2015 Memorial Day Women’s Football Playoff Preview
Well, we’ve hit Memorial Day in women’s football, which means the regular season is hitting its stride and it’s time to turn our attention to the playoffs in the three leagues! I’m going to give you a quick rundown of where I think everyone stands in the three leagues as far as playoff positioning.
Please note…none of the three leagues have given a clear indication of how their playoff structures will look or how the playoff teams will be determined. As such, I’m resorting to guesswork based on the best information I’ve seen floating around. None of this is official…take it for what it is, my educated best guess. And if you feel like blasting someone for how these leagues structure their playoffs, how they choose their playoff teams, or their general lack of communication and clarity on those two issues…please don’t shoot the messenger. Thanks in advance. 😛
With that said, let’s take a look at the three leagues…
WFA Playoff Picture
The best information I have available is that the WFA is going with a 16-team playoff bracket this year – eight teams from the National Conference and eight from the American Conference.
In the National Conference, the latest playoff bracket I’ve seen has three teams from the Southeast Region joining five teams from the Northeast in the eight-team field. Furthermore, rather than having the overall #1 seed in the East on the Southeast side of the bracket, the top Mid-Atlantic team assumes that position this year. I assume this was done to help the Southeast teams offset some of their travel costs by giving them, at worst, a road game in DC or Cleveland rather than shipping them out to Boston or Chicago as the league has done the past two years, but that’s only a guess.
In any event, three teams from the WFA’s Southeast Region are slated to make the WFA playoffs. That’s interesting, because four teams have risen head and shoulders ahead of the pack in the Southeast – Atlanta, Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa Bay. But only three of them will make the playoffs, and there isn’t much separating #1 from #4 right now. So it will be a compelling battle to see which three make the postseason.
Right now, it appears that the Jacksonville Dixie Blues have the early edge in the Southeast. Since a 17-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Inferno, Jacksonville has ripped off four straight wins, including a 37-6 avenging of the Tampa Bay defeat. They also got a key road win in Atlanta earlier this year. Their last two games – at home against Miami and Atlanta – are too tough for them to feel entirely comfortable, but they are in the driver’s seat in the Southeast as it stands right now.
Tampa, Miami, and Atlanta are interesting, because they’re caught in an intransitive loop – specifically, Tampa beat Miami (21-13 on April 18), and Miami beat Atlanta (12-6 in overtime on May 16), but Atlanta beat Tampa (26-19 on May 9). Tampa may have a bit of an edge on the other two, insofar as Jacksonville has broken ever-so-slightly ahead of the pack in the Southeast and Tampa does have that season-opening victory over Jacksonville in its pocket. But these four teams are so close that the position from #1 through #4 in the Southeast could shuffle a couple of times before the regular season is through.
Joining three Southeast teams on their side of the bracket will be the Mid-Atlantic champion, which will come down to the D.C. Divas against the Cleveland Fusion. Massey has the D.C. Divas (a team that I, in full disclosure, work for as a member of their front office staff) ranked higher in their ratings, thanks largely to a 32-27 victory over the Boston Renegades on May 2. But the Cleveland Fusion stamped themselves as legitimate conference championship material by giving Boston everything they wanted on May 16 before falling, 24-20. The Fusion and Divas play on June 6, which will go a long way to deciding who moves into the Southeast Region side of the National Conference bracket.
Three of the four playoff teams on the Northeast side of the National Conference bracket have been all but clinched by the Chicago Force, the Boston Renegades, and whichever team comes up on the short end of the Cleveland Fusion/D.C. Divas divisional battle. The final spot in the WFA’s National Conference playoffs is still up for grabs. The Indy Crash and West Michigan Mayhem appear to have the inside track for that final spot, but don’t count out the Columbus Comets, either. Even though a brutal schedule has left them winless, they could make a late-season run at the playoffs if they can muster victories over the Mayhem and Detroit Dark Angels to close out the year.
Taking a look at the American Conference, four teams will make the Midwest half of the conference playoff bracket. The Dallas Elite clinched their spot weeks ago, but the other three playoff bids are still up in the air. Despite a couple of lopsided losses to two very talented teams in Dallas and Chicago, the Kansas City Titans look like a solid playoff bet in the Midwest. The St. Louis Slam haven’t racked up the huge margins of victory some other teams have, but they have a very solid record with a 27-17 loss to Kansas City on May 2 as the only blemish on their schedule. They’ll have to play well in the Kansas City rematch on June 6 as well as in their season finale against the Chicago Force, but they have an inside track at a playoff spot too.
