May 26, 2022
By Adam Ruffner
25. Detroit Mechanix (Previously 25th)
The Mechanix offense continued to find rhythm in Week 4, and converted above 50 percent of their offensive possessions for the second straight week as Joe Cubitt netted over 550 yards of total offense for the third time in 2022. But as the Mechanix offense has improved, the defense has lost some teeth—the Detroit defense doubled their season total of breaks in a single game last Saturday, converting 2-of-9 against the Radicals. Detroit’s 7.3 percent break rate isn’t just the lowest mark of any team for this season, but the lowest rate since tracking began in 2014.
24. Tampa Bay Cannons (Previously 24th)
After leading the league in team completion percentage in 2018—yes, you read that correctly—the Cannons adopted the longball over the past two seasons and saw their passing efficiency plummet, with the team finishing dead last (90.2 percent) in 2021. The scoring isn’t there yet this season, and the team is still averaging the same huck numbers as last year, but Tampa Bay is back in the top 10 (92.8 percent) thanks to a more balanced throwing attack. Now if the Cannons can improve on their league-worst red zone conversion rate (61.1 percent), they could find more scores sooner than later.
23. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (Previously 23rd)
The Thunderbirds offense is in the midst of a power outage, as the team has yet to score more than 17 in a game so far this season; Pittsburgh ranks last in scores per game through the first month of the season. The main culprit seems to be huck turnovers: The T-birds have taken 10 or more huck attempts in every game they’ve played, but they’re completing a league-worst 30 percent on hucks in 2022. The absence of center handler Jonathan Mast—the league leader in completions per game last season—has destabilized the rest of Pittsburgh’s offensive flow. This weekend’s matchup in Tampa Bay will be essential if the ‘Birds want to remain in the playoff hunt in the Central.
22. Seattle Cascades (Previously 22nd)
The first team to five losses this season, the Cascades put up another valiant fight on the road last weekend, losing in SD and LA by a combined three goals in two games, including in the final seconds on Sunday to the Aviators. Seattle remains one of the better underdog punchers—’Scades rank ninth in huck completion rate, keeping opposing defenses honest—and this weekend they get a mega-activation with the season debut of Matt Rehder at home. It’s hard to see a playoff future for this team this year, but in a top-heavy West Division, Seattle could play spoiler for a variety of teams, starting with Portland in Week 5.
21. Oakland Spiders (Previously 21st)
Despite the loss, the Spiders never went away in Week 4, continually narrowing Portland’s lead and making the kind of highlight plays that could spark a comeback. The issue was: For every big play the Spiders made, the Nitro seemed to answer in kind. But with main handler Justin Norden inactive, Oakland completed a whopping 11-of-17 huck attempts against the Nitro, which allowed them to keep pace with the powerful Portland O-line. Matt Crawford is entering his seventh season of play with the Spiders—only Crawford and Norden remain from the team’s 2015 championship roster—and had a career night as a passer in Week 4, completing all 39 of his throws for five assists and a career-high 487 throwing yards; Crawford’s previous single-game throwing yards high was 162.
20. Indianapolis AlleyCats (Previously 20th)
It wasn’t a pretty win on the road in Pittsburgh, but for the first time since 2019, Indy got a win against a non-Detroit opponent. And while his no-look Greatest assist was the obvious highlight of the night, Levi Jacobs continues to do the dirty work upfield for this AlleyCats offense, and is averaging seven scores per game so far in 2022. What Jacobs lacks in efficiency he makes up for in playmaking and decisiveness, able to keep defenses off balance by continually attacking deep space with his throws. Indy is third in scoring (25 per game) largely thanks to their hucking, as they average over 10 huck completions per game while registering third in the AUDL in huck completion rate (75.6 percent).
19. Dallas Legion (Previously 19th)
Mired in a two-week bye, and with just three total games in the month of June, this young Legion team has a lot of time to make adjustments after their first three losses before they dig into the meat of their schedule. Captain Kevin Richardson leads the team with seven goals in three games, and Michael Matthis scored five in his lone appearance so far in 2022. But aside from those two, the Legion receiving core has come by committee as 11 other Dallas players have scored at least two goals, but no more than four. The lack of discernible end zone targets has definitely contributed to the low scoring pace to start the season.
18. Ottawa Outlaws (Previously 18th)
The Outlaws offense looks like a legit top 10 unit. They have scored 20-plus goals in all three games this season, and are currently tied with DC for fifth in the league in scores per game, while ranking in the top tier in offensive line conversion rate and red zone efficiency. But for the second straight defeat, the Ottawa defense could not impede their opponents’ attack, surrendering 13 second-half scores to Philly last Saturday in a one-goal loss. What stings in particular is that the Outlaws’ defense had their chances, owing to their 12 blocks against the Phoenix. But in their last two games, the team has converted just 8-of-51 (!!) break opportunities.
