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SAFL Predictions: Week 1

PRETENDERS VS CONTENDERS EDITION WITH OFF-SEASON GRADES

THUNDER VS ELITE

THUNDER (C)  – PRETENDERS

The Thunder are coming off another very disappointing season. They finished the regular season 3-7 and suffered a crushing playoff defeat to the 0-10 Elites. They were ranked 7th on offense and defense – giving up over 30 points per game. This team has been a disappointment since its inaugural first season, however, they were able to win 3 games last season which is an improvement. Based on what we’re hearing, they’ve added a new QB and a few other new players. Jawid and Jay are no longer on the team and clearly the team is headed in a new direction. From what we’ve seen in scrimmages and what we’ve heard from the league, their new QB looks promising. This team was a mess last season on defense and were extremely inconsistent on offense. They will need their new QB to infuse new plays and confidence in their receivers for them to be successful on offense. Losing Jay is a difficult pill to swallow and we’re not sure if they have an adequate replacement for him. He was clearly their best player and it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts in his absence. Although Jawid was their starting QB and helped them notch 3 wins, they were woeful with him the past 3 seasons. Losing him hurts, but they weren’t very good offensively with him regardless. They’re still very young, fast and hungry. The captains have big expectations for this team based on their new QB. They also MUST learn how to utilize everyone’s talent. Unfortunately the Thunder are predicted to finish last this season solely on the notion that most teams have gotten better in the off-season. We predict they will go 2-8 this season and will finish last. Sorry Thunder..

ELITES (B+)  – PRETENDERS

The Elites notched their inaugural first season last year. Although they were abysmal in most games, they were competitive and didn’t give up. They finished dead last on offense and defense. They had a few bright spots, but their QB situation and defense were way below league average. We’ve heard speculation from the league that they’ve picked up some very good players. Our sources can confirm that they’ve picked up Free Agent QB Aldo Ortiz. This is a huge pickup for this franchise and it’s exactly what they needed to solidify respectability and credibility in this league. We all know what Aldo brings – strong arm, leadership and excellent playoff and finals experience. We can’t stress the importance of this pickup. This is arguably the biggest and best pickup of any team in the off-season. If the Elites can improve to a top 5 defense, this team will be an average team. We aren’t aware of any key players that are no longer on the team, so for the most part, the entire team remains intact. The Elites’ captains are clearly hungry and willing to go the extra mile to improve their team. Our only concern is that Aldo has missed a full season. His mobility is uncertain and he may be rusty the first few games of the season. We expect him to shake off the rust after 2 or 3 games. We predict the Elites will finish 4-6 this season. We expect them to upset a few teams this season.

MATCHUP

This is a rematch from last year’s stunning playoff upset. We must warn the Elites here, that loss did not sit well with the Thunder and they will be seeking revenge. From what we’ve heard, the Elites are extremely excited and ready to take on any competition the league throws at them. This sort of excitement creates a tremendous atmosphere and it’s exactly what this league is all about. Other than the pickup of Aldo, we aren’t sure how much better the Elites really are. Elites do have an edge from the QB position, but we aren’t sure if they have an edge anywhere else. Thunder defense may actually be slightly better than the Elites’ defense. However, Aldo just makes that team more dangerous. If the Elites can hold on to Aldo’s fire blazing passes and not drop the ball, the Elites will win this game. If Aldo is rusty, the Thunder will beat the Elites. This will be a very competitive game and a great game to kick off the 2018 SAFL season!

