Houston Outlaws steal the spotlight in stage one of the Overwatch League

The big story coming out of stage one was not the London Spitfire predictability winning the stage one finals. No, it was an upstart Houston Outlaws squad separating themselves as a playoff team. The only playoff team to not feature any players with Apex experience and is mainly American born players.

Seasoned Overwatch fans will recall at this years World Cup, two players from the United States made a loud statement in the match against Korea. Jacob “JAKE” Lyon and Matt “coolmatt” Iorio stood out amongst an American team that pushed Korea to the limit. It was foreshadowing what was soon to follow in the Overwatch League.

Houston Outlaws show continued improvement

First, the emergence of a mainly North American Overwatch team that’s challenging the best Korean players in the world is a first. The rigid training and playing schedule are seemingly leveling the playing field. That’s not to say the London Spitfire and New York Excelsior haven’t been a few steps ahead of even the Outlaws, but as we saw previously at the World Cup, the gap is closing.

The Houston Outlaws almost closed the gap entirely last week and showed the world that they’re a legit contender. Sweeping the London Spitfire to even stay alive in the playoff race, and then sneaking out a victory over the Boston Uprising to pull off the unthinkable and make the stage one playoffs.

Entering the season, any scenario where the Seoul Dynasty misses the playoffs and the Houston Outlaws jump both the Dynasty and Spitfire to earn the second overall seed would’ve been laughed at. The juggernaut Overwatch teams looked unstoppable early on in stage one. Dynasty jumped out to a 5-0 record and barely dropped any maps.

On the flip side, the Houston Outlaws started the season out 0-2. Falling in a close game to the Philadelphia Fusion, 3-2, and losing the following night to the New York Excelsior, 3-1. Fortunately, the next stretch of schedule after the opening losses was against all bottom feeder teams; and what happened in the coming weeks jump-started this climb to the second overall seed.

The 18 map winning streak

Photo via Houston Outlaws Twitter

Let’s take a look at point differential. In the five-game span in which the Outlaws won 18-straight maps, they outscored their opponents by 29 points. In those five games, the Outlaws held their opponents to a staggeringly low number of points: only 10 points surrendered in 18 maps. Incredibly dominant performances that spring-boarded their confidence into the tough part of the schedule.

Soon after the streak ended, the Outlaws matched up against the Seoul Dynasty. The Outlaws took the loss, but it most certainly instilled fear into the minds of the Dynasty core. The best of the Korean players all seem to have one common saying between them regarding the Houston Outlaws and that’s the need to shut down Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin.

The legend of LiNkzr

Starting in the preseason, the pinpoint aim from Linkzr was a must-see. The Outlaws garnered plenty of attention because of the sheer skill of Jake and Linkzr, but now this team is being recognized as an actual threat. In a short amount of time, the Outlaws have developed an impenetrable defense. The defense along with the destructive aim of LiNkzr, the spacing with JAKE on Junkrat, and the diving with coolmatt on D.Va is pushing this team over the top. 

Each of those three players is in the discussion for stage one MVP, and look to be building more and more chemistry as the schedule moves along. The only question now is if this team can live up to expectations now that they’re no longer flying under the radar. It’ll be a test for these players, but one that they seem capable of handling in stage two and beyond.

Lastly, should the Outlaws make any moves during the transfer period, an extra support is about the only current need for this team; but don’t be surprised if any of the top teams get aggressive to solidify rosters for the rest of the season.

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Featured photo via Houston Outlaws Twitter

Overwatch League stage one playoff scenarios

Stage one of the Overwatch League is coming to a close this week and the scramble for the playoffs begin. The New York Excelsior and London Spitfire currently sit at the top of the league, but the fight for the final spot is still very much in play.

Bubble teams

Currently, four teams sit at 5-3 and one game behind the Seoul Dynasty (6-2). Los Angeles Valiant, Houston Outlaws, Boston uprising and Philadelphia Fusion have an outside shot of sneaking into the playoffs. Each of these teams are not only 5-3, but are at least in striking distance in the game differential.

For one of these teams to pass the Dynasty, it’s going to take some serious help from the San Francisco Shock and Valiant. Fortunately for the Valiant, their chances at a playoff spot are in their hands. The Valiant and Dynasty will match up in the most important match of week five. The Valiant will not only have to win, but win several games.

If the Valiant find a way to beat the Dynasty, losing more than one game is not an option. A win will get them close, but it will require a dominant effort. Avoiding a game five is imperative, especially with Seoul facing a bottom four team to end out the season. All of the teams sitting one game outside of the playoffs will be huge Valiant fans on Friday.

Based on the schedule, the Valiant have the best shot of any team to make a playoff spot. The rest of the teams will either play each other or face the top-two teams in the Overwatch League. However, the Fusion and Valiant end stage one against the Shanghai Dragons (0-8) and Florida Mayhem (1-7).

