Jett Zero, Beat Writer
Banner image by J.R. Lawless
We’re back with another set of Jett Zero’s Playoff Guarantees*. Last week, our prognosticator Jett was a solid 2-for-2 as far as making guesses. I haven’t checked to see how they panned out, but he’s come back swinging this week with the absolute locks you’re about to read. So strap in, hold on tight, buckle up, and get ready for some postseason wisdom, courtesy of our very own Mr. Zero.
*once again, I must reiterate that none of these scores or write-ups are guaranteed; we’re currently checking up on Jett’s ability to make a guarantee and will update later.
(#10) Houston Hyenas 17 – (#1) Denver Nightwings 21
Wednesday’s quarterfinal playoff action kicks off with a tremendously tough-to-call bout between Houston and Denver. The #1 seeded Nightwings play host to the lowest seeded Hyenas in what should prove to be a sneaky good, David vs. Goliath type match-up. Week 5 saw the Nightwings rip a 41-24 victory in Hyena Park, but this is NOT the same Hyenas team we saw back in August. Over their last four tilts, they have allowed only 15 points per game en route to a 4-0 record against playoff-caliber teams, including a wildcard matchup on Saturday where they only allowed 7 points to a home Chicago team. It’s almost as if the light went on in Houston in Week 11 and the Hyenas are (finally) showing their true colors. They held the offensive dynamo that is Mexico City to a mere 20 points in Week 12, their lowest showing of the season and well below their points per game average of 37. Looking at the Nightwing’s stats throughout the regular season, it’s almost difficult to pinpoint how they boast the top record in the SFL, as they don’t really stand out in any discernible statistical offensive category: they are 8th in points per game and 12th in total yards. The lone stat that does jump off the page for Denver is their top ranked defense, allowing the least points (209), passing TDs (13), and 2nd least passing yards (233 YPG) through 12 games. Their pass defense is suffocating and efficient. The most awe-inspiring aspect of this Denver team, however, cannot exemplified by statistics: their ability to coach and win football games. JV has been doing a great job all season winning football games, no matter what the final score was. Need to handle a weaker team at home? Check. Need to take care of a playoff-bound team on the road? Check. Need to win a tough game by a game-winning field goal during the legendary Vice Wars match-up? Check. At the end of the day, the middle of the road offensive stats mean nothing as long as you are winning, and that’s what the Nightwings have done all season. The silver lining for Houston here is that the lone weak spot in Denver’s D is their rush defense. Did I mention that the Hyenas were tied for 4th in rush YPG this season? It’s difficult to pick a horse in this race, especially considering the month Houston has been having, but its hard to pick a #10 to beat a #1. Go prove me wrong, David.
(#8) Atlanta Swarm 24 – (#2) Baltimore Vultures 28
With a strong showing versus Tulsa on Saturday night, the Atlanta Swarm advance to what should be the toughest game of their season in Baltimore. The Vultures bring with them a 10-2 record, tied for 2nd in the SFL throughout Season 13, in hopes of getting their 11th win of the summer. This high octane showdown looks to showcase fireworks from both sidelines, through the air as well as on the ground. Both clubs boast near 30 point per game scoring averages as the Swarm pace the league in passing yards, while Baltimore utilizes a more balanced attack. The key to this game will ultimately come down to efficiency as both teams are about equally matched offensively and defensively. The turnover differential favors the Vultures (+5 to -2) as does the conversion percentage. Baltimore is tied with Seattle for a league best 61% conversion rate on 3rd down (with the most successful conversions at 95) and are one of only two teams with a 100% 4th down conversion rate. Essentially, the Atlanta brass has to figure out how to contain the Vulture’s attack and force 3rd and long situations to keep their offense off the field. If I were TJ, I would keep Mike Dazzo and Bishop Warfield busy through the air all night, while reserving Troy Gaines to pound the rock on 3rd and 4th down short yardage situations. Atlanta is a little bit better at guarding the run with their Big 3 in Dillon Roland, Aquantis Shyne, and Joshua Williams, so there could be a bit of a favorable match-up for them there. Look for this contest to come down to the wire with no clear favorite early on. I believe the Swarm have a good shot to win this game, but I trust TJ’s group more with the winning mentality that we’ve seen from them all season long; Baltimore gets the W in this one.
(#6) Alaska Storm 20 – (#3) Seattle Tyrants 33
Throughout the Summer 2019 season, the Hunting Grounds has been an impregnable domain of dominance and supremacy. The Tyrants have given no quarter to visiting teams, averaging 33 points per game on their home field to a tune of an undefeated 6-0 record. The balanced offensive attack of QB Jacques Luyindula (101.4 QBR on the season) and RB Zack Sandlin (#2 rushing in the league) has punished opponents offensively while allowing the team to hold their ground on defense. Head coach Crash Combs will look to continue Seattle’s success at home with a big win in the quarterfinal round, exemplifying their T-2nd best record in the league this season. Conversely, its been tough sledding for the Storm on the road all season. Despite a NARROW 3-point victory over the top ranked Denver Nightwings on the road in Week 2, Alaska has been unable to muster more than 20 points offensively as the visiting team all season. All 4 of their losses this summer have been on the road (in games that were not very close), with their only 2 road wins coming off of minor 3-point leads. Statistics aside, Alaska has always found a way to WIN in the postseason with back-to-back-to-back SFL titles under their belt. Their seasoned veteran crew of Ron Cockren, Jeff Comeau, Robert Merrill, Optimus Cline, Evan Carroll, Ryan Davidson, and AJ Francis all have 3 trophies to their name (literally) and will showcase why that is next Tuesday. It would be an egregious blunder to sleep on these guys. Nevertheless, I just can’t get past the mismatch of Alaska’s road woes vs. Seattle’s home prowess. The Storm train stops here folks.
(#5) Tallahassee Pride 30 – (#4) Mexico City Aztecs 38
Christmas comes early for eager SFL fans as they are treated to one of the marquee match-ups of the summer to finish the season… AND to open the second week of playoff football! It’s Round 2 for Mexico City and Tallahassee as both franchises will fight tooth and err… claw to advance to the semi-finals. After edging out the Pride at the Lion’s Den in Week 13, Coach Ramos will call on the arm of Hall of Famer Matt Willson, legs of Hall of Famer Ray Bentley, the foot of (eventual) Hall of Famer Kole Varner, and the (Hall of Daggs) Daggs trio to secure an early playoff victory at home. Like Seattle, the Aztecs are also undefeated at home while putting up gaudy offensive numbers to boot. Willson and Bentley have both enjoyed HOF numbers this season as Mexico City posted a blinding points per game, averaging 36.75. They can beat you through the air or on the ground. If you are a nervous Tallahassee fan and have been reading up until this point, here’s the good news: Christian Christiansen. CC boasts a near 77% (!) completion percentage while having racked up 4,100 yards on the season. Tallahassee’s air raid offense is deadly. They have the knowledge and the talent to win any match-up on any given Sunday… or Tuesday for that matter. The key here is to somehow slow the offensive juggernaut that is Mexico City. Pride FS Sir Chappell should be in full ball-hawking mode next week, as the TO differential will ultimately decide the outcome of this game. Fun fact: Mexico is +12 in TO differential this season. Tallahassee is +0.