July 19, 2023
By Adam Ruffner
24. Detroit Mechanix (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 25-13 vs Toronto
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Madison
Following their June 23 matchup in Chicago, it looked like Detroit had turned a bit of a corner. Their offense had converted on 52 percent of their O-line possessions or better in five straight games, and their deep game had become refined; Detroit is fourth in the league in team huck completion rate, connecting on nearly 66 percent of their hucks in 2023. But there’s been a regression over the last month, including a season-high 36 turnover performance against Toronto. Not only would two more losses mean five straight winless campaigns, it would be the seventh time in the last nine seasons Detroit finished without a victory.
23. Montreal Royal (-2)
Most recent result: Loss, 18-10 vs Philadelphia
Upcoming matchup: July 21 at Boston
With Dallas and Portland both getting dubs last weekend, Montreal is now in company with a Detroit team that hasn’t won since Pawel Janas’ rookie season. The Royal have the look at times of a decent team, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this is currently the lowest scoring team in history. Montreal needs at least 31 goals in their two games this weekend to avoid setting the all-time single season record low set by the 2019 Mechanix.
22. Portland Nitro (+1)
Most recent result: Loss, 25-10 at Oakland
Upcoming matchup: July 22 at Seattle
For a team that’s been lauded for its frontline stars the past two seasons, it makes poetic sense that “The Other Guys”—players who didn’t necessarily slot in as starters to begin the season—would be the ones to snap Portland’s 19-game losing streak. Fitting for their name, the Nitro fueled themselves on each other’s big plays, with tone setters Quinn Buermeyer, Genichi Nakano, and Nate “Juice” Knutson all contributing to the win. Their Week 13 matchup in Seattle may not have much meaning in terms of standings or playoffs, but could be a barnburner filled with highlights.
21. Houston Havoc (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 23-16 at Dallas
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Dallas
There’s the etchings of a solid team here—the size, the lineup versatility, the speed in transition, any time John Clyde winds up for a throw—but there’s just too many mistakes born of inexperience to give this team a chance in 2023. Houston now ranks dead last in turnovers per game this season, and has yet to finish with fewer than 20 in a match. Houston won their first two meetings against Dallas, and could make it three of four with a win on Saturday.
20. Dallas Legion (+2)
Most recent result: Win, 23-16 vs Houston
Upcoming matchup: July 22 at Houston
Though it took until their final few games of the season, the Legion are playing with the kind of energy and open field playmaking that suits their Texas roots. Alec Wilson Holliday is one of the hardest receivers to stay with at a dead sprint, and he’s exploded in his last three games for 12 goals and 1,136 receiving yards; Wilson Holliday’s speed paired with Jason Hustad’s throwing power has become one of the more dangerous one-two punches in the South; their ability to stretch the field has opened up opportunities for the rest of Dallas’ offense to exploit.
19. San Diego Growlers (-2)
Most recent result: Loss, 29-22 at Seattle
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Oakland
I’ve mentioned numerous times that the “Most Improved” award this year has the most potential candidates ever, and Stefan Samu needs to be added to the list. The third-year receiver notched his third 300-plus receiving yard performance in his last five starts, and has multiple goals in four games over the same stretch. Samu has great length at 6’2”, but what really separates him as a playmaker is his toughness in tight coverage—the UC-San Diego product makes some downright filthy grabs in traffic or through contact.
18. Madison Radicals (+1)
Most recent result: Win, 23-14 at Detroit
Upcoming matchup: July 21 at Chicago
On the road in Chicago on Friday before turning around and hosting their season finale against Detroit on Saturday, the Radicals can reclaim some respect by closing out 2023 on a three-game winning streak. The Wind Chill and their defensive pressure have been the bane of Madison this season—Radicals have 68 turnovers in three matchups against Minnesota—but the Radicals are extremely careful with the disc in their other seven games, averaging just over 15 turns per game. Anthony Gutowsky is averaging the most goals per game (3.4) in team history, and is in line to become the first Radicals player to score 40-plus goals in a season since 2018.
