As the temperature falls the tension rises. A dozen men embarked on a journey in early September, their spirits filled like sails from a warm summer breeze. Quickly their path was beset from all sides by obstacles large and small; broken bones, torn ligaments, disease, and bye weeks. As the seasons turned, the voyagers faced existential questions of the type fueled by crises, and the only answer left unconsidered and unacceptable was “turn back”.
No, for these men there was no turning back, no returning to the comforting shores of summer. You see, these men had made a commitment, to themselves, to each other, and to The League. For nearly two decades The League has trekked out on an annual pilgrimage, knowing full well the dangers lurking beneath the water, for the chance of attaining glory.
Ol’ Glory. That was the goal. Is the goal. Always and perpetually. Sure, the gold that comes along with it is a fitting reward. But gold is fleeting. Glory lasts forever. And only one man each year gets to etch his name into eternity.
The journey, like all journey’s past, became a war of attrition, claiming waiver wire pickups and first round picks alike without fear or favor. One by one they fell, their dreams dashed upon the rocks of poor draftings or swallowed by the ceaseless waves of injury. Far from etching their names into eternity, they were consigned to the ash heap of history. Nameless, faceless, another victim of the seas. Fish food (RIP Lenny).
After 14 arduous weeks, the voyage has claimed half the dozen. The other half remain, battered yet unbroken, weakened yet strengthened, weary yet energized. They can see the shore. They can see themselves pulling up to the dock of greatness. They can see themselves jumping off their ship of destiny and claiming the ‘ship of The League…
And then the dream fades into a haze. They look around at each other and realize that to make that dream a reality, they must turn these friends to foes and toss them callously into the sea like all the others, ignore the calls of their drowning fellows and sail ceaselessly and unswervingly towards glory. Because there can only be one. The journey continues, but the battle, why the battle, has just begun.
The 2021 League Playoffs has commenced. May the best man win.
3. The Meat Mavens (8-6) vs 6. Pastrami Papi (8-6)
The Meat Mavens exploded out of the gates this year, screaming out ahead of the pack to an incredible 6-0 start, the best in team history. Since then, however, the wheels have started to wobble and the check engine light has come on. After topping 120 points in 6 of his first 7 games, Tony has only topped 115 points twice since, failing to clear even 100 points in 4 of his last 6. All of this has added up to 2-6 finish. Still enough to win the West, but more than enough to hit the panic button.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Pastrami Papi, who started the season 2-4 but, after swindling the Commish in a trade to acquire Alvin Kamara and Chris Godwin for a couple of lemons, won 6 of his last 8. He comes into the playoffs among the hottest teams in The League, after a resounding win over tormentor The Knights of Ryan in a win and in Week 14 matchup.
Ant jumped out to an early lead last night behind a 170 yard performance from team MVP Jonathan Taylor. Starting 3 RBs, Ant will look to continue his gains on the ground with Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders in the flex. Deebo Samuel is always a threat to score, but the main player to watch for the Mavens through the air is probably DK Metcalf. DK has been slumping, his downturn coincidentally or not occurring around the same time Ant started racking up losses. Metcalf hasn’t reached double digits in points since Halloween, and Ant will need him to regain his form if he is going to advance in the postseason for the second time in his career.
Mark’s squad is powered by his ground game as well, with Alvin Kamara, Joe Mixon, and ascending rookie Javonte Williams forming a 3 headed monster in recent weeks that propelled him into the postseason. Chris Godwin has taken advantage of the absence of Antonio Brown to return to a primary weapon down in Tampa, catching 10+ balls in each of the last two games. Pastrami Papi faces interesting decisions at WR2 and QB, where he currently has Michael Gallup and Jalen Hurts plugged in. The other options are Christian Kirk and Taysom Hill. Maybe the decision won’t be crucial, but these coin flips often turn out to be game-deciding in close playoff matchups.
Ant swept Mark in the season series, and this game is a rematch of his first career playoff victory from last year. Can Mark turn the tide in this matchup like he did on the season as a whole?
4. So Much Honey (9-5) vs 5. Lobster Beesc (9-5)
It’s a bit surprising to see Diesel have to play in the wild card round, considering his 5-0 start and finishing the season as the overall points leader, but a quick peek behind the curtains shows you why. So Much Honey has been ravaged by injuries, with season ending ailments to Run CMC and Chris Carson causing his ship to leak like he’s being worked on by an illegal masseuse. Still, Cody has navigated the deluge of honey like the experienced pro he is, swallowing the sticky situation whole and continuing to rack up numbers.
Meade’s season was tinged with controversy over his absurd roster moves regarding Mark Ingram, drawing accusations that he lacks integrity. While that is undoubtedly true, for some reason the fantasy gods saw fit to bestow upon him a playoff berth. Meade’s had some low points this year, but he managed to rack up wins, including wins in 6 of his last 8 to comfortably reach the postseason.
The early games in this matchup were not kind to Cody. Duds from Darrell Williams and Michael Pittman have put him behind the 8 ball, but a strong showing from Indy’s defense last night has kept him in play with his big guns still to go. Tom Brady, Cooper Kupp, and Justin Jefferson form an explosive aerial attack that can quickly put games out of reach for his opponents. Injuries have necessarily made this a top heavy team, as Cody looks to come out on top in a matchup of two guys who do most of their work from the bottom.
Meade got a huge performance last night from Hunter Henry to stake him to an early lead. Trotting out a 3 RB lineup typical of this year’s playoff teams, Josh Jacobs, Gaskin, and the returning Michael Carter form a hit or miss trio. The strength of Meade’s team is undoubtedly the Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams connection, and Meade will be looking for those two to hook up early and often to keep Cody at bay.
These two teams split their season series, with Meade winning last week to dash Cody’s hopes at the division title and a bye. The real winner of the series will be determined in Round 3.