July 15, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
19. Detroit Mechanix
At 23, Joe Cubitt is already one of the highest usage players at the professional level, ranking third and fifth in the league in completions per game (53.7) and points played per game (26.2), respectively. Cubitt has amassed close to 3,000 yards of total offense already, and the Mechanix still have half their schedule yet to play in 2021. But what’s really impressive about Cubitt’s game these days is its consistency: He’s thrown for at least two assists, 40 completions, and 200-plus yards in every game for Detroit this season.
18. Tampa Bay Cannons
The return of Andrew Roney certainly gave the Cannons offense a jolt, as he and Bobby Ley accounted for over 1,100 yards of total offense last Saturday. But the team’s turnover struggles persisted as Tampa Bay lost 31-19 in Raleigh while committing 27 errors; the loss extends the Cannons’ current skid to five games. Tampa Bay plays one of the faster styles of offense in the league, completing just 229 throws per game in 2021, and are throwing themselves out of games on their own.
17. Indianapolis AlleyCats
The AlleyCats are suffering their own losing streak as well, dropping their past four games, including three in a row at home. Indy is giving up nearly 26 goals per game during that stretch, and they rank in the bottom five in the league in takeaways per game for the season. For all the positives Travis Carpenter and Levi Jacobs are reaping offensively by playing their home games indoors, the ‘Cats seem to be experiencing the equal and opposite defensively, as they cannot generate stops.
16. Seattle Cascades
Tomorrow night in Seattle feels like a ripe opportunity for the Cascades to pull off the upset against the beleaguered Roughnecks, and tilt this 2021 West Division into full pandemonium. What this ‘Scades team lacks in consistency—just eight Seattle players have played in each of their six games this season—they make up for in gutsy throws and defensive intensity. Seattle is not-so-quietly putting together one of the better team defensive efforts in 2021. They are tied for seventh in takeaways (10.5 per game), and are fourth in defensive efficiency despite giving up 21-plus goals per game because of the fast-paced play of the Cascades offense.
15. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
The Thunderbirds still have the majority of their schedule to play yet, but at 1-4 and with a few blowout losses, their season teeters on the brink of oblivion. In Week 7 the ‘Birds will host a Raleigh team that is on a four-game winning streak, and the outcome of that will determine Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes in 2021. It wasn’t until the second half of the 2019 that Max Sheppard went on his MVP-level tear. And in his past three games, Sheppard has five assists, 13 goals, and just two total turnovers; Sheppard could be turning up.
14. Los Angeles Aviators
The Aviators host the Sol in a rematch of their Week 3 affair that went to overtime. Sam Cook-to-Sean McDougall deep was a winning formula for LA in that matchup, but it will be interesting to see if the Aviators will return to their huck happy ways following their bye. LA looked competitive in all of their first five games as scrappy underdogs, but the 1-4 record, the turnovers, and the results are hard to swallow. The division is so chaotic, too, that LA still has yet to play Seattle or San Jose, two rivals they are familiar with and play well against.
13. San Jose Spiders
The real one-two chaos blow to the West Division would be a Friday night Seattle win over Dallas, followed by San Jose dispatching a reeling Roughnecks squad the following night. That would flip the Spiders’ 2021 season on its head, and put San Jose on the inside track for the second and final playoff spot in the West. And San Jose is starting to look like one of those rosters—similar to Madison—where they have the right balance of veteran stabilizers (Marcelo Sanchez, Justin Norden) and youthful moxie (Jordan Kerr, Keenan Laurence) that is forging a new direction of late.
12. Boston Glory
I don’t know a better way to encapsulate this expansion team’s struggles than: After Saturday’s nail-biting loss to Philly, Boston has squandered a fourth quarter lead for the second time in three games at home. There’s no specific team stat that jumps off the page, but there are a few that describe a general malaise with efficiency: 19 turnovers on Saturday; just a 70 percent conversion rate in the red zone against the Phoenix; two of their main throwers with three throwaways apiece. Glory have their back against the wall and a formidable opponent in the Empire heading into Week 7. But that’s also the spot—between a rock and a hard place facing a blood rival—where Boston sports have staked their reputation as a championship city.
11. Philadelphia Phoenix
After getting throttled for 27 goals against the Empire on Friday night, and with the risk of their season slipping away from them, Philadelphia had perhaps the most impressive bounceback win of the season on the road in Boston. Greg Martin is leading the league in goals after scoring 11 over two games in Week 6, and looks like the most dominant receiver in the league right now. Mike Arcata, Alex Thorne, and Sean Mott form one of the most creative, powerful, and dynamic throwing cores in the Atlantic, but it’s time for Dustin Damiano to get his due. The backward hatted vet is currently sixth in the league in throwing yards per game (370), and is averaging over two assists and 44 completions per game while completing a blistering 96.60 percent of his throws. Philly always packs a punch with their downfield shots, but it’s all set up by Damiano’s consistency.
10. Madison Radicals
Whole divisions seem to hinge on the result of single outcomes this season, and Madison’s colossal upset of Chicago last Saturday seemed to be one of those moments. Before the game, the Union were proudly declaring how dispatching the Radicals in Madison at Breese Stevens Field would be the real showcase of Chicago’s new dominion over the Central Division. But not so fast! Madison’s defense put the screws to a normally efficient Union offense, making a statement that the league’s perennially top ranked unit has not gone anywhere. But it’s been the developing play of the Madison offense, led by the sensational quarterbacking of Victor Luo, that has them looking like challengers heading into the back half of their schedule.
