Written by Rae Colston, Ray Bentley, Baylee O’Shaughnessy, Jack Brown, Josh Farnzy and Matthew Slinn
Images by Tyler Falk
Written by Rae Colston, Ray Bentley, Baylee O’Shaughnessy, Jack Brown, Josh Farnzy and Matthew Slinn
Images by Tyler Falk
|There was not much to play for in Week 12, but for - and against - a type of pride (you know, dignity as well as a team named after lions). The Storm made sure they would head into their opening weekend playoff bye on a high note, as the defense suffocated Jacksonville’s potent offense to only four third down conversions on the night and held them to a mere field goal at halftime on their way to a 25-13 victory. The win caps a stellar regular season for the Storm, who are now riding a nine-game win streak into the postseason and a division crown to boot. Florida will open their playoffs next week as the No. 2 seed and must wait for an opponent, but they enter the playoffs as the most balanced team in the SFL. If quarterback Ron Cockren can remain accurate and make good decisions, this two-seed may not be second to anyone come May 9.|
|We thought it would be unfair to rank either of these teams at second, below the other, so even though one of them is TECHNICALLY under the other one, both have come in first place in our hearts. Denver has once again clinched the first seed and homefield advantage for the entire postseason with their comeback win over the Las Vegas Fury this past weekend. It also gave them 11 wins, putting them at three 11-win seasons, the most of any SFL team in the 12-game era. With a first-round bye, the Nightwings will have to wait to see who their first opponent will be in the Quarterfinal round of playoffs, but rest assured that Jeremy Vega will not be satisfied until he can claim another championship. Whether or not we get a re-match of Season 12's championship game, however, is anyone's guess.|
|Vancouver hosted the Lycans this week looking for revenge and the divisional title. Things looked a little grim for the Legion when starting RB Robert Redford got injured early in the game and they found themselves in a close game at halftime. Robert Redford would return in the second half, but the injury bug would hit again, and SS Marc Lopez would leave with a game-ending injury. QB Tom Pepper would complete 23 of his 37 passes for 377 yards, one touchdown and 3 interceptions. Robert Redford had 12 carries for only 44 yards but would get into the end zone 3 times. The Vancouver secondary had themselves a feast intercepting QB Sully Richardson 7 different times. CB Kyler Murray had 3 interceptions, FS Maajor Key had 1 interception, CB Ashley Rose Finch had 2 interceptions and CB Dean Maddox also had an interception. LB Josh Farnzy was the leading tackler with 12 tackles, 2 assists, 1 tackle for loss and one pass deflection. The Legion would defeat the Lycans 31-13 and clinch the Pacific Division title. The Legion find themselves with the number 4 seed in the playoffs and a first round bye. We will have to wait and see who they will face in their quarterfinal playoff matchup. The keys to Vancouver advancing in the playoffs will be keeping their players healthy, limiting Tom Pepper’s picks, and getting Robert Redford more touches.
|Here’s a SFL water cooler conversation question for you: Are the Baltimore Vultures actually flying under the radar right now, or are they overrated? I have seen a few comments around chats on both sides. At 8-4 and the #3 seed for the playoffs, it is hard to deny that they are deserving of the postseason. But will they challenge for the Championship? Let’s look at the information we have… Combined opponent’s record: 68-75; WON games opp. record: 39-56; LOST games opp. record: 29-19 (Take out the loss to Denver and it’s 18-18). Wins against teams at/above .500: 3, and they won those games by 6, 3 and 8 points. Losses to teams below .500: 2, losses by 10 and 7 points. Record against top 10 seeds: 2-2. I will say that the season has not displayed any glaring issues for the future except at RB (based on player openings posted, and their 23rd ranked rushing attack), and on the secondary (21st ranked passing defense). Baltimore is not going through any true rebuild. But, it may be difficult for some to see them winning it all this season.|
|You wouldn't be mad if you thought, before Week 12 was all said an done, that Fort Worth would be happy to settle for a home playoff game and would take it easy on the road against Lone Star. Well, not these Toros! Whilst they suffered a rare loss, the Toros left it all out on the field, going down 42-44 to the Glory, a team with much more riding on this game. In a contest which was full of unique happenings, such as a blocked punt being recovered and returned for a first down by the kicking team, the Toros found themselves needing a big 4th quarter comeback to give themselves a chance of victory - it just wasn't enough. Cameron Curtis had a busy day, throwing 3 TDs and 2 picks, with over 200 of his passing yards heading the way of Stephen Hacker. A word on Hacker - how good has he been this season? Last season was a bit of a downer for the former QCC star, but he seems to have regained his best form and it is showing. Bucking their usual tred, the defense was pretty much non-existent. Wholly considered the best D in the SFL, they just seemed to allow Lone Star to do as they wanted, shipping over 40 points for the first time in as long as we can remember. When everything in the playoff picture settled down, the #5 Toros find themselves at home in the Wildcard round facing the #12 LA Lycans. The Lycans aren't always a high scoring team, which plays into the hands of Fort Worth. They are easily the favourites for this match-up, but this is the playoffs! We all know that anything could happen.|
