Week 1 Rankings
1. San Antonio Marshalls
The Marshalls has, well, and interesting offseason. Going from long-time owner to rookie owner Red Georges, to just a few weeks ago having the franchise traded to Ryan Clark, and the entire roster swapped with Dallas at the same time. However, Ryan Clark made sure to bring back Marshalls start quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell right away. Clark did a tremendous job building a roster that could have won with Matt Nichols in Dallas, with an elite pair of running backs and talent at wide receiver and on defense and all over. Now, that roster has Mitchell, who is as hungry as ever to win a title and MVP. He’s arrogant, but he’s also driven to back that arrogance up and prove he is great with success. Along with Aaron Jones out of the backfield, the Marshalls have two potential MVP candidates on offense.
2. Birmingham Predators
The defending champions have a load of talent and honestly might even have more talent than last season. However, they also have less depth. The Predators have some positions without backups even available. If they have injuries, it could be devastating for them. Even if they make some signings or some trades, the odds of getting really quality talent to fill in is slim.
3. Pittsburgh Forge
Ever since the Forge have returned to the league, they have featured one of the best passing offenses in the league, perhaps the most explosive offense all together. That offense is becoming more balanced with the rise of James Conner in the backfield. The Forge have more than just a passing attack that can lead to a win now. But they also finally have something they have been desperate for the last few years. Their offense was electric, but it also had to be because their defense wasn’t very good. They have been patient building their defense, and now it’s blossomed. With the defense performing well, the Forge don’t need their high-powered offense to win. Now they just have it to blow opponents out.
4. Orlando Rockets
If you look at the Rockets preseason score you might question this, but the Rockets didn’t play most of their top players and starting quarterback Trevor Harris was very limited. The Rockets are loaded with talent. The one area that has taken a pretty big hit has been their secondary, which lacks a really elite player that has typically led their secondary, but they are very deep with quality players back there. The Rockets are always a threat to win it all.
5. New York Marauders
As inconsistent as Mike Reilly has been throughout his career, which has led to him being on three teams in three years, when he’s at his best he’s still as good as they come. New York suffered two tough losses with the surprise retirement of Brandon Coleman and the shocking injury retirement of Brock Coyle, but the Marauders will have a lot of talent. Elite playmaking wide receiver Stefon Diggs is there for Reilly and their running game is very deep. Defensively, Coyle is a tough loss but Anthony Walker is looking like he’s ready to step up to be the elite linebacker for the Marauders. Their secondary is tremendously deep as it usually is.
6. Atlanta Firebirds
The Firebirds are taking a huge risk baking on the unproven and low-ceiling Nick Arbuckle as their starting quarterback. Their offense has some good players but they are only asking that side of the ball to manage the game. The Firebirds, though, have a remarkable defense. The defense might be the best in the league with elite players everywhere and at every level. It is going to be very difficult to move the ball against Atlanta and that alone makes them a serious contender for the playoffs.
7. Michigan Stags
Michigan is probably underrated here, but there just are some question marks that need to be answered. The Stags certainly have a top flight pass rusher in Matt Judon, but they will have to survive without Za’Darius Smith accompanying him. That should be fine, but the Stags on offense turned over from Zach Collaros to the more dynamic Vernon Adams, Jr, though we could see Mike Glennon. Collaros wasn’t necessarily a big playmaker, but he made almost no mistakes either. We’ll have to see how that decision works out.
8. Nashville Renegades
Is there going to be a riff between Aaron Murray and Jared Stidham? Is Stidham ready to take over already from a guy who just led the Renegades to the title game? Jordan Howard is still the centerpiece of the Renegades and they always have top talent on their roster. The receiver corp. has a load of top weapons for any team. The defense, though, might not be as good in the front seven but the Renegades are still a strong team. Depth might be an issue.
9. New Orleans Nightmare
New Orleans have both a high ceiling and a low floor. The Nightmare, despite going to multiple conference title games the past few years and seeing a lot of success under Aaron Murray, seem to excited about moving on from him and turning things over to P.J. Walker. Walker definitely has a future in this league as a starter, but he also has shown in the preseason that he is prone to mistakes – bad passes, interceptions, and fumbles. He has a lot of good that makes up for the mistakes, but with Murray on the roster it might not make sense to make that switch right now because the Nightmare, with a strong running game leading the way, could make another championship push.
10. Milwaukee Warriors
It is a new era in the SFL with the Minnesota Freeze moving to become the Milwaukee Warriors. The move is not an indictment on Minnesota for the Freeze franchise, but just a time to move on from a franchise that’s history was legendary owner Patrick Tanis and ending that chapter without further diluting the team’s amazing history. But the Warriors certainly may be a force to be recon with right away. Antonio Brown and Antonio Callaway are an incredibly explosive receiving duo and while the team moved on from Mike Reilly, they have brought in Matt Barkley to lead the way. The defense isn’t loaded with elite talent, but long-time franchise cornerstone Mike Catapano will make them a tough group to go against.
