Playoff Power Rankings

1. Birmingham Predators (15-1) – No. 1 Seed, Empire Conference

Key Wins: W2 – @ Orlando Rockets (14-2) – 13-10; W10 – Orlando Rockets (14-2) – 44-17; W12 – New York Marauders (11-5) – 34-14; W13 – Michigan Stags (13-3) – 33-3
Key Losses: W5 – @ Pittsburgh Forge (11-5) – 33-27

They are loaded with talent and have dominated all-year long. The Predators have stomped top-tier teams and with that have to be the heavy favorites to win it all this year. They rank best in the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense as well as having by a large margin the most sacks and allowing the second fewest sacks this year. They don’t have any blatant holes a team can easily exploit. Pittsburgh did beat them this year, so it is possible, it just is very, very difficult.

2. Orlando Rockets (14-2) – No. 4 Seed, Empire Conference
Key Wins: W3 – @ Michigan Stags – 24-9; W5 – @ New York Marauders (11-5) – 42-20
Key Losses: W10 – @ Birmingham Predators (15-1) – 44-17

Any other year, Orlando would once against be the top seed in the conference with a first round bye, clearly as favorites to be the champion, but, they have to settle for a wild card spot and first round game because the Predators were just better than them this year, sweeping them twice, once in blowout fashion. Orlando is very deep though. Even with many backups in the final week of the season, they still blew out Atlanta and ended their playoff hopes. The Rockets are always a threat.

3. Michigan Stags (13-3) – No. 2 Seed, Metropolitan Conference
Key Wins: W11 – @ New Orleans Nightmare (9-7) – 20-19; W12 – Nashville Renegades (11-5) – 27-20
Key Losses: W16 – @ Carolina Generals (7-9) – 37-30

Up until their final game of the season the Michigan Stags had very little to be disappointed with, but that unexpected loss to Carolina cost them home field advantage. Still, they are 13-3 and are very well-rounded. The last few weeks, they may have found themselves their best option are quarterback too. Moving away from Zach Collaros may be risky, but he had not stepped up like the team needed him to in the playoffs the last few years. Dominique Davis performed very well and is a much more explosive option to accompany a very strong running game and dominant defense. Michigan isn’t going to just play it save, it’s high-risk, high-reward.

4. San Diego Diablos (13-3) – No. 1 Seed, Metropolitan Conference
Key Wins: W4 – Los Angeles Stars (8-8) – 23-10; W8 – @ Los Angeles Stars (8-8) – 20-9
Key Losses: W7 – Mississippi Cottonmouths (4-12) – 27-21

San Diego is this year’s surprise team, going from worst in their division last season to 13-3 with homefield advantage in the Metropolitan Conference. With that No. 1 seed, it might be a bit controversial to see them rank below Michigan, but while the Diablos’ success was earned with a tremendously strong defense and great season by running back Alex Collins, they had one of the easiest schedules in the league with no truly impressive victories over opponents with winning records. Add in Trevone Boykin’s legal troubles forcing the Luke Falk era to start a bit earlier than desires and they could be a vulnerable team. With that said, Falk has played very, very well, but rookies are just unpredictable in the playoffs.

5. New York Marauders (11-5) – No. 2 Seed, Empire Conference
Key Wins: W7 – @ Pittsburgh Forge (11-5) – 34-24; W13 – Pittsburgh Forge (11-5) – 30-23
Key Losses: W5 – Orlando Rockets (14-2) – 42-20; W9 – @ Washington Wave (7-9) – 23-20

New York can be inconsistent, but they are high-risk, high-reward everywhere around on their team. They will get a huge boost to the defense for the playoffs as well with the return of Eric Reid fully healthy. He missed most of the season, but even after being cleared he sat out most games to get fully healthy, and he is now, which should really help their 24th-ranked pass defense. Offensively, the Marauders have a lot of weapons we all know of. Their offensive line struggled with some interior youth early in the season, but they have gotten better as of late. The Marauders have a lot of ways they can win with Jacquizz Rodgers, Stefon Diggs, Brandon Coleman and Will Tye all as weapons, but if Vad Lee struggles with his accuracy, as he does a lot, it would be a disappointing postseason for them.