9. Dallas Roughnecks
Were it not for a Kyle Henke’s layout goal off of a deflection with a cast on, on their second game of a back-to-back, at the end of regulation, Dallas would be 3-4 and a particularly shocking 0-3 versus Austin. But their clutch captain came through once again, and Dallas held onto their 4-3 record, tenuously, before now heading into a challenging road back-to-back in Week 7. This Dallas team is far from its championship form and expectations, and if they don’t commit to quarter-by-quarter execution in every game going forward, they could find themselves outside of the playoff picture.
8. Austin Sol
And conversely: What a missed opportunity for the Sol, who won last Friday night in Dallas before carrying a three-goal lead into the fourth quarter on Saturday before eventually losing out to the Roughnecks in game two of the doubleheader. Still: Over a month into the season, and Austin holds tightly to second place in the West. And while the Sol are far from their goal of reaching the playoffs, hats off their players and staff. Had anyone told me before the season that Austin would start 3-0 in the season series against Dallas, I would’ve written them off as a lunatic; Head Coach Steven Naji and the leadership on this team were mystics, it seems, because they all had that buy-in coming into 2021.
7. Chicago Union
Chicago entered the weekend as frontrunner favorites, and able to virtually clinch the division—and a home playoff game—with wins against Madison and Minnesota in Week 6. Eight quarters and two losses later, and not only are the Union no longer undefeated, they no longer control their own postseason destiny; Chicago still has road games at Minnesota and at Madison remaining on their schedule. Most shocking were the performances themselves: Chicago got outplayed back-to-back days. The depth issue is apparently real, especially at the handler position, and the Union will need their full roster down the stretch.
6. Minnesota Wind Chill
The Wind Chill had back-to-back, wire-to-wire road wins in Week 6 to seize first place in the division, and with it a heap of momentum. Minnesota has been quietly and patiently sculpting their lineups, and it’s starting to pay huge dividends. All-Star Bryan Vohnoutka’s switch to defense has added a top tier defender to an already deep rotation of coverage specialists, and gives the Wind Chill a counter-attacking striker. The return of Josh Klane has visibly added a vertical dimension to this offense, but Andrew Roy and Tony Poletto deserve a ton of credit. The two rank first and second in the league, respectively, in completions per game; they both complete better than 97 percent on their throws, and they average nearly 600 yards through the air per game as a duo.
5. Raleigh Flyers
The Flyers are rounding towards the end of the six-game “soft spot” in their schedule and getting desired results. Their 31-19 vanquishing of the Cannons in Week 6 pushed their win streak to four games, as the Raleigh defense rammed home 12 break scores on the night. But maybe most encouraging for the Flyers was the emphatic return of their deep game on offense, as Raleigh connected on 10-of-12 hucks in the win. Matt McKnight got the party started on the first drive of the game with a 50-yard heater to Jacob Fairfax, and the Flyers never slowed down from there. Raleigh leads the league in scoring by a full two goals per game, and they have the largest win margin in the league this season.
4. Atlanta Hustle
The Breeze and their defensive pressure pushed the Hustle offense into their B-game early, and Atlanta had a hard time adjusting from there as they suffered their first loss of 2021. The high level of turnovers (20) resulted in a season low 14 goals for Atlanta, and leaves them with a few questions about their rotations. And the Hustle defense, while able to slow the Breeze handler attack, never really seemed able to knock the DC offense out of rhythm; the Hustle had just nine blocks, and converted just three break scores on the night. Atlanta gets a quick chance at redemption on the road this weekend in their rematch with DC.
3. San Diego Growlers
With Dallas faltering, San Diego can pick up some much needed space in the standings with a win against second place Austin in Week 7 at home. The win would push them to 5-1, with virtually every other team in the West having three or more losses. The Growlers offense is just starting to hit its stride, and could have a big night against a Sol defense giving up 21-plus per game.
2. New York Empire
The Empire offense owned the deep space last Friday night, and scored a season-high 27 goals as a result of Ben Jagt’s huge night. The MVP accounted for an AUDL 2021 single-game high of 10 goals and over 700 yards of total offense. But just as much as the stats, it was his imposing play that gave a quick reminder of why this team is the reigning champs—there are little to no answers for the 6’6” Jagt when he starts playing in rhythm. Ditto Jeff Babbitt, who had a handful of great plays, but who shifted the game when he climbed the mountain and came down with a huge buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter amidst four Philly defenders. When New York goes big, they start to look like the best team in the league.
1. DC Breeze
The Breeze as a team—offensively and defensively—function at a velocity and collective IQ that is simply too overwhelming for opponents. It’s wave after wave, thrower after thrower, defender after defender of nonstop effort from all their parts. Atlanta removed Zach Norrbom from DC’s gameplan, and that just allowed Rowan McDonnell and first half of the season MVP Jonny Malks to get in their rhythm and throw darts around the field. The really terrifying thing for opponents is: This Breeze team knows how good they are. Heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Hustle, a few teammates were hyping Ben Green for a big night; Green has looked solid in the first few games in coverage, not game changing. But he exploded on the “Game of the Week” stage, and helped shut down the Hustle’s downfield normally imposing options.
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