Photo via Overwatch League Twitter

In the Houston Outlaw’s case, they went on an 18 game winning streak, and are now in the best position to overtake that third spot. Despite a tough ending to stage one, their +14 almost secures them a tiebreak victory if both teams end with the same record. It will take some crazy bounces of good luck, but there’s a chance the Dynasty miss the stage one playoffs. It all comes down to Friday.

Battle for the one seed

Yes, the battle for that final spot is intriguing, but even more important is the battle for the one seed and the first-round bye. The London Spitfire and New York Excelsior took care of business against the Seoul Dynasty, but a loss here would force the loser right back into a rematch with the Dynasty.

Obviously, that’s not a death sentence. Both teams are capable of dispatching the Dynasty, as they did in week three and four, but earning a free walk to the title game and avoiding a potential upset at the hands of the Dynasty is important. Even the Outlaws and Valiant look dangerous enough to sneak out a few playoff wins.

The first round bye most likely decides the winner of stage one. At this moment the London Spitfire sit atop the leaderboard at 7-1. A win on Saturday will clinch the title, as it will for the Excelsior. Nothing is set in stone for the final week of what’s been an incredibly exciting stage one of the Overwatch League.

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Featured photo via Overwatch League Twitter

 

Overwatch League Power Rankings

Overwatch League Power Rankings: Stage 1 Week 4

We will be releasing these weekly before the week’s matches get started, so make sure to check back in.

As we head into week 4, we saw some surprising results last week. With the top dogs going down, the power rankings have been shaken in a major way for the first time since week 1.

12. Shanghai Dragons 0-6 (matches against excelsior & spitfire)

Overwatch League Power RankingsIt is not only their record that is keeping them in last. Just about every match they have played so far hasn’t been close. They have won a total of four maps this entire season. Overall, they just look completely overpowered and out of sync. Their DPS can’t seem to keep up with the many strong duos throughout the OWL.

That being said, they have looked better. Going into week 3, they had only won one map. This past week, they won three and sent the Fusion into a map five. While they lost, they looked more coordinated and like they were starting to get into a groove. It is possible that they have figured out some of their major issues and may be able to pick up a win, but we highly doubt it will be this week as they face the Excelsior and Spitfire.

11. Florida Mayhem 1-5 (Matches against Gladiators & Shock)

Overwatch League Power RankingsOne would think that this team would be doing much better. They have struggled mightily, and last week was no different. They seem to always give a fight at the beginning, then once they get down, they putter out. Their team chemistry doesn’t seem to be there, and that was their main advantage over most of the other teams heading into this season.

This week, they play against two beatable squads in the Gladiators and Shock. San Francisco in particular could be a good matchup for them. If they can come together as a group and win their games this week, they could climb up the power rankings pretty quickly.

10. San Francisco Shock 2-4 (matches Against Outlaws & Mayhem)

Overwatch League Power RankingsOn our preview and recap videos, we have been saying for awhile that the Shock need to get away from just relying on Babybay. Well, they have that part down, but sadly, he is dying at a very high rate as teams are focusing him. He has died 437 times, which is about 200 more times than Birdring. They need to protect him and just try to win as many games as they can until Sinatraa is old enough to play sometime around the third stage.

San Fran starts off this week against one of the hottest teams in the league. If they can upset them, that will help their stock quite a bit. As for their match against the Mayhem, this is an opportunity for them to get their third win against a team that has struggled. If the Shock can pull out a win this week, they will have separated themselves from the bottom tier.

9. Dallas Fuel 1-5 (Matches against Fusion & Excelsior)

Overwatch League Power RankingsYes, it is a little odd to have a team with one win above the 2-4 Shock, but records don’t mean everything. The Fuel have had a tough schedule and have struggled more than just about any team with their chemistry. They have plenty of talent and showed it last week by getting a win. If they can bring themselves together and finish out maps, which are things they have struggled to do, then they will be looking a lot better.

This week, their schedule does not get any easier. They play against a solid Fusion team to start it off and then against the Excelsior, who knocked off the Dynasty last week. If they can pull out one win this week, they will be looking a lot better and could maybe finish the stage with a decent record.

8. Los Angeles Gladiators 2-4 (Matches Against Mayhem & Uprising)

Overwatch League Power RankingsWe are having a hard time completely reading this Gladiators team. They show so much promise in some games, like when they went toe to toe with the Valiant. Then they got swept by Houston, who is a good team to be fair, but the Gladiators just looked overpowered in those games.

This week, LAG face a very beatable Mayhem and should be able to play a competitive match against the Uprising. If they can finish this week at .500, they will move up the power rankings. Also, it will make their playoff chances a lot higher, which is something we have to start looking at as we head into week 4.