17. Seattle Cascades (+1)
Most recent result: Win, 29-22 vs San Diego
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Portland
In their penultimate home game of the season the Cascades had their best performance of the season, setting a high in scoring (29 goals) while also committing a season-low 11 turnovers. Garrett Martin, Khalif El-Salaam, Marc Munoz, Zeppelin Raunig, and Jack Brown are the most exciting O-line in the West Division when they’re all clicking, and there’s no throw too deep nor sky too high for them to make the play on. And in two games against the Growlers this season, Martin has a gargantuan 17 assists, three goals, two blocks, 60 completions, 801 passing yards, 651 receiving yards, and two wins. Sheesh.
16. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (-1)
Most recent result: Loss, 18-16 at Indianapolis
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Indianapolis
Pittsburgh struggled to connect on their deep looks on the road in Indianapolis, and the loss ensured the Thunderbirds will miss the playoffs for the third straight season. The T-Birds converted on all 10 of their red zone opportunities in Indianapolis, and Max Sheppard and Carl Johnson might be the most consistent and productive offensive pairing in the division. But Pittsburgh has struggled all season to put together solid performances in two straight quarters; the Thunderbirds tied the ‘Cats in three of the four quarters, but a few mistakes in the second frame sealed Pittsburgh’s fate.
15. Chicago Union (-1)
Most recent result: Loss, 22-13 at Minnesota
Upcoming matchup: July 21 vs Madison
The nine-goal road loss was relatively inconsequential for the Union as Pittsburgh’s loss in Indy granted Chicago their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. And yet this team has a lot of red flag indicators, particularly on offense. Though there was an expected downturn after last year’s runner-up finish, Chicago is averaging five fewer scores per game in 2023 compared to 2022, and only the 0-10 Royal average fewer holds per game. Andrew Sjogren and Jack Shanahan lead the team in scoring and are the only O-line starters to appear in at least 10 games; no Union offensive player has appeared in every game this season.
14. Toronto Rush (+2)
Most recent result: Win, 25-13 at Detroit
Upcoming matchup: July 21 at DC
With their win in Detroit, the Rush and their playoff chances refuse to die, and they survive to carry on the last bits of their torch into a tough Week 13 road trip doubleheader in DC and Philadelphia. Yes, Toronto has won four of their last six to remain in contention. But the Rush committed 25 turnovers against the Mechanix, and their four wins have come against opponents with a combined 5-26 record. Only four players have scored more goals than James Lewis and his 80 since the start of the 2022 season.
13. Philadelphia Phoenix (-1)
Most recent result: Loss, 20-18 (OT) vs DC
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Toronto
For the third time in their last four meetings, Philly battled DC down to either the final play of regulation or into overtime. But none of those impressive efforts resulted in a win, and the Phoenix now will watch from the sidelines as the East playoffs unfold. The Hotbirds/Coldbirds saga continues as Philly opened the season by dropping four straight, only to explode and win their next five, and then ultimately drop their two most meaningful contests of the 2023 calendar; it’s been more Icarus than phoenix. Still, this team has one of the brightest futures in the league, with playmakers everywhere on offense, and a young defense that really asserted itself against top offenses from New York, DC, and Carolina.
12. Indianapolis AlleyCats (+1)
Record: 8-3 *
Most recent result: Win, 18-16 vs Pittsburgh
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Pittsburgh
The AlleyCats needed a win at home in Week 12 to avoid a precipice in the final weekend of the regular season, and a career night from Jeremy Keusch when Indy was absent two of their three top throwers clinched the franchise’s second straight playoff appearance. Indy still leads the league in defensive conversion efficiency, and would become the first team ever to rank first in that category in back-to-back seasons. There is no one piece that leads the counter—no AlleyCats defender has more than 98 completions this season—which is actually what makes their transition attack so potent. Much like the team’s offense, the ‘Cats D-line is adept at swinging and making the extra pass, which results in easy clap catch scores for the break.
11. Los Angeles Aviators (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 20-19 (OT) at Oakland
Upcoming matchup: July 21 vs Oakland
It was a tale of two halves in Oakland for the Aviators. Sean McDougall was downright dominant for stretches, picking off passes and tying a season high with six assists. But LA was repeatedly flummoxed by the Spiders’ sideline trap schemes, and the Aviators mustered just one score over the final nine-plus minutes of game block in the fourth quarter and overtime. Unsurprisingly, a team that rosters Pawel Janas is in the top three in red zone conversion rate this season. But the lack of a deep game—LA completes the fifth fewest hucks per game in 2023—has allowed opposing defenses to anticipate throws and cluster the middle of the field; LA concedes over 10 blocks per game to opponents.