|The Aztecs owe a bit of gratitude to the London Knights for saving them from a rematch with the fierce Houston Hyenas in the wildcard round, as D.R. Sim and company took Mexico City to overtime in Estadio Azteca for Week 12. It was the Aztecs who prevailed on a one-handed catch from Fox Highwind, pushing them to the #6 seed for playoffs, hosting the Arizona Scorpions this Sunday. Will Matt Willson and company send Eddie Gauge and Ashley Jackson packing back to the desert, or will they advance further in their first push into the postseason? There's only one way to find out - tune in this Sunday at 12:30pm central on For the Fans.|
|In Week 10, the Lone Star Glory sat at 5-5, needing a win for a good chance at the playoffs and at least 2 wins to be secure. Facing QCC and FTW, many gave them a chance. Little did we know that they would win both games, 34-35 and 42-44, giving them a 3-point margin of victory over those two games. Those 3 points (essentially a FG) could be the most important points in the team's short history. It swings the other way and we're looking at a 5-7 record and zero chance of the post-season. In Week 12, it was all about Ace Fenech and his connection with the receivers. With the defense pretty much non-existent (don't worry Doug Day, we haven't forgotten your pick-6) Fenech needed to have a big one. Three TDs and 352 yards later, it's fair to say he came up trumps. His connection with Deuce Fenech at receiver was cooking hot, something that could be very important in the Wildcard round at home to the Jacksonville Kings. Yes, that is the Glory's reward for a 7-5 record - a home game vs a team that they have already humbled this season. Why would I be worried? It has been a few weeks since that victory over Jacksonville, and historically, the Kings are a very tough out. The Glory went out in dramatic fashion last season. Failing at the same hurdle this time around is not an option.|
|Good news first: the Las Vegas Fury have clinched a postseason berth and are the #10 seed, scheduled to play the St. Louis Gladiators on Saturday at 4:30pm central on Next Level Sports. Now, the bad: they're kicking themselves for having a higher seed in their grasp, and allowing Denver to walk away with the win. The Fury were leading the Nightwings throughout the first half, but ultimately were unable to hold back the onslaught of Miller and McChesney. Will the Fury be able to take down rookie quarterback Christian Brown in the Gateway City, or will it be back to the drawing board for a (hopefully more) successful Season 17? Be there to find out in the Wildcard round of playoffs!|
|It ended with a thud, but these Kings are poised to be a royal pain in the playoffs. Their 25-13 loss to division rival Florida was a letdown, as was their late two-game slide, but Jacksonville’s strong regular season showing was still stout enough to earn them a home playoff game in the opening round. Christian Christiansen was picked off five times and the running game could only string together 27 yards all game - with much of the scoring coming in garbage time. Still, lots of positivity to think of in Season 16 to pull Kings fans through a playoff run. They are tied for the best turnover ratio (+12) amongst playoff teams and still boast one of the most consistent passing games in the SFL. The Kings turn their attention to Lone Star in the Wildcard Round. They need to travel to Texas to face a team that has already beaten them this season. This would be the perfect time to taste sweet revenge.|
|Week 12. A playoff berth on the line. A winning season on the line. The Division on the line. Does it really get any better than this? That was the situation the St. Louis Gladiators found themselves facing as they travelled to Tulsa to face the Desperados. Both teams had a 6-5 record, both teams have quality pass defenses and to complete the parallels, both are led by rookie quarterbacks, Christian Brown and Jay Cue respectively. So, who won? I presume from the placings in our Power Rankings, you can easily deduce that the road team took home the victory, 27-19, returning to the playoffs with a home game in the Wildcard round, courtesy of a #7 position. The secondary was the anchor for this victory, swatting down pass after pass and giving the Gladiators offense a chance - a chance that they took, Brown's connection with Eagle Mondavi proving crucial. This may have felt like a playoff game, but Wildcard Saturday is when things get real. The Gladiators find themselves at home awaiting the visit of the Las Vegas Fury, who ran off with a 40-27 win in Week 11. It never fails to amaze me how drama naturally gets created in this league. St. Louis have a point to prove against the Fury, and just like that, the perfect opportunity just falls in their lap. In Week 11, the running back play was he difference. The Gladiators address that issue? Boy do they have a chance of grabbing their first ever playoff victory.|
|The Lycans travelled to Vancouver looking for another win over their divisional rival with the division on the line as well as a playoff spot. QB Sully Richardson had another rough game. He has seemed to go from the Pro Bowl last season to MVP of the Interception Bowl this season. He completed 19 of his 37 passes for 215 yards with one passing touchdown and 7 interceptions. Robert Johnson did his thing with his 29 carries for 150 yards. The Lycans defense showed up to play and kept the score close heading into halftime; but a tired defense can only hold off an opponent for so long. SS Ryan Yoseph had 2 tackles, 2 assists, 2 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. The Lycans would fall to the Legion 31-13 and finish the season 6-6.
