SUPER 16 – Well known for having the most exciting and dramatic playoff race in the Association, the Super 16 out did itself in Week 13. In the North Division, the 3rd annual season finale meeting of The Dawg Pound and Motor City was thrilling once again, as the Cleveland Dawgs won it close, 215-198 to clinch the Division Championship, while the Defending Champion Northern Fins clinched their own East Division Title on the final week of the Regular Season as well, beating Dem Bucking Broncs 212-168. But the climax of finale week came on Monday Night Football, with the post season seeding and line-up of teams shuffling in the final 4 minutes of play in the final game of the Regular Season.
At the top of the bracket, Birds of Prey and the Arizona Firebirds had both won their divisions and were tied for first with 9-3-0 records, locked into either the #1 or #2 seed and a first round bye. Both teams went into Monday night with a lead in their respective games, each hoping to go out with a win and the hopes that the other would lose, and they both almost did. The Pro Bowl Nominated Birds of Prey faced the Indy-structibles, the team that once ended their record 17 game win streak by just a 2 point margin (Destructible), and Indy came on strong, particularly late in the 4th on Monday night as their DB Dre Kirkpatrick began racking up tackles, closing the Birds’ lead, but in the end falling just short as BoP slipped away with a 181.00-179.50 victory to finish the season at 10-3-0.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, the league’s other Birds, Arizona, were playing in a finale with even higher stakes. Also a Pro Bowl Nominee, and also 9-3-0, The Firebirds spent Monday night fending of a comeback attempt by division rival 1 Eye Til I Die. The league’s Raider franchise came into the season finale as the front runner for the #5 seed Wild Card, but that window narrowed considerably on Sunday night when the Who Dat Saints ran up the score in a 202-115 victory over BIGDOGINTEX to finish 7-6-0 with a points lead on 1 Eye in the Wild Card race. Division rival SF’s BowMen also had an inside track to the Wild Card, just needing a win against the last place BEARMINATORS who had won just 1 game all season, but BowMen suffered a 206-146 blowout loss instead, to be left, mathematically out of the running as they trailed both the Who Dats and 1 Eye in total points. Also on Sunday, the Northern Fins’ win over the Broncs had the effect of locking both Steel Curtain and Eagle has landed out of the division race and into the Wild Card race with 1 Eye. Eagle has landed didn’t have the numbers in total scoring to overtake either 1 Eye or the Who Dats, but after the record setting last few weeks they’ve had, Steel Curtain did.
Going into the final quarter of the Steelers-Bengals game on Monday Night Football, both Steel Curtain and 1 Eye had active players (as well as Indy in the BoP game), and both trailed. If both 1 Eye and Steel Curtain could pull off come from behind wins, the Who Dats would drop back out of the playoff slot they had secured. A win by 1 Eye would mean an 8-5-0 finish, the #5 seed, and the relegation of Arizona to the #2 seed, but a loss would still give them the #6 seed….as long as Steel Curtain lost as well. Late in the 4th, 1 Eye’s chances for a win ended when their last player was knocked out of the game with a concussion while they still trailed Arizona by 14 points, 212-198, giving the Firebirds their milestone 50th career S16 victory and the #1 seed in the 2017 playoffs. But 1 Eye still held onto the #6 Wild Card slot as the game slowly ticked to a close with Steel Curtain trailing by just over 30 points. With about 7 points left in the season, Steel Curtain and their parent Steelers appeared to be stalled, and Eagle has landed seemed to have just enough of a lead to hold them off for the next few minutes, and that’s about the time Steelers’ Rookie Schuster put the illegal hit on 1 Eye’s Burfict to put him out of the game, and shortly after that, the lead started to shrink.
With about 4 minutes left to go in the game – in the season- Steel Curtain’s Roethlisberger connected with Steel Curtain’s Brown for a touchdown score with an extra point scored by Steel Curtain’s Boswell, and suddenly everything had changed, the Killer Bees found themselves pulling off a 2017 sweep against Pennsylvania rival Eagle, and knocking 1 Eye Til I Die from the playoffs to take their post season slot from them. Again. After Steel Curtain did the same thing last season, angry 1 Eye fans immediately launched the hashtag #RaiderConspiracy as they claimed that Steel Curtain themselves actually called in the hit on Burfict to steel the Wild Card slot from them. And maybe there is a conspiracy, no franchise could have this string of bad luck, from 2015’s Tie Game to last year’s Immaculate Stat Correction, now to this year’s Stolen Wild Card.
And just like that, the whole playoff picture changed. Through most of the season, it looked like both Wild Card teams would come out of the West Division, but in the end, neither of them did. With Steel Curtain in the #5 spot and the Who Dat Saints in the #6, they may be the two most dangerous teams in this season’s playoffs, both of them with hometeam franchises that are getting hot at just the right time. They’ll face the #4 and #3 seeded, Northern Fins and Dawg Pound, respectively, to open the postseason in action that’ll be starting right away when the Who Dats’ hometeam players take the field against the Falcons on Thursday night. AF will post a Wild Card Round Update later in the week, but meanwhile, think about how close we came to getting a Birds of Prey-Who Dats Playoff SimulPlay Game.