Atlas vs Cannons

How can Atlas upset Cannons in the PLL Cash App Playoffs?

By Lauren Merola

Sep 4, 2023

The Cannons and Atlas seem to be living the other’s projected storyline. 

The Cannons, a team that went 1-9 and missed the playoffs in 2022, ascended into championship contention this season while Atlas, a 6-4 squad last season that seemed one or two offseason moves away from a trophy, struggled to scrape together two wins this season.

Is that an unexpected benefit in the PLL postseason?

Since the league expanded to eight teams in 2021, the underdog has had a flair for the playoffs. Two of the three lower seeds won their quarterfinal matchups last season, with then-No. 7 Chaos defeating then-No. 2 Chrome and the then-No. 5 Waterdogs sending home then-No. 4 Atlas. The Waterdogs ousted the then-No. 1 Whipsnakes in the semifinals and went on to win it all, the second underdog in as many years to do so. The sixth-seeded Chaos won the title in 2021, beating the then-No. 3 Archers in the quarterfinals, then-No. 2 Atlas in the semifinals and the then-No. 5 Whipsnakes in the title game

As Mark Twain is credited to have said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does often rhyme. 

What does that mean for Atlas?

It means there’s a chance Atlas pulls together a win, like it nearly did in its 14-13 loss to the Cannons on Aug. 18. As of Sunday, Atlas was a three-point underdog (+2.5) against the Cannons, per FanDuel Sportsbook. It’s the biggest spread of the quarterfinals. 

If Atlas is going to achieve the most surprising win by any team of the season, it’ll need to leave no to-dos undone.

What has to happen for the upset?

Restricting Marcus Holman and Asher Nolting, the first- and second-leading point producers in the league, respectively, is the highest priority. Holman, who also leads the league in 1-point goals, and Nolting are the only two PLL players so far this season to crack 40 points. It helps that Atlas returns rookie Gavin Adler, one of its best lockdown defenders, from injury right in time for the game. Adler hasn’t been scored on more than twice by a single attackman, including Holman and Nolting, who each have two goals against the No. 1 draft pick.

The Cannons created a league second-worst 56 shots off transition in the regular season, which is a relief for Atlas, who’s transition defense proved detrimental numerous times this season. If the Bulls can mitigate the threat in transition, they can focus more on the whereabouts of Holman and Nolting. The Bulls need to get ahead of defensive transitions, subbing out the offensive midfield faster and cleaner, avoiding offsides penalties.

Do not allow 2-point goals. Cannons defenseman Cade van Raaphorst – who was released by Atlas earlier this season – has a 2-point goal in the last four games and the Cannons have 13 on the season.

Jeff Teat has to be a more selfish shooter. He posts a career-low 11 goals this season and a career-high 25 assists. The Cannons are expecting another performance of crafty feeds out of Teat, so it’s time to flip the script and shoot double his 3.6 shots-per-game average.

Trevor Baptiste will once again go near-perfect at the stripe as the Cannons aren’t dressing a faceoff specialist. Atlas wins the most faceoffs in the league – Baptiste won 96 percent of faceoffs against the Cannons last time the two met – but is sixth in offensive efficiency within the 32-second shot clock. Against the Cannons last time around, Atlas went with mixes of Mark Cockerton, Myles Jones, Bryan Costabile, Xander Dickson and Dylan Molloy on the wings. While Atlas coach Mike Pressler hasn’t switched up his attack unit all season, he should start Dylan Molloy on low attack and Eric Law on the wing. Molloy is an effective dodger from X and could generate more high-quality shots within the short clock than Atlas has taken.

Atlas’ problem areas are a tale as old as time, if time is Week 1 of the 2023 season. The Bulls have the talent to check off all items on the to-do list. If they want to join the winning underdogs that came before them, now it’s a matter of execution.

Atlas plays the Cannons at 5 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN2/ESPN+.

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