July 29, 2021
By Adam Ruffner
3. Montreal Royal
The Royal largely kept up with the powerful Ottawa offense on Sunday, scoring 17 goals through three quarters before their legs gave out in the fourth in the 26-19 loss. Malik Auger-Semmar, Vincent Lemieux, and Sacha Poitte-Sokolsky all finished with 500-plus total yards for the Royal, but Lemieux and Poitte-Sokolsky combined for 11 turnovers in the game; Montreal committed 25 as a team. The Royal will need to address the -17 block-to-turnover differential from their home opener immediately.
2. Toronto Rush
The two years off have left the Rush in a radically different position than where they were at the end of 2019. Cam Harris and Andrew Carroll are still in the driver’s seat(s?) for the Toronto offense, and Mike Mackenzie’s new striker role on offense has him looking like Captain Canada (read: Captain America but make it flannel), finishing his season debut with five assists, six goals, 506 receiving yards, and 773 total yards without committing a turnover. But defensively, this is not the perennially stout Rush team of years past. Toronto had zero answers for Ottawa’s deep attack, and they completed just 3-of-10 defensive break opportunities in the loss.
1. Ottawa Outlaws
For years Ottawa has filled the role of “little brother” when it came to the dynamic of the three Canadian franchises, often coming out the lesser in their matchups with Toronto and Montreal. But after scoring 53 goals and going 2-0 in the opening weekend of Canada Cup play, the Outlaws are clearly a new beast to deal with in 2021. Nick Boucher finished 2019 with 41 assists, so it would be incorrect to say his performance against the Rush “came out of nowhere”. But man, 11 assists and nearly 1300 yards of total offense—both single-game highs in the AUDL in 2021—is a whole different level of play than where Boucher has been at to this point in his career; he didn’t lag much in the second game of the back-to-back either, finishing with a game-high 568 total yards, six total scores, and three blocks for good measure. Ottawa was 15-for-15 on hucks in their first game of the year, and it led to their first-even win against the Toronto franchise. The next day, they didn’t allow the Royal to convert a break all game.
2021 AUDL SEASON
19. Detroit Mechanix
Believe it or not, the Mechanix held onto a 5-4 lead at the end of the first quarter against the AlleyCats. But the Indy defense clamped down in the second and third quarters, limiting league receiving leader Andrew Sjogren to a season-low 139 receiving yards on the game on the way to the eventual 18-13 ‘Cats win. And now with their last four games of the season against Chicago, Madison, and Minnesota—all three of whom are in desperate need of wins for their respective playoff pushes—it is looking likely Detroit will finish 2021 with their third consecutive winless season.
18. Tampa Bay Cannons
“Ricky” Bobby Ley was all gas and no brakes for the Cannons offense on Saturday, unloading for 10 assists and 926 total yards of offense as he bombarded the Boston defense with deep huck after deep huck. Were it not for Boucher’s monster home opener, Ley would own the 2021 single-game highs for assists and total yards. It was Tampa Bay’s best offensive performance of the season, but still a loss. And now they wrap up their schedule with an absolute gauntlet against New York, Atlanta, and DC.
17. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds
Max Sheppard and CJ Colicchio are having mirroring seasons as downfield strikers: both are averaging 228 receiving yards per game, both have 19 goals in six games; Colicchio has 15 assists, while Sheppard has thrown 16. The T-birds will need both to have big performances on the road, as the team has to travel tomorrow night to Raleigh to face a Flyers team that smacked them to the tune of 27-16 in Week 7.
16. Indianapolis AlleyCats
It took a come-from-behind win on the road to put down the Mechanix, with all three of Indy’s wins in 2021 now coming against Detroit. Cameron Brock hasn’t missed a beat since rejoining the team midseason, averaging nearly 500 yards of offense and five total scores per game in his three appearances. The ‘Cats almost ended the Radicals playoff hopes in Madison two weeks ago, and they will hope to be a similar spoiler in Minnesota in Week 9.
15. San Jose Spiders
The Spiders were once again their own worst enemy at home against the Aviators, coughing up 24 turnovers as a team despite LA generating just 10 blocks on the game. And this was in spite of the flawless performances from the downfield striker duo of Jordan Kerr and Sawyer Thompson, who combined for nine assists, three goals, 43 completions, and over 900 yards of total offense without committing a turnover against the Aviators. The Spiders defense remains opportunistic and keeps them in games—San Jose is 10th in defensive efficiency despite a relative lacking in blocks—but cannot overcome the consistent unforced errors on offense.