11. Boston Dragons
Boston is and interesting team that doesn’t have much top end talent but has a lot of good players have has made back-to-back playoff appearances because of it. Cooper Rush isn’t going to knock on the door of being an All-SFL quarterback, but he’s good and solid and doesn’t cost his team. Luke Tasker continues to be a great weapon, but the Dragons lack much explosiveness outside aging running back Andre Ellington. Defensively, the Dragons prepared for life without Kyle Emanuel, but when he decided not to retire their rebuilt defense got a major star put back. The Dragons defense has a lot of quality pass rushers and will be the reason they go back to the playoffs.
12. Philadelphia Bulldogs
Philly was just way to conservative on offense last year. Nate Sudfeld isn’t a world beater, but the Bulldogs just weren’t willing to let him try many things a year ago. This year they do seem more willing to throw downfield, but it might not be Sudfeld doing it. We’ll find out who the Bulldogs will be starting on gameday, but we do know this team is build around stud running back Jay Ajayi and their defense. Dangerous defensive ends Carl Nassib and Duke Ejiofor in particular.
13. Dallas Six-Shooters
The Shooters are trying to go all out in an attempt to win with Josh McCown. That in its self is a risk. McCown is a legend and he still has something left in the tank, but at the age of 40, we have to question how much and if he can be the sole centerpiece of the team. The Shooters are giving opportunities to two receivers looking to make a career resurgence in Martavis Bryant and Tavon Austin. Chris Carson really should be the centerpiece of the team. We’ll see if Dallas wants to ride him or McCown this year. The Shooters do have some good talent on the rest of their roster, but is it enough?
14. Washington Wave
It was a rough year last year for Washington. Despite their elite duo of Yannick Ngakoue and Blake Martinez on defense, the Wave offense really struggled. That made them spend a fortune on a quality veteran quarterback in the offseason – Zach Collaros. Collaros isn’t the biggest playmaker around, but he had a massive amount of success in Michigan. He didn’t make mistakes and wasn’t the reason the team ever lost, but he was also rarely the reason the team won either. Was Collaros tossed out of Michigan unfairly? He’s out to prove that this year in Washington.
15. Louisville Cougars
Historically a punching bag, the Cougars really could push for the playoffs this year. Jeremiah Masoli has overachieved for years now but despite all his best efforts he was forced to do so much by himself. Last year, Gabriel Knapton led a strong defense and with Ryan Glasgow on the front line with him and L.J. Fortt in at middle linebacker, the front-seven should be a force again for Louisville. The difference this year is Masoli has more help on offense. Karlos Williams has been a solid running back but with an improved group of receivers and much improved offensive line, the Cougars might have enough to be more competitive.
16. Jacksonville Stingrays
It’s tough to put an expansion team up too high in the ratings, but the Stingrays have an incredible chance of making the playoffs from the looks of their roster. The challenge will be having New Orleans and Orlando in their division, but they really created a remarkable secondary, one loaded with elite talent that could be one of the very best in the league. It’s going to be up to Matt Nichols. Owner Ryan Clark loves him and even traded Brad Kaaya away to make it clear Nichols is his guy, but he’s been inconsistent in his career. Devin Singletary is a dangerous rookie running back who will help take some pressure off Nichols.
17. Omaha Express
New owner Red Georges hasn’t been able to really put his stamp on the Express. He was in San Antonio not too long ago, but just before training camp there was a three-way ownership trade and Georges took over his hometown team. The team was pretty much built, and it has some talent with Rex Burkhead and Jalen Richard leading a tremendous running game. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor will also make the running game even better, but the Express’ passing game has some questions and outside Kwaku Boateng, there aren’t too many playmakers on that defense.
18. San Diego Diablos
Last year the Diablos shocked everybody and went 13-3. Without many big changes, having them at 13-3 seems like an insulting slap in the face. It very well may be a terrible rating. The Diablos are out to prove that wasn’t a fluke. Their defense really has some great talent and could lead them to great success again. But it’s impossible to recognized that the Diablos didn’t beat a single team with a winning record last year. They could have been a product of a weak schedule. In the preseason they had their starts against the Pittsburgh Forge starters. While their defense did hold the Forge a little, their offense managed only three points. It was a major worry. The Diablos have to prove themselves again.
19. Indianapolis Speed
Indianapolis has a new franchise and this one looks to have staying power with a very committed owner. Oakland fans were heart-broken again to have their team stolen from them again, but at the same time, there was no new black hole in Oakland, the fans there didn’t love the Odyssey like they loved the Raiders. That despite this team going to the playoffs a year ago. So, we know Case Keenum can lead this team to success. They have a deep group of running backs and some talent on defense. John Simon, though, is gone and he was the heart of that defense. The Speed have talented but young receivers and a growing defense. They could make the playoffs again but could be just outside as they develop more.
