Of 18 playoff contenders, eight of them (almost half!) account for 15 previous championships. They are:
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Venable and Peacock enjoy a first-round bye this week, while last year's championship participants (Zerger and Green) join Nye and Brosh in having to fight their way to the semifinals.
The early game Sunday pits Green against Nye, who seems perpetually underrated. The Doughboys lost James Conner to injury this week, but their team is solid. It will have to be if Green wants to move on to the semifinals for the third-straight season. I don't think he does, although his team is arguably superior.
Brosh is right: he should have lost last week. If he did, he wouldn't be facing the two-time defending champions in the first round. But here we are. I am thisclose to picking the Vultures in an upset, but I can't get past their glaring weak spot at TE: CJ Uzomah. However, their QB (Patrick Mahomes) could easily put up 40 while Redlegs QB Lamar Jackson could disappoint. This is a toss-up.
Editor's note: I love seeing these matchups between guys who were at the draft cabin in August.
Former champions Pyle and Cobb enjoy first-round byes after Morgan stumbled down the stretch. Of the four teams playing on the opening weekend, only the Roughnecks don't have their name on the Lawson Memorial Trophy.
This is another matchup between managers who drafted together at the cabin. The Whackers have been the favorite all season, but they stumbled down the stretch due to losing a starting QB and RB to injury. And they lost to this 'Mericans team just two weeks ago. Still, their team is superior to my 'Mericans and I'm picking them to gain revenge and move on to the semifinals behind a big rebound game from Alvin Kamara. The 'Mericans, meanwhile, will need big games from QB Jameis Winston and its WR corps in order to stand a chance.
Well, what do you know? Baldwin finally shows up to draft his team in-person and he has his best season in years. Bruesch was not at the draft cabin (although he did golf with us beforehand), but he always drafts his own team. This matchup is incredibly balanced, with each team missing their star RB (Melvin Gordon for the Roughnecks; Leonard Fournette for SoonerJack). I'm picking the Roughnecks to notch their 10th win of the season with or without Gordon.
The Blue Falcons needed a win to jumpfrog Team Tadlock for the final playoff spot, and they got it done. Now, they face the 9-4 Great Plains Drifters. I predict the Falcons will pull off the upset behind big games from QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Alvin Kamara, and TE Zach Ertz. Their reward? Facing the top-ranked FDC Chiefs in the semifinals.
Both of these teams finished outside the top-18 in OPR, but each took advantage of favorable schedules to make the 18-team playoff field. While McKay should be commended for steering his Orangebloods to an 8-5 record, I think they are outmatched this week. Even at full strength, the 'bloods are objectively a below-average team, with an OPR of 0.988 (1.000 is perfectly average). And now, AJ Green is on IR and Leonard Fournette is 50/50 to play. The Xtreme will roll behind QB Drew Brees and RB Christian McCaffrey.