14. Seattle Cascades
True to form for a young team, the ‘Scades followed up their momentous Dallas win with a flat performance in their Week 8 loss to LA. It’s the third time in four games that Seattle has scored 16 in a game, and unsurprisingly they’re 1-3 in those games. Manny Eckert continues to emerge as one of the better offensive players in the division, but the unit as a whole is third worst in offensive efficiency. Seattle has a lot of shooters, which works well when they’re all in rhythm. But unfortunately, that has been seldom in 2021, as the Cascades are bottom six in the AUDL in team completion percentage and turnovers per game.
13. Philadelphia Phoenix
He’s built such an impressive resume over the years, it’d be easy to look at Sean Mott’s only 23 assists on the season and think he’s having a “down year”—this is, after all, a thrower who entered 2021 as one of just four players with three straight seasons of 50-plus assists. But dig a little deeper and you see Mott is still averaging over 450 yards of total offense for the Phoenix, and is completing the highest percentage of his throws (94.90 percent) since his rookie season in 2014. If Philly does have a playoff push in them in this final month, expect Mott to elevate all of those averages.
12. Los Angeles Aviators
LA doubled their season win total in two days with their back-to-back victories on the road in Week 8, and limiting their opponents to just 34 goals on the weekend. Sean McDougall continues to fly around the field and make plays regardless of where he slots in, finishing with five assists, eight goals, three blocks, and 562 yards of total offense over two games. The pilot of LA’s success, though, was Danny Landesman, who at 20 is starting to make “The Leap”. In two games, the offensive wiz kid racked up 12 goals and 822 yards of total offense while committing just two turnovers. Landesman already has the physical tools to be a star, but it’s his impeccable knack for “right place, right time” plays that make his talent so special.
11. Austin Sol
Absolute gut punch loss at home for the Sol, who held a 4-0 lead in the first quarter against the first place Growlers before eventually succumbing 21-17 in Week 8, falling to 5-5 in the West Division standings, and a full game back of the second place Roughnecks who hold the final playoff spot. The Sol offense is one of the streakiest in the league: Austin is 10th in scoring, but fifth worst in offensive efficiency; the Sol are the only team in the league to score 20-plus goals per game while committing 22 or more turnovers per game. Rookie Evan Swiatek continues to impress, now third in the league in goals (31) and fifth in receiving yards (2243).
10. Boston Glory
With five games still remaining on their schedule—and two against a New York team suddenly saddled with two losses—Boston still has a chance to fulfill their darkhorse ambitions to snag a playoff spot in the Atlantic. Tanner Halkyard and Ben Sadok continue to be one of the best one-two punches on offense in the league in their first season together, combining for 10 assists, eight goals, and over 1000 yards of total offense against Tampa Bay. The Boston defense continues to be a sieve to scoring, giving up over 23 goals per game, but their league-average break conversion efficiency has kept them afloat. If Glory somehow figures out a way to limit opponents closer to a 20-per-game scoring number, the offense could propel this team to a postseason.
9. Madison Radicals
Minnesota dropping their Week 8 matchup with Chicago puts Madison in a vicious bind—the Radicals could win out, and still likely miss the playoffs for their second straight season if not for some help from Indy or Detroit. This Madison franchise sits on an AUDL-best 98 wins, so there’s no doubting their effort as they march towards the century club. Tomorrow night’s rubber match with Chicago at Breese Stevens is a must-win in every practical playoff sense, sure, but it’s also going to be a bellwether for this young Madison team in the new era Central Division. After some early season misfires, this Radicals lineup has shown they can hang, but still need to prove themselves as a contender.
8. Minnesota Wind Chill
The Wind Chill had a golden opportunity at home to seal their first place position in the Central, and then went on to commit 23 turnovers in a 20-16 loss to Chicago. The worst part: The Union had just eight blocks, with Minnesota having 15 unforced turnovers on the night, including a handful of drops in the end zone. The “Red Mamba” Nick Vogt continues to excel in his receiver role, finishing with four goals and 235 yards receiving against Chicago, his fourth straight game with at least 230 receiving yards; Vogt has 17 goals in that same span. Minnesota has four games remaining, with three against Indy and Detroit, and a home matchup with Madison.