Elites 28 – Thunder 25

SAVAGES VS AK

SAVAGES (n/a)  – PRETENDERS

Savages were 7-3 last season. The return of Anwar really propelled this team to success and stabilized their QB position. Hash and Anwar lead a veteran group into another season. Savages defeated the Underdogs last year in the playoffs, but lost against the SAFL champion Browns. This team is just a star player away from being a championship team. We believe they are “Richard Giraldo-esque” player away from being champions. They are indeed that close. They were 4th in offense and 3rd in defense. They’re pedigree is their defense. We haven’t heard of any key free agent pickups. They’ve kept their roster additions very quiet. Do we expect a big pick up – highly unlikely. We have to categorize the Savages as Pretenders for now. They’re an above average team, but they’re not a championship contender. Also, considering the fact that other teams have picked up major free agents, we expect the Savages to finish around 4th or 5th in the standings. We predict the Savages will finish 5-5 given the parity in the league.

AK (n/a)  – CONTENDERS

AK went 10-0 last season…that’s right – 10-0. We have to dig through the history books to find another team that went undefeated in the regular season…perhaps the year 1 Spartans?? AK was the most dominant regular season team we’ve ever seen. Their point differential was 26 points. That is an astonishing number that is so beyond comprehension. The only competitive regular season game was against the Browns. MVP runner up Ritchie had one of the best seasons we’ve ever season. He had a highlight real season and was clearly the team’s best player. Ofcourse Sims is their most important player, but Ritchie was just head and shoulders better than any other position player in the league. As long as Sims and Ritchie return, this team will be in the hunt for a championship. Let’s just be clear, we don’t see any team stopping AK from reaching the finals. They were 1st on defense and offense and it wasn’t even that close. They were head and shoulders better than any other team. Logic would say that they should’ve destroyed the Browns in the finals…but as the saying goes..”any given Sunday”…they fell just short in an epic, unforgettable, momentous championship game. AK has also been extremely quiet this offseason. We aren’t aware of any key pickups or losses. With an immensely talented team, they don’t need any more talent. If they stay healthy and bring back the same squad, they will tear through this league again and will win the championship. We predict AK to go undefeated again 10-0.

MATCHUP

AK is poised for another monster season. And we can guarantee they will come out with purpose and focus. Can the Savages withstand the AK fury in the first few minutes? If our memory serves us correctly, the Savages played a great game against AK in the beginning of the season last year. Can the Savages find a way to fool Sims and stop AK’s elite speed? Sims is a better QB, AK is better offensively and defensively. The league knows AK plays man defense, but yet every team struggles to score against them. The Savages will have their hands full against AK. This is the worst possible matchup for them to start the season. At the same time, it’s a good measuring stick to determine how good the Savages are and whether or not they’re championship material. AK is determined to destroy the league this season and we don’t see the Savages winning this game.

AK 37 – Savages 18

BANDITS VS UNDERDOGS

BANDITS (C-)  – PRETENDERS

The Bandits finished last season with a record of 4-6. Attendance and inconsistent defense really hurt this team last season. They had promising moments and were competitive in practically every game. The Bandits were literally seconds away from advancing to the semifinals last year, but lost to the Gators. One thing this team has preserved throughout its tenure is their toughness and heart. This team is always competitive. They’re fairly successful in the playoffs and always picks up top talent. And now we get to the bad news. Based on our sources, Dheeraj is out for the season. We aren’t sure the extent of his injury and we aren’t sure if there’s even a remote chance he will return this season. This is a devastating blow for this team. He’s their most important and versatile player. He’s a potential MVP caliber player. Thus, we gave the Bandits a C- for the off-season. He’s practically irreplaceable and it will be very interesting to see who the Bandits picked up in the offseason. Rumors suggest that Burhan picked up another QB. This position has also been very inconsistent with this team especially the past 3 seasons. There’s really no stability in that position and we hope they’ve stabilized it this season. This will be a challenging season for Burhan’s squad. Their stars are getting a little older and we’re not sure if they’ve added any speed to the team. With the loss of Dheeraj, and the uncertainty of this roster, we predict the Bandits will go 4-6 again.