20. St. Louis Stallions
St. Louis has a great strength in their passing game with gunslinger Zach Mettenberger leading the way with the very explosive Brice Butler proving for two straight years that he can make big time plays down field. The problem with the Stallions is they just haven’t gotten the rest of the team built up to support that passing game. They can always compete and win because of their ability to get down the field and score in a big hurry, but it isn’t necessarily a formula of consistent winning.
21. Seattle Orcas
It was shocking to see Seattle struggle like they did last year. It’s almost shocking to have them ranked this low too. Their defense is just way too great to imagine they won’t rebound this year. Isaiah Crowell is also probably very well rested after going for over 3,000 yards two years ago and having a big load taken off him last year as the year went on. Last year’s struggled was all because of the issues at quarterback. Ryan Griffin just wasn’t an adequate enough passer. This year, they have Matt Moore returning and he’s a far more dangerous quarterback than Griffin ever was, but he’s also mistake-prone. They could turn things over to rookie Brett Rypien. He’s a very interesting player, but it’s always a risk to turn it over to a rookie who probably needs to develop a bit more. Seattle’s success will be defendant on their quarterback again.
22. Los Angeles Avengers
New LA owner Chris Hernandez was left with a very tough cap situation and was forced to re-tool much of his team, but the big news was he kicked off his new era with a new team name: The Avengers. It really is a new era in LA with less of an emphasis on flash and more emphasis on efficiency, but as they work toward getting there, this year could be a tough one. Phillip Lindsay will do everything he can to keep the Avengers in the playoff hunt, but the team is just very young after moving on from so many top players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
23. Buffalo Gunners
Considering Buffalo was a playoff contender last year and got better with Gardner Minshew coming in at quarterback, 23 is too low, but it’s tough to always rank teams in the preseason. Minshew could be rookie of the year. But he’s also a rookie so it’s tough to know exactly what to expect. Orleans Darkwa will help him out and Marquis Valdes-Scantling has developed quite well. Defensively, linebacker Marquel Lee and the secondary very well could have the Gunners in the playoffs. They have some talent but things need to go a certain way for them to win.
24. Columbus Explorers
Joshua Dobbs might finally be ready to step up and become a quality quarterback. The growing pains the last two years were tough, but give his team credit, they stuck with him through them and both he and the team will be better because of it. The offense has some quality talent and some top-end talent on their offensive line, but they also have some major gaps on the o-line. Defensively, the Explorers have some good talent, but top-end talent isn’t necessarily there and that could be an issue. That’s been Columbus’ one issue – a lot of good players but few elite players.
25. Virginia Admirals
Virginia was abysmal last year, but their preseason game really opened some eyes. Will they be an elite team, probably not, no. But, McLeod Bethel-Thompson gives them a threat. He looked incredible in the preseason against a team of starters. That says Virginia won’t be a pushover this year.
26. Carolina Generals
Carolina has two tremendous under-the-radar moves this offseason. Frank Gore might be very near the end of his career, but he’s a great upgrade for what the team wanted from Kenneth Dixon. Tarik Cohen is an electrifying playmaker, but Dixon just wasn’t his thunder. Gore will be. The second move was the signing of elite cornerback Prince Amukamara. Both moves should pay off for Carolina. But the big issue for Carolina is if Colin Kaepernick has the desire to continue playing more than he wants to be a face for social injustice. He’s played uninspired this preseason again. If he’s struggling, Carolina will struggle.
27. Mississippi Gators
How good is Vad Lee? We’ll find out this year. He’s in a less comfortable situation this year. In New York he was surrounded by elite talent on offense. Mississippi lacks elite talent. They did bring in D-League star Nick Brossette and he’s been running great, but Lee is their hope. He’s an electrifying player, but is he the right guy for their team? We’ll find out pretty quick.
28. Miami Mustangs
Mike Gillislee had some trouble getting going last year, but this year he’s looked good with an improved o-line in front of him. The Mustangs need to rely on him while Bart Houston looks to continue growing on the success he had last year. Miami has some quality players, like Chris Matthews and Braxton Berrios, but they also have a lot of over-the-hill veterans.
29. Sacramento Bandits
Sacramento might have made a brilliant signing in Blake Bortles, a former top five NFL pick, who went to the playoffs and was on track to be a franchise quarterback. He’s only 27-years-old and is looking to relaunch his career. He has all the skills to do that in Sacramento. But it’s a young expansion team. We’ll have to see what they can do. They are growing and it might take some time.
30. Utah Raptors
While Utah has some elite players like Dede Westbrook, Ted Jennings and Fred Warner, they lack enough top threats to really be a force this year. The biggest question is at quarterback. The Raptors were hoping to be the team to finally give Taylor Heinicke a shot, but the quarterback who used to have some bright potential seems to have fizzled out and wasn’t what the team hoped. Now, they look like they could be going to Easton Stick. He was great in the D-League, but it was the D-League. It could be a year or two before he’s really crafted himself into a quality pro quarterback. Then again, he could be brilliant right away. The Raptors will want to be a running team, but if they fall behind that is a tough gameplan to stick with and we have to see if Stick is even close to ready to take over right away.