17. Toronto Rush (Previously 15th)
Week 4 was a big learning opportunity for this young Rush team as they went 0-2 on the road while facing their first US competition since 2019. Communication errors and simple execution mistakes plagued Toronto as they lost by a combined 24 goals in Boston and New York. But the team remained steadfast in developing their roles, and showed in stretches of exciting playmaking, particularly with James Lewis and 18-year-old receiving prospect Oscar Stonehouse in space. Just four games into his pro career, Stonehouse is averaging 3.5 goals and nearly 300 receiving yards per game, putting him in the same class as players like Evan Swiatek and Joe Merrill.
16. Los Angeles Aviators (Previously 17th)
The Aviators did a rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick with their victory at home in Week 4. Despite getting just two breaks in the game, LA won end-of-quarter plays in the first and third, and punched in the game-winning score with just seconds remaining in regulation to earn their first win of 2022. One of the more pure team victories of the early season, it’s time for fifth-year team vet Nate Ransom to get some flowers. Ransom is a perfect emblem of this team’s utility—he has split his 860 career regular season points almost equally between offense and defense—as he tossed a 50-yard hammer for a score at the end of the first half, before running upline and reeling in the game winner from Michael Kiyoi in the fourth. LA may lack “a true star”, but their depth of veteran knowledge, and each player’s ability to fulfill their ever-changing roles, will make the Aviators a tough matchup throughout the season.
15. Montreal Royal (Previously 12th)
Minus some of their starters, the Royal offense struggled for a second straight game as they managed just 13 goals at home in last Friday’s loss to Philly. Without the ability to throw it deep, Montreal has few options to work through on offense, and their drives can become erratic. In the team’s three wins, Montreal averaged over nine huck completions per game; the Royal have just six huck completions in their last two matchups, both losses. To get back on track and stop the losing streak, Christophe Tremblay-Joncas and the Montreal defense now have the task of slowing down New York and their number one offense at home tomorrow night in “The Friday Feature”.
14. Philadelphia Phoenix (Previously 16th)
What a difference a weekend can make, as Philly’s 2-0 road trip through Canada turned their season around and put them firmly back into playoff contention in the East. And after his record-setting 8-goal, 658 receiving yard performance on Saturday in Ottawa, Greg Martin leads the league in goals (19) and is 31 yards off Ben Jagt for the receiving top spot; the way he scored goals down the stretch for Philly felt like a Mortal Kombat-style finisher move. But for as good as Martin and fellow Philly O-line mainstay Sean Mott have been so far in 2022, the difference for the Phoenix are the additions of Jordan Rhyne and James Pollard. Rhyne was fearless as a thrower in the wind in Montreal, and his presence in the backfield has added a visible throwing dimension to the Philly attack. Pollard is my pick for “Most Improved” through the first month of the season, as his quick trigger power throwing, aerial superiority at the end of quarters, and competitive ferocity are the burning heart for the Phoenix so far.
13. Boston Glory (Previously 14th)
With all due respect, Tannor Johnson has to be one of the more boring stars to watch right now. Johnson has played in two games this season—both Boston wins—and is averaging a gaudy statline of eight scores, a block, and over 400 yards of total offense per game, numbers that would probably land him on an All-AUDL team. But it’s all “making the right play” this and “choosing the right throw” that, as everything is coming easy and in-rhythm for Johnson as he powers a potent Glory attack. Through Week 4, and among players with 50 or more possessions this season, Johnson is seventh in the AUDL in offensive efficiency; Boston converts on nearly 68 percent of the possessions Johnson plays.
12. Madison Radicals (Previously 13th)
Beset with injuries to their starters once again, the Radicals luckily only had to deal with Detroit in Week 3 to get the win before hosting Minnesota in this Saturday’s “Game Of The Week” rivalry showdown live on FS2. 34-year-old handler Josh Wilson continues to play some of the best ultimate of his career, as he now leads the team in completions (104) and throwing yards (689), while ranking second in assists (8) in their three wins. Were it not for a season-ending injury in 2015, Wilson would have played in every AUDL season since the league’s establishment in 2012.
11. Austin Sol (Previously 11th)
Scoring 20-plus goals against the top ranked defenses of Carolina and Atlanta is impressive in any context, let alone on the road in back-to-back games. Evan Swiatek dictated in space all weekend with his hustle and playmaking ability, with Mark Evans continuing to be a great complement as both a receiver and thrower downfield. But Austin expects more than moral victories, and after a stinging 0-2 rebuke in Week 4, the Sol are still on the outside looking in with the playoff race in the South.
10. Minnesota Wind Chill (Previously 10th)
After failing to win in Madison in their first six years of visits, Minnesota has earned victories at Breese Stevens Field in each of their past two seasons, including last year’s Week 1 instant classic that the Wind Chill pulled out in overtime. The backbone of that win was provided by the stellar passing of Tony Poletto, Andrew Roy, and William Brandt, the latter two of whom were rookies starting in their first professional games. Brandt is set to make his 2022 debut on Saturday night, while Roy is listed as questionable. The other big piece for their success was the defensive disruption provided by Dylan DeClerck, who clogged Madison throwing lanes and generated five takeaways by himself. Minnesota has often had the talent and schemes to beat the Radicals in Madison, but what it often boils down to for this Wind Chill team is executing.
