The final week of Stage 2 is here and with it, the final games that will decide who does and who does not make the Stage Playoffs. As of right now, 5 teams have clinched their spots in the playoffs (Los Angeles Gladiators, San Francisco Shock, Vancouver Titans, New York Excelsior and the London Spitfire) leaving only 3 spots left for hopeful teams. Of the remaining 15 teams, 6 of them still have a reasonable chance to claim one of the last spots (Dallas Fuel, Hangzhou Spark, Seoul Dynasty, Shanghai Dragons, Chengdu Hunters and Philadelphia Fusion). This week will be an exciting one as these few teams battle for their chance prove themselves amongst their peers, as well as for bragging rights. Here is how I believe the matches this week will play out and who will claim the remaining spots in the Stage 2 Playoffs.
Match 1 Dallas Fuel vs Florida Mayhem: Dallas 4-0
Of all the teams vying for a spot in the stage playoffs, the Dallas Fuel probably have the easiest road there. Not only are they the highest placed team outside of the 5 that have already clinched, but they have the easiest opponent to face in the winless Florida Mayhem. Expect the Fuel to take this one and secure their place in the playoffs.
Match 2 Philadelphia Fusion vs San Francisco Shock: San Francisco 4-0
While Philadelphia does still have a chance at making the stage playoffs, realistically, the odds of making it are very slim. Of the 6 teams mentioned who still have a chance at taking one of the 3 remaining spots, Philadelphia is currently ranked lowest and their opponent is the undefeated San Francisco Shock who, through 5 games, have not even dropped a map; no losses, no ties, only wins. San Francisco is only 8 maps away from having an absolutely perfect stage and I don’t expect a somewhat struggling Philly to stand much of a chance at disrupting San Francisco’s plans.
Match 3 Guangzhou Charge vs Houston Outlaws: Guangzhou 3-2
Both teams have been bottom-tier this stage, so expect a close game between the two, but not a particularly well-played or exciting game.
Match 1 Boston Uprising vs Los Angeles Gladiators: Los Angeles 3-1
Match 2 Toronto Defiant vs Vancouver Titans: Vancouver 4-0
Match 3 Shanghai Dragons vs Washington Justice: Shanghai 3-1
The Shanghai Dragons are also vying for a spot in the stage playoffs, and their first opponent this week is against one of the weakest (if not the weakest) teams in the League, the Washington Justice. Expect Shanghai to keep their playoff hopes alive with a win against the Justice, though I do expect the Justice to take a map as they seem to have a knack for winning one map this stage against whoever they play.
Match 1 London Spitfire vs Houston Outlaws: London 3-1
Match 2 Atlanta Reign vs New York Excelsior: New York 4-0
Well, well, well, here we are again. The only team New York has fallen to in regulation play, the Atlanta Reign, will get their chance to assert their dominance over the juggernaut team from the Empire Stage. Just like last time, I will again predict a 4-0 from New York. Call me crazy, but New York is clearly the better team and I am going to chalk up their last meeting to a fluke rather than Atlanta having some sort of edge over New York. I challenge Atlanta to prove me wrong.
Match 3 Seoul Dynasty vs Vancouver Titans: Vancouver 3-1
Match 4 Chengdu Hunters vs Los Angeles Valiant: Chengdu 3-2
This has the potential to be an interesting series. The Valiant have looked a little bit better this stage and have the potential to take down middle of the pack teams like Chengdu. I don’t expect Chengdu to lose, but I do expect this to be a close series. Chengdu needs to win if they want to make playoffs, so the pressure is on.
Match 1 Toronto Defiant vs Paris Eternal: Toronto 3-2
Match 2 Washington Justice vs Boston Uprising: Boston 3-1
Match 3 Shanghai Dragons vs San Francisco Shock: San Francisco 3-1
The pressure is on for Shanghai. For the first time in franchise history the Dragons have a chance at making a stage playoffs. Unluckily for them, the final boss is the San Francisco Shock who have looked even more dominant this stage than the Titans. It is still possible for the Dragons to make playoffs even is they lose this series (assuming they beat Washington) but taking a map would go a long way for the Dragons to secure a better map differential. On a side note, if the Dragons do make stage playoffs, then the Florida Mayhem will be the only team from the inaugural season to have never made a stage playoff.
Match 4 Seoul Dynasty vs Hangzhou Spark: Seoul 3-1
Possibly the most important game of the whole week, both the Dynasty and the Spark are still vying for a playoff spot. The Dynasty have appeared to be the better team this stage and I expect them to win, but the Spark have been surprising as of late, taking wins off decent teams in Chengdu and Paris. This series could be close but if Hangzhou don’t win in dominant fashion, then their negative map differential that they are starting the week with will probably be too much of a hindrance to pull them above teams with the same match score.