6. Nashville Renegades (11-5) – No. 3 Seed, Metropolitan Conference
Key Wins: W5 – @ Los Angeles Stars (8-8) – 35-24; W13 – New Orleans Nightmare (9-7) – 22-10
Key Losses: W9 – @ Omaha Express (7-9) – 26-24; W14 – Louisville Cougars (5-11) – 13-12

Like San Diego as a division winner, the Renegades don’t have too many notable victories, but they played in a remarkably competitive and tough division and have been battle tested week in and week out. The mid-season addition of Tyreek Hill has also payed huge dividends for the Renegades as well. Their key to success still is on the legs of Jordan Howard, but the Renegades have explosive players and a confident A.J. McCarron, who is no longer looking over his shoulder at an erratic owner. The Renegades ownership has calmed down a lot and the team seems to have gotten into a nice groove because of it.

7. Pittsburgh Forge (11-5) – No. 5 Seed, Empire Conference
Key Wins: W5 – Birmingham Predators (15-1) – 33-27; W8 – New Orleans Nightmare (9-7) – 42-39 (OT); W16 – @ Boston Dragons (9-7) – 27-21
Key Losses: W3 – @ Washington Wave (7-9) – 31-17; W10 – Columbus Explorers (7-9) – 16-12

Pittsburgh has had a few duds this year, but they are the only team that can say they beat the Birmingham Predators this season. Pittsburgh yet again has the league’s best passing offense and that is what leads them. They are average at best everywhere else, but Jon Jennings will put points up and football is a pretty simple game where all you need to do to win is score more points as the other team. They do that.

8. Boston Dragons (9-7) – No. 6 Seed, Empire Conference
Key Wins: W1 – New York Marauders (11-5) – 35-28; W7 – @ Atlanta Firebirds (8-8) – 34-22
Key Losses: W2 – @ Philadelphia Bulldogs (6-10) – 27-0; W4 – @ Washington Wave (7-9) – 31-27

Boston is never sexy, but that is their M.O. now. They just grind opponents down and beat them without people really understanding why. They are middle of the road in every ranking, but together, the team is solid. The whole is better than the sum of its parts.

9. New Orleans Nightmare (9-7) – No. 4 Seed, Metropolitan Conference
Key Wins: W4 – Nashville Renegades (11-5) – 35-23; W12 – @ Oakland Odyssey (9-7) – 23-10; W15 – Boston Dragons (9-7) – 23-6
Key Losses: W5 – @ Columbus Explorers (7-9) – 26-17; W16 – Louisville Cougars (5-11) – 23-21

New Orleans for a second year in a row picked up a lot of steam heading down the stretch into the playoffs, but a Week 16 loss at Louisville really almost cost them everything. They lucked out and still made the playoffs despite the very disappointing outing, but they Nightmare can score and have a very strong running game that grinds opponents down. They are a team set up for postseason success.

10. Oakland Odyssey (9-7) – No. 5 Seed, Metropolitan Conference
Key Wins: W14 – San Diego Diablos (13-3) – 20-12; W16 – Minnesota Freeze (8-8) – 20-17
Key Losses: W3 – Seattle Orcas (3-13) – 23-20; W4 – @ Louisville Cougars (5-11) – 21-18

After a miserable start to the season owner Jay Amado was about ready to just give up on everything, despite the Odyssey being an expansion team, but his overreacting to the losses ended and he just focused on getting some different pieces. The team came together strong at the end of the year. Their success was partially aided by having a schedule without many strong teams, but they did stun San Diego late in the year and closed out in a lose and go home game with a win over Minnesota.

