*For best reading experience, press play above, turn your volume up, and read in old-timey NFL Films narrator voice*
As the sweltering summer sun faded and the leaves turned from green to red, The League played on. As those leaves tumbled downward from their branches, their lives extinguished by the crisp chill of the autumn air, The League played on. As the winds stiffened and the last remnants of summer were smothered by the softly falling snow, The League played on. And on this December Sunday, as the dust settles from the past 13 weeks of battle, a select few will have the honor of playing on at least once more before the decade is out.
Through trials and tribulations, through ups and downs, through peaks and valleys, the one constant these past 17 years has been The League. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But The League has marked the time.
Mere hours from now, the time will come to begin anew the grandest spectacle in fantasy sports. The field has narrowed, but the stakes have risen to precipitous heights. The higher the climb, the thinner the air and the greater the pressure. Such circumstances would crush lesser men; but as the past 13 weeks, nay, as the past 17 years have proven, these are no ordinary men.
It has been said that great moments are borne from great opportunity; the greatness of the opportunity that lies before the teams still standing cannot be overstated. The only question remaining is who will seize it and etch their name into League immortality.
Will it be Meade, capping off the best regular season he has ever produced? Mark, becoming only the third owner to record a third title? Diamonds, left for dead a mere three weeks ago before staging a stunning comeback to improbably win the East? Jay Hey, freshly married and entering the postseason as The League leader in points by a healthy margin? BJC, resilient till the end and seeking to end a 15 year title drought? Diesel, the reigning champion, who fought tooth and nail just to have the opportunity to defend his title and become the second owner in League history to win it all in back to back years?
Everyone has their opinions, everyone has their predictions. None of it means a thing once the time for kickoff has come. One big day could lead to glory; one small misstep to agony. Nowhere does the old saying of any given Sunday ring more true than these next 3 weekends in December.
6 will enter, one will exit a champion. The 2019 League Postseason has begun. Play on.
3. Midnight Rider (6-7) vs. 6. So Much Honey (6-7)
If you had looked at The League standings a month ago, you could have never predicted that these two teams would be squaring off in the Wild Card round. Cody’s title defense was floundering, sitting at 2-6 after the first 8 weeks. A couple of weeks later, Diamonds’ playoff dreams seemed even dimmer, with a dismal 3-7 record heading into Week 11. Miraculously, the two won a combined 7 of their last 8 games to earn playoff berths in the last week of the season.
The Midnight Rider is coming into the playoffs hot, riding a three game win streak that catapulted him to the East title in a 4-way tie. Confidence is high in Nick’s camp, and the team plans “to let the skillz speak for themselves”, and that he’s “not gonna let them catch the midnight rider.”
For his part, Cody is trying to tune out the noise of those criticizing him for backing into the playoffs, though he admitted it was “not the prettiest way to get into the playoffs”. Asked if he’s worried Nick might be this year’s team of destiny, Cody responded diplomatically, telling reporters that “there is always worries, I think Nick has a good team, but I believe I have a stronger team and I’m confident they will bring me a step closer to another championship”.
So Much Honey enters the weekend as an 11 point favorite according to the projections, and on paper looks to have the advantage. He outscored Diamonds by 20 points per game during the regular season, and boasts an above-average 133.16 OPR compared to Diamonds League-low 110.62. He’s also gotten the better of Nicky over the course of their League careers, with an 8-5 mark in the all-time head-to-head matchup. But when the two teams met during the regular season, it was the Midnight Rider who got the last laugh, coming from behind for the Monday Night reach around that left the Diesel with so much honey on his face it would take him nearly a month to clean himself up and get back into the playoff picture.
With Drew Brees going up against the stout San Fran defense, expect Cody to lean heavily upon his RB duo of Chris Carson and Leonard Fournette, both of whom have been the backbone of a team that struggled to find consistency elsewhere throughout the year. Davante Adams will need to continue trending in the right direction coming off his toe problems as well. Hunter Henry should rebound well after a lackluster Week 13 performance, and Calvin Ridley has quietly racked up double digit point in each of the last three games. The X-factor for Cody in this one might just be Mark Ingram; it could be tough sledding for the Ravens ground game against a talented Buffalo defense, but the Baltimore might just be so dynamic that they can’t be stopped either way.
