thomas is nursing an injured hip, and Adrian Peterson looked atrocious against the Titans. The trade this morning, jettisoning two interesting flyers of Pryor and Dorsett as well as a starter in Lacy to get back Jameis Winston and Jarvis Landry is a terrific trade for the Mad Hatter Bruzzano. Winston looked downright amazing against the Falcons and Landry is interesting enough that at full strength Landry/Thomas/Dez Bryant isn’t fair. Maybe these injuries are blessing in disguise.
Pittsburgh Spikes – Matt Gronsky (1-0) def. New York Titans – Chase Lenahan (0-1)
DeAngelo Williams is 33 years old and plays running back in the NFL. He had 395 points last night and looked great while doing it. Le’Veon Bell is not 33 years old and is a better player than Williams. Add in Ben Roethlisberger dropping 470, Larry Fitzgerald’s two TD performance on Sunday, and that looming return of Josh Gordon and the Spikes are just unfuckingfair right now.
The Titans didn’t quite get their running game going this week, but they weren’t alone. Lamar Miller was the sole back to crack 100 yards league-wide this week, and that’s a trend that certainly won’t continue. Bortles played hard against a Super Bowl contending defense and silenced some critics making for the best takeaway for Chase this weekend. But judgment is reserved for when his three-headed monster of Zeke Elliott/Mark Ingram/Frank Gore truly gets rolling. Only then will the Titans be full strenghth.
Kansas City Killers – Dan Schlosser (1-0) def. Baltimore Bears – Laura LaBrecque (0-1)
So let me get this straight: Theo Riddick had 245 points (Theo Riddick!!), DeSean Jackson had 205, Antonio Brown 315, Carson Palmer tore up a great Pats defense in a narrow loss, and the XFL’s most-losing team beat the reigning champion in their first game of the season. Dogs have kitties, cats have puppies, hot snow falls up, and mass hysteria has arrived. Dan Schlosser’s team is, at long last, really, really good.
For Baltimore? David Johnson was his normal great self, DeAndre Hopkins wasn’t quite himself against the Chicago Bears, and Matt Forte looked way, way, way better than any of us expected, scoring 245 against a great Bengals defense. A loss isn’t what Laura had planned on, but all is okay – only three games to go before the rabid wolverine of Tom Brady is back to throw up 600 a game. Patience is a virtue.
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