10. Minnesota Wind Chill (-)
Record: 9-2 ^
Most recent result: Win, 22-13 vs Chicago
Upcoming matchup: July 23 vs Detroit
For the second time in three matchups with the Union this season, the Wind Chill fell into an immediate 4-0 hole against Chicago. But unlike their Week 5 meeting, Minnesota simply absorbed the blow and returned it five-fold, crushing the Union in a blizzard of 17 break scores. Dylan DeClerck continues to fully embody the jailbreak energy that Minnesota’s defense employs once they generate a turnover, and now the team sits just one playoff home win away from their first Championship Weekend appearance. And despite making just 24 starts over three seasons with the team, Quinn Snider is a goal scoring star when he is in the lineup. The 24-year-old already has 101 career goals, and is currently fifth all-time in goals per game (4.41), which is a hair above Cameron Brock.
9. Boston Glory (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 22-15 at DC
Upcoming matchup: July 21 vs Montreal
It’s a weird little thing to watch someone you worked with as a video cam operator transform into a playoff team’s best deep thrower, but that’s exactly what Colin Sunde has done for Boston in his second pro stint. A multi-year practice player for the Radicals, Sunde’s sole pro experience before joining the Glory was just two appearances and 29 points played for Madison in 2021. But with renewed confidence and a helluva cannon, Sunde leads Boston with 12 huck completions this season and has seven assists, 62 completions, and over 700 passing yards in his last two starts. Sunde’s solid shot selection is indicative of an overall upward trend for a Boston team that has always had a love affair with the longball; Glory finished dead last in huck completion percentage last year, and are now squarely in the middle of the pack. Once again: All Boston needs to do is beat winless Montreal, and they are in the playoffs.
8. Austin Sol (-)
Record: 9-3 *
Most recent result: Win, 24-21 at Dallas
Upcoming matchup: First round South Division playoffs, July 29 vs Carolina
With the Flyers loss to Atlanta, the Sol clinched their first true home playoff game in team history; Austin hosted a playoff game in 2018 due to some funky playoff scheduling. They say defense wins championships, and the Sol currently boast the highest break rate in the league at nearly 39 percent thanks to their demolitions of interstate foes Dallas and Houston. Six different Sol defensive starters have 20 or more scores this season, and the team’s break scores per game (9.4) almost equals Montreal’s hold average (11.1). Duncan Fitzgerald basically quadrupled all of his throwing stats in his first season in Austin compared to the first two years he spent playing for DC.
7. Oakland Spiders (-)
Most recent result: Win, 20-19 (OT) vs Los Angeles
Upcoming matchup: July 21 at Los Angeles
Say what you will about this team’s foibles—60 turnovers in their last two games, bottom third in overall turnovers in 2023, four wins by a single goal—they are true contenders in the West this season because, as the team keeps saying, “Spiders are tough to kill”. Walker Frankenberg had his fifth four-plus goal game of the season that included the game winner in OT, and leads all rookies with 52 total scores. Head Coach Dan Silverstein deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year for Oakland’s ability to plug in rookies on command and have them perform like stars, as Kyle Lew and Matt Barcellos did in their pro debuts last Saturday. There is a strong team culture, and a firm belief they can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the West. One more win this weekend and they will get to prove themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2017.
6. Carolina Flyers (-3)
Record: 6-4 *
Most recent result: Loss, 25-19 vs Atlanta
Upcoming matchup: July 22 at Atlanta
The Flyers returned from their month-long bye and, absent a few vital starters, came out predictably flat against a highly motivated rival. The 42 turnovers Carolina has in their last two games is the most mistakes in back-to-back performances since the 2018 season for the franchise, and the Flyers currently rank seventh in the league after finishing in the top three in each of the last three seasons. The constant shifts in the lineups on both lines has necessitated new players to step up each week, and Carolina has banked on their extensive depth (and youth) more than ever this season to stay competitive. Teenage rookie Tobias Brooks has started in every game, and finished with season-high four assists and nearly 300 total yards against Atlanta in Week 12.
