July 22, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
19. Detroit Mechanix
The Mechanix limped out to an 8-2 deficit in the first quarter last Saturday in Minnesota before eventually losing 25-12 on the road, converting fewer than 30 percent of their offensive holds into scores. They now own the lowest offensive efficiency in the league, failing to score more than 13 goals on three separate occasions in 2021. There is light at the end of the tunnel this weekend, however: Detroit has its best opportunity of the season to break the chain and end their 45-game losing streak at home this Saturday against Indy.
18. Tampa Bay Cannons
The Cannons are currently riding a five-game losing streak where their average margin of defeat is 10 goals per game, so they are in desperate need of this weekend’s home game against a reeling Boston squad. And after a rough few weeks of injuries and absences, Tampa Bay looks to be fielding their full strength roster. Bobby Ley and Andrew Roney are currently accounting for over 90 completions and 700 yards through the air each game, and could benefit from a slight relief in workload.
17. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
After a stingy 2019 campaign that had them third in the league in fewest goals allowed per game (19.3), Pittsburgh has given up 24-plus goals in five of their first six games of the 2021 season. Anson Reppermund once again leads the defense in takeaways, but as a unit the T-birds can struggle to affect opposing offenses’ rhythms; Pittsburgh had just seven blocks against Raleigh. The real sore spot in the equation has been the D-line’s ability to convert breaks, as the Thunderbirds have the third worst defensive efficiency rating in the league.
16. Indianapolis AlleyCats
The AlleyCats played like the better team for the middle two quarters in Madison last Saturday, holding a fourth quarter lead on the road before their inevitable late game collapse at Breese Stevens stifled their upset hopes; Indy has a knack for undoing their own best efforts late in games in Madison. Rick Gross led a potent Indy deep attack on offense, showcasing a forehand huck that continually punished the Radicals normally stout deep defense. But Travis Carpenter and Levi Jacobs committed nine throwaways combined, which is just too many for two of Indy’s premier offensive players.
15. Los Angeles Aviators
Other than their Week 3 loss in Dallas, the Aviators have been in every game this season well into the second half as punchy competitors. And yet, with only one win in their first six contests, Los Angeles’ subpar results are very much the function of this being an extremely young lineup. Just look at the numbers: They were 6-of-7 on hucks against Austin on Saturday, and yet they still committed 26 turnovers on the night; turns weren’t coming on calculated deep shots and playing the yardage game, no. Instead, and more adversely, they came on miscommunication, throwaways, and an appalling 12 drops as a team. The Aviators have the talent to hang around in the playoff picture, but there is presently a lack of focus, especially in close games that they could otherwise come out as victors.
14. San Jose Spiders
The Spiders remained pesky for four quarters before eventually losing to a talented Dallas squad with their backs against the wall on the road in San Jose. The Spiders were dialed in from deep, connecting on 12-of-14 longballs against the Roughnecks. Justin Norden had his best game of the season, accounting for six total scores and over 500 yards of total offense. And at just 2-3 with the bulk of their schedule remaining—and a slightly easier slate—the Spiders still have a shot to make some noise in the West.
13. Philadelphia Phoenix
The Phoenix had their fire put out by the Atlanta defense, particularly when the Hustle deployed zone in coverage. Philly finished with just 15 goals on the night, dropping their 2021 average to just 19.3 goals per game, fifth worst in the AUDL. The personnel is there, but the Phoenix have struggled to put together back-to-back quarters of consistent offense all season—it can be feast or famine. Greg Martin continues to lead the league in goals, and now has three games with five-plus goals and 300-plus yards receiving in his last five appearances.
12. Seattle Cascades
The Cascades are just a different beast at home, as the Roughnecks found out the hard way last Friday night as Seattle led nearly wire-to-wire in their 22-18 win. Manny Eckert kept the Cascades offense in rhythm all night long, and has emerged as one of the premier throwing talents in the league. But it’s the high intensity, high conversion tenacity of the Seattle defense that has this team thinking it can still make a run at the postseason. The Cascades are tenth in the AUDL in takeaways, and fifth in defensive efficiency, meaning they punish opponents for any and all mistakes.
11. Boston Glory
Boston had their much anticipated, first-ever matchup with New York postponed due to storms this past weekend, and now have to travel down to Tampa Bay; Glory are just 1-2 on the road this season. And like many teams experiencing lackluster results at this point in the season, the main culprit for Boston’s woes stems from unforced errors; they’ve committed 19 total turnovers per game over their last three (1-2 record). Tanner Halkyard is expected to return to the lineup, and his presence always improves the Boston offense’s efficiency; Halkyard is top 20 in the league in both assists per game (3.4) and goals per game (3.2), and is averaging nearly 400 yards of total offense in his first five games as a pro.
10. Dallas Roughnecks
Dallas has had one of the most intensive schedules in the league through the first seven weeks. They already have had three different back-to-back slates, and have split all three of their two-game weekends; the Roughnecks are now 2-1 in the second game of a back-to-back after Saturday’s win in San Jose. Kyle Henke continues to excel as the team’s primary receiving option on offense, even in a cast; he has four assists, nine goals, and over 600 yards receiving in his last three games. Gabe Hernandez was inserted into the offense’s backfield against the Spiders and flourished, completing a career-high 82-of-83 throws and consistently providing an open option for resets and quick motion strikes.
