ROCKY MOUNTAIN REIGN
So, last year was the year pegged for Rocky Mountain to get over the hump, win the division, make a high seed, win, get to the OIFLCup Game, maybe bring a title, have roses for the lady fans, and to bless every child in Denver. Instead, the team fell apart, and yet they still made the playoffs as their traditional low seed, albeit at 9-7. Quarterback Dan Schultz, about the tough year, "Hey, nothing went right, and we still made the playoffs. We're hoping it goes better this year." It better; they might be running out of shots.
Schultz, who is quietly sixth all-time with 27,020 passing yards, returns for another campaign in Denver. For awhile it was thought he would relinquish his spot to Jeremiah Cooper, but Schultz won the job again in camp. The Reign are a finesse team to the core, but Jerrod Wise is an extremely strong runner who can also catch...and if needed, throw. He'll throw some; that's what they do. Schultz' receiving corps is solid, with do-it-all OS Quaeavion Greene (he's second in team history with 2,509 passing yards, third with 898 rushing yards, and second with 243 catches, 3,046 yards, and 62 receiving touchdowns), receivers Paris Schroeder and Doc Garrett, Wise (who's first in receiving in team history), and a backup corps that goes five deep (Gerald Clarke, Lloyd Hilton, Leodis Jenkins). Greene scares everyone because he's so versatile, but all four starters, including Wise, have the ability for an 80 catch season. It'll be a wide-open offense again.
There is very little on the Reign line that *scares* teams, but they go six deep with very little drop off between Lynn Byers, Tyler Bell, Columbus Weingardner, Joe Thompson, Denver Johnson, and Rees Daville. They'll rotate in and out and not get tired, but no one's getting 25 sacks or anything like that. Strong running teams (I'm looking at you, Washington) will be able to have success against this defensive line, but it's not like they're bad.
Linebacker has always been a chore in Denver, but Tim Meyers will get the job. He can also play safety, adding to the team's versatility. Will Church is the star DB (and given in his career he has double the interceptions of anyone else in team history, 24 to Doc Garrett's 12; no one else has more than 5...), and Schroeder and the aforementioned Garrett will flank him. Wise is the safety, and really, every offensive backup is plenty solid defensively (Clarke, Hilton, Jenkins). That's a key for this team - while there aren't 10 superstars on this roster, injuries in 2012 won't cripple the team like they did in 2011. Might be the difference between a division title and home game(s) in the playoffs, and 9-7 and a trip to Cedar Rapids. Key difference there.
The schedule wasn't too nice to Rocky Mountain. While there's no Evansville or Tucson on it, the Reign travel to New England, Tampa Bay, D.C., Norfolk, and Fort Dodge (four playoff teams and an 8-8 team), while Venice, London, Long Island, Dallas, and Buffalo (one playoff team, one 8-8 team, Gravy Bowl champs, and two expansion teams) come to Rocky Mountain. With the Reign likely to be favored at home with Washington, Omaha, and North Dakota, 8-0 at home really should be expected with that slate.
If you're 8-0 at home, you have every reason to expect a division title; yes, they lost the division last year, but were 7-1 at home. Get the injury issues out of the way, perhaps an upset or two on the road (though they might be favored for some of those), and the division's in reach. This isn't the last year for contention (though Schultz and perhaps Wise are near the downward slope) for the Reign, but failing to make more real progress towards an OIFLCup this year might be the end of the line for this core.
So this doesn't get updated often. I changed it 2/25/2018, and it said "who wins OIFLCup XI?" Tucson won OIFLCup XI, 58-55 over the Texas Terrors...in 2011...