7. Los Angeles Valiant 4-2 (Matches Against Fusion & Uprising)

Overwatch League Power RankingsThis Valiant team is almost starting a trend for themselves. They went 2-0 in week 1, 0-2 in week 2, then 2-0 again last week.

Could they fall victim to themselves this week? Superstition aside, this team is similar to their LA counterparts, but better. They have more positive moments and look like they could beat anyone at times, then they look very beatable at others. If they can stay even keel, expect this team to make some noise.

In their week 4 matches, the Valiant are playing two teams on the rise in the Fusion and Uprising. This could be the week where we see who the Valiant truly are. Winning both of this week’s matches will put the Valiant very near the top and show they are a true force in the league. Losing both will may point out where they will need to improve for the next stage.

6. Boston Uprising 3-3 (Matches Against Gladiators & Valiant)

Overwatch League Power RankingsBoston pulled off probably the biggest surprise of the Overwatch League thus far. Beating London proved that this team is starting to put it together. Not only that, but they went on to beat a Fuel team that is looking much stronger than in previous weeks. This could be a team to watch in their last four matches as they could be giant killers for the rest of the stage.

This week, they play both of the hometown favorites in the Gladiators and Valiant. If their win against the Spitfire wasn’t just a fluke, then their winning streak could easily go to four games. This is a scary team if they catch fire, and everyone in the league should be on the lookout for them.

5. Philadelphia Fusion 4-2 (Matches Against Valiant & Fuel)

Overwatch League Power RankingsPhilly beating New York was amazing. It showed they are actually a good team. Everyone had wondered going into week 3, and they made their mark by going 2-0 and beating arguably the best team in the league. Their goal now is to make sure they solidify their spot as a a top-tier team and make the Stage 1 playoffs.

This week, the Fusion will be facing two teams that are looking to build off their week 3 success. Overlooking either of them would be a huge mistake for Philly. They will have to bring their best and win both games to have a chance to make it into the top three and have a chance at the Stage 1 title.

4. Houston Outlaws 4-2 (Matches against Shock & Dynasty)

Overwatch League Power RankingsIs there a hotter team than the Outlaws? Probably not.

Jake and LiNkzr are showing why they are one of the best DPS duos in the league. They have won four straight matches and 16 straight games. All of that being said, they have not played a top six team in the last two weeks. We know they can beat lower-tier teams in a convincing fashion, but they will need to do more in the coming weeks.

This week, they start off against the Shock, who they should be able to beat relatively easily. Then they play their toughest team since they played New York in week 1, the Seoul Dynasty.

Houston is right outside of the top three because of their two losses, but their map wins are 19-6, which is second only to the Dynasty’s 20-4. They need to win their first match and take at least a map or two off the Dynasty to push their way into the top three.

3. London Spitfire 5-1 (Matches Against Dynasty & Dragons)

Overwatch League Power RankingsLondon suffered their first loss of the season to the Uprising. They had been looking beatable, but were still easily a top-tier team. Most are assuming their loss comes from a lack of playing together and having many good players on one team. They will need to keep working on team cohesion in order to stay in the Stage 1 playoffs at the third spot.

This week, they face arguably the best team in the league in Seoul. Then they face the worst in the Dragons. If they can win their first match against the Dynasty, they will be sitting pretty not just in the power rankings, but they will also most likely make their way into the Stage 1 playoffs because they should easily beat the Dragons.

2. Seoul Dynasty 5-1 (Matches Against Spitfire & Outlaws)

Overwatch League Power RankingsIt was really hard putting this squad at No. 2. They’re the only Korean team with a loss to another top Korean team. The Excelsior showed the Dynasty’s weaknesses last week, and trust us, there aren’t many. That being said, they easily deserve a top-tier spot and will most likely continue to stay up here.

Seoul has the hardest schedule this week. They will face the other Korean squad in the spitfire and then face arguably the hottest team in the league, the Houston Outlaws. The Dynasty will get to show the league what they are made of. Will they crumble to another Korean team and the top US team, or will they prove everyone who said they were the best team in the league correct? We personally cannot wait to find out.

1. New York Excelsior 5-1 (Matches Against Dragons & Fuel)

Overwatch League Power RankingsAt No. 1 we have NYXL. Even though this team lost to the Fusion, they were able to beat the Dynasty.

What does that means? Who knows? It probably doesn’t matter though as they were able to win without playing Pine at all. It might be that Pine is exclusively used on Ilios, but either way, New York proved why they are the top team with that win.

This week should be relatively easy for the Excelsior. They play a Dragons team that they should 4-0 and a Dallas team that has failed to put everything together. We expect the Excelsior to win and most likely hold this top spot as they prepare for the Stage 1 playoffs.

 

We hope you have enjoyed our power rankings! Please let us know where you have the teams or let us know if you disagree with where we put your favorite team. Check back next week to see where we place everyone after what is sure to be an exciting week 4.

 

Featured image from alpha.wallhaven.cc

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