The Houston Outlaws have made a valiant effort to salvage an ugly start to the season. But nearly halfway through Stage 4, the picture is looking grim. The Outlaws’ playoff chances are officially out of their hands. To reach the play-in tournament, they’ll have to win all their remaining regular season games and have several teams ahead of them take major losses. They haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet, but for all practical purposes, their 2019 season is over.
Week 2 in Review
Last week’s match against the Philadelphia Fusion was one of the Outlaws’ best chances to get a W on the board. While Busan went 2-0 in Philly’s favor, Anubis and Hollywood were both fairly competitive. Houston was down 2-1 going into Havana, and when both teams finished the map in overtime, it looked as though they had a chance to push the Fusion to Game 5. But Philadelphia pulled off an absolutely insane full-overtime push to complete the map, clinching their 3-1 victory.
The Atlanta Reign then continued their dominant streak through Stage 4. While the Outlaws managed to take a 3-2 victory on Hanamura, every other map went easily Atlanta’s way, including a full hold on Blizzard World. The role lock meta has been a huge benefit for Atlanta, one of only three teams still undefeated in Stage 4.
London Spitfire (15-10)
It’s hard to predict what kind of performance the Spitfire will bring to bear on Saturday. They started the season strong against Dallas and Toronto, beat out an incredibly strong Guangzhou, then took a 3-0 beating from Florida. It’s anyone’s guess how they’ll fare against Vancouver, who look significantly weaker in the new meta, and even more uncertain how that will affect their performance against Houston.
The factor that might tip this in London’s favor is desperation. While the Outlaws’ postseason chances are out of their hands, the 6th-place Spitfire are just hanging on to their guaranteed playoff spot. Those are the kind of dire straits that spurred London to their championship run last season, and it’s not hard to imagine them doing it again.
Prediction: Spitfire 3-2 Outlaws
Washington Justice (5-19)
If you haven’t followed Stage 4 closely, you may wonder what happened to make Washington worth worrying about. The answer: Corey. Corey Nigra happened. His ballistic Hanzo play was the centerpiece of a revitalized Justice that absolutely dismantled the Vancouver Titans last week. (If you haven’t watched that game, make a point of doing so – the casters’ and analysts’ reactions alone are worth it.)
Most fans expected the role lock to boost a lot of teams, Houston included, but no one has turned it around like Washington has. The Outlaws may fare better than the Titans did, with more familiarity with DPS play, but that’s unlikely to be enough. If both teams play as they have so far this stage, this one’s a slam dunk for the boys in red.
Prediction: Justice 3-1 Outlaws
Player to Watch: Jacob “JAKE” Lyon
At the most basic level, it’s come down to this: The Outlaws don’t perform without Jake in the lineup. He and Dante “Danteh” Cruz seem to be the best combo, but even Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, who’s been streaky at best all stage, performed far better with Jake than without. Running LiNkzr and Danteh together against Atlanta was positively disastrous. Whether it’s his DPS performance, game sense, or just that infamous motor mouth – whatever Jake brings to the table, it’s something the Outlaws can’t afford to lose. Changes may be necessary to improve the team’s performance, but removing him from the starting lineup isn’t one of them.
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