That leaves at least one additional playoff spot to come out of Texas. Right now, that spot is the Arlington Impact’s to lose, thanks largely to a 16-0 victory over the Houston Power on April 18. But Houston could reverse that and take Arlington’s spot – or even snare St. Louis’ spot should the Slam stumble down the stretch – with a strong showing in their rematch against Arlington on May 30.
Finally, out on the West Coast, the San Diego Surge are flexing their muscles again, easily in the playoffs and looking for their fourth conference title in five years. Three other West Coast teams will join the Surge in the playoffs, and one of them will surely be the Seattle Majestics, who are in a great position to polish off an undefeated regular season.
The other two spots should both come from California. The Central Cal War Angels are 3-1 with their only loss a competitive one to San Diego on May 9, 66-26. They are in a prime position for their fourth straight playoff appearance given their season thus far. But so too are the Pacific Warriors, who actually have a nearly-identical resume to Central Cal so far this season. The Warriors and Central Cal meet on May 30 in a game that will have far greater playoff implications than many might have expected before the start of the season.
The Tacoma Trauma, thanks to a low strength of schedule in the Northwest and a decisive loss to the Seattle Majestics on May 17, 49-18, likely need either Central Cal or Pacific to falter to snare their first playoff bid in team history.
My current WFA bracket projection:
Indy @ Chicago
Cleveland/DC @ Boston
Tampa/Atlanta @ Cleveland/DC
Miami @ Jacksonville
St. Louis @ Dallas
Kansas City @ Arlington
Pacific @ San Diego
Central Cal @ Seattle
My take – Some good games there. Chicago dominated Indy earlier this season, but they’ve dominated everyone so far, so Indy is as good an opening test for them as anyone. Boston has already played two tough, competitive games against both D.C. and Cleveland, so either way I would expect that game to be a thrilling quarterfinal matchup.
The Divas travel south to play the Atlanta Phoenix on May 30, which will be a good inter-regional matchup and could serve as a possible playoff preview. As mentioned above, all the elite teams in the Southeast are bunched closely together, so a Jacksonville-Miami game would certainly be expected to be competitive and entertaining.
In the west, given Dallas’ lopsided regular season win over Kansas City, it would be nice if this bracket holds to see them face off against a different opponent, just for kicks. I think Arlington-Kansas City would be a very competitive game and a fun one to watch.
Much like Chicago and Indy, I think Pacific would provide as good an opening test for San Diego as anyone, given the Surge’s dominance. And considering Seattle’s 13-12 playoff victory over Central Cal last season, I think it would be a great match to see again this year.
Since I work for the Divas, I’m going to recuse myself from projecting any possible WFA playoff game winners…I’ll leave that one to Alex Daniel. 😉
IWFL Playoff Picture
For years, the IWFL has limited their playoffs to division winners only – no wild cards. I have no reason to expect that to change, given their usual structure of four divisions in the East and four in the West. So let’s take a look.
In the East, it’s “who’s playing for second?” as the Pittsburgh Passion chew through the league like a meat grinder for the second straight year. They’ll easily win their division, and the “no wild cards” rule in the IWFL definitely sucks for the Philadelphia Firebirds, who are quietly having a standout year.
In the North Atlantic, it’s going to come down to the New York Sharks and the Montreal Blitz. The Sharks downed the Blitz by a 26-19 count on April 25, but the Sharks travel to Canada for a rematch on June 6. The outcome of that game should decide the only division race that’s really up in the air.
In the South Atlantic, the Carolina Phoenix are the team to beat again, having dispatched all their divisional foes this year. The only team that might pose a problem are the instate Carolina Queens, who took a 14-0 defeat on May 2 but who get a rematch on June 13. The Phoenix are in the driver’s seat, though, with the Queens posing the only remaining obstacle on their way to the IWFL playoffs.
In the Great Lakes Division, the Toledo Reign are 1-4, but as luck would have it, their one win is a 28-0 whitewashing of the Wisconsin Warriors, who are 0-4. The Warriors are the only team sharing the Reign’s division, which means Toledo is pretty much coasting into the playoffs. Of course, the Detroit Pride have beaten the Reign in both of their meetings this year, but as an affiliate team, the Pride are ineligible for the playoffs. Wisconsin’s winlessness and Detroit’s affiliate status will gift the Reign a playoff berth, but it’s a gift they may want to return after they play a playoff game against a Pittsburgh Passion team that beat them on April 11, 66-0.
Let’s head west, where the playoff spots appear to be all but locked up. The Madison Blaze are the lone remaining undefeated team in the Midwest Division and have a two-game lead on every other team in the division. The Houston Energy fought off a strong challenge from the Austin Yellow Jackets and are undefeated with a two-game lead in their division as well. You can pencil Madison and Houston both into the playoffs.
