June 16, 2022
By Adam Ruffner
25. Detroit Mechanix (Previously 25th)
After scoring just seven goals in the first half indoors against the ‘Cats, Detroit got an immediate boost by switching Johnny Bansfield from defense to offense. He quarterbacked the opening drive of the second half for a score, and helped salvage 11 second half goals for the Mechanix; Bansfield finished with season highs in completions (32), throwing yards (377), and huck completions (2). But now with no more remaining games on their schedule against their closest rivals from Indy—and still no wins at the midway mark of 2022—the second half of Detroit’s year is sloping towards a fourth consecutive winless season.
24. Tampa Bay Cannons (Previously 24th)
The Cannons tied a season low with three blocks against the Hustle in Week 7, and now sit last in the AUDL in takeaways. And coupled with the team’s high turnover rate—Tampa Bay allows the third most breaks scores per game—you have the recipe for the Cannons’ slow start to the season. The Tampa Bay offense did register season highs in huck completions (11) and red zone conversions (10) against a good Atlanta defense, continually punching downfield and testing the Hustle deep.
23. Oakland Spiders (Previously 23rd)
Despite the Spiders having yet to earn a win in 2022, the development of their young core makes them a fun team to watch. Keenan Laurence continues to round out his all-around offensive game, and has developed more range and reliability on his forehand throws to give Oakland another point of attack. The Spiders offense had their best performance of the season against Colorado, converting 20 offensive scores and committing a season-low 16 turnovers. Like Adam Simon’s presence for Seattle, this Oakland team simply evolves into a bigger beast when Justin Norden is in the lineup; Norden finished with 10 assists and over 800 yards of total offense against a good Colorado defense in Week 7.
22. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (Previously 20th)
Absent their starting handlers on offense, the Thunderbirds held an 11-10 halftime lead in Minnesota before scoring just three second half goals on their way to losing for the fifth time in six games. The lack of passing was apparent as Pittsburgh committed 26 turnovers and had their second worst offensive hold rate of the season against the Wind Chill. But if the offense can stabilize down the stretch, the T-Birds are not that far out of the playoff picture in the Central. In their last three games, the Pittsburgh defense has converted on 18-of-34 (52.9 percent) of their D-line possessions, a rate that would put them in the top 10 for a full season.
21. Dallas Legion (Previously 21st)
Getting outscored 49-33 in their past two games against Carolina has effectively put an end to any lingering notions of a rivalry existing between Dallas and the Flyers atop the South Division. The Legion are capable of making plays, but their inconsistency has undermined the exclamation point moments of Andrew Watson and others. Veteran big Kevin Richardson had a career throwing night against the Flyers, notching career highs in completions (47) and throwing yards (333), and trying a career high with four assists. But having to convert a mid-30s receiving veteran into their top throwing option midseason tells the story of the Legion’s campaign so far this year.
20. Ottawa Outlaws (Previously 18th)
There’s been a lot of focus elsewhere on the improvements in the Outlaws offense this year, but 2019 all-star selection Alec Arsenault’s evolution as a thrower has flown under the radar. A talented if erratic continuation thrower in years past, Arsenault has stabilized in his seventh season as a pro, particularly after struggling in Week 2 against Boston; in his last four appearances Arsenault is averaging almost three assists, 22 completions, and over 200 throwing yards per game compared to just three total throwaways.
19. Toronto Rush (Previously 22nd)
Against non-Empire opponents, Toronto is averaging 21.6 goals per game in five games, with James Lewis and Oscar Stonehouse emerging as two of the better downfield options in the division. The real connecting piece for the Rush's success, though, has been veteran thrower Ryan Poloz. Luc Comire is unquestionably the QB1 for the O-line, but Poloz is adept at spacing, giving reset options while still threatening to release downfield as a receiving option.
18. Indianapolis AlleyCats (Previously 19th)
The ‘Cats hung another 30-spot on Detroit in Indianapolis, with Jeremy Keusch exploding for career highs in goals (7) and receiving yards (447) while making a handful of highlight plays. Nick Hutton now leads the league in blocks after his five takeaway performance against the Mechanix, and continually shows an ability to generate takeaways at an elite level in the thrower-friendly environment of Grand Park. Indy’s Week 7 win along with the Radicals loss leaves the two teams virtually tied for third place in the standings, with Madison owning the head-to-head tiebreaker due to their Week 3 one-goal win over the ‘Cats.
