Jeremy Vega, Owner, Denver Nightwings
Banner Image by J.R. Lawless
Hello, and a happy Thanksgiving to you all! As you fill your bellies with food and your minds with nonstop football action on the television today, we here at the Beat Team want to wish you all a wonderful day and help feed your SFL brain a little more with the remaining 10 teams that we’ve got questions about. Jeremy Vega has once again broken every crystal ball in the building attempting to scry the futures of these teams, and so help me, he has presented his results to us once again! Read onwards to find out what the biggest question mark for each of the remaining 10 teams is, and to each and every one of you – have a wonderful, and happy, Thanksgiving!
Sioux Falls Sparrows
Are the Sparrows still a perennial playoff team?
The Sparrows entered the league 8 seasons ago, way back in Season 6. Up until Season 13, they have only missed the playoffs once in their seven seasons. Season 13 marked the second time in franchise history that they didn’t participate in the postseason. While you can easily write this off as ‘nobody makes the playoffs every season,’ the Sparrows have been too inconsistent the last 2 seasons to place a bet on them making the playoffs in Season 14. Finishing 7-5 in Season 12 and 5-7 in Season 13, the Sparrows haven’t really found their groove, as they were hot and cold with their play on the field week to week. Despite things gradually trending down for the Sparrows the last 2 seasons, they have continued to build a good core group of guys through the draft and Free Agency. With their veterans QB Julian Tyree, HB Colin Hart, SS A.J. Leyve, & FS Jay Ringold set to return, the Sparrows have the roster to continue to be a top end team. They will need to find consistency in their play if they want to make it back to the postseason in Season 14.
Can Seattle be the 4th team in the Progression Era to make back-to-back championship games?
After the Dallas Lobos made the Semi-Finals in Season 12, they relocated and rebranded to the Seattle Tyrants. The Tyrants then made it back to the Semi-Finals, and took it one step further by making the Championship game. Will the next step be winning the title or falling short somewhere along the way? If Seattle can make it back to the championship game then they would be the 4th team in the progression era to make it to two in a row, and would be joining the Florida Storm, Jacksonville Kings, & the Denver Nightwings. With their entire Season 13 cast coming back for a redemption tour, the Tyrants have also added some heavy hitters in DE Gib Leedo and LB Slinn Shady. This roster will certainly make them the favorites to some. However, with Seattle’s schedule set to be one of the toughest this team has faced yet, including the Dallas seasons, only time will tell if they have what it takes to navigate the rough terrain that is their Season 14 schedule in pursuit of their 1st championship in franchise history.
Can the Wildcats win the tough games in Season 14?
Over the course of Season 13, the Wildcats played very well! Arguably their best season since their championship appearance in Season 9. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, when it came time for Chicago to go one on one with the top teams in the league, they would continually to fall short. Chicago finished the season 8-4. They lost to the Kings, Storm, Vultures, & Hyenas twice, with their fifth loss being to Houston in the Wildcard round of the playoffs. Of Chicago’s 8 wins, only one of them came against a team that made the playoffs: the Atlanta Swarm. Chicago scored a whopping 241 total points in their 8 wins, which averages out to around 30 points per game. Against the tougher teams they lost to, however, they only managed to score 66 total points – which is only an average of 13 points per game. Chicago has brought back all of their best players from the last 2 seasons, and will certainly add in a few more pieces that could potentially take their team to the next level. They will just have to turn it on when they meet up with those playoff contenders, especially (and this goes without saying) in the playoffs.
To beat the tougher teams in this league, we are going to have to establish a legit ground game and establish it early! We are going to need guys on this team to step up when it matters most and help this team win.
~ Shann Varner, Owner, Chicago Wildcats
Mexico City Aztecs
Will the Aztecs offense look any different in Season 14?
Refer back to Las Vegas in the previous article to read all about the Aztecs’ offensive accomplishments in Season 13. We all know by now the Aztecs offense has never been as dominant as they were last season. Offensive coordinator Steven Mullenax came in and completely elevated the offensive unit. Now that he has moved north to Las Vegas, what can we expect from the Aztecs offense now that its back in the hands of Ramos Lynn? Will they fall way back? Or just a step? Maybe they stay the same? It wouldn’t be the first time a former Steven Mullenax offense stayed relevant after his departure. The Tyrants certainly continued to run a heavily inspired Mullenax offense that continued to be ranked near the top. Ramos Lynn, being the gifted coach and learner that he is, definitely had to have picked up a lot from Steven during his time in Mexico City. With the Aztecs entire core group coming back, plus some new weapons being added, it’s very likely this offensive unit barely takes a step back, if any. Ramos Lynn has won a championship as the HC before with a ground attack that took him all the way to title town. So with Ramos taking over and mixing in his own secret sauce, I personally believe that nobody should be sleeping on this offense come Season 14.
Will the Storm Sign a true Halfback once again?
Now that rosters have expanded to 17 star players for the Simulation Football League teams, the Florida Storm might actually sign what I consider a true HB. A true HB isn’t a FB turned HB, or WR turned HB – it’s a HB who has always, and will always, be a HB in his football career. In recent years the Storm have had no star halfback, but have had a star fullback that has acted as their backfield carrier. Jason Williams was their fullback before moving on to Oklahoma City and moving to halfback. The Storm even converted wide receiver Robert Merril to HB one season before returning him to his WR position. With the Season 14 rookie draft just weeks away, and being the deepest in terms of talent the league has ever seen, there will be plenty of HBs the Storm can draft. But will they? Florida Storm owner “Mighty” Max Paul has been on record saying he doesn’t go with the same team build every season. So what better time to mix things up and go with a true HB and FB for the first time in his franchises history. If the Florida Storm start Season 14 off with a HB & FB, then opposing defensive coordinators will have their hands full game planning for this offense. As if it wasn’t hard enough already.
