SUPER 16 – After a not-so-wild Wild Card Weekend in the Super 16, the four Division Champions of the 2018 season are all set to advance to the semifinal round of the post season. In week 14, the East Division Champion, AF#21 Steel Curtain (8-4-1) hosted the AF#20 Who Dat Saints (8-5-0), in what turned out to be a match that was over as soon as it started, the Steelers’ halfback Derrick Henry rushing for 238 yards and 4 touchdowns to put them up by 54 points after the Thursday night game. The Who Dats closed the gap significantly on Sunday with their hometeam starters, but when Pittsburgh took the field Sunday night, Steel Curtain pulled away and never looked back, coasting to a 290-208 win. The win advances Steel Curtain to the semifinal round for the second time in their 3 year history and puts them up 2-0 in their all time series with
the Who Dats. The win also puts the black and yellow into the record books, the 290 points marking the fourth highest score in league history, ironically, edging out the Saints by half a point who were at 4th with their week 10, 289.50 score. Always hot toward the end of the season, Steel Curtain also has the all time #1 single game performance, 308 points in week 11 of last season. This pair entered the S16 together 3 years ago, and both have gone to the post season in each of three seasons so a near future playoff rematch seems likely.
The league’s other first round Wild Card Game remained in question until much later in the weekend, the West Division Champion 1 Eye Til I Die (8-5-0) hosting BIGDOGINTEX (8-5-0) in their first ever playoff appearance. Likely good enough to lead in any other division, the Big Dogs had to settle for 3rd place in the South Division, behind the Who Dats and Birds, although they did split their pair of games with each of them and beat out WTF HOUSTON who made a late season push, though ultimately fell short of the division crown. They entered as a Wild Card hoping to get just one post season shot at either of their division rivals but the One Eyed Bandit had other plans. After dominating an uncharacteristically weak West Division all season, 1 Eye suffered a couple of big game losses on their way to the division title, including 193-289 in week 10 to the Who Dats and 191-270 against WRATH OF ODIN in week 12, but they also found success against Steel Curtain and an early season powerhouse Dawg Pound squad as well as sweeping through their division with 6 wins and just 1 loss in a bonus 3rd game against their bay city rivals SF’s BowMen. In the Wild Card Game, the biggest storyline came in the form of receiver Amari Cooper, who belonged to 1 Eye’s Raiders, was traded to BIGDOG’s Cowboys, but then took the field for 1 Eye, racking up 217 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 44 points for the Cowboys, but against BIGDOG. The performance allowed the Western Warriors to withstand a late game comeback attempt by the Texas Dogs that would have been successful had Cooper been wearing the right uniform. BIGDOGINTEX heads home to Dallas in time for the holidays while 1 Eye Till I Die heads to their second ever S16 Semifinal Game.
The wins by One Eye and Steel Curtain advance them to the semifinal round where they will face AF#4 WRATH OF ODIN (12-1-0) and AF#14 Birds of Prey (10-3-0) in what marks the 1st time ever that the Super 16 semifinal round did not include at least one Wild Card team. The League’s Raider franchise will be returning to Atlanta for a reenactment of their first ever game against Birds of Prey, another semifinal match-up, this one in 1 Eye’s inaugural season of 2015. Birds of Prey came out on top of that one, 186-162 on their way to winning Super Bowl IV, their third league title. When the two of them met up for a rematch in week 2 of 2016, it turned into a shootout that 1 Eye found a way to win, 223-219. This will be just their third ever match-up, and the Birds are 18 point favorites as the seek a historic 5th Super Bowl appearance, but 1 Eye has been red hot of late, scoring 225 and 232 over the last 2 weeks, while BoP, despite 7 200+ games this season, has struggled, posting scores of just 182 and 161 in their last two. Already up by 50 after Thursday’s game, 1 Eye will have their work cut out for them.
On the other side of the bracket, WRATH OF ODIN has been the story of the season. After a trio of lackluster seasons following their 2014 Championship, the North Division’s BEARMINATORS, relocated to the greener pastuers – or frozen snowfields – of the Vikings, and have been slaughtering teams left and right all season. Their only loss of 2018 came when they faced Eagle has landed at bye week strength, and they have failed to top 200 points only twice all season. They finished 2018 with the league record for regular season scoring, with 2,998 points, a full 353 points over the previous #1 held by 1 Eye in their 2016 campaign. Having outscored their opponents this year by an average of 64 points per game, they’re the team that nobody wanted to meet in the post season. Steel Curtain, however, may be the one team in the league uniquely situated to beat them. Notoriously good in December, the black and yellow have scored over 200 in 9 of 13 games this season, including the last 5 weeks in a row. Discounting a 216-216 tie in the season finale against in-state rival Eagle has landed, Steel Curtain is on a 7 game win streak, and are the 5th scoring team in the league, a rank they attained largely in the second half of the season. They are 17 point underdogs to the Norsemen, but Steel Curtain has a history of playing to the last whistle, and they have never lost against ODIN/BEARMINATORS, so this one should be fun to watch.