XFL 2016: And Then There Were Ten
By: Connor Lenahan
I have a bad habit of getting down a rabbit hole if I don’t stop myself soon enough. Case in point: The new Pokemon game, Pokemon Sun, came out on the 18th. I beat the game on Monday, which is actually slower than I had the last two. If it weren’t for traveling and projects for school, I almost certainly would have beaten the game on Thanksgiving or Black Friday. I’m insane, but at least I’m aware of it.
This afternoon I began to ponder what we have in store for the end of the XFL season. I started writing scenarios and quickly realized that I was falling down yet another hole. Well, here we are. I haven’t slept in 79 hours and the Mormons are spying on my kitchen, but I have figured out our playoff scenarios for the league.
Let’s take a minute though to pour one out for the teams we won’t be seeing in the playoffs this season. The nightmarish season of Matt Bruzzano’s Green Bay Blizzard is just one weekend away from conclusion, but their fearless leader has hope. He texted me on Thanksgiving day to lock in Ezekiel Elliott as the first pick of the 2017 draft, meaning that the second pick is on the clock. That selection will most likely belong to the Seattle Rage or Las Vegas High Rollers as both are eliminated from playoff contention, but could also fall to the Waverly Chargers should things get weird Sunday. The Chargers looked to be in playoff contention through some ridiculous luck, but lose nearly every tiebreaker, meaning their season is in effect over.
This is important to consider. I bold it because I don’t want anyone to miss it. I think I’m right here. I went and researched the following with the knowledge that the league’s seeding tiebreaker is head-to-head record. Because we all play, the seeds come down to who has beaten whom this season. There is a chance I have this wrong and it will incorporate point totals on the season, but I’m not sure. If I get this totally wrong then I’m not sure what happens. But I think this is how we can see things play out, so bear with me. With that in mind, here are the best and worst case scenarios for every playoff-eligible team.
Oklahoma City Lions (10-2) – Andrew Rebensky – Clinched 1st Seed
Andrew Rebensky’s Lions are able to breathe easy this week as they are untouchable in the first seed for the playoffs. The Lions get their version of the Ohio State-Michigan game against Chase Lenahan and the Titans this week, and we get to see a potential championship preview. The Lions are odds-on favorites to reach the title game for the third straight year but will have to buck history to do so. No team has won the championship from the top seed before, and the last time the #1 team made the title game was in 2013 (Green Bay). That said, I am officially horrified of Andrew in the playoffs, so best of luck to whoever draws him because this kid knows how to manage under pressure.
Or at least knows how to ride Drew Brees to victories like a motherfucker.
Denver Blaze (8-4) – Ryan Gilbert & Pat Haggerty – Best: 2nd Seed/Worst: 3rd Seed
So the Denver Blaze are in a good spot after their Week 12 win over the Chargers. Ryan and Pat head into their closing matchup with the Washington Senators as favorites after Cary Lenahan’s team got decimated with injuries, and a win would help them solidify an overall wonderful season. The odd part of the Blaze’s situation is that they are really not in control as much as Pittsburgh is. The Blaze own tiebreaker wins over the New York Titans, Baltimore Bears, and New Orleans Tigers, meaning that the worst they can do is the third seed. The Blaze fell to the Pittsburgh Spikes so a loss or tie would allow Matt Gronsky and Brooke Chapple to grab the second spot. A Spikes loss and Blaze win would put Cam Newton and Co. in the second spot. Pittsburgh is favored against the Las Vegas High Rollers, but neither position is bad for Denver in the playoffs.
New York Titans (8-4) – Chase Lenahan – Best: 2nd Seed/Worst: 4th Seed
Fun fact: The New York Titans are 8-1 since Week 3. Chase Lenahan’s team came out of the draft with the most problematic set of receivers (Allen Hurns and Josh Doctson), a quarterback many expected to fall off (Blake Bortles), and a first round pick that was yet to play a snap in the NFL (Ezekiel Elliott). Well, Zeke exploded, Bortles got flipped for Kirk Cousins – currently playing out of his mind – and the receivers got somewhat figured out, in as much as they are actually playing. The Titans lost to both the Blaze and Spikes this season, meaning that they need both to lose this week while picking up a win over the Lions to grab the second spot. Because the Titans defeated the Bears and Tigers outright, the worst that can happen is a top four seed, which is far higher than most would have guessed before the season. A third or fourth spot is most likely for Chase, and his team’s recent hot streak – Tim Hightower, really? – should spell trouble for some of the lower seeded teams.
Pittsburgh Spikes (8-4) – Matt Gronsky & Brooke Chapple – Best: 2nd Seed/Worst: 5th Seed
The Pittsburgh Spikes are really good this year and are showing up to play with little volatility. If I’m a betting man, I’d still say Oklahoma City is the favorite on talent and current production, but a title run for the Spikes is not only in the cards, but wouldn’t be all that surprising either. The scenarios here are simple. The Spikes can lock up the second seed with a win, owning tiebreakers over Denver and New York. A loss would make things a little more complicated. The only way the wheels come off for Pittsburgh is by losing to Las Vegas and seeing Denver, New York, and Baltimore win, which gives Laura LaBrecque the 4th seed over the Spikes. Personally, I don’t see Pittsburgh dropping this week’s game, and don’t see New York knocking off OKC – although I would bet on Baltimore and Denver wins. I feel comfortable betting on the Spikes as the second seed, the Blaze as third, and the Titans in the fourth spot.
