Saturday, October 18, 2008

Power Rankings -- Week 8

With only two weeks remaining in the season, the focus of every team has to nearly solely be on making the playoffs and doing so with the best possible seeding. As that is the primary focus, the rankings this week will be based nearly completely on a team's chances in exactly that regard, and my individual discussions about each team will be centered on what their basic position in regards to the playoffs really is.

1st: San Francisco Mechanics (6.5 – 1.5) (+0 from last week). With a one and a half match lead with only two weeks left, the Mechanics are on the brink of their third division title in four years. Of course, if they can manage to not lose to Miami in the final week, that alone will suffice for capturing the division, but it would obviously be best to maintain at least the lead they have now going into the final week to give the Sharks no chance, since if Miami manages to creep any closer in Week 9, a final week victory by the Sharks will give them the division instead. (Win Division: 86%, Make Playoffs: 100%), (Combined Current Record of Remaining Opponents: 9.5 – 6.5)

2nd: Queens Pioneers (6.5 – 1.5) (+0). Another solid victory by the Pioneers, with their young guard holding the fort on the bottom boards against the balanced lineup of Chicago. The Pioneers can obviously wrap up the division with a win in their rematch against the only team to have defeated them, Carolina, this week and even a draw will put them in a very good spot with them only being able to lose the division then with a final round loss coupled with a Cobra win which have reasonably big margins of victory. The thing to really avoid is another loss which will leave everything up in the air come the final week. (78%, 100%), (9.5 – 6.5)

3rd: Carolina Cobras (5.5 – 2.5) (+2). Will the Cinderella story ever end? I'm sure the Cobras would pick for it to continue for at least a couple months more, winning them the league in the process, but that's still a very long way away. As mentioned with the Pioneers, Carolina really needs to win this week to have a real chance at taking the division, but even if that doesn't happen, they still must be concerned with keeping solid control of second place (and even third, though it's quite unlikely that they could slip all the way to fourth). It's an interesting question as to whether Carolina, if faced with a drawn match this week, would take a risk which might risk them losing while also giving them a better chance to win. As mentioned, without a win, their chances of being division champs are very low, but a draw this week would do wonders for locking up second place while a loss is very likely to put it all on the line in the last week. (21%, 100%), (8.5 – 7.5)

4th: Miami Sharks (5.0 – 3.0) (+2). Miami seems to have regained their early season form once again with two consecutive
3.5 – 0.5 victories, exactly the way they started the season. As Dallas and Chicago play in the final week, and Miami's tiebreaks are much better than either of them, even a draw in either week will clinch the Sharks a playoff spot (other than one extreme circumstance which involves their loss and Chicago's win this week both to be by a 4 – 0 score). The division title will require some outside help along with a final week win – a fair long shot no doubt, but they have to feel very good about their overall playoff positioning. (12%, 95%), (11 – 5)

5th: New Jersey Knockouts (4.5 – 3.5) (-1). After appearing to be a complete lock for the playoffs in the past couple of weeks, suddenly New Jersey does have some worries as they face a red hot Miami team this week with Boston and a resurgent New York team trying to chase them down. Barring a ridiculous margin of victory from the Knights in both weeks, a draw with Miami will basically lock up their spot, but a loss combined with a Knights win is likely to put them in the same exact spot as last season -- facing the Knights in the final week with a half point lead and needing a draw to clinch, but falling short (assuming that Boston manages to score at least 1 – 1 in the final two weeks also). Given this would also involve ending the season on a 0.5 – 3.5 skid, that would obviously be a devastating blow, and I'm sure they'd like to put any chance of such a showdown taking place out of the picture by not losing against Miami. (1%, 95%), (8 – 8)

6th: Boston Blitz (4.0 – 4.0) (+2). Boston simply needs to score at least 1 – 1 in the last two weeks to virtually assure themselves of a spot (like New Jersey, this only has a chance to fail if the Knights manage two victories with huge margins). Clear enough mission for them then, and it's probably best not to tempt fate as failing to score that may well leave them out since given the Knights' league history, I wouldn't be inclined to bet against New York scoring 2 – 0 in the final two weeks to overtake them should they not manage to go at least
1 – 1. (0%, 91%), (8.5 – 7.5)

