The Maine Mammoths of the National Arena League (NAL) had one of the worst starts in the league, starting 1-7, but also had one of the best endings to the season, finishing 6-1 in their final seven games.
What would have happened to the Mammoths and the entire league in the playoffs if they would have won just one more game to clinch a playoff berth?
Why the Maine Mammoths Would’ve Won the NAL Championship
To begin, we must start with addressing some things that happened in the off-season before the 2018 season.
The Mammoths were announced as an expansion team for 2018 in December of 2017. This gave Maine limited time to find players that were still available for the upcoming spring.
They found their players, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows at first. Their 1-7 start to the season ultimately came back and haunted them towards the end of the year, knocking them out of the playoffs about three quarters of the way through the season.
Whenever they turned it around, the entire league knew about it. They defeated the winless Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, lost to the Jacksonville Sharks, then crushed the red-hot Carolina Cobras with a 55-29 score.
After that, they continued to dominate every single week and defeated the Columbus Lions twice, the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, and Jacksonville Sharks once each.
The First Eight Games
In the first eight games of the season, the Mammoths were getting manhandled every week except against the winless Steelhawks, who eventually finished with a winless record.
Their average margin of defeat was 13.57 points, which meant every single loss they suffered in the first half of the season was by over one possession.
In those eight games, the Mammoths averaged just over 161 yards passing, 20 yards rushing, 182 total yards, and just over 35 points per game.
The offense turned the ball over at least once in each of their first eight games.
On defense, they allowed an average of 177 passing yards, 36 rushing yards, 214 total yards, and 47 points per game.
The defense also averaged just under two turnovers per game. In other words, they allowed 16 more passing yards, 16 more rushing yards, 32 more total yards, and 12 more points to opposing teams in the first eight weeks.
The Last Seven Games
That’s when a switch flipped.
The final seven games of the season for the Mammoths were very interesting as they beat every single team except for the Massachusetts Pirates. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they didn’t face the Pirates.
In the final seven games, the Mammoths kicked it into the high-gears and averaged 200 passing yards, 11 rushing yards, 211 total yards, and 45 points. They averaged just over one turnover on offense per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mammoths allowed an average of 177 passing yards, 31 rushing yards, 208 total yards, and 34 points.
The Mammoths defense forced over three turnovers per game, which puts them at an average of a +2 turnover margin per game, which is incredible and helped them win games. The most interesting thing about this is the fact that the Mammoths actually didn’t run the ball as much, thus not getting as many rushing yards.
Now we play the “What if” game.
What if the Mammoths would have won just one more game? The closest game that the Mammoths lost was in overtime against the Massachusetts Pirates in Week Five when the Mammoths fell short by one point with a 43-44 score.
A gutsy call from the Pirates handed the Mammoths a loss with a successful two-point conversion in overtime.
If the Mammoths would have stopped the Pirates on that two-point conversion, the Mammoths would have won, then tying the Lions with an 8-7 record. Though, Maine would ultimately have the tie breaker over the Lions with a 2-1 record against Columbus.
A Playoff Scenario
With all of that said, the Mammoths would be hosted by the Pirates in the first round of the playoffs instead of the Lions. Based off of the numbers that the Mammoths had in the last seven weeks, they would put up a fairly decent fight against the Pirates.
In the last seven games for the Pirates in the regular season, they put up an average of 203 passing yards, 12 rushing yards, 215 total yards, 48 points, and turned the ball over just over two times per game.
On defense, the Pirates allowed 160 passing yards, 20 rushing yards, 181 total yards, 36 points, and forced just over one turnover per game. While the Pirates allow a lot less of everything than the Mammoths may have made, it would still make for a really close game. Turnovers win games, and with these stats, the Mammoths would take over the Pirates with turnovers in the playoffs, especially as the Pirates played with a backup quarterback all game.
For the Pirates lone playoff game, they put up 221 passing yards, six rushing yards, 227 total yards, 36 points, and turned the ball over one time. Their defensive unit allowed 230 passing yards, 20 rushing yards, 250 total yards, 50 points, and forced no turnovers.
The Championship Game
If the Mammoths were to defeat the already beat-up Pirates squad, they would have to go up against a pretty tough Cobras squad in the NAL Championship Game.
In their final seven games of the regular season, the Cobras averaged 226 passing yards, 17 rushing yards, 244 total yards, 60 points, and turned the ball just over two times per game.
For the defense, the Cobras allowed an average of 191 passing yards, 23 rushing yards, 215 total yards, 39 points, and forced just over two turnovers per game.
The stats for the final regular season games for the Cobras compared to the Mammoths final seven games would make for a really interesting game. If the playoffs numbers would show up for the Cobras, then Carolina would likely be the ones to win the championship.
In the playoffs, the Cobras put up 230 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, 255 total yards, 69 points, and averaged just under one turnover per game. On defense, the Cobras allowed 173 passing yards, 24 rushing yards, 198 total yards, 28 points per game, and averaged three turnovers per game.
The Cobras turned the ball over twice in all of their remaining seven games except for the final game of the season. If that was the case in this made-up Cobras-Mammoths championship game, the Mammoths would have an advantage, especially since they cleaned up their act on offense with turnovers.
Keep in mind that the Mammoths have played better in the second matchup against every team they have faced in their final seven games. They didn’t go into overtime against the Lions the second game in the second half of the season, they defeated the Steelhawks and allowed less points, and manhandled the Sharks in their second meeting in the second half of the season. With that said, the Mammoths and Cobras rematch would have made for a really close championship game, possibly being the game of the year.