11. Los Angeles Stars (8-8) – No. 6 Seed, Metropolitan Conference
Key Wins: None
Key Losses: W13 – @ Columbus Explorers (7-9) – 29-27; W16 – @ Utah Raptors (7-9) – 20-17

Los Angeles limps into the playoffs, but still have to be considered a threat with perhaps rookie of the year front-runner Phillip Lindsay leading the charge. He’s had some cold games, but when he is on the Stars are pretty unbeatable. Their defense is pretty underrated as well. Don’t be surprised is the Stars figure out how to pull off a first round upset.

12. Iowa Threshers (8-8) – No. 3 Seed, Metropolitan Conference
Key Wins: None
Key Losses: W9 – Oklahoma Roughnecks (4-12) – 16-6; W11 – @ Virginia Admirals (2-14) – 24-10

Iowa is also lucky to get into the playoffs. They have no wins over opponents with winning records and took advantage of having such an easy schedule and weak division, but they get a home game and a chance to compete. The Threshers actually have the best pass defense, this best pass rush and fifth best overall defense, so they can tighten up against opponents, but they need to get their offense going more than they have been.

Week 16 Awards

Offensive Player of the Week
QB Quinton Flowers, Carolina Generals
11-for-20 (55.0%), 135 Pass Yards, 3 Pass TDs, 14 rushes, 50 rush Yards (3.6 YPC, 1 Rush TD

Defensive Player of the Week
CB Ishmael Adams, Nashville Renegades
5 Tackles, 2 Passes Defensed, 1 INT, 1 TD (42 Yards)

Special Teams Player of the Week
K/P Ty Long, Nashville Renegades
5-for-5 FG (52, 24, 51, 40, 42), 3-for-3 XP, 18 Points, 6 Punts, 331 Punt Yards (55.2 YPP), 3 TB, 2 In20, 66 LG

Rookie of the Week
QB Kyle Lauletta, Washington Wave
16-for-25 (64.0%), 269 Pass Yards, 4 Pass TDs, 11 Rushes, 41 Rush Yards (3.7 YPC)

Playoff Round 1 Preview

6. Boston Dragons (9-7) @ 3. Iowa Threshers (8-8)
While neither team is very flashy, and while Boston has had plenty more tough victories this season, Iowa is a team who can have success in the playoffs because of their defense and running game.
Pick: Iowa Threshers

5. Pittsburgh Forge (11-5) @ 4. Orlando Rockets (14-2)
I was really, really close to picking Pittsburgh here. This is going to be a great game between two juggernauts that can score in bunches. It’s just hard to pick against Orlando ever, especially in the playoffs, but this is a toss up really.
Pick: Orlando Rockets

6. Los Angeles Stars (8-8) @ 3. Nashville Renegades (11-5)
Even if Phillip Lindsay is on, it’s hard to bet against Jordan Howard in a ground-game battle. The Renegades have a lot of talent, and an explosive X-Factor in Tyreek Hill.
Pick: Nashville Renegades

5. Oakland Odyssey (9-7) @ 4. New Orleans Nightmare (9-7)
Would it surprise me if the Odyssey got this win? No. They are a hot team, with a quarterback in Case Keenum that has been in a nice groove lately, but the Nightmare are one of those super tough teams capable of beating anybody any given week.
Pick: New Orleans Nightmare

2019 Superlatives

Game of the Year: Week 8 – New Orleans Nightmare – 39 @ Pittsburgh Forge – 42 (OT)
Pittsburgh held a 33-10 lead midway through the third quarter after seeing Jon Jennings throw four touchdowns to that point. He even added another touchdown later in that quarter, but the second half saw New Orleans make a tremendous comeback, with Aaron Murray throwing three touchdowns and Lance Geesey booting in a pair of field goals. Murray’s fourth touchdown of the game came with 67 seconds left. The Nightmare shut Pittsburgh out in the fourth quarter to force overtime with the game tied 39-39. It took nearly 12 minutes for either team to score in the extra period, making every play even more dramatic and intense. Pittsburgh finally won with a 26-yard field goal by Ross Martin.

