It is the final week of the season (aside from some makeup games next week) and many playoff spots have to be determined, especially in the D3 bracket. All four regions in D3 have playoff spots waiting to be claimed. The Toledo Reign, Orlando Anarchy, and Arkansas Wildcats seem to have solidified their positions as top seeds. These are the teams still looking to secure a berth: Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz, Southern Oregon Lady Gades, Inland Empire Ravens, Austin Outlaws, Houston Power, Cincinnati Sizzle, Music City Mizfits, Maine Mayhem, Richmond Black Widows, and the Flint City Riveters.
That so many teams are still in it is pretty awesome, and also speaks to one of the benefits of using a rating system to determine playoff qualifications — practically every week of play is meaningful. A playoff qualification system like that in the NFL typically results in most playoff spots being claimed well before the completion of the regular season schedule, which to me is not as exciting.
In D2, the Everett Reign and Tacoma Trauma are still battling to determine who will enter the Pacific Region bracket, while Columbus Comets and the New York Sharks vie for the last spot in the Northeast Region.
In D1, the Kansas City Titans still has the slimmest chance of overtaking the Arlington Impact. And though it seems to be a touchy subject, let me say that the Portland Fighting Shockwave are still not mathematically eliminated from claiming the slot currently held by the San Diego Surge. While neither of those teams play this week, their ratings can still change.
Commentary and picks by Backseat Coach. Photograph © Machelle Fowler.
Last week’s record: 12-3 (80%)
Record in 2017: 167-32 (84%)
Philadelphia Phantomz @ Boston Renegades — Boston (6-0) is locked in to the D1 playoffs and are likely the top seed, barring a stunning upset by the Phantomz. Philadelphia (4-3) is likely to be the second seed in the D2 Northeast Region regardless of the outcome of this game. Though the Renegades soundly defeated the Phantomz in Week 2, this game should prove to be a solid tuneup for both teams heading into the playoffs.
New York Sharks @ Montreal Blitz — The New York Sharks (4-3) will need to atone for a miserable 32-8 defeat against Montreal earlier this season if they want to maintain their hold on a playoff spot in the D2 Northeast Region. If the Sharks fail to be competitive, they risk being overtaken by the Columbus Comets with whom they have been running neck-and-neck. Montreal (5-1) on the other hand would probably like nothing more than to bury they rivals after a 15-year history of losing to New York, until this year. The Blitz are likely to enter the playoffs as the top seed in the D2 Northeast Region.
D.C. Divas @ Atlanta Phoenix — Both of these teams are cemented into the D1 playoffs regardless of the outcome of this game. D.C. (4-3) has always taken care of business against Atlanta (6-1), much to the Phoenix’s frustration.
Baltimore Nighthawks @ Keystone Assault — Not much doing in this game. Keystone fell out of contention for a playoff spot when they lost to Maine last week 38-6. Baltimore is too far out of contention, but they have had a solid season by beating all the teams they were expected to beat. And they will defeat Keystone as expected.
New England Nightmare @ Maine Mayhem — Maine (5-1) strengthened their playoff position with a solid victory over the Keystone Assault last week. There is still an outside chance, however unlikely, that the Flint City Riveters could catapult themselves over the Mayhem with a stunning upset victory over Toledo. To preserve their playoff standing, the Mayhem cannot lift their foot off the pedal against New England (3-3).
Connecticut Hawks @ NY Knockout — Both of these teams are out of D3 playoff contention. The Knockout (0-6) are simply seeking their first victory of the season. Connecticut (1-5) are looking for the second. They defeated the Knockout once already this season.
Richmond Black Widows @ Hampton Roads Lady Gators — Presently, Richmond (3-3) is on the outside looking in at the D3 playoff scene. But they still have a fair chance to make the D3 Northeast Region bracket. They hold a clear strength-of-schedule advantage over Maine, who currently grasps the only remaining playoff spot. If Richmond takes care of business against the Lady Gators, and the South Carolina Smash next week, it could be enough to overtake Maine. Hampton Roads (2-5) have been out of contention since a 33-0 shutout at the hands of the Keystone Assault, but they could still end Richmond’s chances with a victory. When they met in Week 3, the Black Widows prevailed by only eight points.
Pittsburgh Passion @ Columbus Comets — It comes down to this for the Columbus Comets (4-3). They have been running neck-and-neck with the New York Sharks for the last playoff spot in the D2 Northeast Region bracket. With the Sharks this week facing the powerful Montreal Blitz, Columbus needs a strong performance against the even stronger Pittsburgh Passion (5-2) to give themselves the best chance for a playoff berth. Pittsburgh are not likely to acquiesce.