The 6-6 Lycans find themselves in the playoffs Wednesday night with a little help from other teams. They will face the Fort Worth Toros Sunday in a wild card matchup. They will need to find a way to prevent Sully Richardson from throwing so many interceptions if they have any hope of winning this game. Defenses win games, but you must be able to score at the same time.
|-15: That is the number that explains the entire season of a 6-6 team with the 2nd best passing offense (by yards per game)… -15 in turnover differential. When you give the ball away an average of about 2 times per game more than your opponents, that is not a winning formula. Nonetheless, Arizona is in the playoffs and playing Fort Worth this Sunday. So, how do they stack up? Arizona won the matchup back in Week 7 by 7 points. However, the Toros are +12 in turnover differential. That does not bode well for the Scorpions. In that Week 7 game, D.J. Moses II went off for 154 yards on 27 carries, and anomaly for the #2 ranked Toros rushing defense. Look for Fort Worth to do more against the run and trust their pass defense to hang in coverage. Will it be enough to hold down the 2nd rated passing attack of Arizona? We’ll just have to wait and see. The Scorpions have a solid future coming up with a decent offense (that will undoubtedly fix the turnover issues that plagued them this season), and the ability to focus on improving the defense in the offseason. I see a better record in Season 17, along with another trip to the playoffs.|
|Rather than repeating ourselves, just take a minute to read the opening of the St. Louis paragraph. That exactly scenario was also in place for the Tulsa Desperados. The only difference? They were at home - still a perceived advantage despite the adjustments to add parity at the start of the season. The other big difference? Tulsa blew it, losing 27-19, falling to 6-6 and losing out on a playoff place due to unfavourable tie-breakers. The Desperados were playing catch-up all game. Jay Cue, much improved in the second-half of the season, threw 1 TD to 2 picks and 'X-Factor' Gabriel Manning failed to make too much of an impact. Sonzo Robinson got his name on the scoring board (something that I want to see more of next season) but in the comeback effort, that wasn't enough. So, the question is, was this a successful season for the Tulsa Desperados? Well, if you quantify it by whether they made the playoffs, no. But, if you consider the fact that they wrren't given a chance in that division, the fact that they have a rookie QB and the fact that last season was a losing one. Yes. This was successful for Tulsa. This season needs to be a spring board for the future. Winning the division has to be the goal in Season 17. The Owners, the players, and the fans, should accept nothing less.|
|Charleston really just said “Hey Carolina, no playoffs for you!” This week, didn’t they? After having to replay the game from Sunday, the Preds took out their Monday anger on the Skyhawks and Xander Gold. Where in the first half they picked him off a whopping 4 times paired up with Jack Brown dropping him to the ground with a sack. The defense was debilitating and kneecapped the Skyhawks long enough to make the offense gain just enough of a lead to hold off a late game surge for the win. A win that brought the Preds to 6-6 to end the season. .500 on the dot. Now they weren’t competitive enough with that record to turn that into a playoff spot but 6-6 is one game better than 5-7. But despite the win addition, it did not particularly feel like much of an improvement upon last season. Nothing really felt like it moved forward for the Predators. Especially in the first two thirds of the season felt like a replay of S15. Now in the last few weeks they switched things up majorly on offense. Seeming to drift away from the pure two TE sets and into a more varied playbook. It should be interesting to see if they can carry that further into S17 and carry the team further along to a second playoff appearance. Everything is there, but the teams needs some fresh ideas and fresh ideas they seem to be coming up with.
