On a warm September night, each year, a dozen men gather round a table. While a feast has been prepared and drinks flow freely, that is not their purpose for being there. No, each year as the summer sun sets these men make the gather to select the football playing companions that will accompany them on a months long journey across the frigid and unforgiving landscape of the NFL season. And when that September night is through, each of the dozen League members dares to dream that come mid-December, the journey will continue.
For some, that dream quickly turns into a nightmare, the compatriots they drafted cut down on the field or failing to meet the moment. Try as they might, there is no escaping the hole for these gentlemen, and the dream ends with a whimper. Still others race out ahead of the pack, assured of their triumph, before they realize that the marathon is not a sprint, the breath stricken from their lungs, as they collapse in a heap and watch their opponents race by.
But for a select few, even as reality tries to shake them awake, even as the ghosts of seasons’ past attempt to infect their slumber, they continue to dare to dream. And while, inevitably, all but one will be awoken, on this day their dream lives on. On this day, Jacky G and BJC take their well-earned rest, and prepare for the weeks ahead where they will battle to earn their second League title. On this day, Olsen returns to the postseason after wandering the desert for 6 years, to go head to head for the 3rd time this year with perhaps The League’s greatest postseason performer of all time in Vaf. On this day, Jay Hey is just 3 wins away from claiming his first ever Championship, but faces off with a Commish who has been playing do or die games for a month and still ain’t dead.
On this day, 6 are gone, and 6 remain.
On this day, the 2023 League Playoffs begin.
The Commish enters into the 3/6 matchup as arguably the hottest team in The League, winning 4 straight to improbably climb out of a 3-7 hole to claim The East division title. Dear Leader averaged 127 points per game over that span, best in The League. It has been feast or famine all year for The Commish, topping the 120 point mark in all of his 7 wins while failing to score 100 in any of his 7 losses.
On the other side of this one, Jay Hey enters the postseason on a hot streak of his own, winning 4 of the last 5 to claim the final wild card spot (and almost the division and a bye) with a rout of Marky Mark in the final regular season game. That streak began back in Week 10 with a win over The Commish, and he’ll look to use another win over Dear Leader to propel him to the Championship. Not quite as feast or famine as Commish, The Jolly Roger has still been susceptible to rocky seas, topping 120 in 5 contests while failing to score 100 in another 5.
The projections had Commish as a slight favorite before Thursday night’s matchup saw Davante Adams go for 20 points, but this one is still anyone’s game. The Jolly Roger has multiple potential game wreckers throughout the lineup in Metcalf, Nacua, and Achane, not to mention the championship proven Mahomes-Kelce stack. If Jay can get anything out of waiver wire pickups Aaron Jones and Ty Chandler, he has the firepower to turn in a deep postseason run.
The Commish has plenty of firepower of his own to make this a potential shootout, with Lamar Jackson and Deebo Samuel coming off 30 point contests and rookie TE Sam LaPorta capable of a blow up performance at any time. What Dear Leader gets out of the ground game may make the difference in this one, with Tony Pollard being solid if unspectacular of late and Zack Moss not exactly lighting it up in replacement for the injured Jonathan Taylor.
The 4/5 matchup features a pair of division rivals who, even though the division race was put to sleep early, nonetheless have been penciled into the postseason picture for weeks. Winner of 5 of his last 6, Olsen finally jumped Vaf in the standings in the final week, claiming home field advantage in this highly anticipated wild card matchup. Outatime’s 9 regular season wins are the most Olsen has put up since his 2012 championship season, and put an end to The League’s longest running postseason drought.
Vaffy Kid was in a mini drought of his own, going first to worst in 2021 and then missing the postseason again in 2022. That American Nightmare is now over as Vaf returns to playoff dance floor where he is well known for cutting a rug. Interestingly, this is the first time Vaf enters the postseason as a wild card and his first playoff game in the opening round since his debut season in 2009; all Vaf’s 6 other appearances saw him win the division and earn a bye. He has never won in the wild card round, maybe good news for Olsen?
Projections have Vaf as a 10 point dog in this one and if he is gonna pull off the upset it figures to be on the backs of his receivers. ASB and Aiyuk are a potentially lethal combo through the air, but the ground game also has pop off potential with goal line hawk Monty and James Cook on the ascent. The key to Vaf’s late season surge was a waiver wire pickup of Dak Prescott, and he will of course factor into this one, but roster management in the wake of Keenan Allen’s injury may be a deciding factor as Rashid Shaheed draws the start at flex.
The strength of Olsen’s team, surprisingly given his draft strategy, may just be on the ground. Waiver wire pickup Kyren Williams has been a revelation and Rachaad White is finally turning into the back he was expected to be coming out of college. There’s plenty of talent at wide receiver even if the production has been spotty between Chase, Ridley, and Olave, mainly due to their QB situations. Still, all of them are their teams number one options and capable of a multi TD performance. The X factor for Olsen will likely be Justin Fields, who possesses tantalizing rushing upside but a scary passing floor against what many believe is the league’s best defense in Cleveland.
Anthem Bowl Preview:
7. Lemon Grove Avenue (7-7) vs. 10. Frank The Tank (5-9)
8. richter scale (7-7) vs. 9. so much honey (6-8)
Of course, the Anthem Bowl also kicks off this week. While Meade and Ant have “earned” byes into the next round, Nick and Mark are still struggling to make sense of how they narrowly missed the postseason and found themselves in this mess. Nick will face off against division foe Frank (whose reign of terror is finally ended) who he swept in the regular season series. Meanwhile, Marky Mark is all shook up but will have to find firm footing if he wants to avoid slipping to a So Much Honey squad who has found itself in a sticky situation after dropping the final 3 divisional games. We have 3 potential first time Anthem singers in the mix this year in Frank, Mark, and Meade, while Nick and Ant look to avoid the stigma of joining the multi-Anthem crew and Cody looks to avoid his 2nd straight Anthem and a t-shirt being made in his (dis)honor.
Good luck to all!