Can the Desperados make the playoffs back-to-back for the first time in franchise history?
In Season 13, the Desperados made the postseason with a record of 6-6. An incredible accomplishment, all things considered, since they started off 0-3, and had a record of 3-5 with 4 games left in the season. It was only the second time in the 4 seasons of history of Tulsa where they made the postseason. The last time was in their expansion season back in Season 10 where they went 9-3 after starting off 8-0 (coincidentally, also taking the Season’s Unofficial Championship title). Now that we have been cruising along through the offseason, we have seen the moves Tulsa has been making to reload their roster, as they go for the postseason again. QB Ashley Jackson, DE Gib Leedo, & FS Kanye Rockafella all left Tulsa after their season wrapped up. The Desperados aren’t done yet, though, and have brought back most of their core group of players from the previous season as well as signing some big name free agents like QB Deacon Nickens, LB DJ Majesty, & CB Sim Franco Jr. The roster is a few players shy of being full and ready to get to work asSeason 14 approaches quickly.
We are going to continue to build on last season a few different ways. First where going to change how we distribute our salary to be more strategic. Also changing our offensive focus. Last season we were a passing team that couldn’t run the ball the first half of the season. Doing so, made us pretty 1-dimensional as we could not get the running game going at all. We plan to rectify that this season.
New Orleans Pharaohs
Will we get the Season 12 or Season 13 Nola team next season?
The New Orleans Pharaohs had a breakout season back in Season 12. They finished 8-4, scored 385 total points (5th most!) and had a +88 point differential (also 5th most!). QB Xander Gold threw for the 5th most yards, 2nd highest completion percentage, 1st in passing touchdowns & 2nd fewest interceptions. The Pharaohs offense was flat out explosive in ways we have not season since the Season 10 Pride. Heading into Season 13, New Orleans was picked by many to win it all. Their season ended up being the total opposite of what it was the previous season. They finished 3-9, only scoring 229 total points (4th worst) and finished with a -159 point differential. Gold finished 13th in passing yards and threw 15 touchdowns to 26 interceptions. The Pharaohs offense was stagnant, and felt like they had lost all of their explosiveness that made them so dangerous. So which team will get? It’s very hard to visualize a New Orleans team having another bad season given the talent they have on both sides of the ball. Every team has a bad season; some get stronger from it and some stay down from it. I don’t see an Aaron Arrington & Xander Gold led team staying down for too long.
Who will coach the Nightwings moving forward?
The Denver Nightwings won the Season 13 Championship on an impressive 13 game win streak. They finished 14-1 and finished with the #1 defense in the league. Owner / HC Jeremy Vega has coached this Nightwings team to the top of the league the last 2 seasons while making It to back to back title games. He has a 28-14 record coaching with a 5-1 playoff record in 3 seasons. With his recent announcement of retiring from coaching, it leaves the SFL wondering who is taking his place. Will the Nightwings still be a powerhouse franchise under the new coaching or will they revert back to their first season of mediocrity? No announcement has come out of Denver as of yet on who will be hired to replace Jeremy Vega. Season 14 is rapidly approaching, and Denver will need to get someone into the coaching office to start molding this team to the new coaches desired identity. If Denver hires someone with experience it’s very possible the Nightwings won’t miss a beat as majority of their championship cast is back. But if it’s a new coach, then Denver could be seen backpedaling in Season 14.
Queen City Corsairs
Can the Corsairs start a new consecutive playoff appearance streak in Season 14?
The Queen City Corsairs finished Season 13 with a 5-7 record, failing to make the playoffs for the first time since Season 4, breaking their 8-season long streak (the longest held in the SFL). It was a surprise to many as we have grown used to seeing the Corsairs fighting for their 5th championship every postseason. With their streak being over, it has put the Queen City front office in an unfamiliar place: They are now having to look at their roster to figure out why it wasn’t enough to finish with a winning record and a playoff berth. Why it wasn’t enough to be more competitive throughout the season. The Corsairs front office is definitely looking at all their options, as they have re-signed former players, signed new players, and even brought back a player out of retirement. It’s no surprise that the front office isn’t skipping a beat as they continue to re-tool their roster. They are of course, being led by a 4x championship winning owner, Erik Barkley.
We at QCC were very prideful of our playoff streak record. Since that has been broken, we went back to the drawing board to revamp our offense and defense. Preparing for the draft is our main focus as of now, with it being only a few weeks away. Erik and I have always seen eye to eye on things as we strive to stay honest and hold the integrity of our team intact, along with Stephen Hacker. We have every intention of competing for our 5th Championship and restarting our playoff streak.
~ Nacho Sicario, General Manager, Queen City
Can, and will, the Kings re-establish the ground game in Season 14?
In Season 13, the Kings and their halback A.J. Francis only managed 762 yards rushing. It was the 2nd fewest yards in the league by any halfback. In Season 12, Francis rushed for 1718 yards, which ranked 5th among halfbacks. One season, one thousand-yard difference. Likely there isn’t a drop off of that magnitude unless the player changes, or the game plan does. Representatives from Jacksonville have stated it was a game plan change which benefited the offense in ways, but ultimately kept them one dimensional all season. With the recent retirement of Francis, the Kings have signed recent free-agent halfback Jared Willis. Jared started his career in Chicago for the Wildcats before moving over to Queen City. He spent one season there before becoming a free agent. In Season 13, Jared rushed for only 618 yards, which ended up ranked last among halfbacks. In Season 12, Jared rushed for 1193 yards while in Chicago. This shows he is very capable of producing a ground attack that can keep an offense from being one dimensional. Something the Kings will need if they decide to change their game plan again in Season 14 as they continue to chase their first championship.