17. Boston Glory (Previously 17th)
Since winning their home opener against Philly, Boston has lost five of their last six, with four of those losses coming by four goals or fewer. Glory are cosmically afflicted, getting either a solid performance from their offense, or their defense, but seemingly never both in the same game, if ever the same quarter. Cam Wariner being more available this season has given Boston’s defense added toughness and blocks. But the Glory defense is still in the bottom half of the league in scores allowed, and have given up 20 or more in six of their seven games this season.
16. Portland Nitro (Previously 14th)
Seems like forever ago that the Nitro were 2-1, with their lone loss coming to Colorado in overtime in squall-like conditions. Portland has since dropped four in a row, including a pair of games in SoCal this past weekend to San Diego and LA by three goals combined. The offense is always going to be punchy with Leandro Marx blitzing around, but the Nitro defense is struggling to establish itself on the counterattack. Portland is bottom eight in both break rate and defensive conversion efficiency, despite ranking eighth in blocks per game (11.3).
15. Seattle Cascades (Previously 15th)
The Cascades have their final three games of the regular season at home, which means Seattle could sharply reverse their 0-5 start tomorrow night with a win in Oakland against the Spiders. The ‘Scades are third in the league in blocks per game (13.1), and they will need all of that pressure on the road as they will be once again without many of their starting throwers. Jake Steen is set to make his 2022 debut, and his vertical receiving game could be a nice complement alongside Tarik Akyuz downfield.
14. Montreal Royal (Previously 13th)
The Royal’s 3-0 start has crumbled over the past month, including three unexpected losses in a row at home in Montreal. Among the top 12 highest volume throwers on the team, only Miguel Goderre and Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky are completing above 93 percent of their throws; the Royal are second to last in team completion percentage, and bottom six in huck completion rate. Injuries and rotating lineups have dampened the efficacy of Montreal’s deep attack
13. Madison Radicals (Previously 13th)
The Radicals defense was uber efficient in converting 4-of-5 D-line opportunities in Chicago. But Madison ultimately could not slow down the Union offensive attack, including surrendering a deep shot in the final minute of play that proved to be the game winner. Madison’s low turnover rate is why they remain competitive in every game this season, despite injuries and lineup fluctuations. The Radicals are seventh in the league in turnovers per game, committing just under 17 per game, and haven’t committed more than 18 in a game since Week 2 when they had 20 turnovers against Pittsburgh.
12. Los Angeles Aviators (Previously 16th)
Despite ranking bottom five in the league in takeaways, defensive break rate, and D-line efficiency, Aviators continue to win close games thanks to an offense that knows how to score when it matters. LA had a response for every Nitro goal last Friday, with Brandon Van Deusen and Everest Shapiro combining on numerous deep routes. All three of LA’s wins have come by a single goal, which is both a testament to this team’s late game focus, and revealing for how razor thin their margins have come by.
11. Philadelphia Phoenix (Previously 11th)
Philly has had 10 or more blocks in every game this season, and currently sit fifth overall in the league with 12.3 takeaways per game. That takeaway metric not only represents the Phoenix defense’s ability to generate turnovers, but also the Philly O-line’s ability to earn the disc back after errors. Philly is currently second in the league in opponent D-line conversion rate, meaning that opposing defenses are having a tough time earning breaks against the Phoenix. James Pollard is obviously a primary reason, but Sean Mott has been equally tenacious in winning the disc in transition.
10. Salt Lake Shred (Previously 10th)
With a big crowd at home and a chip on their shoulder following their Week 5 loss in Colorado, this young Salt Lake team got a bit too overhyped for last Friday’s matchup with the Summit, and as a result let the game get out of hand early. It was a sharp reminder that for as talented, competitive, and promising as the Shred have been in their first six games as a franchise, they are still in search of an identity. Even in the loss, the Shred remain the most potent scoring team in the league, and are sixth in offensive efficiency.
9. San Diego Growlers (Previously 10th)
The hardest team to convert a break against in the league at the midway point, the Growlers O-line defense has been a ballast for this San Diego team that has been entrenched in close games every matchup this season. The offense may lack some pop—Growlers are 15th in scoring and last in huck completions as the only team averaging under five per game—but they are 6-for-6 on huck attempts the past two games. Chris Mazur as a defensive anchor on the counterattack is a nice adjustment, and adds fuel to a Growlers defense already proficient at generating blocks.