Toledo Reign @ Flint City Riveters — I reckon there is still an outside chance here for the Riveters to make the D3 playoffs. The gap between Flint (3-4) and a playoff berth is pretty wide, but the current occupant Maine is unlikely to strengthen its grasp with their match against the weak NightMare. The Riveters could jump the necessary number of spots with a stunning upset victory over Toledo (4-3) who are currently the top seed in the D3 Northeast Region. Who in March would have thought that Toledo vs. Flint at the end of the season would be a pivotal game. I love it!
Detroit Dark Angels @ Indy Crash — Detroit (3-4) is too far out of the D2 playoff picture to make up ground, as is Indy (1-6). So this one really is more about finishing out the season on a positive note with a good, fun game.
West Michigan Mayhem @ Cleveland Fusion — West Michigan (2-5) is also too far out of the D2 playoff picture to make up ground. Cleveland (4-3) is locked in to a D1 playoff berth. Not much intrigue to this game, which Cleveland should win.
Derby City Dynamite @ Music City Mizfits — The Music City Mizfits (3-3) still have a slim chance to overtake the Cincinnati Sizzle and slide into the D3 Southeast Region playoffs. Obviously, they need this win badly, and perhaps a little bit of luck from the number soup that is the Massey Ratings. The Mizfits wouldn’t still be in it at all if it weren’t for the Derby City Dynamite (2-5) who knocked Cincinnati down a couple of pegs with a 16-14 triumph over the Sizzle just a couple of weeks ago.
Prediction: Music City
South Carolina Smash @ Carolina Phoenix — This game has been forfeited by the Smash. It is curious that South Carolina (2-3) should skip this matchup, since their only hope for a playoff berth is pinned to this game. Without the strength-of-schedule boost the Carolina Phoenix (5-2) would provide, its pretty much over for the Smash. They still have a makeup game scheduled with the Black Widows next week, but by then it won’t make a difference.
Cincinnati Sizzle @ Huntsville Tigers — This game has been forfeited by the Tigers. It is difficult to say whether this helps or hurts Cincinnati (4-3) in their bid for a D3 Southeast Region playoff berth. The Music City Mizfits still have a slim chance to catch up to the Sizzle.
Orlando Anarchy @ Tampa Bay Inferno — Orlando (6-1) took their first loss on the field last week against the Miami Fury and they will take their second loss this week against Tampa Bay (7-0). The Inferno are cemented into playoff position in the D2 Southeast Region. The Anarchy are far and away the best team in D3’s Southeast Region and do not risk their playoff position in this game. This past week, Anarchy player Jahqui Sevilla lost her life in an automobile collision. Our deepest condolences go to her family and loved ones, including the Orlando Anarchy.
Prediction: Tampa Bay
North Florida Pumas @ Central Florida Shine — This game has been forfeited by the Shine. The Pumas collect their first win of the season to go 1-7 in their inaugural season.
Daytona Waverunners @ Jacksonville Dixie Blues — This game has been forfeited by the Waverunners. Daytona finishes 0-5 while the forfeit gives the Dixie Blues (1-7) their only win of 2017.
Minnesota Machine @ Minnesota Vixen — This game has been forfeited by the Machine. I am quite shocked, since the Machine (1-7) are still in contention for a playoff spot in the D3 Midwest Region. The forfeit should eliminate them. Meanwhile the Vixen (6-2) are expected to host a Round 1 playoff game in the D1 Midwest Region.
St. Louis Slam @ Chicago Force — This is a good exercise for St. Louis (7-0) to play a top team in D1 that presents strong challenges, particularly defending the explosive scorers that Chicago has, and also running their offense against a powerful defense. Chicago (6-1) also benefits by playing against a team with top 10 defensive and offensive units; the Slam are easily Chicago’s third strongest opponent this season after Boston and D.C.. I expect that by halftime, the Force will be in control. With both teams heading into the playoffs, mitigating injuries will be a priority.
Madison Blaze @ Kansas City Titans — This is an historical first contest ever between these two teams. I expect the Kansas City (3-4) to improve to .500 with a win. It is difficult to guess whether a victory could propel the Titans ahead of the Arlington Impact for a slot in the D1 Midwest Region bracket, but I believe it is possible. Madison (4-3) will finish no lower than .500 and will advance to the D2 Midwest Region playoffs.