9. Austin Sol
With their win in LA, the Sol still hold a slight inside edge on the second and final playoff spot in the West at 5-4 and with their final matchup against Dallas in Austin. And yet at the same time, it has to be hard for Austin not to think about squandered opportunities and the possibility of being 7-2; the Sol held fourth quarter leads in Dallas in Week 6, and then again in San Diego in Week 7 before losing both games. Austin has absolutely benefitted from the influx of young talent, but there are still some adjustments to be made in late game, high pressure situations.
8. Madison Radicals
After a blistering start punctuated by multiple break scores in the first quarter, the Radicals took their foot off the gas and slipped into a semi-coma state for the next two frames, scoring just six goals combined in the second and third quarters. Madison loves playing small ball with its excellent backfield of Logan Pruess and Victor Luo, but the offense as a whole neglected deep space early and suffered the consequences, going 0-for-5 on huck throws for the game and playing tight down the stretch. But Pruess came alive late in the fourth quarter, playing on both offensive and defensive rotations without a substitution while generating clutch blocks and turnovers to seal the win.
7. Chicago Union
The Union got back on track at home after their 0-2 backslide in Week 6, punishing the AlleyCats 24-18. Ross Barker is having a career year on offense, racking up 38 total scores in his first seven games of the season, and averaging over 200 yards receiving per game; Barker has 662 receiving yards in just his last two games. But now the Union’s season comes down to their next two weeks: At Minnesota in Week 8, before having to face the Radicals in Madison in Week 9.
6. Minnesota Wind Chill
Tied with Raleigh for the longest active winning streak in the league, the Wind Chill have been cruising in their last five games, averaging 25 goals per game and allowing just 17 per contest during their streak; Minnesota has not allowed an opponent to score 20 or more goals in a game since Week 2 against Chicago. The Wind Chill defense is second in takeaways (12.4 per game) and fifth in defensive efficiency, and their single coverage matchup defense is playing the best of anyone in the Central right now. Dylan DeClerck continues to lead the team with 13 blocks, but 10 other Wind Chill players have four or more on the season already.
5. Raleigh Flyers
Even in adverse and wet conditions on the road, the Flyers offense continued to soar as they put up 27 in Pittsburgh. The league’s number one scoring offense has been central to Raleigh’s five-game winning streak and is really firing on all cylinders with the re-emergence of their deep attack. Henry Fisher and Jacob Fairfax are once again in rhythm in their roles as big receivers downfield, and their play has been complemented perfectly by rookie Anders Juengst. The 5’6” North Carolina product has been an assassin in the red zone and is fourth in the league with 26 goals. Most impressively, though, has been his decision making: Juengst has four straight games with a 100 percent completion rating—all on 10 or more throws—and five such games already on the season.
4. San Diego Growlers
The Growlers can essentially lock up their second straight regular season division title tomorrow night with a win over Dallas, but they will have to do it without Paul Lally, who was instrumental in the San Diego win in Week 4 and has been a rock with the disc all season. Lior Givol continues to make an impact downfield in his first season on the team with back-to-back games with four goals and over 150 yards receiving. The San Diego defense is great at constricting opposing offenses (18 goals per game allowed; fourth best in AUDL) and generating takeaways (10.2 blocks per game; seventh), but has been near the bottom of the league in converting their break opportunities; the Growlers have the worst defensive efficiency of any team with a winning record. If San Diego can improve their defensive conversion rate even just to league average, they could very quickly round into a true championship contender.
3. Atlanta Hustle
The Hustle defense completely shut down the Breeze offense in Week 7, allowing DC to convert a season-low 7-of-26 hold opportunities. Atlanta allowed just seven goals through three quarters, and forced the Breeze into 436 throws as a team with their tall zone. The Atlanta defense is big, highlighted by 6’5” defender and sudden AUDL blocks leader Brett Hulsmeyer, who has 10 takeaways in just his last three games. The Hustle now host the Empire in Week 8 in what will be a playoff-level matchup with high stakes for postseason seeding in the Atlantic.
2. DC Breeze
The Breeze are still playing at a great level as a team, and nearly clawed back into their game against Atlanta a few different times. But there is a slowly emerging problem: DC is losing their offensive punch, as evidenced by their last three outings in which the Breeze are averaging just 17 goals per game. The Breeze love to own the time of possession battle, so they are content orchestrating long drives that eat up clock if it ends in a score—this is one possible explanation for their low goal scoring output of late. The other is that opposing defenses are slowly figuring out how to disrupt a Breeze offense that was averaging nearly 25 goals per game the first month of the season.
1. New York Empire
Well, well, well. If it isn’t the return of a known figure on the throne. Look, I know it’s a little odd to elevate a team to number one when they effectively had a bye with New York’s rainout in Boston. But with the topsy-turvy results league wide in 2021, and the still formidable core of talent the Empire possess, it feels like the league’s reigning champions still have their best ultimate ahead of them in 2021. Ben Jagt and Ryan Osgar are number two and number four in the league, respectively, in receiving yards per game, and Jack Williams isn’t too far behind them. Elliott Chartock has only played four games as a member of the Empire, and is leading the league in throwing yards per game by a 100-yard per game margin. His preseason backfield partner and also first-year New York handler Ryan Weaver has missed the last month due to injury, and is just now set to return to the lineup.
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