Jett Zero, Ray Bentley, Mike Improta
Banner Image by J.R. Lawless

Hello, Simulation Football League fans, one and all! The 14th Season kicks off this Friday, January 17th at 5:00pm EST, 4:00pm CST, as the Florida Storm travel to the now-reigning champion Denver Nightwings to begin the league’s mad dash back to the Championship podium. Unfortunately, while there might be 20 overall teams in the SFL, only one can hold the trophy at the end of the day. Fortunately for all of us, we have a preternaturally excellent game predictor in Jett Zero. It’s my pleasure to welcome you all to the first in a “pick ’em” series that we’ve helpfully titled ZERO GUARANTEES. Underlined scores are our predicted winner for the week; after the picks, our overall Season 14 record will be available for all to wonder at in awe (or mock shamelessly, however the cards may fall). And remember – if you disagree with what Jett and the crew have come up with, don’t just let us know in the mailbag – show us on the field how wrong we were! With that, let’s take a look at Week 1 matchups!

Florida Storm 23
Denver Nightwings 20

Friday, January 17 5:00pm EST

The old champs take on the new as the newly minted Florida Storm travel to the Mile High city to try to spoil the Nightwing’s home opener. This will be a close one for sure, and a Week 1 game that features these heavyweights leaves us “experts” shrugging our shoulders. It will be interesting to see how this Denver squad performs with Coach Vega giving up the play calling duties this season. I believe the Storm will rely heavy on their passing game, as they have in the past, to pull out the win here.

Seattle Tyrants 27
Baltimore Vultures 30

Friday, January 17 7:00pm EST

In what should prove to be a thrilling Week 1 showdown, SFL fans will be treated to a S13 semi-finals rematch between two offensive juggernauts, Seattle at Baltimore. Both franchises are hungry after coming so close to a title last season, so this will ultimately come down to a battle of wills. The Vulture’s near perfect home record last season will make Seattle’s crusade that much more difficult, but the Tyrant’s certainly have the weapons on offense (Sandlin, Lyindula) to make it a great game. Highlight to watch for: Seattle’s significantly improved defensive line.

Arizona Scorpions 17
Houston Hyenas 13

Friday, January 17 9:30pm EST

Arizona at Houston Week 1 is either a homecoming or a revenge game for Eddie Gauge, depending on who you ask. The Hyena’s home opener should prove to be the marquee defensive marathon of the first week of S14 and beyond. This matchup is dripping with headlines (most involving Gauge), but don’t let those distract from the real significance of this clash: what type of team are these new Arizona Scorpions going to be? And can newly anointed owner/HC Eddie Gauge #makeanimpact in the standings in his inaugural season? Time will tell.

London Knights 21
Charleston Predators 28

Saturday, January 18 1:00pm EST

If this isn't the dark horse candidate for the most thrilling matchup of the week, I'm not sure what is. After both teams finished last season with 5-7 records and no playoff berth, the Predators and Knights will be facing off in Week 1 to try and each right the ship of state for the journey into Season 14. While the Knights run game last season was out-of-this-world, their record-breaking back is now a Pharaoh; in fact, most of the Knights team from last season is now on varying others from around the league. Charleston, on the other hand, has remained largely the same, and that sense of fraternity (along with homefield advantage) is what gives them the edge in our matchup.

Las Vegas Fury 20
Mexico City Aztecs 26

Saturday, January 18 3:00pm EST

The Fury and Aztecs are basically brothers from another city. Both teams feature offensive gurus, Ramos Lynn taking over again in Mexico City and Steven Mullenax in his first year as Offensive Coordinator, (Leaving Mexico City to join Las Vegas) and potent passing attacks. Is it always the best decision to side with the majority? The SFL’s discord community has Mexico City picked to win with 110 votes vs just 40 votes for Las Vegas…It's always difficult to completely decode public perception. Hopes are high that Ray Bentley will regain his stature as one of the best RBs in the game with a new offensive system in 2020. On the flip side, ball control and new OC Steven Mullenax are two other keys for a Las Vegas upset. Narratives aside, this game implies that Mexico City has the better chance to win, and that Las Vegas is too trendy of an upset pick compared to the alternatives. Season 13 had Mexico City routing Las Vegas 31-14. Regardless, these teams look evenly matched, and with the help of home field advantage, the edge goes to Mexico City.

