[spreadsheet 0Av_-QjPG4MD8dE9nMXhsU2V4QURmdEVIdkRmQ1FQTWc 580 250]
1. Toronto Rush
The Toronto Rush continued their dominance this week at their home opener, beating the New Jersey Hammerheads 31-18 in front of a record setting crowd. It was the type of dominance we’ve come to expect from the rush, even though they were without their Team Canada players, who were at a training camp preparing for the summer. The Rush are 5-0, with 11 games remaining in their season. It might be a little early to start talking about them running the table……but I can’t help it.
They don’t have back to back games until the last weekend of the season. Until that final weekend, the only road games they play are in Rochester. Quite simply, the hardest part of the Rush’s regular season is over. The Empire or Phoenix might be capable of stealing a game from them, but the Rush will undoubtedly be at the top of the Eastern Conference at the end of the season.
The Radicals might not have the kind of point differential you’d want from a #2 team, but take a look at the quality of their wins. They beat the Windy City Wildfire and Minnesota Wind Chill on the road. Plus a home win against Minnesota, and their only loss was by one point, Madison is the real deal. Considering there are Wisconsin Hodags on the Radicals roster that have yet to play, the Radicals might only get better from here. If they can defend their home turf against the Wildfire on Sunday, they’ll have solidified themselves as the best team in the Midwestern Conference.
The Wildfire have a much better goal differential than Madison, but they’ve also gotten to play Cincinnati and Indianapolis twice each. They have their toughest weekend of the season coming up, playing on the road against Minnesota and Madison. If they can go 2-0, they’ll be the top dogs in the Midwest again. But Minnesota will be very hungry for a win after their 1-4 start, and as the Wildfire players know, Madison is no easy out.
The Empire had a dominant win over the DC Breeze on Saturday, and head out on the road for the first time this weekend. They’re playing in Rochester Saturday and Toronto Sunday. In their game against Toronto in Week 3, the Empire looked like a college team playing a club team. New York was relying on a few admittedly talented stars to make plays for them, rather than their offense.
Though New York certainly has talent, that type of approach won’t work against a team like the Rush. The Rush are too familiar with one another, too tall, and just as athletic as New York. The Empire are hoping more playing time together helps solve these problems, but I doubt it’s going to happen this weekend for them. Most likely they get a split, and we’ll be looking forward to their May 18 game against New Jersey.
The Phoenix gave the Rush a better game than anyone else this season, losing only by one at home. Since then they’ve taken care of the Rochester Dragons and DC Breeze in Philadelphia. If the Phoenix can win at home against New Jersey, we’ll know for sure that they’re a top three team in the East. Right now they’re right behind New York. But in a strange scheduling quirk, they won’t play the Empire until June 9.
The Mechanix came very close to a perfect weekend. They beat the Wind Chill by six, and even against a team on a back to back that is an impressive victory. But they dropped a game at home to Cincinnati by just one point the next day. The final third playoff spot in the Midwest is going to be a battle, and the Mechanix can’t afford to drop any more home games to inferior competition. If nine wins (I seriously doubt it takes more than nine, though it might only take eight) is the magic number in the Midwest for that final playoff spot, Detroit has to finish 6-5. Certainly doable, but tougher when you look at their schedule. Along with two away games in Indianapolis and one in Minnesota, the Mechanix have four games against the Wildfire, two against Madison, and two against Cincinnati, with those three equal on the home/away splits. Finding six wins isn’t easy there. But with the parity in the Midwestern Conference, it’s not going to be easy for anyone.
The Wind Chill came up empty on their weekend road trip, and with a 1-4 their playoff hopes are definitely in trouble.
But, I think their point differential is a better indicator of the talent on this team than the win column. Unfortunately, the Wind Chill have some even tougher games coming up. Over the next three weeks they host the Wildfire and Mechanix, and visit the Radicals again. If they come out of that stretch 2-1 I’ll like their chances a lot more than I do now. But I don’t see them beating the Wildfire on Saturday or winning in Madison. That means they could end up at 2-6. The back end of their schedule is easier, so they’ll make a late run, the question is whether it will be enough. Minnesota has to hope for a Detroit slump and that eight wins will be enough to make the playoffs, because I don’t think the math is there for them to get to nine wins after this disappointing start.
The AlleyCats haven’t had a great couple weeks, but that’s what happens when you have to play the Wildfire two weeks in a row. Still, I expected them to put up more of a fight in front of their home crowd, instead they lost by 10. The AlleyCats kept it close in Week 3 through halftime, trailing only 10-12. Then the weather turned for the worse and just completing a few passes in a row became an accomplishment for them. They lost the second half 5-13. It was a similar story in Week 4. And when you factor in Cameron Brock’s absence for at least a month, I don’t see this team competing for the playoffs. They’ve got a bye this week, and three games against the Revolution over the following two weeks. If they can sweep the Revolution they’ll have put themselves back in that discussion, but I don’t think anything less would do it.
I don’t think the Revolution are nearly as good as their 2-3 record might have you believe. Yes, they have beat both Minnesota and Detroit. But both those games were one point victories, with the other team having played the day before. If they can take care of the Mechanix at home this weekend and win their 3 game series against the AlleyCats, they’ll have proved me wrong. Chris Powers, Isaac Jefferies, and Ryan Sitler have looked good for the Revolution so far, but I don’t think this team is as deep as the rest of the Midwestern Conference.
It will be interesting to see which tier of the Eastern Conference the Hammerheads end up in. So far this season they’ve only played Rochester and Toronto. And after dropping a game in Rochester, it’s no guarantee that the Hammerheads will be competing for a playoff spot. Albert Alarcon looked good in their game against the Rush on Saturday, making most of the big throws for the Hammerheads while also taking on the toughest defensive matchups. But this team got too huck happy in that game, and followed it up with an unimpressive performance in Rochester. This weekend will help us figure out whether the Hammerheads are playoff contenders or not. On Saturday they play in Philadelphia. A win would mean they’re in that discussion. A loss wouldn’t be a death knell, as long as it’s a close loss. The next day they play the Breeze in DC. We’ll see if the Breeze can take advantage of a team on the second end of a back to back like they did in their one win against Rochester. So an undefeated weekend would mean playoff contender, 1-1 would mean we can’t yet say for certain, and 0-2 would mean they’ll be fighting for fourth place.
The Dragons may have lost to the Breeze, but it was in DC in double overtime after playing the day before. And just like the Breeze took advantage of an opponent on the second end of a back to back, the Dragons did the same with New Jersey, a team they’d lost to by 16 just two weeks earlier. The Dragons are no doubt happy to be playing their next two games at home, but they’re probably not happy with who they’re playing, with the Empire on deck and the Rush up after them. And after that they’ve got another two game weekend on tap. Quite frankly, I don’t see the Dragons making a playoff push over the next few weeks. But if they can steal the occasional game in Rochester and win their season series with the Breeze, they’ll end up better than the 3-13 record they posted last season in the AUDL as the Buffalo Hunters. Small victories.
12. DC Breeze
The Breeze have the worst point differential in the league. Their one win came at home in double overtime against a shorthanded Dragons squad that played the day before.That said, they displayed some signs of life in their game against Philadelphia, only losing by five, when the second day of a back to back rule suggested they might get blown out. And they have a favorable stretch coming up, three home games in three weeks against New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Rochester. If they’re ever going to make a run, the time is now. At the end of the day though, they haven’t shown enough to lead me to believe they can actually take advantage of the next three weeks.