Six teams. Three trophies. Three previous champions. Three managers seeking their first title. Welcome to Championship Week 2018.
Click on the team logos above to view each team's roster. Analysis after the jump.
The AFC has only known two champions, War Pony (2014-2015) and the Redlegs (2016-2017), but that will soon change. Nick Green and Stephen Brosh, both on the 2006 SECFOR mission in Baghdad, will vie for the title.
It has been some time since we had a championship game without either of the top two seeds, but that's what is happening in the AFC. Number-one War Pony and number-two Cocks were upset in Week 15, setting up a Thunder Bowl made of underdogs.
The Doughboys selected Le'Veon Bell at 1.02. That could have doomed their season, but manager Nick Green had the foresight to select James Conner in the 15th round. There weren't any mid- to late-round steals (save for Conner) here, but Green did enough in the early rounds to set his team up for success.
The Vultures 10th-round selection of Patrick Mahomes may be the pick of the year. Even as he dealt with injuries to Doug Baldwin, Isaiah Crowell (IR), and Tyler Eifert (IR), Brosh continued to rack up wins thanks to Mahomes and shrewd waiver-wire additions.
The Doughboys started out 7-2 before dropping three of their last four, including a Rivaly Week loss to the Vultures. But they've turned it on in the playoffs and reached their third-consecutive Thunder Bowl.
Conversely, the Vultures' playoff chances looked slim after a 2-3 start. But they won seven of their last eight, ending on a six-game winning streak.
What a matchup. Each team had to fight and claw to get here, and each team knocked off a top-two team in the semifinals. Each manager were in Iraq in 2006 and were even in the same humvee and same squad for a time. They're Week 13 rivals, and now they're facing each other again for the championship. This is Green's third trip in a row to the Thunder Bowl, and this is the year I think he wins it all. Brosh's team is just too dependent on Patrick Mahomes, while Green's team appears to be deeper and more well-balanced.
I couldn't be more excited about the OIL Bowl. Yes, both managers have won championships before, but neither has done so since 2008. And there has been a lot of heartbreak for these managers since that time. On top of that, both managers are original OILers. They met in the very first OIL Bowl (before it was even called the OIL Bowl), with Pyle winning. Morgan then returned to the championship in 2007 and won. And Pyle made it two championships in three years when he won the OIL Bowl in 2008 . . . although he didn't get the satisfaction of that victory until years later when the commissioner re-ran the numbers using fractional scoring.
Pyle was Lucky Enuf to survive a paltry 5.5 points from QB Ryan Tannehill (who was filling in for an injured Carson Wentz). Pyle only scored 126.50 points, but did leave over 50 points on the bench. SoonerJack will not be contending for a fourth championship.
The Dogs of War-Whackers semifinal matchup came down to the wire on Monday Night Football, but Alvin Kamara's 16-yard touchdown in the second half put Morgan up for good.
Each team had solid drafts that provided a good foundation all season. Reviewing the drafts in hindsight, each team absolutely made the right decisions in the first round: Pyle went Todd Gurley at 1.01 and Morgan ignored the warnings and selected Alvin Kamara five picks later. Notably, these two teams were identified as having the best drafts at the time by an informal poll of NFC managers.
Lucky Enuf has been the most dominant team in the OIL the last three seasons, going 32-5 in the regular season. They started out 9-1 this year before losing two of their last three. Still, they're the number-one seed and the favorite to win it all. Similarly, the Whackers started out 8-1 before losing three of their last four. But both teams stepped up when they had to and now have a chance at the Lawson Memorial Trophy.
I keep going back and forth on this one. Both teams are strong but are dealing with uncertainty at the QB position and other starting positions due to injuries. In the end, I think the Whackers bring home the trophy, but nothing would surprise me here.
The Dirty Dogs are in their third-consecutive Patriot Bowl, while the Xtreme are navigating their first championship week.
Buehre did us all a favor by ending the bullshit autodraft season perpetrated by Aaron Gray and his Great Plains Autodrafters. And Bellar pulled off the upset of the century by knocking off the number-one FDC Chiefs.
After the first few weeks of the season, the Dirty Dogs' of David Johnson at 1.02 looked to be a whiff. When DJ turned it around (although not to his 2016 level), the story of Buehre's management shifted to his picks in rounds 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 11 . . . all of whom finished the season on IR. Losing six players to IR would doom most teams, but Buehre weathered the storm, streamed QBs, and earned the second seed.
Xtreme manager Jason Bellar had some notable whiffs during the draft (Kelvin Benjamin as WR2?), but his team has been on fire when it's mattered most. Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry are playing like new men over the course of the playoffs, and Christian McCaffrey and Drew Brees paced the team all season. This is a classic example of a team getting hot at the right time.
The Dirty Dogs started out hot, lost two of four, and then went on a five-game winning streak before losing in Rivalry Week to 2017 champion Boomtown. The Xtreme started out 2-3, averaging 130.08 points per game. But they turned it around, going 7-1 over the final eight weeks while averaging over 144 points per game during that stretch.
Call me crazy, but I think Buehre won this game last week when Bellar knocked off the top-ranked FDC Chiefs. With Pennington's Chiefs out of the way, I don't see Buehre losing to anyone else . . . but the Xtreme did beat the Dirty Dogs once before, and they're hot right now. Actually, I've changed my mind: Bellar gets yet another upset en route to his first PFC title.