I am pleased to be able to say that even now, in Week 9, much of the playoff picture still remains to be determined, and so it seems like a pretty good time to discuss it in a long-winded fashion.
Division 1 – Current Standings
In the National Conference, the D.C. Divas (4-2) took over the top spot last week after handing the Pittsburgh Passion (6-1) their first loss of the season. The big three in the Northeast — D.C., Pittsburgh, and the Boston Renegades (4-2) — are as close as they ever have been, which is really pretty special. D.C. took down Pittsburgh, who had earlier defeated Boston, who had previously beaten D.C.; if you like parity among the toughest teams, there you have it. The Divas are in a strong position to keep the top seed barring unforeseen collapses against Carolina or the New York Sharks. Boston (4-2), who has Baltimore and Philadelphia remaining on its schedule, plays for a chance to leap frog Pittsburgh who has but one game remaining, in Week 10 against a Cleveland Fusion team that ranks lower than Baltimore and Philly.
There is not much action in the American Conference today. The only remaining undefeated D1 team, the Los Angeles Warriors (7-0), are idle. The Portland Fighting Shockwave (4-2) face the Everett Reign in what will probably be an exciting game, but will not impact the playoff status of either team. The Dallas Elite (4-2) is in action against the Houston Power, but really their most crucial game of the regular season will be in Week 10 against the Arlington Impact (6-1). An upset victory by Arlington may knock the defending league champions out of the playoff picture.
Division 2 – Current Standings
The Minnesota Vixen (6-0), the only undefeated D2 team, squares off against the Wisconsin Dragons (4-2) in a preview of the Midwest Region final. That’s right, the playoff picture here is pretty much set. I suppose there is a slim chance that Wisconsin could shockingly maul the Vixen and take the top seed in the Midwest. It seems unlikely, but… that’s why they play the games.
Similarly, the playoff scenario in the Pacific Region seems well set with the Mile High Blaze (5-1) as the top seed, and the Everett Reign (6-1) and San Diego Rebellion (4-2) in the remaining slots. The Tacoma Trauma’s (1-5) chances of a playoff berth may be slim, but they have a shot to perhaps overtake San Diego if they can get a big upset victory over D1 Portland in Week 10. But this Saturday, it is Everett whose Massey Rating will get a boost by facing D1 Portland. And the Reign has a fair shot of winning this rubber match. This game has shaped up to determine who rules the PNW; bragging rights are on the line here! But there will be no repercussions on the playoff scenario of either team. Seeing as San Diego will face low-ranked teams in Weeks 9 and 10, it looks like Everett will hold on to home field advantage for the first round playoff game against the Rebellion.
All the teams of the Southeast Region — the Tampa Bay Inferno (4-2), Jacksonville Dixie Blues (4-2), and Miami Fury (2-4) — get into the playoffs, and now it is just a matter of seeding. The Dixie Blues will face the Inferno today, and then the Fury in Week 10. Additionally, Miami and Tampa face the strong D3 Orlando Anarchy in Weeks 9 and 10 respectively. So seeding in the region could change rapidly and dramatically in the coming weeks. But like I said, they are all in the playoffs no matter what.
In the Northeast Region, the New York Sharks (5-1) and Philadelphia Phantomz (2-4) are firmly embedded into the top two spots, but the third playoff slot is not yet decided. The Detroit Dark Angels (5-2), who are quietly having their strongest season since 2012, will face the competitive Toledo Reign of Division 3 in Week 10. The Columbus Comets (4-2) are in a position to overtake Detroit in the event of an upset by Toledo. The Comets must be mindful to post a strong margin over the Cleveland Fusion to aid their own cause.
Division 3 – Current Standings
The undefeated Arkansas Wildcats sit atop the Midwest Region. With the Madison Blaze ineligible for the playoffs, Arkansas will likely face the Acadiana Zydeco in Round 1, and then the winner of Austin Outlaws/Houston Power. The Wildcats blanked both the Zydeco and Outlaws this season, while Houston fell convincingly to Austin, so it looks like the defending D3 champs have a clear path to the American Conference title match. Today however, Houston gets the Dallas Elite, and Arkansas hosts the Music City Mizfits in a historical first-time matchup.