Baltimore Bears (7-5) – Laura LaBrecque – Best: 4th Seed/Worst: 6th Seed
The Baltimore Bears are favored to take down the Seattle Rage this weekend, and doing so would at least confirm the 5th seed for them. The Bears worst case scenario is the 6th seed with a loss and a New Orleans Tigers win, and their most likely scenario is the 5th seed as previously mentioned. This one isn’t all that weird and only would get strange with a Pittsburgh loss, where they could in theory jump to the 4th spot. The smart money is on the Titans hosting the Bears in the first round. As has been the case all season, the Bears chances to repeat as champion fall on one of two things. Either their wide receivers will need to perform for once this season (save for Jamison Crowder, who is awesome) or Tom Brady & David Johnson will need to bail out another poor showing from DeAndre Hopkins. Good news: DeVante Parker is playing well at just the right time, and Anquan Boldin is somehow useful in Detroit, so all is far from lost for the reigning champ.
New Orleans Tigers (7-5) – Paul Bruzzano – Best: 5th Seed/Worst: 7th Seed
So a victory over the Green Bay Blizzard will only help the Tigers if the Baltimore Bears lose, but it will certainly stop the bleeding for a team that has quickly fallen apart. After beginning the season 6-0, the Tigers are 1-5 and last broke 1000 points on a game in Week 8. An odd statistic: The Tigers only hold a win over one team that impacts their seeding – Kansas City, who they beat 860-670 in Week 4. Save for a Week 2 upset over the Oklahoma City Lions, the Tigers have lost to every other current playoff team. A loss this week combined with a Chicago Hitmen win would push the Tigers to the 7th seed, but none of their potential opponents – Denver, New York, Pittsburgh, or Baltimore – look particularly promising for Paul Bruzzano’s team.
Chicago Hitmen (6-6) – Jason Kohn – Best: 5th Seed/Worst: Miss The Playoffs
Now here is where it gets interesting! The Chicago Hitmen aren’t necessarily in “must win” territory given that things need to break other teams way to knock them out, but a loss would create a great deal of chaos with Chicago’s tiebreakers. Here’s the good: The Hitmen own a tiebreaker over the New Orleans Tigers and Baltimore Bears, meaning a win and Tigers and Bears losses would propel the Hitmen into 5th. This is absolutely in play, if unlikely given the Tigers matchup. The Hitmen are facing the Kansas City Killers, and are currently projected to lose to Dan Schlosser as of now. Both teams are currently in the playoffs, but here’s how the season could fall apart for the Hitmen. Should the Killers win against Jason, then the Washington Senators would need to knock off the Denver Blaze and/or the Philadelphia Panthers would need to topple the Chargers. The Hitmen lose both tiebreakers from the eight seed, and the Panthers would then take the 8th seed over Chicago and Washington by virtue of beating both head-to-head. The Hitmen could really use a win this week, but at the very least need wins by Waverly and Denver to lock up a playoff berth.
Kansas City Killers (6-6) – Dan Schlosser – Best: 6th Seed/Worst: 8th Seed
Say it with me now: The Kansas City Killers have clinched a playoff berth for the second time in nine seasons. Don’t look now, but the Killers are very suddenly the wrong kind of team to draw. Thomas Rawls is back at loooooooong last, Theo Riddick is getting some production, and Antonio Brown/Doug Baldwin/DeSean Jackson is potentially awesome as a trio. Carson Palmer holding down the fort makes the Killers just dangerous enough, if not outright scary then uncertain, to cause problems for teams like Denver and Oklahoma City. The Killers only own a tiebreaker against the Bears from Week 1 so a Bears loss and Killers win would make them the 6th seed, although the 7th seed is very likely. Philadelphia and Washington don’t want the Killers to lose, as Schlosser own tiebreakers over both. A loss sets up an OKC/KC first round matchup that I’m sort of dying to see, but for the sake of chaos I hope doesn’t happen.
I feel like this is a good time to bring up that the Killers beat the Chargers by 15 in Week 10 and were one Gio Bernard yard away from tying and four away from losing. I’m going to go make myself a strong drink, and Dan Schlosser is going to make a small shrine to Gio Bernard on his nightstand. If Bernard isn’t a Killer next season then this league has sincerely let me down.
Philadelphia Panthers (5-7) – Matt Pettinato – Best: 8th Seed/Worst: Miss The Playoffs
Screw it, I think it would be hilarious to see Matt Pettinato come in and swipe a playoff spot at the last minute. The guy has had so much bad luck – Todd Gurley’s frustration rings eternal in Philly – that it would be kind of awesome to see him slide in right at the deadline. Make no mistake, I am making it my mission to obliterate his team this week out of frustration over the fact that Gio Bernard basically cost me a playoff spot three weeks ago and then tore his ACL on me, but if I lose, hey, at least I get a top 6 pick! The Panthers are a weird, weird team, but Matt Ryan is a man possessed this year. Maybe a title isn’t likely, but a playoff win would probably make Matt’s career as a coach.
Washington Senators (5-7) – Cary Lenahan – Best: 8th Seed/Worst: Miss The Playoffs
So all that needs to happen is a Kansas City Killers victory over Chicago, a Waverly Chargers win over the Philadelphia Panthers, and an upset win over Denver without Andrew Luck (probably), Ryan Mathews, or CJ Prosise on the back of huge games by the likes of Fozzy Whittaker and Benny Cunningham all while Delanie Walker is also on bye for some reason. You know, this was way more unlikely in my head. Oh God, the Senators are going to steal this spot, aren’t they? Week 13 is going to be absurd.
Week 13 Matchups
Waverly Chargers vs. Philadelphia Panthers
Baltimore Bears vs. Seattle Rage
Washington Senators vs. Denver Blaze
Kansas City Killers vs. Chicago Hitmen
New Orleans Tigers vs. Green Bay Blizzard
New York Titans vs. Oklahoma City Lions
Las Vegas High Rollers vs. Pittsburgh Spikes