Prediction: Kansas City
Austin Outlaws @ Houston Power — Just to add still more intrigue to this long-time rivalry, this is essentially a winner-take-all game. Austin (3-4) can secure a D3 playoff berth by defeating Houston, while the Power (2-5) looks to steal the spot from Austin with a victory. The teams sit next to each other in the National Rankings, and their Massey Ratings stand only 2/100ths apart. Their Week 4 meeting was decided by only a single point. In other words, IT DOESN’T GET ANY CLOSER THAN THIS! I think there are two possible endings to this game: a narrow Houston victory of one or two points, or an Austin victory by 7+ points. The Outlaws’s offense has been rolling as of late, but I am going with the stronger defense.
Arlington Impact @ Dallas Elite — If Arlington (6-2) cannot muster a respectable margin against Dallas (5-0), I fear they may lose grasp of a playoff spot to Kansas City, if they can post a victory against the Madison Blaze as I expect. The Elite are the top seed in the D1 Midwest Region.
Arkansas Wildcats @ Acadiana Zydeco — Any outcome but an extreme loss to the winless Zydeco (0-7) will have Arkansas (5-2) as the top seed in the D3 Midwest Region.
S. Oregon Lady Renegades @ Everett Reign —The scenario in D3 Pacific Region is that there are three teams (Rocky Mountain, Southern Oregon, and Inland Empire) battling for two playoff spots. At present, the Lady Gades (1-6) grasp the #2 spot. While a victory over Everett may cement them into the playoff bracket, a loss to Everett may knock them out, especially if the Inland Empire Ravens can be competitive against the Sin City Trojans this week (and their previous game was decided by only two scores).
Anywho, the Lady Gades (1-6) have shown a bit more life on offense in the second half of the season, scoring 58 points in their last three games. So they may have a shot at upsetting Everett (2-5). But the Reign trounced Southern Oregon 35-0 in Week 3, and that was in Medford, Ore. I’ll take Everett at home. If that happens, I predict Southern Oregon will get knocked out of the playoffs.
In D2 Pacific Region, Everett is fighting to hang on to a playoff spot, with the Tacoma Trauma still in contention. The Reign certainly cannot afford to take a loss this week. But their fate may not even be in their hands. Should the Trauma somehow defeat the Seattle Majestics, Everett’s season would likely come to an end. But i don’t think that’s gonna happen.
Utah Wildkats @ Utah Blitz — Absolutely no reason to think the Blitz (3-4) won’t win this one hosting the Wildkats (0-2).
Prediction: Utah Blitz
La Muerte de Las Cruces @ Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz — The scenario in D3 Pacific Region is that there are three teams (Rocky Mountain, Southern Oregon, and Inland Empire) battling for two playoff spots. At present, the Thunderkatz (4-3) sit on top of the heap, but a loss to Las Cruces could knock them down or out completely. The Lady Gades play Everett, and Inland Empire plays Sin City. Basically, anything can happen. In the end, I think Rocky Mountain makes it to the playoffs.
La Muerte de Las Cruces (2-2) will wrap up a successful inaugural season, and look to contend for a playoff spot in 2018.
Prediction: Rocky Mountain
Central Cal War Angels @ Los Angeles Warriors — With both teams all but securing playoff berths in the D1 Pacific Region, the impact of the game on the Massey Ratings becomes perhaps more interesting that the outcome of the game itself. With so many tight races in the Pacific Region, who knows how an upset by Los Angeles (5-2) or a blowout by Central Cal (6-0) might affect the ratings of other playoff contenders.
Prediction: Central Cal
Sin City Trojans @ Inland Empire Ravens — It is unlikely at this point that Sin City (3-4) would fail to make the D2 playoffs, except in a case of a blowout loss to the Ravens. But that is not likely; I expect another competitive game like Week 7 in which Sin City prevailed 13-0. The relatively high ranking of the Trojans is likely to help Inland Empire (4-3) ascend into the D3 playoffs, especially if paired with a Southern Oregon Lady Gades loss to Everett.
Prediction: Sin City
Ventura County Wolfpack @ Kern County Crusaders — I just realized that Kern County and Ventura County actually border each other, making this is The Clash of the Counties. So, which county is better? The Wolfpack (0-6) look to finish 2017 with their first win, while the Crusaders (1-6) look to double their win total with a repeat victory over Ventura.
Prediction: Kern County
Seattle Majestics @ Tacoma Trauma — Tacoma (2-5) still has an outside shot at a D2 playoff berth if they can take Seattle (6-1). That is unlikely, but never say never. Seattle is likely to finish 2017 at 7-1 without a playoff berth in the highly competitive D1 bracket.
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