As Nathan outlined last week in his AUDL Power Rankings, I’ve got a few things that came to mind while thinking about the rankings.
A1. Point Differential Really Matters: As Nathan says, it makes a difference how you beat a team. Unlike the tournament and rankings algorithm format we’re all used to, point differential is a much bigger deal. While right now, as I’ve been noting in Seven On, the point differential is very close between all the teams, we should start seeing a more widespread numbers.
A2. Context Matters: Home game or away game, second game of the weekend or first, with the new format the context of the game matters. This would also include the strength of their opponent, and later in the year the timing of the games will matter as it gets closer to playoff (and subsequently crunch) time.
A3. So… Think of this as NFL Power Rankings: When reading through ESPN’s power rankings during the typical NFL season, you’ll sometimes see a team with a 2-5 record above a team with a team with a slightly better record – such as 4-3. Why would they be there? A stronger schedule, closer loses, context of the games, etc. – so pretty much the other two points I outlined above. If you think of what follows as NFL rankings before considering the fact that they’re really considering the MLU teams, you’ll be fine.
B. It’s Early: The season has only just started, most teams have only played 2 games so far this season, so our sample size isn’t that big. Rankings like this aren’t an exact science to begin with, but with so few games it becomes even less so. There are some areas that teams can be distinguished by (roster, point/diff, etc.) for now, but as the season goes on we’ll be able to look more clearly at what distinguishes the top teams from the bottom.
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1. Seattle Rainmakers
They started off the season with a close win over the Nighthawks, and followed it up in the second week with a big 6 point victory over the Stags. That leaves them at a staggering +8 on goal differential, good for best in the league. What really puts them at the top of this list is their strong team defense. If you’ve been watching any of the games via stream or at a later date on YouTube, you’ll see strong play from the likes of Phil Murray, Matty Zemel, and Adam Holt. The Rainmakers’ spot will be contested outright this weekend when they travel down to play the #2 Dogfish this week, and then get the #4 Nighthawks at home next weekend.
2. San Francisco Dogfish
If I had told you before the season started that a team which features numerous players from the team that just won Worlds in Japan last summer would be doing pretty well, you’d probably believe me. That’s where we find ourselves now, as players like Beau Kittredge and Ashlin Joye were making plays on both the D and O lines, especially in the big last minute victory over the Nighthawks. While this weekend they face the #1 Rainmakers next weekend, they’ll also face the #8 Stags before the next rankings.
3. Boston Whitecaps
Two wins to cap off the start of the season, and the Whitecaps find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. Being one of the strongest teams in the area is nothing new for the majority of the roster, with Ironside players making up the core of the roster – players such as Brandon Malecek, Jeff Graham, Seth Reinhardt and Jack Hatchett have been very noticeable in the highlights and game film that the league has put out so far. They’ll get a rematch of their week one victory with a trip down to NYC this weekend for the #7 Rumble, and then face the #6 Current at home the weekend after.
4. Vancouver Nighthawks
Yes the Nighthawks are only at 1-2 on the season, but you must look at who they lost to (and by how much) in order to properly judge this team. Losing to the #1 Rainmakers by 2, and the #2 Dogfish by 1 won’t hurt a team too much in the rankings. They were obviously very close games that could’ve gone in the Nighthawks favor. And lastly, considering the Vancouver roster is loaded with Furious George talent – such as Morgan Hibbert, Kevin Underhill, and Oscar Pottinger among others – we have strong reason to believe they won’t sit at 1 win for very long. Coming up next for the Nighthawks is a game against the #8 Stags at home, and #1 Rainmakers down across the border.
5. Philadelphia Spinners
This is the moment the preamble of sorts warned about. The Spinners are sitting at 2-0, and a +4 goal differential – with almost identical stats to the #3 ranked and fellow conference rival Boston Whitecaps. The games have been close, but what truly sets them below the Nighthawks is the Spinners roster. Even with wins so far, it’s unclear if they can keep that up – especially with Boston in the conference. And regardless, it’s a shame that their next two games are home against the #6 Current and #7 Rumble instead of the #3 Whitecaps, because there will not be that chance to move up the standings.
6. DC Current
Heavy on Truck Stop players, the Current have lost two very close games. Losing by two to the Spinners and by one to the Whitecaps, the Current get a chance for their first win this weekend when they take on the #6 Spinners. Adjusting to the game play, and also having a chance against the #7 Rumble coming up, it won’t be long until the Current get their first win on the season. We saw the big plays that Rob Dulabon made in the AUDL last season, and what others like Sean Keegan and Markham Shofner were able to do in the club season – it won’t be long before that clicks on this level.
7. New York Rumble
Starting off the season with a 3 point loss to the Whitecaps isn’t how the Rumble would’ve liked to start their season. Following it up with a close two point loss to the Spinners isn’t ideal as well. But like the Current, their roster is strong on players with experience, and they aren’t expected to stay winless for long. They’ll get chances to notch their first win in a rematch with the #3 Whitecaps at home this weekend, and take a trip down to DC for the #6 Current in the following weekend.
8. Portland Stags
Unfortunately, when you lose by 6 one night, then by 4 the next night over one weekend – to sit at a -13 in point differential overall – you will be ranked last in the league. Although their three losses have been to teams who are considered top four in the league, it isn’t clear if the Portland roster will be able to notch more than a win or two going through the rest of the season. The roster is missing some Rhino name-stays, and in such a strong conference that could be the difference maker on their inaugural season.