For Diamonds, he’ll look first to the resurgent Ryan Tannehill against a Raider defense that has been leaking fantasy points to opposing QBs over the past couple of weeks. If Tannehill can continue that trend, he might be able to stake out a point advantage over Cody at QB despite the name-recognition of Brees. From there, its expected that the bulk of his skill position points will come from his WR trio that could be game-breaking if they decide to all show up. Kupp, Moore, and Diggs are all high-ceiling players with the ability to find the end zone, and will likely be the key if Nick is going to pull off the upset. That, along with at least one of Mixon or Ronald Jones having a solid day, looks like the recipe for Nick to dethrone the champ.
5. Brainbusters (6-7) vs. 4. Scoops Ahoy (7-6)
Compared to the 3-6 matchup, the 4-5 matchup features two teams who took very different paths to get to this point. BJC’s Brainbusters squad was up and down all year, never winning or losing more than 2 games in a row, and scattering 5 sub-100 point performances around outbursts of 144, 159, and 187 points. On the flip side, Jay dropped the first two games, won 7 of his next 8 (putting up 127+ in each), and then dropped his last 3. Two very different rollercoasters leading to the same location.
In their pre-game press conferences both Jay and Brian touted that their teams were primarily built through the draft, with BJC pointing to his waiver dollars remaining as evidence of his drafting abilities and belief in his squad. To Jay, the camaraderie he’s built with his drafted squad is just one of the reasons this season has been “one of my most memorable seasons in The League.” Reminiscing on the regular season that was, Jay is fully aware of the highs and lows, stating “the 8 week stretch of going 7-1 was as satisfying as it gets and going 0-3 down the stretch was frustrating as hell”.
For Brian, the postseason represents another opportunity to end a decade and a half championship drought. “Commish, the one year I won The League was basically like winning an NFL Championship. Its counts but there’s nothing like winning a Super Bowl and I long for holding Ole Glory for real. I’ve sang the Anthem twice and I know how terrible it is, so making the playoffs was step one in my plan.”
The main storyline hanging over the game, however, is the controversy brewing over Jay’s honeymoon trip to Grenada as his team prepares to hit the playoff field, with some reporters and fans drawing comparisons to the Giants’ infamous Miami boat trip from a few years back:
While Jay acknowledged that he wished he could have earned a bye to avoid playing this week, he downplayed any concerns:
“I had hopes & dreams football would play little to no role on my honeymoon by securing a bye with either the 1 or 2 seed. My team didn’t seize that opportunity. Came up short and we got cold a bit. I have faith in my team to deliver this week. My team urged me to go on with my plans and not get caught up in billboard material. I’ll approach this how I always planned, I’ll set my lineup tonight and won’t check any scores or updates until the end of Sunday night football. If it’s meant to be, it’ll work out. I’ve already prepared Jill that if it comes down to Sterling Shepard, I’ll be watching live in Grenada at all costs. May the fantasy football gods be on my side 🤞🏻
Lmao bulletin board material**
(I’ve been guzzling margaritas for 3 days )”
The Brainbusters leader, meanwhile, avoided direct comment on controversy, but expressed confidence that he would be able to overcome any inherent wedding luck Jay might have on his side, stating that “Ironically Jay was the one of the squads I never played this year by league schedule and I know I will prevail against the newlywed. Brain busters will break the walls down.”
What we do know is that this matchup has firepower. Even if Scoops Ahoy returns to their midseason high point total consistency, the Brainbusters have proven to be capable of the type of scoring outbursts that could turn this game into a barnburner. Each team boasts a dynamic duel-threat QB (Jackson vs Mahomes) a game-breaking receiver (Tyreek Hill vs. Michael Thomas) and a high ceiling RB (Kamara vs. Derrick Henry). The secondary pieces might be the key in this one. Can Gurley find the end zone for Brian? Which Aaron Jones will show up for Jay? Can Jarvis Landry continue his double digit streak with a dysfunctional Cleveland? Will it all come down to the Sterling Shepard-Eli Manning connection on Monday night? All we can say for sure is that this one has the potential to be a classic.
Good luck gentlemen.