|Shortly before the Wednesday finale to Season 16, Angus McClaine announced his pending retirement that would follow the contest. What a way to go out. The veteran signal-caller unleashed a 34-for-42, 345-yard, three touchdown performance for the ages en route to a 41-23 dismantling of Houston and the Hyenas’ playoff chances in the process. Angus was special Wednesday night. He found Vin Calia often on the evening - 9 catches, 118 yards and two touchdowns. The Knights offense was assisted greatly by five turnovers by the defense - including two from free safety Marquis Reed. The Knights Season 16 performance was bittersweet - marked improvement that had them on the cusp of the playoffs, but a defeat to Queen City last weekend ended all hopes of a deep postseason run. Who will replace Angus in Season 16? Questions remain. But for this one last night, Mr. McClaine delivered a performance worthy of remembering in Queensway.|
|3 straight wins, Portland! What a high to end on. A nice way to end a season off too as an individual performance. Crushing the mavericks under your fist to the tune of 29-7, with that 7 going in garbage time. The defense was utterly suffocating and if kept together, will easily be a top 5 unit next season. The defense is something to behold. The issue with the team is that offense, a unit that just doesn’t seem to ever get in the end zone more than once or twice a game on average. For a team sitting at 5-7 to end the season and could have gotten in to the playoffs with just a few more points in some key games, the field goals they have been getting need to turn in to touchdowns. Now granted it seems as if the Fleet have realized this and are on the hunt for a new QB with Matt South heading into the FA wilderness. Whoever they do find to replace South does have something well to work with as Portland’s receiving corp has done very well given their circumstances, and with Ezekiel Love to boot the offense next season too could elevate the team to be in the playoffs next year with a favorable schedule. The Fleet have potential, the most exciting team of the entire 5-7 crew.|
|The Atlanta Swarm travelled to Houma, LA with their playoff hopes on the line. Their run-heavy offensive game plan did not work out well when they could not get RB BDG Hollewood going. BGD carried the ball 38 times for only 95 yards and had no rushing touchdowns. QB Bryant Dynasty completed 15 of his 17 passes for 151 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Kicker Sammy Steele was 1/1 at field goal attempts which accounted for the Swarm’s other 3 points. Defensive stand outs were CB Jay Miraculous and LB Cole Finnegan who each had 7 tackles, 1 assist and 1 pass deflection each. The Swarm put all their eggs in one basket and when the handle broke all they got were scrambled eggs. The Revolution would crush the Swarm’s playoff hopes by defeating them 27-10.|
|There really is no way to numb the pain of the Skyhawks. Had the playoffs in your sights, were commanding, but technology came in and in round two they lost big time. But to be honest, it really is hard to feel super generous. Came back for round 2 against Charleston and except for a last minute charge was just not able to get anything done at all. QB Xander Gold had a miserable outing where he decided to throw to Charleston 4 times and just could not get the offense to do anything he wanted to do. Logan Jack on the other hand had a nice outing of 69 yards off of 15 touches. But beyond that, it was a flop of a game. A flop where it mattered most, and that just will not slide. But with that in mind, the team made some major steps forward. A team that perpetually sat itself in the top 5-10 of draft picks is now right on the edge of the playoffs. A win or two more over the course of the season and they are in if they keep this pace. Should they not lose any key pieces playoffs should be in their cards. Luck though has always been finicky in Raleigh. Maybe they should invest some money into a leprechaun or two, I have heard those bring better luck.|
|Oh, Houston. Due to an unfortunate playbook error that occurred for both teams in the Houston at London matchup, that game was re-scheduled to be the final game of the season. So instead of having their season come down to a thrilling overtime matchup in Mexico City, which admittedly they lost, they instead got a blowout retirement party for Angus MacClane, outgoing quarterback of the Knights. Having lost both games, the Hyenas were eliminated from playoff contention, and will have to consider if they want to move forward with E.T. King under center, or welcome back an old friend in Kentez Johnson. While their season might be over, the Hyenas do have the honor of being the host city and team for the next SFL convention, SFL Sims HOU.|
