A week after demolishing the Llamas, the Refugees advance to the AFC championship game to take on the Market Thugs, who led the YFFL this past season with 11 wins. The Thugs are just the 6th team in league history to post back-to-back 10+ win seasons. This is a really intriguing match-up pitting a team on the rise versus a team that is making one last championship run before an inevitable rebuilding phase begins.
Cuban RefugeesThe acquisition of McNabb solidified the QB position for the Refugees
The Refugees had their third winning season of the past four and all have been with a record of 7-6. This Refugees team has really come into their own since the acquisition of Donovan McNabb just before Week 8. Prior to getting McNabb for Slaton, the Refugees were averaging 41 points per game and in the six weeks since they have averaged 47. The trade has really solidified the QB position for the Refugees, who were getting very inconsistent play from incumbent Jason Campbell. Trading away Steve Slaton hasn't proved to hurt the Refugees in any way, shape or form. Slaton has been a bust since being traded and has since landed on the IR. Laurence Maroney has stepped up nicely since being promoted to the starting UT position, scoring 42 points during the last 5 weeks.
It was said in the AFC East preview back in September that the Refugees could get 350 points from their trio of Jones-Drew, Johnson and Slaton; they came close despite Chris Johnson being suspended for Week 1 for breaking an unspecified team rule. Johnson, Jones-Drew and Maroney/Slaton combined for 312 pts in 2009. Oddly enough, the Poop and Refugees were also pegged for 7-6 records (which happened) and I was close on the Orangutangs; the Llamas, not so much. The Refugees head into this match-up very confident that they can advance to the Super Bowl.
Market ThugsMatt Schaub has a good match-up against the Rams, but could he be benched in favor of Kurt Warner against the Lions?
The Market Thugs started the 2009 season off on fire. They won their first 7 games in demoralizing fashion with scores like 38-4, 63-34, and 73-38. Then Week 8 came along and Bobby got caught looking ahead to big games he had coming up with the Bear and the Mallards, dropping one against the one win Organgutangs 43-17. The dream of an undefeated season was over and the Hoochie Llamas were breathing down his neck for the first round bye. During the first 7 weeks of the season the Thugs averaged a ridiculous 52 points a game, but during the last 6 weeks the Thugs only managed 35 points a game yet still managed to win 4 of 6 and get the first round bye.
The Thugs made no significant waiver wire transactions during the season but did make one big trade. After the Mallards made their move to get Owen Daniels, the Thugs responded by acquiring Jason Witten for a first round pick as at the time, both teams seemed on a collision course for the Super Bowl. However, they both now enter the Conference Championship games as underdogs. The biggest question facing the Thugs this week is who to start at QB. Both have terrific match-ups, but start the wrong one and Thugs will not be returning to the Super Bowl. Warner faces Detroit while Schaub gets St. Louis. Schaub is in the lineup for now, but this will likely flip flop a few times before kick off on Sunday.
Here is how both teams are projected to do courtesy of game predictions from the internet:
|Refugees||Opp||Proj. Stats||Proj. Pts|
|McNabb||vs SF||240 yards passing, 3 TDs||18|
|Johnson||vs MIA||125 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving, 2 TDs||18|
|Jones-Drew||vs IND||90 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving, 1 TD||8|
|Nicks||@ WAS||65 yards receiving, 1 TD||8|
|Knox||@ BAL||55 yards receiving, 1 TD||8|
|Heap||vs CHI||35 yards receiving||0|
|Janikoswki||@ DEN||1 FG, 1 PAT||4|
|Maroney||@ BUF||85 yards rushing, 1 TD||8|
|Thugs||Opp||Proj. Stats||Proj. Pts|
|Schaub||@ STL||235 yards passing, 3 TDs||18|
|Grant||@ PIT||70 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving||2|
|Williams||vs MIN||95 yards rushing, 35 yard receiving, 1 TD||8|
|Smith||@ WAS||75 yards receiving, 1 TD||8|
|Bowe||vs CLE||58 yards receiving||2|
|Gonzalez||@ NYJ||80 yards receiving, 1 TD||8|
|Hartley||vs DAL||1 FG, 4 PAT||7|
|Houshmandzadeh||vs TB||45 yards receiving, 1 TD||6|
While I don't think this game is going to be a 72-59 shootout, I do think both teams will get into the 40s. These two teams met in Week 7, which was won by the Thugs 50-43. The Refugees have only won back-to-back games once the entire season and that was Weeks 3 and 4. They finished the regular season with a loss and then won in the playoffs, so if they do what they've done the last 10 weeks, the AFC Championship game is shaping up to be a loss.
The Thugs have been a team of destiny all season long. Teams couldn't keep up with them in the first half of the year and they have played down to their level in the second half. Unless Chris Johnson and Donovan McNabb have monster weeks, I think the Thugs can keep the good times going.
Garrett Hartley, Matt Schaub and Steve Smith will all have big games and the Thugs pull it out 49-42.