Carolina Skyhawks 20
St. Louis Gladiators 27

Saturday, January 18 5:00pm EST

Architects, when designing buildings, leave the 13th floor out of the plans thanks to superstition. The Skyhawks and Gladiators may very well do the same to their Season 13 with the SFL, hoping that 'out of sight, out of mind' is more than just a phrase. Expect to see both teams hit hard straight out of the gate in order to shake off the offseason dust, and to prove naysayers wrong. While Carolina was a playoff team a few seasons ago, we believe the edge goes to the Gladiators for this matchup; with first-overally S14 draft pick Jonny Pichler under center, hopes are in the Gateway City there's nowhere to go but up - as long as they can get that pesky Skyhawk out of the way first.

Vancouver Legion 24
New Orleans Pharaohs 16

Saturday, January 18 7:00pm EST

Let’s be honest, both the Legion and the Pharaohs had fairly disappointing seasons last fall, given their roster talent and coaching experience. Both teams hope to improve upon that in S14 and get back into the playoffs. NOLA had a few big names join the team through free agency, none bigger than the reigning rushing champ Reggie Streeter. Owner Aaron Arrington is eager to show his team, and the world, that the Pharaohs are a force to be reckoned with. Vancouver took a different approach through the draft in December by beefing up the offensive line. Let’s see if Andy Hamilton knows what he is doing.

Chicago Wildcats 26
Tulsa Desperados 17

Saturday, January 18 9:30pm EST

TWO PLAYOFF TEAMS ENTER. BOTH... LEAVE. It's Week 1, we're not doing eliminations yet! While the Desperados are hosting the first matchup of the season, we here in the Beat Team feel that the Wildcats have the edge thanks to a chip on their shoulder called "the Wildcard loss." In addition to this motivating factor for the Windy City, they've also got impeccable hype-man and fullback Mike Improta helping to get the fans roaring. On the other hand, they'll be matched up against a new-look Desperados offense, featuring the talents of Deacon Nickens under center, taking over for Ashley Jackson after her move to Arizona. Overall, this might be another under-the-radar thriller, but after Chicago's playoff exit last season, we believe they'll have a fire under their butts that gives them the advantage.

Atlanta Swarm 20
Jacksonville Kings 30

Sunday, January 19 7:00pm EST

Duval County’s newest powerhouse will play host to a travelling Swarm team Sunday night to a somewhat familiar chant of JAX JAX JAX. The newly minted Lion’s Den will no doubt see a high scoring affair for its grand opening as ATL QB Marcus Dunhill looks to play with his new offensive toy in rookie QB Dave Axis, and JAX QB Christian Christiansen does what he does best. I am predicting this being one of, if not THE, highest scoring contest of the opening week of the season. But in the end, the Kings inch one step closer to the S14 championship.
Sioux Falls Sparrows 24
Queen City Corsairs 31

Sunday, January 19 9:00pm EST

Another matchup of teams that juuuuuust barely missed out on postseason action last go-round, the Sioux Falls Sparrows ensured they made an impact afterwards by dominating play during the Pro Bowl, even taking home the game's MVP trophy. What, then, of the Corsairs? Well, to begin, they might have had the steal of the draft with James Manzi falling to the third round with full value. That, coupled with an interesting setup with fullback Jett Zero as the Corsair's only star rusher, definitely makes us think that team owner Erik Barkley has something up his sleeve. Considering the Corsairs are still the winning-est team with 4 'ships under their belt, *and* they're playing at home? Yarr, matey, we be givin' the victory to them.