|Don’t let the record fool you! The DC Dragons had a great season and should be a force to be reckoned with in Season 17. Of their 9 losses, 8 were within 2 scores, and 5 of those were within 1 score, including this week against the Baltimore Vultures! I was excited to see how they would do in their final game versus Baltimore, and they did not disappoint! They played a complete game against a top 5 Vultures offense and defense, only lost by 3, and even took the lead in the 3rd Quarter! 371 yards Total Offense and held Baltimore to 307… Just a few things to tighten-up on the both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Yessir! This is a team ready to take it to their opponents when they resume action in Season 17! I’m a fan of what is going on in DC!|
|The Louisiana Revolution hosted Atlanta this week looking to spoil the Swarm’s playoff dreams. QB O. Lafourche had 237 passing yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. RB Reggie Streeter carried the ball 23 times for 96 yards. Matt Fenech was 2/2 on field goals for the day. The Revolution’s defense stepped up and held RB BDG Hollewood to 2.5 yards per carry. The defense was led by FS Nathan Blake who had 11 tackles, 2 assists and one tackle for loss. The Rev’s would play spoiler and send the Swarm back to Atlanta with the loss 27-10. The Revolution will have to regroup and find a new quarterback next season to get themselves back into the thick of things.|
|Playoffs were out of reach by Week 12 for the Corsairs, but given the chance to spoil someone’s day, a pirate always takes advantage. Queen City rode strong running from Jett Zero and an opportunistic defense that set them up with a key score before halftime to beat London, X-X to take the Knights out of playoff contention. The defense had four takeaways, including two in their own red zone, to give up decent yardage to London, but often keeping them out of the end zone. Albert Begin concluded a stellar Season 16 with 13 tackles - giving him 110 on the season to go with six interceptions as the veteran should be in the running for defensive award consideration. Deezer Powell caught 10 balls for 115 yards and a score to lead the offensive charge. A pair of four-game losing streaks (one near the beginning of the season, one near the end) will sour the offseason a bit in Queen City, but the strong finale gives hope to the green-and-black faithful that there is plenty of talent to build upon as Season 17 preparations begin.|
|Have to let this be a lesson: Being one-dimensional may sometimes be a necessity, but you don’t want it to be the rule. Averaging 109.1 yards on the ground is a good number for anyone. However, if you can’t get the ball into the end zone consistently enough for your opponents to need to respect the pass or play-action, it’s going to be a long season. Arizona has an average run defense, and the 18th ranked passing defense, yet this week they held Sioux Falls to only 46 yards rushing and 209 through the air. That is the kind of year it has been for the Sparrows who averaged only 196 passing yards per game. They will need to get better on both sides of the ball for things to look up next season. There are some good veteran pieces in place. With the threat of that running game, this offense should be able to be potent next season. But this defense needs to be able to stop the bleeding of the clock and the steady scoring their opponents do (they had 5 losses by more than 2 scores, and the average opponents points scored across all games was 29.2). They can make it happen… But it may take a season or two for the Sparrows to be putting the pressure on.|
|San Diego, oh boy, uh, well this is extremely awkward. I feel really bad about this but it is true, you guys went 0-12. It’s not exactly an easy pill to swallow but you have to before you move on. This season was extremely rough and it shows. I would go over the statistics but I am going to look forward to the future and maybe give some insight because gorging over stats is not needed now. It seems to be in no small part that you have reached your own conclusion as how to move forward. Cutting a multitude of players practically the millisecond the final bell sounded on the final game. Players such as Jacob Clear, Stephen MacMichaels, and Shea Carrol thrown out with no real second thought. However with them gone the second the season ended it was clear that your mind had been made up well in advance. A self inflicted bloodletting of sorts. Now how much longer the bleeding will continue with players leaving voluntarily is up to them. These next few weeks are going to be rough and this will be the real pain of the offseason. It’s going to be hard to bring guys on but honestly, if you can, those guys should be loyal. But also you can focus very hard on the draft, you seem to be keeping your key offensive members so some bolstering should be all that is needed. The minors should be brimming with high end rookie talent for you to choose. Think of this, the Browns and Lions made it to the playoffs just a few years after going 0-16, you only lost 12, three quarters of 16, should be able to build to the playoffs in a few seasons too, right?|