Upset of the Year: Week 16 – Michigan Stags – 30 @ Carolina Generals – 37
It was the last week of the season and while the Generals had nothing to play for with a 6-9 record going into the game, Michigan had home field advantage on the line. Michigan was 13-2 at the time and were looking for an exclamation to end their regular season to get some momentum into the playoffs. However, third string quarterback Quinton Flowers scored four touchdowns to pull off a major shocker at the end of the year.

Offensive Performance of the Year:
TE Tyler Higbee, New Orleans Nightmare – Week 7 vs. Washington Wave
10 Rec, 139 rec Yards (13.9 YPC), 4 Rec TDs

Defensive Performance of the Year:
DT Nick Failey, Nashville Renegades – Week 11 vs. San Antonio Marshalls
6 Tackles, 5 Sacks, 1 Hurry

Special Teams Performance of the Year:
K Alex Henery, Michigan Stags – Week 15 vs. Houston Wranglers
6-for-6 FG (22, 26, 50, 20, 25, 38), 2-for-2 XP, 20 Points

Rookie Performance of the Year
TE Will Dissly, Dallas Six-Shooters – Week 6 vs. Louisville Cougars
8 Rec, 164 Rec Yards, 4 Rec TDs

Draft Order (Non-Playoff Teams)

1. Jacksonville Stingrays (Expansion)
2. Sacramento Bandits (Expansion)
3. Virginia Admirals (2-14)
4. Seattle Orcas (3-13)
5. Oklahoma Roughnecks (4-12)
6. Mississippi Cottonmouths (4-12)
7. St. Louis Stallions (5-11)
8. Louisville Cougars (5-11)
9. Miami Mustangs (6-10)
10. Philadelphia Bulldogs (6-10)
11. Houston Wranglers (7-9)
12. Utah Raptors (7-9)
13. Columbus Explorers (7-9)
14. Omaha Express (7-9)
15. Carolina Generals (7-9)
16. San Antonio Marshalls (7-9)
17. Washington Wave (7-9)
18. Dallas Six-Shooters (8-8)
19. Minnesota Freeze (8-8)
20. Atlanta Firebirds (9-7)

Offseason Headlines

Jacksonville and Sacramento expansion up to 32
The SFL will be expanding one final time up to a league-set cap of 32 teams. They will be welcoming a new franchise in Jacksonville, named the Stingrays and will be returning one of the original franchises, the Sacramento Bandits. Ryan Clark will be running the Stingrays while Dallas Hartwell will be running the Bandits.

End of an Era
Carlton Jefcoat, the longest-tenured owner in the SFL, will be ending his 19-year career, all spent running the San Antonio Marshalls. Jefcoat also ran the Los Angeles Stars and Minnesota Freeze on temporary basis’.

With an expansion to Sacramento and ownership of the Omaha Express, Dallas Hartwell will relinquish ownership of the Dallas Six-Shooters. Hartwell has run the Six-Shooters since 2002, when he joined the league and was co-owners with another long-time owner Chris Dunn. Hartwell gained full ownership the following season.

Ownership shuffling
Ryan Clark will be replacing Dallas Hartwell as owner of the Six-Shooter franchise. He will relinquish ownership of the Houston Wranglers to Alberto Garcia. A new owner, Red Georges, will join the league as the new owner of the San Antonio Marshalls. Chris Hernandez, a Southern California native, will be taking over the Los Angeles Stars. The stars have been run by Eric Murray for the past two seasons. He will relinquish ownership to focus on one franchise.

Iowa to Buffalo
After two seasons, the Iowa Threshers will be moving to a new city. Eric Murray, will be moving the franchise to his native Buffalo, New York. Not team name have been settled on yet.

Predators renamed
While a championship banner under the Birmingham Predators name may throw a wrench in the plays, as it stands now, the Birmingham Predators are set to be re-named the Alabama Avengers.