SUPER 16 – With the semifinal weekend in the Super 16, the field of 16 teams has now been winnowed down to just four, and, being called a Super 4, by analysts, they’re made up of the four most explosive teams in the league. Together, they are the top four teams of the year by total scoring and include a pair of Pro Bowl Nominated, Association Gold Star teams on the one side, facing off against the two hottest teams of the regular season’s final weeks. All four of the semi finalists are S16 playoff veterans – 3 of them are former Super Bowl teams, with two of them returning from last year’s post season, and one of those from the Super Bowl. With this semifinal lineup, most league fans have already reserved the edges of their seats.
Game 1 of the semifinal weekend features a pair of long-time coaching adversaries facing off for the 10th time. The #1 seeded Arizona Firebirds (10-3-0), West Division Champions for the 3rd time in 6 seasons, and the #6 seeded Who Dat Saints, like the other two franchises playing in this weekend’s semifinal, have only faced each other once as Super 16 franchises. That game came last season as well, a Week 6 match that ended with a 239-193 Saints win on their way to a 9-4-0 record and a trip to Super Bowl V. Outside of the Super 16, though, the Who Dats’ Coach Laurie and Coach Crash have gone head to head with each other in the unaffiliated Louisiana Fantasy League 8 other times going back to 2012 with that series evenly split with four wins apiece.
These coaches have never faced each other in the post season, however, and the two franchises are primed for a high scoring one. Arizona charted the franchise’s 50th career win in their last game, while the Saints are on a mission to return to the Super Bowl after losing last season to the Northern Fins. They’re starting the #1 and #4 quarterbacks in the S-16, both of whom look like they’ll be involved in two of the highest scoring NFL games of Week 15. They each also roster the league #4 and #5 runningbacks, separated by just 8 season points totals, as well as the league’s #5 and #6 receivers, who are separated by just 2 points through the season. Arizona sports the league’s second best team defense, while the Who Dats IDPs are anchored by one of the league’s best linebacking duos. While Arizona has about a hundred more total points, besting the Who Dats per game average of 191 points with their own average of 200 points per game, the Saints have topped the 200 point mark in 4 of their last 5 games. Getting started on Saturday, one of these two should emerge victorious by the final gun of the Sunday night game.
In Game 2, the South Division Champs and #2 seed, Coach Roger Tripp’s Birds of Prey (10-3-0) play host to #5 seed Steel Curtain (7-6-0). Big playoff games are just another day at the office for the Birds who are 3-0 in the semifinal round. The 3-time League Champions are an Association Gold Star team – getting their 50th league win in the regular season finale, last year – and have posted more wins than any other team in the Association, while their opponent, Steel Curtain, in just their second season in the league, are returning to the post season for the second time as well. These franchises have faced each other just one time before, in a very high scoring shoot-out in Week 4 of 2016, with Steel Curtain emerging with the win, 267-249. The 516 points scored in that game is a league record, and both teams’ scores for the game are in the League Record Book* on the list of the Top 25 Single Game Performances. For the Birds, it’s the most points the franchise has ever scored, and for Steel Curtain, the 267 points comes in as the sixth best score in S16 history, but is only the franchise’s fourth highest score – they also posted 268 points in Week 10 of last year, 280 points in Week 12 this season, and broke the league record with 308 points posted in Week 11, 2017.
Late in the season seems to be where these Killer Bees thrive the best. In 2016, they went 3-6 through the first 9 weeks of play, averaging 181 points per game over that period, but in the final 4 weeks of the Regular Season plus their Wild Card loss, they were 4-1 with a 214 point average. Again, this season, they started 3-6, with an even lower 175 points per game, but since Week 10 they are 5-0 and scoring at an incredible clip of 236 points per game. Birds of Prey, however have the #2 seed for a reason, and though their per game average is lower than Steel Curtain’s it’s still close to 200 per game and slightly higher through the second half of 2017. More importantly, they are deadly in the post season with a 6-1 playoff record and 3 Super Bowl victories. This game will certainly pivot on each of these franchises’ hometeam players, and with Atlanta playing on Monday Night Football, the outcome in this one won’t be decided until late.
By the time the dust settles on the Super 4 Weekend, the championship teams will be set, and no matter the outcome, all possible matchups for Super Bowl VI look to be thrilling. There’s a chance for the league’s first ever Wild Card vs Wild Card Championship if the Saints and Steelers each win, or for a final showdown of the two highest scoring teams of the season if the Firebirds and Steel Curtain prevail. If Arizona and Birds of Prey come out on top, a rematch of the Birds vs Birds Super Bowl II will be at hand, or if the Saints and BoP both win this weekend, the league is in for an exciting divisional SimulPlay Championship. No matter what, it’s shaping up to be an exciting conclusion to one of the Super 16’s best seasons yet.
*Note: 2017 stats not updated to League Record Book