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

Welcome back, one and all, to another exciting edition of Zero Guarantees! We here in the SFL Beat offices have been riding our suddenly-successful-picking high all week long, until we remembered that success is fleeting, and deadlines are not. We’re almost to the halfway point of the season, and with it, the picks feel like they’re getting.. harder? If we’ve learned anything from the previous four weeks of SFL action, it’s that nothing is to be taken for granted, not even our Zero Guarantees picks! With that said, here they are for Week 5 – can your team be the one to flip the expectations on their head?

London Knights 23
Mexico City Aztecs 26

Saturday, February 15 | 12:00pm EST [FTF]
Broadcasters: Michael Trulio | Charles Dougherty

Now this game is a head scratcher. Perennial playoff contenders in Mexico City are entering Week 5 with a paltry one win and three losses. The rebuilt London Knights are faring better at 2-2, but much like Rodney Dangerfield, they can't get no respect! While the former championship pedigree might be with Ramos' team, the numbers are on the Knights' side. A little closer look, though, shows that London pulled out their wins against the Pharaohs and Gladiators, while the Aztecs took down the Fury in Week 1 before faltering against the top three teams in the league following. What does it all add up to? We've flipped the coin on this game 100 times, and it keeps landing on its side to spite us. Mexico by three.
Carolina Skyhawks 31
Tulsa Desperados 34

Saturday, February 15 | 2:00pm EST [Twitch]
Broadcasters: Andy Hamilton | Jeremy Vega

Another game that's hard to call. Carolina, like Mexico before us, only has one win to their name, while the Desperados are sitting even-keeled. Breaking it further down, though, there's not much other than that separating the teams - Carolina has allowed only 20 more total points than Tulsa has, and has had the bad luck of enduring injury after injury onfield. Ultimately, though, it's the field that we think will decide this game, and continue the streak of bad luck for the Skyhawks. Playing at home this Saturday afternoon, we lean towards the Desperados to take the W from this contest, if, and only if, that luck has been on their side this season (paging Khoury Jones. Khoury Jones, please go to the endzone). Carolina is gonna have to wait one more week, we fear, for the smoke to clear.

Jacksonville Kings 30
New Orleans Pharoahs 17

Saturday, February 15 | 4:00pm EST [Twitch]
Broadcasters: Colin Northrup | Rick Northrup

Things aren't exactly reflective of the nickname down in the Big Easy. Xander Gold has the reigns of the third most effective offense in the league, with only three less total points scored than the next up on the list. Unfortunately for the Pharaohs, the next up is... the Jacksonville Kings. The Kings are riding the high of dismantling the Mexico City Aztecs all the way into New Orleans this week, putting 21 more points on the board than necessary on their way to their third win of the season. New Orleans has scored 30+ points in every game this season except their first, so the hope in the bayou is that will be enough to keep this game evenly-paced. After seeing the Kings effortlessly take down the Aztecs, Tyrants and the Storm, while New Orleans' only win was in a shootout with the Skyhawks? Put another W on the pile for the Kings; it's starting to swell in Pride, don't you think?
Seattle Tyrants 17
Vancouver Legion 21

Saturday, February 15 | 8:00pm EST [FTF]
Broadcasters: Cameron Irvine | Steven Mullenax

The top and bottom ranked team as far as net points, Vancouver hosts the Seattle Tyrants this Saturday for the day's final game, and... we only have a four point spread? Surely something must be afoot! Well, other than good old-fashioned contrarianism. Yes - the Vancouver Legion will pull out another win this Saturday; their fifth of the season in as many weeks! Will it be easy for them? Absolutely not. Seattle is looking to shake the dust off a dismal 3-31 loss to the Florida Storm in Week 4, and that alone, we think, will be enough to put some flop sweat on the brows of Andy Hamilton and company. Gumption, however, does not a game winner make, and so we believe that the Great White North continue their great white-hot streak. Well, at least until they hit the brick wall known as the Gateway City next week.
Florida Storm 28
Atlanta Swarm 24

Sunday, February 16 | 8:00pm EST [FTF]
Broadcasters: Chris Curtis | Stephen Hacker

Big game here for the Swarm. After dropping their first game of the season in Baltimore last week, Atlanta must face a surging Florida Storm outfit this week. The Storm had looked pedestrian at best through the first quarter of the season, but Ron Cockren and crew finally turned on the jets at home against a struggling Seattle team, dropping almost as many points in Week 4 as they had all season combined. If Atlanta wants to remain in the Top 5 this season, they have to prevail in tough but winnable match-ups, and Week 5 will be a prime example. The Swarm must soothe the slowly waking beast that is the Florida offense if they hope to pull out the W on Sunday. The Storm must build on their offensive momentum and utilize their key players on defense (namely safeties Andrew Francis and Evan Carroll) to limit Dunhill's throwing to apply additional pressure to RB BDG Hollewood. My prediction is that the Storm has finally started raging in the SFL and Atlanta will be their 2nd victim of S14.
Queen City Corsairs 16
Denver Nightwings 20