7th: Seattle Sluggers (4.5 – 3.5) (+2). Although the Sluggers have slightly worse tiebreakers than the Destiny, I feel they are in a slightly better spot playoff-wise as they simply (by record) have the easier opposition in the final two weeks. Even putting aside the fact of their opponents' record, determination could well be a factor as this week they face a team who is already eliminated and in the final week an opponent who is almost eliminated and could well be completely so by the time that match takes place. They do have to be concerned by the fact that should it come down to tiebreaks, they are guaranteed to lose out to Chicago in that regard, and are currently at a disadvantage to Dallas (though the latter deficit could be negated by the end). Due to this fact, even a victory this week to put them at 5.5 – 3.5 is not guaranteed to clinch them their spot. (1%, 78%), (4.5 – 11.5)

8th: Dallas Destiny (4.5 – 3.5) (-5). Another victim of a Shark blowout, and a very unfortunate time for it to happen as their playoff spot is definitely in peril now, and their tiebreaks are very tenuous due to this most recent loss (should they wind up tied with Chicago, they are virtually guaranteed to have inferior tiebreaks as only specific instance which involves very specific match scores could have that not be the case). They do have the current tiebreak edge over Seattle, but obviously they have to be concerned, facing San Francisco this week and then one of the teams which is in the thick of the playoff battle with them, Chicago. (1%, 76%), (10.5 – 5.5)

9th: Chicago Blaze (4.0 – 4.0) (-2). The Blaze continue to bounce back and forth between the fourth and fifth spot, and it seems probable that they will end the regular season in one of those two spots also. Unfortunately for them only one of those positions moves on while the other goes home for the winter. Chicago's main route is pretty clear as beating the Destiny in the final week will give them their playoff spot unless the Destiny win this week and the Blaze fall (or, as noted for Dallas, there is a remote possibility requiring very specific scores which would allow Dallas to still finish ahead of Chicago should the teams be tied in match points). Should the Blaze only draw the Destiny then they will need to do at least half a point better than them in Week 9 (or get some decent help from Seattle's opponents) while a loss to Dallas would require some tremendous help from Seattle's opponents, something that they obviously should not count on. (0%, 51%), (7 – 9)

10th: New York Knights (3.0 – 5.0) (+2). Can New York really pull off another miracle this year? It seems to be be becoming more and more possible as it was a mere pipe dream when they were 1 – 5, but suddenly the path is much more of a reality. However, due to their miserable tiebreaks, they clearly need to overtake at least one of New Jersey and Boston in match points. To do the former, very simply they must go 2 – 0 and the Knockouts 0 – 2 and for the latter they will obviously need help from Boston's opponents (while going at least 1.5 – 0.5 themselves). It's still possible that even going 2 – 0 might not make it if New Jersey manages to at least draw this week, and Boston manages to go at least 1 – 1, but again the dream is now alive and kicking, definitely more so than could be said recently. (0%, 13%), (6 – 10)

11th: Arizona Scorpions (2.5 – 5.5) (-1). Not much life left for the Scorpions unfortunately even though this makes their path fairly clear: Win their last two matches, hope that Chicago falls to Dallas in the final week. and that Seattle falls to Tennesee in Week 9. Should that occur, if Arizona can manage to beat the Sluggers in the final week by more than the minimum, that will be enough to put the Scorpions into the postseason (and really the only way, except again if they have two total blowout wins while the appropriate opposition has blowout losses). A long shot to be sure, but as always better than none. (0%, 1%), (8.5 – 7.5)

12th: Philadelphia Inventors (2.0 – 6.0) (-1). Like the Scorpions, the Inventors's mission, albeit extremely bleak looking, is very clear also: Win their final two matches, hope that New York cannot score better than 1 – 1 in their final two, and that Queens knocks off Boston in the final week. Should this remarkably occur, the Inventors still need to make up some tiebreak ground on Boston (which they of course are guaranteed to somewhat do via them going 2 – 0 and Boston 0 – 2), but if they really want to give themselves a chance to catch Boston in tiebreaks, beating them by a score similar to the 3.5 – 0.5 blowout that they had earlier against them this season is really what they need to do. (0%, 1%), (9.5 – 6.5)

13th: Tennessee Tempo (2.0 – 6.0) (+0). So now it comes down to the role of spoiler for the Tempo who are the Scorpions' only chance to remain alive in the playoff race, as without a victory by them against Seattle, the Scorpions are eliminated. Not only that, the Sluggers' general chances to finish ahead of at least one of Dallas and Chicago greatly hinge on this match, making it a very important one for the Western division as a whole. (0%, 0%), (6 – 10)

14th: Baltimore Kingfishers (1.5 – 6.5) (+0). Like the Tempo, Baltimore can now play the role of spoiler, as defeating their old adversaries the Knights in the upcoming week will knock the Knights out of contention, and a draw is virtually certain to do so as well. (0%, 0%), (5 – 11)

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