Thursday, October 18, 2007

Power Rankings -- Week 8

With only two weeks in the regular season remaining, some things have finally been clarified while others remain as murky as ever. In the West, the Destiny became the first team to clinch a spot in the post season and have a stranglehold on claiming the division crown, but the battle for second and third there still remains as open as it's been since the beginning of the season. In the East, really nothing is assured as things have changed so dramatically in the last few weeks, with Boston no longer seeming a lock to win the division, and New York rising from the dead to now probably being a favorite in most people’s eyes to be in the playoffs. Here’s how things seem to be to me overall.

1st: Dallas Destiny (6.0 – 2.0) (+1 from last week). Although I’m not completely convinced that Dallas is the flat out strongest team in the league right now, as the first team to clinch a playoff spot and having a hammerlock on winning their division, I think they’ve earned themselves the top spot in these rankings. Though there are a few unusual scenarios where they could wind up not winning the division, I personally don’t think it’s a bad idea for the other teams in the West to at least brainstorm a bit as to what their strategy against the Destiny in the Semifinals facing draw odds might happen to be. (Win Division: 95%, Make Playoffs: 100%)

2nd: Boston Blitz (5.5 – 2.5) (-1). Boston hasn’t appeared to be the invincible machine that they really seemed to be in the early season in recent times. While obviously still a super strong team (likely still the best in the league), them winning their division doesn’t seem to be the foregone conclusion that it was a few weeks ago (and in actuality, even a playoff spot is not mathematically guaranteed, but would take a very unusual collection of results in the last couple of weeks to not happen). The Blitz do still have to feel good about the fact that no matter what happens in any match this week, they will still win the East Division with a last round victory over the Inventors, a team they really decimated in their first meeting this season. (72%, 98%)

3rd: Philadelphia Inventors (5.0 – 3.0) (+1). The Inventors continue to surprise and now are more than likely to be a playoff team. It’s still not anywhere near time for them to rest on their laurels though as they definitely have a legitimate chance to win their division now which is of course a huge advantage and a playoff spot is still not assured as they will likely need at least a draw in one of their two remaining matches to lock that up (and it’s possible that even one draw might not be enough, though it’s most likely to be). However, their final two opponents are New York, by far the hottest team in the league right now, who will be out for revenge, and Boston who handed them their worst defeat in league history at their first meeting this season. (26%, 70%)

4th: New York Knights (4.0 – 4.0) (+2). I, and many others, were on the verge of giving up on the Knights a few weeks ago when they sat with a 1 – 4 record, but they are now displaying the kind of performance which made me think they were the best team in the league before the season. Though it’s quite impressive what they’ve managed to do the last three weeks, they still have a fair amount of work to do to claim their playoff spot especially since they have Philadelphia and New Jersey as their last two opponents, two teams who will also be giving everything they have and both of whom defeated the Knights in their first meeting this season. Of course the Knights are just so hot right now that I really can’t bet against them to be in the post season (which is also the reason I’ve placed them above the Sluggers in these rankings despite the inferior record). (1%, 56%)

5th: Seattle Sluggers (4.5 – 3.5) (-2). Seattle had a tough defeat in really getting quite outplayed by Dallas this week. Though this unfortunate result makes the division crown quite unlikely, the Sluggers are still in good playoff position, but it’s far from a certainty and even if it was, it’s likely as things stand now that they will meet the Mechanics in the Wildcard round, and I’m sure they’d prefer to do that with draw odds rather than facing them to help avoid a repeat exit as last season. (4%, 75%)

6th: San Francisco Mechanics (4.0 – 4.0) (+2). There were probably many sighs of relief when the Mechanics clinched their victory this week as they are now back to being a likely playoff team. It’s still not easy for them as they will probably need at least one point from their last two (and perhaps even more), and they are facing Seattle, the team that ended their unbeaten streak as well as league leading Dallas. (1%, 64%)

7th: New Jersey Knockouts (4.0 – 4.0) (+2). The Knockouts defied most people’s expectations in holding the powerful Blitz team to a draw. Though a very good result, to make the playoffs they will likely two repeat performances (or better) in both of their last two weeks as a loss either week could easily eliminate them. Having to face a red hot New York team who will also be looking for revenge is a somewhat unenviable assignment. (1%, 41%)

8th: Carolina Cobras (3.5 – 4.5) (-1). Carolina has slipped out of a playoff spot for now, but fortunately for them, if they can manage to win both of their last two matches will still almost certainly be in the playoffs (with just a tad bit of outside help), and they are facing Miami, a team they defeated earlier in the season, and Tennessee, the team Carolina rose to sweep last season in a similar situation with their playoff lives on the line. (0%, 42%)

9th: Baltimore Kingfishers (3.5 – 4.5) (-4). How things can change in a week! Given the tightly packed nature of the teams in the East, one loss has me dropping the Kingfishers four spots in these rankings. Like last season, Baltimore just doesn’t seem to be able to play consistently right now which seems to be really hurting them. They are still a team with quite a bit of firepower and are still almost certain to be in the playoffs if they can win both of their last two matches, but that’s obviously far easier said than done. (0%, 31%)

10th: Miami Sharks (3.0 – 5.0) (+1). I’ve been stating that Miami would need to sweep their last batch of matches to make the playoffs, but it seems that that was mildly incorrect as despite failing to win this past week, the Sharks still have several scenarios under which they could still make the playoffs (The playoff picture in the West is unusual enough that a 4.5 – 5.5 or even a 4 – 6 team could make the playoffs under the right circumstances, which is nearly impossible in the East. For this reason, there are many more scenarios in which Miami will make the playoffs than their East counterparts, Queens, who have the same record, which is why I decided to place Miami higher in these rankings this week). However, those situations where a team with a losing record makes the playoffs are few and far between so Miami really must work under the assumption that only a 2 – 0 will give them a chance at it (and luckily if they do, they only need a fair amount of outside help to make it). Unfortunately, one of those two wins will have to come against Seattle, a team which Miami has really struggled against having a 0 – 3 record against in the past two seasons. (0%, 19%)

11th: Queens Pioneers (3.0 – 5.0) (-1). Though not eliminated, Queens is in a very tough spot now as they absolutely must go 2 – 0 now to have any chance (except in one very, very unusual situation), and it’s quite possible that even that will not be enough without quite a bit of help from the outside. As usual though, never say never in the USCL, so hopefully they don’t give up now. (0%, 4%)

12th: Tennessee Tempo (2.0 – 6.0) (+0). Tennessee seems to be playing the role of spoiler quite well in really making a much tougher road for their previous two opponents, Carolina and Miami, to be in the post season. Besides that of course, their much improved play (especially FM Andrews who is now only one spot away from being on the MVP leader board !), I’m sure will have their future opponents and all viewers not taking any of their match results for granted. The Tempo still have some more good opportunity to play spoiler for their remaining two matches, perhaps in stopping Dallas from clinching the division this week and maybe derailing Carolina’s playoff hopes entirely in the last week. (0%, 0%)

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