On the West Coast, the Utah Falconz are undefeated, and their only divisional challenger is a Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz team the Falconz handled in a preseason game – a game which the Falconz led, 32-0, at halftime before the Thunderkatz ran out of healthy players. Pretty safe to pencil the Falconz in as winners of this division. Finally, the Sacramento Sirens are destroying everyone on their schedule; they’re undefeated with a three-game lead over the rest of the division. Pretty simple.
My current IWFL bracket projection:
Toledo @ Pittsburgh
Carolina Phoenix @ New York
Madison @ Houston
Utah @ Sacramento
My take – Pittsburgh, as mentioned, has already played Toledo and will walk into the Eastern Conference title game. There they’ll play a Carolina Phoenix team they beat, 41-6, on May 16, or a New York Sharks team they have already beaten four times since joining the IWFL last year. Be still, my heart. I guess the competitive side of me hopes they face the Sharks, since it’d be nice for the Passion to actually break a sweat getting to a league title game, and the Sharks have a habit of at least keeping things close against Pittsburgh. I might get my wish, too, given that we saw the same New York-Carolina conference semifinal game in last year’s IWFL playoffs, and it was a 60-12 win for the Sharks.
The Western Conference of the IWFL could actually feature four undefeated teams, largely due to the fact that Madison and Houston play in separate neighborhoods from the West Coast teams. Houston probably isn’t as strong as they were last year, but it’d be hard to pick against an Energy team that beat the Blaze in last year’s Western Conference title game, 53-0. That’s no small margin for error.
The Utah Falconz-Sacramento Sirens game, though, should be an excellent one. It could genuinely go either way, I think. And while I believe the Energy have a relatively strong team, I would expect the Utah-Sacramento winner to be the favorite to then advance to the IWFL championship game…and hopefully give the Passion their first truly competitive game in two years.
WSFL Playoff Picture
First of all, let’s note that the WSFL has ten teams playing in their league this year…the largest number of viable franchises playing in a given season in the history of the WSFL. Tip of the cap to Mary Butler in her first year running the WSFL – they had a solid league this year.
The WSFL is split into five teams each in two conferences. The WSFL is actually scheduling later than the two larger leagues, so they aren’t as far into their season as the other two. But we can still see pretty clearly how the league is shaping up.
The WSFL plans to have three playoff teams from each conference – a conference semifinal game between teams #2 and #3 followed by the winner of that game taking on the regular season conference champion.
In the Northern Conference, the Keystone Assault are undefeated and appear to be the clear favorites in the conference. The New England Nightmare have a strong grip on the #2 spot in the North, while the #3 position is up for grabs. Right now, the Baltimore Burn have the advantage to take that spot, thanks to a 22-6 victory over the West Virginia Wildfire on May 9. But the last Northern Conference playoff spot might come down to a rematch between the Burn and the Wildfire in West Virginia on June 27.
Down south, the Memphis (Tennessee) Legacy and Tri-Cities Thunder are both destroying their competition, putting them on a crash course for the Southern Conference title game. I give the Legacy the edge in the battle for the top seed, largely due to the fact that they’ve played a slightly tougher schedule to this point than the Thunder. But I genuinely don’t know how a Legacy-Thunder conference title game would turn out, which is always exciting. Right now, the DFW Xtreme get the nod for the #3 seed, mostly due to their April 18 win over the Arkansas Xassassins by a 14-8 score.
My current WSFL bracket projection:
Baltimore @ New England
DFW @ Tri-Cities
My take – The conference semifinal games may not be that intriguing, as I expect Tri-Cities and New England to be big favorites. But I do think the two conference title games could be exciting. While Keystone would be favored over New England, the Nightmare are good enough to make it interesting. And in the Southern Conference, a title game between the Memphis (Tennessee) Legacy and the Tri-Cities Thunder would shape up to be a fun football game to watch, regardless of league.
The Legacy-Thunder winner would then battle the Keystone Assault in the WSFL championship game in Erie, and again, I would expect an entertaining contest. All in all, it’s shaping up to be potentially the best WSFL season ever.
Over in the W8FL, I expect they’ll probably just have a one-shot championship game between the league’s top two regular season finishers. Right now, that’s likely two of the Southern Valkyrie, Cape Fear Thunder, and New York Knockout. Too few games between them to narrow it down to just two teams at this point.
That’s my 2015 playoff preview and projections. Should be a great finish to the women’s football regular season!