8. Chicago Union (Previously 9th)
Jeff Weis and Eli Artemakis stepped up big for the Chicago offense in Week 7 as the Union converted a season high 79 percent of their 24 offensive possessions against a good Radicals defense. But it’s the continued downfield production from Ross Barker that sets the tone for this Chicago O-line. Entering season four in Chicago, Barker is setting career highs in scores per game (6) and total yards (388), and made the decisive cut deep in the closing moments to preserve the home win against his former team. Apt for his name, Barker has that dog in him.
7. Minnesota Wind Chill (Previously 8th)
The Wind Chill are one of the hardest teams to figure out at the midway mark. Statistically, their defense might be the best in the league depending on which categories you favor; Minnesota ranks first in scores allowed per game (16.2), break scores (9.6), and break rate (41.4 percent), and are second in blocks per game. But for as impressive as the defense has been at getting the break train rolling, the Wind Chill offense has struggled with consistency. Minnesota ranks 19th in offensive conversion rate, and their six holds per game is tied for fourth worst in the league.
6. Austin Sol (Previously 7th)
Feels like it is the third “biggest weekend of the season” already for the Sol, as they get set for their road trip doubleheader in Chicago on Friday, and then in Madison on Saturday for the “AUDL Game Of The Week”. The Sol offense looks like a top six unit this season, with all seven starters completing their passes at a 92.8 percent mark or better; Austin is fifth this season in team completion percentage after ranking 12th last season. Austin has completed 25 hucks in their past two games, which could prove important against Chicago and Madison defenses that rank near the top of the league in deep defense.
5. Atlanta Hustle (Previously 5th)
Since their two-goal loss to the Flyers in Week 1, the Hustle have won four straight and are prepared for the rematch tomorrow night at home in Atlanta. And despite all of the nice pieces Atlanta added over the offseason, Austin Taylor’s gargantuan workload as a thrower remains singular in the league, as he triples the next highest assist getter on the team, and nearly doubles the second leading yardage passer. Taylor had a good game against Carolina on opening night, but the Flyers defense was able to limit Atlanta’s offense to only operating through him. The Hustle are very capable of a balanced attack—their 26-goal bombardment of Austin in Week 4 is a prime example—but they have shown very little of it.
4. DC Breeze (Previously 3rd)
The Breeze pressured and contested the Empire offense all night long, earning seven blocks and converting an efficient 4-of-7 break opportunities. And yet New York still only committed 11 turnovers on the night while hanging 25 on a very good DC defense. The Breeze don’t have another regular season matchup with NY this regular season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go 7-0 the rest of the way. Rowan McDonnell is back to elevating into an MVP-level threat in big games, and Jacques Nissen looks even better in year three with the team.
3. Colorado Summit (Previously 4th)
Each week the Colorado defense seems to tighten another bolt, as evidenced by their ability to take a 20-10 lead in Salt Lake before giving up some scores in garbage time down the stretch. There’s a size, speed, and physicality to this Summit D-line that opponents are having a hard time matching in the West, and it starts with the play of Cody Spicer eliminating the top threats on opposing teams. The defense has playmakers everywhere, but Spicer’s ability to lockdown on his matchup every game has had a cascading effect on the Summit’s confidence. And it’s not just the personnel, either. Colorado is becoming one of the best teams at identifying favorable matchups and exploiting them off of turnovers.
2. Carolina Flyers (Previously 2nd)
Over the past two seasons Terrence Mitchell has kept his pedigree for making way-too-amazing plays the norm, while also becoming one of the most efficient players on Carolina’s historically efficient O-line. In his last 19 games, Mitchell has five throwaways, including zero during the playoffs in 2021. Week 7 against Dallas may have been the most demonstrable showcasing of Mitchell’s streamlined excellence as a veteran, as he finished with four goals, four assists, six hockey assists, and over 350 total yards. All without a mistake. Flawless.
1. New York Empire (Previously 1st)
I’m tired of writing superlatives about this team. But in their perfect start to the 2022 season, the Empire are achieving an almost atomic-level of focus on both sides of the disc. The offense continues to execute at an unforeseen rate, but it’s the ratcheting up of the NY defense that is the latest development in improving this team’s championship odds. The Ben Jagt transition to D-line continues to reap massive rewards, but it’s the play of “glue guys” like Ben Katz and the Drosts and the Fortins that has the Empire look like they’re playing on a string, as one.
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