With each passing day, the OWL season playoff race gets more and more complex. For instance, just last night the defending champion London Spitfire were toppled by the 20th place Florida Mayhem. With teams still adjusting to 2-2-2 there is still a sense of unknown going into each day of games. But, with so much on the line, many teams must figure all of this out quickly or miss the season playoffs.
In particular, this is the case for a handful of teams currently sitting in the middle of the leaderboard who are trying to claw their way into the play-in games in early August. More and more, it looks like teams will have to get to 14 wins to secure that spot safely in the playoffs. Map differential may allow a 13-win team or two to make it in as well, but ending the season at 12-16 likely means that a team will miss out on play-ins.
So, with a day remaining in Week 2 and three weeks coming up after that, it’s time to break down which teams are looking like they will hit that safety net of 14 wins and which will not, beginning with three teams that should be all but a lock at this point.
Safely Getting 14 Wins
#7 Seoul Dynasty (13-11)
#8 Shanghai Dragons (13-11)
#9 Philadelphia Fusion (13-11)
Each of these three teams only needs one win to basically lock themselves in the playoffs, pending some wild turn of events and a series of upsets. Each of them also has several winnable games coming up on their schedule. For these three teams, lots could be on the line in Stage 4, Week 4, when Seoul plays both Philadelphia and Shanghai. If Philly loses their next three games against the Defiant, Eternal and Titans, this would be a must-win for them. In the same way, if Shanghai lose to the Shock next week, they will be in a position where they desperately need to beat either Seoul, Paris or Hangzhou to get in.
Despite how chaotic all of this may seem, each of these teams should be locked into the play-in games when its all said and done. Getting to the 6th seed may be difficult for them but that is also not out of the realm of possibilities. With these three likely locking in play-in spots, this only leaves three teams remaining. This is where it gets much trickier.
Most Likely to Qualify From the Field
#11 Atlanta Reign (11-12)
Of these two, it looks especially like the Reign will qualify for the season playoffs at the rate they are playing. With three wins needed in their remaining matches against Houston, Washington, London, Dallas and Boston, it seems like the Reign should be able to get to 14 W’s, even if it comes in the final two games. The matches against the Outlaws and Spitfire could go either way but ATL should be able to take care of business with the other three.
Of all the teams with some difficult work to do ahead, it looks like the Reign have the best odds to secure their spot based on their consistency in Stage 4 and their remaining strength of schedule.
Could go Either way
#10 Guangzhou Charge (12-13)
#12 Chengdu Hunters (11-13)
#14 Los Angeles Valiant (10-14)
Guangzhou’s road is a little less easy than the Reign’s but is still the most attainable out of the field. With two wins needed out of their remaining matches against Seoul, New York and Dallas, the Charge have the least challenging road in front of them but still have some tough games yet to win. Luckily for them, the 2-2-2 meta and Charlie “nero” Zwarg’s coming of age couldn’t have synced up more perfectly. They’re playing their best Overwatch of the season and look poised to get into play-ins.
The Hunters have put themselves in a tough spot with four games remaining. They play NYXL today in what is nearly a must-win for them, and then will move on to play the Spark, Shock and Outlaws. Of these games, the Hunters need three to lock themselves into the playoffs. Fortunately for them, the Spark have dropped off in 2-2-2 and the Outlaws are a 50/50 to show up or not on any given day, meaning they will likely just need one of the games against NYXL and Shock to go their way. A tough ask but not an impossible one for the Hunters.
For the Valiant, it all comes down to the Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend in Week 5. After two games that they should win against Florida and Boston, the Valiant would sit at 12-14 with their two rivals yet to face. It looks like, for the Valiant to seal in their spot, they would have to beat both the LA Gladiators and the SF Shock in back-to-back days to close out the season. If they drop just one of these games, they put themselves at a huge risk for missing the season playoffs. Of everyone with a fighting chance, the Valiant have the steepest hill to climb moving into August.
One thing to keep in mind with this group is that, if multiple teams drop a couple of games, it completely opens up the field for the rest of the league. This is where, although unlikely, teams like Dallas and Houston could sneak into the playoff picture.
The Danger Zone
#13 Dallas Fuel (10-13)
#15 Houston Outlaws (9-15)
#16 Paris Eternal (9-16)
#17 Boston Uprising (8-15)
#18 Toronto Defiant (8-16)
Outside of the Fuel, the remainder of these teams can no longer make it to 14 wins and the Eternal and Defiant can only get 12. These teams are all hoping for a miraculous late-season surge to get them into the final spots, plain and simple.
The most likely candidates for a late-season push are the Fuel and the Outlaws. Each has shown shades of brilliance here and there, but have also been riddled with inconsistency and spells of poor play. For the Outlaws, they missed the season playoffs in the 2018 season by just one game and the Philadelphia Fusion took their place and made a historic run. Will they let that happen another time?
Will the Fuel continue being a shadow of what OWL fans hoped they could be before 2018? And, if they miss playoffs this year, would it be time to consider a rebuild in Dallas? Many questions begin looming for the teams in this section of the leaderboard going into 2020.
A Wild Road Ahead
With all of this in mind, these last few weeks of the season are shaping up to be every bit as intense as the OWL can be, with several must-see games sprinkled in. When all the dust settles and the final 12 remain, who will stand amongst them and who will see their seasons end early? Be sure to drop your top 12 in the comments below or reach out to us on Twitter to join the discussion.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Ben Pursell for Blizzard Entertainment
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