Welcome back to week nine of this year’s ELF coverage. This week leads us into the bye week, with there being 4 teams equal in record and hunting for the fourth playoff spot it.
Promised to provide some tantalizing entertainment. Sit back and let us sum up this week’s play.
(4-4) RHEIN FIRE @ (6-2) BARCELONA DRAGONS
Man, what a way to kick off the weekend! Not always do the Saturday games showcase the best of the league but if you like close games that score above ten points, then this was for you! The Dragons come into this game on a two-game losing streak and the fire are in a very different, more positive scenario. From the off, it was concreted that Barcelona were undeterred. Starting the half strongly on the ground Barcelona chalked up a 7-0 lead and Rhine could only follow up with a turnover on downs. Already we could see that football fans were in for a treat. Trading an interception, it allowed the Fire to hit back with an unconverted touchdown to make it spicy. In close games you usually see the lead change hands but today was very different, despite often coming close, the Dragons never lost the lead.
For the more eagle-eyed fan, it was strange to see the league-leading WR adopt a different role. His normal over-the-top strategy was taken on by brilliant Benjamin Plu who showed his colours in this game. Whereas Sweet took 13 catches for 73 yards making it his lowest average YPC of the year yet still being vital to the win with his two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the Rhine Fire could only manage one touchdown in the second half making the final score 33-23. This must-win game for the Fire now leaves them two games behind the Dragons in the division which is their only way into the playoffs. Given the season-ending injury to their QB and several key pieces on defense banged up you would have to say that perhaps this isn’t their year. Regardless this is a team which has come close to beating the league’s best twice now so keep your eyes on them to cause an upset.
ISTANBUL RAMS AT HAMBURG SEA DEVILS
With their last game culminating in a 70-0 defeat for the Turkish side, I think you’d excuse the Rams fans if they didn’t make the journey to Germany to watch this one. But with a renewed team sheet (AND WIN) against the Dragons, this was worth a watch. Losing no momentum from last week this team really rather stunned the Sea devils going into the half 17-0 up.
Although this is not a huge score the Hamburg defence would expect to put up a much better showing – needless to say the offence even more so. It’s difficult to pinpoint where it went wrong for Ceesay and his receivers. He just couldn’t find a connection with them, which of course is quite an issue for a quarterback. Perhaps what is most shocking is the Rams D-Lines’ ability to stop the best running back this league has ever seen but this was only the case for the first 30 minutes.
Receiving the kick-off in the second half Toonga single-handedly marched the Sea Devils down the field twice. He scored both times as well. Failing kicking the extra point that man should have been recognised as scoring all 14 points!
Comparatively the rest of the half was relatively dull with both teams ending regulation tied. After an opening drive field goal, the Rams were once again crushed by Glen Toonga finding the end zone in two plays to win the game for them.
The Rams have yet again shown their amazing ability to turn and play regardless of their opponent. Very nearly beating the second-best team in the league a week after beating the third would have made history. Firmly out of the playoff you do have to ask why the front office continues to throw money at an assumingly leaky financial venture, which to me shows their love for the game.
FRANKFURT GALAXY AT WROCLAW PANTHERS
Aboard their new ‘CHAMPIONS CARRIER’ we saw the Galaxy travelling over to Poland. Unfortunately for Frankfurt, it was clear to see that Wroclaw were still fixated on dethroning the Vikings atop the Northern conference. Two wins behind their Austrian counterpart and with only two games to go (one against Vienna) if the Panther lost this one, they would also lose hope of a playoff spot.
Despite exceptional quarterback play by Jakob Julivan from the start and throughout, the Galaxy trailed all the way up till the end. With his 320 yards and four touchdowns, the American quarterback merely assisted R. Rimmle who as the game clock struck through 4 seconds converted a gargantuan 54-yard field goal to effectively win the game.
With Vienna now being the almost confirmed division winners, teams are now scrambling for the 4th, and only non-division winning playoff spot. Excitingly for fans, this is currently wide open. Across the league, we see four teams with five wins and two with three! This competition is something to keep your eyes on as it’s likely to go down to the wire.
RAIDERS TIROL AT LEIPZIG KINGS
This upward-trending Raiders team led by their unstoppable QB are proving a worthy opponent for any of the league’s squads. Despite their record, Leipzig are also proving that they can put up a fight too, after a week Seven ‘revamp’ they have put on some impressive performances.
Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do when you’re up against Triols’ Sean Shelton and his 428 yards. The four touchdowns he delivered were somewhat helped by the great route running of Marco Schneider who really shone in this game.
The Kings dual-threat quarterback proved problematic for teams of the past but today the Raiders D showed they can and will stop him. The Raiders finished up their 56-14 win by leading the Kings in every major stat line.
As one of the aforementioned 5 win teams looking for that sweet playoff spot, you have to ask who can stop them. Because it doesn’t look like any of the other five-win teams can and getting hot at the right time heading into the playoffs is a surefire way to be successful.
VIENNA VIKINGS AT STUTTGART SURGE:
This was always going to be a blood bath. The undefeated Vikings come into the game as a formidable opponent, drafting the dragons three weeks ago they proved themselves to really be the best team in the league.
On top of this, last week they breezed by a very impressive Triol team. As I’m sure by now you have come to realize – the same cannot be said for Stuttgart. This was undefeated vs winless, top vs bottom, I would say David vs Goliath – but this was never going to end in a win for the Surge.
Without wasting your time talking about how the Vikings dismantled the Surge defence, the game ended in a strangely modest 41-0 victory (largely due to some 4th quarter substitutions) by Vienna, therefore, nailing in Stuttgart as the worst team in the league.
Assumably the German side’s front office thought firing HC Hanselmann would be the answer to their problems but unfortunately, it seemingly hasn’t. Failing some big bye-week moves I think it’s very hard to see the Surge beating any team in this year’s ELF and with so many cities vying to get in I think it would be reasonable for the commissioner to have a long hard thought about Stuttgards future in the ELF as week after week, in fact, year after year, they have proven to be a game not worth watching.
COLOGNE CENTURIONS AT BERLIN THUNDER:
This game honestly was kinda slept on, in a first half where we saw deep bombs, interceptions and fumbles. A new running back ball out and a familiar receiver show once again that he’s worth NFL scout’s times this was one I wish I chose to watch live. Coming into the game Berlin looked to be the heavy favourites but just like last year, this game was not at all boring!
Jumping into action with 18 points in the first quarter it would be understandable for the Thunder to drop their head, thankfully they did not. The intent to impose in the first half shone through with 15 hard-fought points. Although this was great to see the Centurions once again beat themselves with turnovers. The second half very much mirrored the first with Berlin outsourcing Cologne to finish up a 29-39 victory.
Berling being yet another 5 win team on a winning streak, it begs the question – which one of these teams will continue to improve over the bye week and take momentum into the last 4 games?