Underdogs (A)  – Contenders

The Underdogs had a miserable, injury riddled season last year. They finished 3-7 and were eliminated by the Savages in the playoffs. They lost their starting QB Waqas very early in the season and the team just never recovered. Honestly, we don’t know how they won 3 games. Now to the good news…they’ve added Rob Jones and Waqas is back as their full time QB. Adding Rob Jones brings a unique element on both sides of the ball. The Underdogs may be the 2nd most talented roster-wise behind AK. Rob doesn’t guarantee them a championship, but he brings that championship pedigree including toughness. He’s also a veteran which helps a lot. Also, the fact that they pried him away from the Browns means that they no longer have to game plan against him. This is a very dangerous and talented team. Waqas might be rusty the first few games of the season, but his athletic group will help him a lot. We have very high expectations for the Underdogs. They will not be anywhere near the 3-7 mark. We predict the Underdogs will be 7-3 this season.

MATCHUP

This is simple. The Underdogs are healthy and the Bandits have lost their best player Dheeraj. The Underdogs made a big free agent splash with Rob. The Underdogs are younger and healthier. They’re looking to bounce back from a miserable season and make a lot of noise. Supposedly the Bandits have a new QB so we can’t compare him to Waqas, but Waqas is a vet and we have to give him the edge there. Offensively and defensively the Underdogs are better. If the Bandits were to pull off this upset, their QB has to light up the Underdog defense. We don’t see that happening.

Underdogs 32 – Bandits 20

BROWNS VS GATORS

BROWNS (D)  – CONTENDERS

The defending champs were 8-2 last season and captured another title with an epic comeback against AK. Shu and Nafi dominated the game. As long as those two players are with the Browns, they will always be a championship contender. Shu of course is returning with his consecutive MVP awards to tear up defenses. He is the most accurate and smartest QB in the league and we expect another MVP type season from him. The one major concern of this team is youth and speed. Their loss of Rob Jones justifies their off season rating. History tells us that the Browns have won without Rob. He gave them a great dynamic that they don’t have and he will be missed. What amazes us about this team is that they’re the oldest team in the league, but their execution and precision on offense is almost surgical. They come up HUGE in big games and they don’t back down from anyone. Last year’s championship was arguably their sweetest. This will be a very difficult year for the Browns to 3-peat. Practically every team got better and AK is determined to beat them to a pulp. The entire league is gunning for them and they welcome the challenge. Can they 3-peat this season? We think they’ll end up in the finals again, but it will be a much tougher road. We predict the Browns will be 7-3 this season.

GATORS (n/a)  – PRETENDERS

The Gators were the biggest surprise team of the 2017 season. Their team was lead by league veteran Ramy and rookie QB Richie. They finished their first season with a very impressive 5-5 record. They narrowly beat the Bandits in a playoff game, but lost to AK in the semis. This team started out horribly and then they took off and put together a very impressive string of wins. Their strengths were their QB play and defense. This is the quietest team we’ve ever seen during an off season. We haven’t heard of any free agent pickups or player departures. Sometimes the quietest teams are the deadliest. If they keep the same team intact, they should be able to notch 3-4 wins. As we’ve mentioned before, almost every team has gotten better. It will be very hard for them to win 5 games again. Although they were very impressive considering they were a first year team, they lacked athleticism and speed. Can they bounce back and build on last year’s success? Unfortunately, we don’t see that happening. We predict the Gators to be 4-6 this season.

MATCHUP

The Browns are playing a Gators team that was very competitive last year. Both teams are similar in regards to their reliance on their QB play. They’re not the fastest teams, but they just know how to play football. We’re not sure which Gators team will show up. If you recall last season, they had major attendance issues. One problem the Browns will never have is attendance. The Browns really don’t have much to prove. Sometimes they will sleep walk through the first half of games, but then they immediately destroy their opponents in the second half. Shu is the better QB. Browns have a better offense. Defensively, the Gators and Browns are probably equal, given the Browns loss of Rob. We just can’t see the Browns losing the first game of the season.

Browns 36 – Gators 18

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