And then there were 12, each with a 25% chance to win their respective conference. Among the 12 are six former champions, with 15 titles between them. But there are Cinderella stories as well.
The AFC's top seed, the Negligent Discharges, have never approached the success of this season. It is already their best OIL season yet, but can they make it to the Thunder Bowl? The three-seed, the Mutinous Apes, are in the playoffs for the first time in their seven OIL seasons, while the Doughboys are coached by the OIL's Andy Reid. In six previous seasons, Green's team has finished 3rd, 7th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and 4th. Their average finish of 3.33 is tops in the OIL, but they've never won a championship despite ranking second all-time in OPR and third in winning percentage.
The NFC's top three seeds account for 10 championships. If there is to be a new NFC champion, it will have to be DominationStation. Jessen's squad began the season 1-2 before going 8-2 the final 10 weeks of the regular season. They hung on last week against Dead Again and pose a significant threat to the three former champions still in the NFC tournament.
The PFC's last two champions are in the hunt again in 2020, as the 2018 champion Dirty Dogs will face the 2019 champion Vandals. The top seed, though, was secured by the Blue Falcons, who flipped the script on a 3-10, last-place 2019 season, going 10-3 in 2020. Rounding out the PFC playoff field are the Nightmares, who finished in second place in 2019. The Nightmares, however, are the only playoff team with a sub-1.000 OPR.
As for the the other playoff teams, pour one out for those teams that are no longer with us: Lynn; Neely; Henderson; Schmidt; Gray; and Bellar.
Here are the first-round results:
Green is a perennial contender, finishing in second place three seasons in a row in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Meanwhile, Schuster hasn't been a serious contender in any of his seven seasons in the OIL . . . until now. Looming over the outcome (completely unrelated to Schuster's recent success, I'm sure) is the fact that Schuster bet Jessen at the cabin $1,000 that he would win the AFC before Jessen would win the NFC.
The Doughboys have been the weaker team all season, and they're not exactly peaking now. But Schuster's Negligent Discharges are not invincible. After drafting Blake Jarwin as his top TE, Schuster has struggled at that position all season. Jarwin tore his ACL early on, and it's been a merry-go-round of pedestrian players at that position ever since. Starting this week? Trey Burton. With the rest of the teams being evenly-matched, I'm giving Green the edge based on his clear advantage at the TE position.
Now, to a look at the commissioner when he saw that Musselman's Mutinous Apes won their first playoff game in seven seasons of OIL competition:
On the other side of the bracket is another matchup that would seem a mismatch in any other year. War Pony won the Thunder Bowl in the AFC's first two seasons. Venable, their manager, is ranked fourth overall in career OPR and is making his third-straight playoff appearance. Despite an 8-5 record, Venable's squad is the fifth-best in the 42-team OIL. They've been a contender since day one due to a solid draft that included Alvin Kamara, Kenyan Drake, Adam Thielen, Zach Ertz, Stefon Diggs, and Josh Allen in the first six rounds.
In contrast, Musselman had never won more than four games prior to this season. He ranks 41st in career OPR, but he went 8-5, made the playoffs, and annihilated the Brewmasters in Round One. Simply put, this is a new year. The Apes had a solid draft and bolstered it with solid late-season contributors in Taysom Hill and Wayne Gallman. I'm picking the Apes to mutiny their way all the way to the Thunder Bowl.
There is a lot more pressure on DominationStation in this matchup than there typically would be in a #4 vs. #1 pairing. But DominationStation manager Jessen made a $1,000 bet with the aforementioned Schuster that he would win the NFC before Schu won the AFC. Well, now Schuster is the number-one seed in the AFC, and Jessen's wife is staring daggers at ole Zachary.
The Arrogant Americans, meanwhile, have no such monetary penalty to fear. Winners of three OIL titles, the 'Mericans take the field completely at ease. Plus, Cliburn's squad is just flat-out better than Jessen's. It looks like the 'Mericans will be making their sixth trip to the OIL Bowl.
It's a shame that this matchup occurs in the semifinals, rather than the OIL Bowl. This is a re-match of both the 2008 and 2019 OIL Bowls. Pyle and Bruesch famously tied in the 2008 game, and Pyle prevailed last season. Between the two are seven championships (six, if you count each 2008 title as a half-championship).
SoonerJack Bruesch won the regular season meeting, and that win was the difference in a three-seed and a first-round bye. With a better OPR, higher points-per-game total, and regular season victory, SoonerJack should be the favorite here as well . . . but I'm picking Lucky Enuf to make to his third-straight OIL Bowl behind the rushing and leadership of Derrick Henry.
Should commissioners be unbiased? I mean, what are the ethics of fantasy football commissioners openly rooting for one team over another? Regardless, this matchup is testing the ethics of the OIL commish.
Baldwin deserves better than this. After finishing 3-10 and in last place in 2019, he managed his Blue Falcons to a 10-3 record and number-one seed. While facing an opponent such as the Nightmares helps his chances of advancing to the Patriot Bowl, it's a shame that he doesn't get to prove himself against a stronger opponent in the PFC's final four.
Nightmares manager Mitchell couldn't be bothered drafting his team, allowing autodraft to set him up nicely. He has made only two transactions all season, including the 18-round draft. But he got lucky and coasted his way to an 8-5 record. He made the playoffs with an OPR of 0.962, which, historically, equates to a 6-7 season.
Then, in the first round, he started an injured Julio Jones even after the commissioner notified him two days prior that Jones was out. Yet his luck continued and, when Justin Tucker nailed a 55-yard field goal with two seconds remaining on Monday Night Football, the Nightmares overtook the Great Plains Drifters to advance to the semifinals.
If there is any justice in this world, Mitchell's luck runs out this week. Baldwin drafted his own team, made 45 add/drops, proposed trades to just about every team in the PFC, and generally appears to give a shit. Go Blue Falcons.
On the other side of the PFC bracket, we have two managers who give a shit, which is refreshing. It's not much to ask, right? Lutonsky (Vandals) and Buehre (Dirty Dogs) are the two most-recent PFC champions, with Tonk holding the 2019 crown. But the Dirty Dogs, winners of two championships themselves, are the stronger team this year. They average almost 14 more points per game than the Vandals, rank fourth in OPR, and scored more points than anyone in the PFC. If Vandals WR Deebo Samuel were playing, I may consider this a toss-up, but he's not. An already inferior Vandals team just got weaker, and I'm picking the Dirty Dogs to reach the Patriot Bowl for the fourth time.