Sunday, February 16 | 10:00pm EST [FTF]
Broadcasters: Rich Pratchard | Gerald Giudicessi

If we've learned any one thing from this season, it's that you can take your expectations, ball them up, and shoot 'em into the nearest garbage bin. Two of the last three former champions, including the reigning one, only have a single win to their names - and the other has barely hit even. On the other hand, the team with four championships has been on a tear as of late, earning multiple Player of the Week nods in every category. So: take your Queen City winning expectations, and follow through with the above method. I know! It sounds crazy, but bear with me: Denver's new coach, Jacob Bouvette, now has a week under his belt to work with, and this is one of those outcomes that's just crazy enough it might work. While the Corsairs have been sailing the high seas with impunity as of late, their journey comes to a close this week in the rarefied airs of Denver - you can Zero Guarantees* it!

*These are not at all guaranteed. We really need to speak to Ray about this.
Chicago Wildcats 15
Arizona Scorpions 10

Monday, February 17 | 7:00pm EST [FTF]
Broadcasters: Eric Vinson | Cade Stephens

Great win last week for Chicago. The struggling Wildcats played host to the undefeated Sparrows and were able to escape the Thunderdome alive on Tuesday night. It was far from the cleanest performance, but Ash Odom did enough on offense to give the Chicago D an opportunity to close out the game in the 4th quarter and thus their second straight win after starting the season 0-2. Meanwhile, the Scorpions are on a two week losing skid and potentially facing a Bottom 5 power ranking with a loss this week. The defense, under the tutelage of HC Eddie Gauge, has displayed average performance, but much lower than pre-season expectations. Both the offense AND the defense fall roughly in the bottom 7 of the SFL. Another performance like the one against Queen City last week could spell doom for this franchise's playoff hopes by Week 6. I'm taking the visitors here based on momentum alone.
Charleston Predators 21
Sioux Falls Sparrows 31

Monday, February 17 | 9:00pm EST [FTF]
Broadcasters: Mike Daggs | Matt Wilson

Heading into Week 5 of the 14th season of the SFL we are still asking ourselves: Who are the Charleston Predators? After three decent wins over Bottom 5 teams and an ugly loss to a Top 3 team, CHS boasts a 3-1 record with the worst SOV out of any multi-win team in the entire league. With an away game versus the formidable Sparrows on tap, the time for the Predators to reveal their true colors is nigh. Win and the Sea Blue loyal shall write songs of their greatness. Lose, and Charleston shall fall back down to the realms of SFL irrelevancy. Alternatively, Sioux Falls must bounce back from a head-scratching loss in Chicago in Week 4. After storming back from a multi-score deficit, the Sparrows forwent an opportunity to kick a game-tying field goal to instead try their luck on 4th and inches with less than 2 minutes on the clock. Needless to say SXF landed their first loss of the season and must re-group in order to keep the gas on their post-season push. I'm putting my (make-believe) money on Julian Tyree enjoying a bounce-back performance and bringing home the W.
Houston Hyenas 10
Baltimore Vultures 27

Tuesday, February 18 | 7:00pm EST [FTF]
Broadcasters: Jeff Melinyshyn | Eddie Gauge

Another home game for the Vultures as they host a struggling Houston squad looking for just their 2nd win on the season. Baltimore has been lights out at home, dominating their opponents in all three phases of the game. QB Mike Dazzo has dazzled spectators in the passing game, currently ranked 2nd in completions, 2nd in QBR, and 1st in completion percentage at a stammering 79%. And the defense has played just as well, if not better. Long story short, Houston has a tough road ahead of them Tuesday night. After starting the season out strong, the Hyenas have since dropped three straight and look lost offensively. Warren Murray's production has trailed off significantly after his 4 TD performance in Week 1. It's hard to see Houston coming into town and upsetting the former #1 ranked team in the league in their own dojo. I'm taking the Dirty Birds in this one.
Las Vegas Fury 23
St. Louis Gladiators 14

Tuesday, February 18 | 9:00pm EST [YouTube]
Broadcasters: Robert Garrett Jr. | Wade Phillips

Another season, another installment of Vice Wars in the books; only this time we saw an unexpected winner in Las Vegas. Pre-season chattering foresaw high expectations for the Fury after adding play calling guru Steven Mullenax into the fold. Well, the first two weeks did not live up to those expectations as LV went winless and boasted the worst net point ration in the league. Since that low point, the Fury have streaked back into contention, beating the likes of Florida and Denver in back-to-back weeks. QB Tom Ramen and Co. have an even more favorable match-up this week as they travel to St. Loius to take on the embattled Gladiators. #1 overall S14 draft pick Jonny Pichler has done his best to keep his team afloat in most games. He boasts a league low 2 picks through four games; unfortunately one of those was a game-wrecker for STL in Week 1 against Carolina. It's been one of those seasons for this franchise, but they can turn their luck around with a surprise win at home in Week 5. However, that is not where my predictions lie this time around.

Season 14 Zero Guarantees Record: 23 – 17