7. Dallas Roughnecks
The ‘Necks have won three out of four, and it’s no coincidence that their run has paralleled Kyle Henke’s streak of MVP-level performances. I’ve been crowing about it on Twitter for two weeks, but Casted Henke definitely deserves a place in the sports pantheon of primetime performers who elevate under duress after this four-game stretch, and especially after Friday’s 3-3-3 prestige in his final game before season-ending surgery. Henke’s never-say-die attitude has galvanized a Roughnecks squad in need of an identity amidst so much lineup turmoil and injuries in 2021. Dallas beat a near full strength San Diego team with their depth—All-AUDL handler Abe Coffin is also out with an injury—and now they’re playing with their hackles up.
6. San Diego Growlers
After their loss in Dallas on Friday, it looked like the Growlers were in for a beatdown early in Austin after the team got off to a sluggish start in their second game of their back-to-back. But San Diego weathered their early struggles, girded themselves on defense, and grinded out a comeback win on the road to maintain their grip on first place. The Growlers were not clean on offense—the team converted just 48 percent of their 25 offensive possessions against Austin—but they were confident, connecting on 7-of-8 huck throws on the night, with Lior Givol uncorking multiple deep shots to Travis Dunn in space for authoritative scores.
5. Chicago Union
It wasn’t a clean win for the Union on the road in Week 8, but it was massively important for their hopes of having a home playoff game, something key for Chicago having their best lineup. Pawel Janas is leading the league in throwing yards and assists with a month left in the regular season, and has had back-to-back games with at least five assists and 390 throwing yards, both wins. The Union get a much awaited rematch with the Radicals in tomorrow night’s “Friday Night Ultimate” showcase, and a chance to show Week 6’s drop-riddled loss was an aberration.
4. Raleigh Flyers
With Minnesota losing, Raleigh now possesses the longest current winning streak in the league at five games. Raleigh gets another matchup to feast before their final slate of games finishes against New York, Atlanta, and DC, the three teams ahead of them in these rankings. Raleigh’s offense looks like one of the best in the league, but it’s the emergence of their quick-strike defense that has the Flyers positioned for a deep run in the playoffs. Raleigh has always had a good defensive lineup, but they’ve struggled to generate takeaways in the past. That is not the case in 2021, as Raleigh is fifth in the AUDL with 11.3 blocks per game. David Richardson once again leads the team with 11, but five different Flyers defenders already have five or more blocks on the season.
3. New York Empire
For the first time since the 2018 semifinals, the Empire played close to their A-game and lost in Atlanta. Ben Jagt, Elliott Chartock, and Ryan Osgar all had huge individual games, Jeff Babbitt got a late-game block that made it seem for a moment like New York would do what they’ve been doing, and pull out a tough win at the last second. But it was all for naught, as the Hustle simply made more plays in more important moments than the Empire. New York still has half their schedule left to play. That could either give the reigning champs a full steam of momentum heading into the postseason, or possibly rob them of their legs.
2. DC Breeze
A couple of off nights have the Breeze offense slipping to number three in the league in offensive efficiency, but DC still owns the highest team completion rating in the AUDL. The Breeze still have four throwers averaging better than 30 completions per game and completing at least 97.7 percent of their throws; Minnesota’s backfield approaches those numbers, but not quite, and the rest of the league has a discernible gap between themselves and the DC throwing quartet and law offices of Malks-McDonnell-Norrbom-Norrbom. DC hosts Philly this weekend after a bye week and could carve up a Phoenix defense that is allowing close to 22 goals per game.
1. Atlanta Hustle
Undisputed in their number one ranking after dispatching New York at home, Atlanta has vaporized any lingering notions of doubt about their successes so far this season. Antoine Davis had perhaps his best, most all-around performance as a pro, Karl Ekwurtzel got the better of Babbitt not once but twice in space, and Kelvin Williams sealed the win with a sky block in the endzone for his 9th takeaway in 2021. Multiple Hustle players are enjoying career years, and it’s showing as they sit atop the Atlantic at 7-1.
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