5. Colorado Summit (+1)
Record: 8-4 *
Most recent result: Loss, 19-15 vs New York
Upcoming matchup: First round West Division playoffs, July 29 vs TBD
The Summit held strong for most of the game against New York, and their defensive looks clearly stunted the Empire’s offensive flow and forced them into a very constricted “ground game” approach for much of the match. But an avalanche of Empire defensive pressure in the final quarter buried Colorado’s chances, and once again revealed the inconsistencies that have plagued the Summit O-line all season; Colorado is just 37-for-51 (73 percent) on red zone opportunities in their last three games. But with a week off to mend, adjust, and scout their potential first round opponents, the Summit stand to enter the postseason with their strongest, healthiest lineup of the season. In his first 26 starts as a pro, Quinn Finer is averaging nearly six scores and 471 total yards per game with a 96 percent completion mark.
4. DC Breeze (+1)
Record: 8-3 *
Most recent result: Win, 20-18 (OT) at Philadelphia
Upcoming matchup: July 21 vs Toronto
With just one game remaining on their regular season calendar, one spot you might not have had on your bingo card was “Jonny Malks leads the team in goals”. The fifth year handler made the 2021 All-AUDL Second Team primarily for his throwing, but in the last two years Malks has morphed and mobilized his game to become a more dynamic playmaker without the disc, particularly in the red zone. Malks combines his vision with great change of direction to keep defenders off balance, allowing him to scoot into small spaces for goals. I’m still not over Alexandre Fall covering a quarter of the field and springloading for a blindsided block.
3. Atlanta Hustle (+1)
Record: 9-2 ^
Most recent result: Win, 25-19 at Carolina
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Carolina
As impressive as the offense has been with their ability to limit mistakes and allow for big man Brett Hulsmeyer to bowling ball his way through opposing defenses, the Hustle defense is really turning up the heat going into the playoffs. Since losing to New York on June 10, Atlanta has scored 45 breaks in their last four outings, including punching in 9-of-13 break opportunities in Carolina. Justin Burnett leads the league in blocks per game (2.11) and is averaging almost two scores as well on the counterattack; it’s not just the volume of Burnett’s blocks that is impressive, it’s that he can generate them at all three levels and seemingly at will; Burnett is as potent in the reset lane as he is in single coverage downfield.
2. Salt Lake Shred (-)
Record: 11-1 ^
Most recent result: Loss, 23-19 vs New York
Upcoming matchup: West Division Championship, August 11 vs TBD
Emboldened by their ravenous crowd at Zions Bank Stadium, the Shred offense continually kept their rhythm and composure against the Empire’s league-best defense, and converted on 16-of-24 (67 percent) of their O-line possessions, easily the highest rate against the reigning champs all season. Salt Lake’s machine-like system continually gouged and sliced and swept around the edges of New York’s coverages, using their balance and uptempo pace to evade pressure. Funnily enough, Jordan Kerr was the only offensive starter who totaled under 300 total yards on the night, which really illustrates the discipline this team has in exploiting their most favorable matchups. Case in point: Jace Duennebeil averaged nearly 29 yards per touch while racking up 10 scores and nearly 500 yards without a mistake while speeding past Empire defenders.
1. New York Empire (-)
Record: 11-0 ^
Most recent result: Win, 23-19 at Salt Lake
Upcoming matchup: July 22 vs Montreal
26 game winning streak. Number one defense. Number one in takeaways. League leader in assists (58) Ryan Osgar. League leader in goals (44) Jeff Babbitt. First player in the 300/300 Club# in league history (Ben Jagt). And we’re just days away from Playoff Jack making his seasonal ascendance into his QB1 role and adding another oar to this warship of a team; Williams is coming off his two most productive throwing performances of the season. Both Colorado and Salt Lake made admirable runs at the champs, but each challenger was pinned down and given their respective three counts on the mat by the end of the fourth quarter thanks to relentless defensive pressure. This isn’t just an empire, but the actualization of the first real dynasty in this league’s history.
# 300 assists and 300 goals
* Clinched playoff spot
^ Regular season division champion
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