9. San Diego Growlers (Previously 9th)
Don’t look now, but the Growlers have won three straight after bouncing back from their home opener loss to Salt Lake. And after allowing 24 to the Shred in Week 1, San Diego has allowed just 53 goals in their last three outings, averaging nearly 16 takeaways per-game during the winning streak. Five different Growlers defenders have five or more blocks so far this season, with Jordan Queckboerner and Michael Tran leading the team with six apiece. The Growlers have earned back-to-back Championship Weekend appearances because they had the best defense in the division, and the team seems committed to that approach once again in 2022.
8. Portland Nitro (Previously 8th)
The Nitro still make execution errors like an expansion team, but their scoring pace and playmaking are that of a contender. The only team to complete 10 or more hucks in every game this season, it’s no secret Portland likes to look deep. Daniel Lee has 17 scores and over 1200 yards of offense without a turnover in 2022, and his left hand may as well be covered in Mandolorian armor for all its strength. But the reactor core for the Nitro offense continues to be Leandro Marx, who now leads the league in scoring and seems to be the most deserving player of the word “indefatigable” in the league right now—there’s no slowing him down.
7. Chicago Union (Previously 7th)
Chicago continues to sit idle as the Central Division competition rages on around them. Although the sample size is just two games, the Union are currently leading the league in D-line break rate at 39.1 percent, converting 18 combined break scores in their two wins against Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Chicago’s defense is great at getting into their counterattack quickly off of opponent turnovers, and the energy of Jason Vallee, Nate Goff, Reid Martin, and Jace Bruner has overwhelmed opponents in transition.
6. Colorado Summit (Previously 6th)
One of just six remaining undefeated teams, the Summit are eyeing a big home opener win on Saturday against Salt Lake that could catapult them into first place in the West. Yes, Colorado swept their opening road trip in Seattle and Portland. But one thing the Summit will have to do better this Saturday against the Shred is control the pace of play. Colorado had an almost 2-to-1 margin between their turnovers and takeaways in Week 2, and that will have to improve against a Shred D-line that punishes opponents for mistakes.
5. Salt Lake Shred (Previously 5th)
Missing a variety of starters on both lines—including 18-year-old rookie phenom Will Selfridge who is lost for the season due to a knee injury suffered at the High School state championships—Salt Lake is still prepared to get its third big road win of the season in Colorado and maintain their spot atop the division. Jordan Kerr will once again be the featured striker in this Shred offense, but the team’s success this weekend will likely come down to the backfield play of Alec Benton and rookie Luke Yorgason. Benton looks like a completely different player than the one who suited up for the Growlers several seasons ago, possessing full-field range with both his forehand and backhand throws. Yorgason is fifth in the league in completions per game at just under 60, and could take on an even larger workload against the Summit.
4. Atlanta Hustle (Previously 4th)
It felt like Austin Taylor and the Atlanta offense could not miss from deep against the Sol last Saturday night. Taylor’s first huck attempt found Karl Ekwurtzel streaking for a layout goal that registered somewhere on a nearby Richter scale, and from there the Hustle would go on to complete 14-of-17 hucks in the game. And after managing just 14 goals against Carolina in Week 1, Atlanta has responded with 50 goals in their past two games, and registering the same number of break scores (18) as turnovers. The Hustle are playing like a Championship Weekend team on both sides of the disc.
3. DC Breeze (Previously 3rd)
As opposed to the breakneck entrance the Breeze had in 2021 with wins over the Flyers, Glory, and Empire in the first five weeks of the season, this year’s DC seems throttled by comparison. The Breeze still have two more weeks before they get their shot at revenge against New York, and it feels like their matchups against Toronto and Boston in between may be blowouts in DC’s favor. Going back to the beginning of last season, the Breeze are 7-1 when they complete seven or more hucks, with their lone loss coming to the Flyers in the playoffs.
2. Carolina Flyers (Previously 2nd)
The true mark of this Carolina team’s championship was their inability to get shook when they took an early deficit to Austin at home last Friday. It felt almost inevitable that the Flyers offense, down a few starters, would work through their kinks, while the four-quarter defensive pressure of their D-line would eventually crack an otherwise impressive Sol attack. Justin Allen made the play of the week with his soaring Callahan to cement the win in the fourth, but the game shifted on a third quarter handblock from second year defender Suraj Madiraju. Through four games this season, Madiraju has four blocks and nearly doubles the next closest teammate in defensive points played at 71.
1. New York Empire (Previously 1st)
The Empire looked like they were toying with their food at times on Saturday night against the Rush, with John Lithio turning into a thrower and Ben Jagt gliding in deep space to the tune of eight goals. But the development to watch on this New York team is the usage of Marques Brownlee as a handler defender. Lost among his many highlights over the years, Brownlee has honed his length and agility into a brutal challenge for opposing throwers to maneuver around. In his last three outings, Brownlee forced five throwaways out of Sean Mott in Week 2, held All-AUDL Ben Sadok to a career-low in yards in Week 3, and earned three blocks against Toronto in Week 4 while forcing at least two stalls as a part of a double team trap.
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