It's officially crunch time, there's a handful of teams that took an important step to locking up a playoff spot last week and a few that took a step back from the playoffs. With the aggressive blockbuster trades this year, it feels that all but the final two playoff spots will be sewed up by the trade deadline next week and it'll be a race for rookie tourney positioning and/or "flex" playoffs spots. So this kicks off the stretch run, the last week of inter-conference match ups and the final test before the trade deadline. I implore folks to set their strongest potential lineups, go out with pride and your head held high, nearly everybody is still alive and anything can happen but regardless you owe it to your fellow owners. Here are the previews…
Isotopes (7-2) vs. Beavercats (4-5) - the franchises with the most jankster cup titles (3 each in current era), this historically has been a bigger rivalry but in recent years when the teams played there's been a lack of parity and this year's no difference. The Isotopes enter the game following a difficult loss (by .06 of a point) but still riding high tied for the best record in the entire PAFFL, and nearly a lock for a playoff spot. The Beavercats are having arguably their worst season in their history, getting mediocre to terrible performances out of their RB, WR & TE groups, wasting the league's #1 QB duo (based on points scored). The oddsmakers say this will be a blow out (106-76), the pride of the Beavercats believe it will be closer but this rivalry will go to the 'Topes' in the end.
BJeezy (4-5) vs. Fuego (4-5) - the weekend's most intriguing matchup features two teams that are still very much in the playoff hunt but desperate for a win (and tiebreaker advantage) over the other. This is also a quiet but real rivalry that rears it's ugly head in off the field ways (i.e. I fully expect there to be hostility at the college tailgate scene Thursday (tomorrow) nite). Both teams are playing well but the momentum in recent weeks has been with the upstart former Trippers franchise, being led by underrated performances by Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Riley Cooper among others has them outperforming expectations, while Fuego features a bunch of studs who can't seem to consistently put up the effort to win close contests. Oddsmakers say Fuego's luck will come around (106-95) but anything is possible given the inspired efforts coming from BJeezy these days.
Jibbers (3-6) vs. Los Frijoles Pintos (5-4) - the quintessential tale of two teams, the Jibbers have been one of the hottest teams the past three weeks reeling off victories to turn around a winless, hapless squad into one with an outside shot at a playoff spot (they'd need to win out and get a little help, but it's not as far fetched as it looks). Thanks to turnaround performances with a few of its key players (i.e. TY Hilton, Antonio Brown, Eddie Lacy among others) this team is dangerous. LFP started off as the hottest team in the PAFFL but due to a thin bench and string of key injuries (Jay Cutler, Doug Martin among others), they've lost four of the past five games and come into this one wounded, lacking confidence and potentially looking at a free fall they can't stop. The oddsmakers have this one favoring the Jibbers (101-82) but this will be much closer if Peyton Manning gets back on track and Jay Cutler starts, as expected.
Monkey Fust (3-6) vs. Naughty Thoughts (4-5) - this matchup is drawing the networks least popular, on the fringe to return next year announcers, which says a lot about the state of these franchises and their mutual hope to cede to the other team. Naughty has won two of the past three games after they dumped every non long-term asset, even pulling off last week's game after giving up stud RB Chris Johnson. who scored nearly 30 for conference rival Engel Shiz. Another win and they may fall out of the desired worst four so they're looking for a modest output from their remaining assets (Russell Wilson, D. Murray). On the other side you have the new franchise, MFust, who is in the midst of a rebuilding project to develop a core they can compete year in and out with. They're getting surprise performances out of journeymen types like Case Keenum and their established stars like Victor Cruz, and the oddsmakers predict they'll win this one too (94-69), halting Naughty's winning ways and further mucking up the worst four picture.
Short Bus (7-2) vs. Pomona Stoners (2-7) - Pomona is effectively out of the playoffs after a string of injuries to key players (most notably Michael Vick & David Wilson) and an inability to replace their production from the waiver wire. A notoriously strong home grown built team once again has failed to improve their team in-season; while Short Bus, who has the most consistently dominant starting lineup in the league and sits as the favorite to defend their Jankster cup title; picked up stud QB Matthew Stafford filling their sole weakness (as did dropping Brandon Weeden's contract from their '14 cap) in a key in-season deal. So it's not surprising they're projected to be the week's highest scorer and blow the Stoners out, the oddsmakers have this final at (134-69).
East Bay Funk (6-3) vs. Engel Shiz (7-2) - Two frontrunners with great starting lineups face off in the weekends best matchup. Funk just loaded up with another big trade so they have a star studded lineup but nothing touches Engel Shiz that feature 3 quality starting QB's (two of which are future hall of famers), 3 starting RB's and depth to spare at receiver. It's an incredible haul for a new franchise that started from scratch this year to one of the favorites for the cup this year. Both these teams need a win to keep pace in their respective divisions but both are safely in the playoffs (be it via record or breakdown), so this is more about pride and seeding, so both want it badly. Odds makers say it will be a close, hard fought Funk victory (103-102), my guess is Engel Shiz keeps it's season of destiny up to win by a new league record 0.001.
BINGO (2-7) vs. Team KItty (3-6) - Two teams looking to lose, unfortunately for BINGO they'll get a victory in this one as Team Kitty barely has a guy left on an NFL roster, so they're running out a bunch of scrubs. In fact this game is barely worth talking about other than the fact it shouldn't even be played and will be an insult to all the good fans who paid good money for season tickets and Sunday Ticket, etc. Odds makers say BINGO wins (85-36) but I doubt it will even be that close.
Strongfighters (5-4) vs. Delta Mad Dawgs (6-3) - Another strong matchup of likely playoff teams features squads that both need wins to rebound from tough, close, hard fought losses. In many ways both have had tough luck recently but they are resilient and feature enough playmakers that neither will go down without a strong fight. Strongs need this one more than DMD as they're in a dogfight in their own conference for a playoff spot (currently they're in on "Breakdown"), while DMD is tied for the division lead, and is likely the wild card qualifier. So maybe the oddsmakers are projecting this one for the Strongs b/c they want it more (115-94) but don't count out the NFC squad with underrated QB's & RB's, Demaryious Thomas is due for a blowup week and that could be the difference in this one.