The Sin City Trojans (4-3) are the strongest team in the Pacific Region, but it is still unclear to me whether they will be ruled as playoff-eligible. They are listed with a forfeit at Los Angeles, but then also scheduled a new match at Los Angeles at a later date. Today they face the Kern County Crusaders (2-3). The Crusaders could get back into the playoff conversation with an upset over Sin City, but as it stands now, they are on the outside looking in. The Utah Blitz (3-3), Colorado Freeze (4-2), Ventura Wolf Pack (3-2) and Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz (3-3) are all closely rated and competing for three remaining playoff spots. The Freeze will certainly secure a playoff berth if they defeat the Thunderkatz today. The Thunderkatz likewise control their own destiny as they face Colorado today and Utah next, but they need to get wins, plural. Utah picks up an unhelpful forfeit victory today, but can probably secure their playoff spot with a victory over Rocky Mountain in Week 10. Ventura will have to sit back and see the results of this week to know what they need out of their matchup with the San Diego Rebellion next week. A Thunderkatz loss today will likely strengthen Ventura’s grip on the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific. Keep in mind though that if the Sin City Trojans are ruled ineligible for the playoffs, Utah, Colorado, Ventura, and Rocky Mountain are the presumptive playoff contenders.
In the Northeast Region, it will be interesting to see what the Richmond Black Widows (4-1) can do against the highly ranked D2 Philadelphia Phantomz today. Likewise for the Toledo Reign (4-2) who face the D2 Detroit Dark Angels. But neither game is likely to shake up the regional standings; Richmond and Toledo have seemingly secured the top two slots. The Connecticut Hawks (6-0), who are tentatively bound for the playoffs, could get a further boost today with a respectable performance against Division 2’s top team the New York Sharks. The other contenders, the Cincinnati Sizzle (4-3) and the Columbus Vanguards (2-4) are idle this week, but face each other next week in a match that will likely determine the region’s two remaining playoff spots.
Finally, the Southeast Region is where things get really interesting! Alabama, Orlando, Derby City, Mississippi, Music City, and South Carolina are all jockeying for playoff positions. Six teams, four slots. It’s gonna get wild!
On the outside, the South Carolina Smash (3-3) will not be helped by today’s game against the Savannah Hurricanez, but they could really shake up the standings if they can challenge the D1 Atlanta Phoenix in Week 10.
The Music City Mizfits (3-2) will have their chances to move up into playoff position, when they face the powerful Arkansas Wildcats today, and Derby City in Week 10. They need to play well today. Week 10 is already a must-win for them.
The Derby City Dynamite (5-1) are having one of their best seasons ever, and they have an opportunity solidify their playoff position against the visiting Atlanta Phoenix today. Regardless of the outcome today, a loss to Music City in Week 10 could be devastating, so they need to finish strong.
The Orlando Anarchy (6-0) will face only out-of-division opponents for the remaining two games, so they don’t risk taking a direct hit from a regional foe, meaning they aren’t in any real threat of missing the playoffs given their current #2 position. The only question is whether they will move into the top seed and secure home field advantage? The potential is there, as they will likely win out. It depends on whether top-seeded Alabama falters down the stretch.
A loss for the Alabama Fire (3-3) today against the Mississippi Royalty (3-1) will undoubtedly drop them out of the top seed, not to mention possibly shake up the entire pecking order of the region. Meanwhile, this is Mississippi’s last opportunity to impress this season, and they need to do something impressive to avoid being overtaken by Music City or South Carolina.
Here are my picks for all the games happening today:
DC DIVAS (D1) @ Carolina Phoenix (D3)
Baltimore Nighthawks (D2) @ BOSTON RENEGADES (D1)
MAINE MAYHEM (D3) @ NY Knockout (D3)
Connecticut Hawks (D3) @ NEW YORK SHARKS (D2)
Richmond Black Widows (D3) @ PHILLY PHANTOMZ (D2)
Keystone Assault (D3) @ NEW ENGLAND NIGHTMARE (D3)
COLUMBUS COMETS (D2) @ Cleveland Fusion (D2)
Flint City Riveters (D3) @ GRAND RAPIDS TIDAL WAVES (D3)
ATLANTA PHOENIX (D1) @ Derby City Dynamite (D2)
Music City Mizfits (D3) @ ARKANSAS WILDCATS (D3)
KNOXVILLE LIGHTNING (D3) @ Huntsville Tigers (D3)
ALABAMA FIRE (D3) @ Mississippi Royalty (D3)
Savannah Hurricanez (D3) @ SOUTH CAROLINA SMASH (D3)
Jacksonville Dixie Blues (D2) @ TAMPA BAY INFERNO (D2)
Miami Fury (D2) @ ORLANDO ANARCHY (D3)
KANSAS CITY TITANS (D1) @ Mile High Blaze (D2)
Wisconsin Dragons (D2) @ MINNESOTA VIXEN (D2)
DALLAS ELITE (D1) @ Houston Power (D3)
Everett Reign (D2) @ PORTLAND FIGHTING SHOCKWAVE (D1)
COLORADO FREEZE (D3) @ Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz (D3)
SAN DIEGO REBELLION (D2) @ Inland Empire Ravens (D3)
Kern County Crusaders (D3) @ SIN CITY TROJANS (D3)
Utah Blitz, La Muerte de Las Cruces, and L.A. Warriors all pick up a forfeit victory today.