The Biggest Weekend in PLL History
By Josh Schafer | Aug 15, 2021
Congratulations to our Pick ’Em winner last week who not only predicted all five games correctly, but also nailed the total shots tiebreaker on the nose. Enjoy your Epoch Lacrosse shaft.
This week's Pick 'Em winner will receive a Champion Team Crewneck.
This weekend we have six (bonus lacrosse!) games in Albany with playoff positioning on the line. The most significant of those matchups will be Chrome vs. Cannons on Saturday. The winner moves on and the loser goes home. So we’ll either see Joel White and John Galloway’s last game, or Paul Rabil and Lyle Thompson fall short in their first season with the Cannons. That's better drama than reality TV.
Atlas enters this weekend with the clearest shot at the No. 1 overall seed and a first round bye. For the Bulls, it’s simple: A win grants them first place. If they lose, their opponent, the Waterdogs have the next clearest path to the No.1 seed. The Waterdogs need a win over Atlas and the highest score differential in the league.
The Archers, the third most likely team to claim the No.1 seed per PLL Stats, need two wins this weekend, a Waterdogs win and the highest goal differential. Here are the chances for each of these teams to claim the top seed per PLL Stats: Atlas 55.6%, Waterdogs, 25.6% and Archers 18.7%.
If you’re wondering why we care so much about the bye, it’s been a major factor in the first two PLL seasons. The Whipsnakes had the bye both years and went on to win the title. It’s really just a probability game. If each team has a 50-50 chance to win a playoff game, their odds of winning the championship double when they have to play one less game. Something to think about when making those championship futures picks.
Alright, let’s pick ‘em.
Redwoods (4-3) vs. Whipsnakes (4-3)
Friday, August 13th at 6:00 p.m. ET | Peacock
All-time series: 4-2, Whipsnakes
Player to watch: Whipsnakes attack Justin Guterding, No. 22
Six points in six games isn’t an impressive stat line. But the Whipsnakes didn’t trade for Guterding because of his 2021 performance. They want the guy who averaged more than three points per game each of the past two seasons. With Matt Rambo’s injury lingering, the Whipsnakes need Guterding to provide an offensive spark.
Stat to know: 32%
The Redwoods and Whipsnakes are tied for the least efficient defenses in the league. Keep your eye out for the over in this game, which is currently at 23.5. A 13-12 game hits the over.
The Whipsnakes alone have allowed 11 goals or more in each of the last six weeks. The only time a team hasn’t scored 11 goals or more on the Whipsnakes was week one in a 13-7 win over Chaos.
Why the Redwoods: The Woods already won this matchup earlier this year. TD Ierlan proved to be the difference maker many thought he could be by going 54% from the stripe. Though not a shockingly high number for Ierlan, not allowing Joe Nardella to win more than 70% of the time makes a big difference. Also of note from that matchup: Redwoods goalie Tim Troutner’s 17 saves. If the Redwoods goalie comes out on fire again, it’ll be an uphill battle for the ‘Whips.
Why the Whipsnakes: While the Whipsnakes haven’t dominated over the past month without Matt Rambo, the two-time defending champs are still the two-time defending champs for a reason. This game will likely be decided by pace. The Whips have the best transition offense in the league while the Redwoods have the best settled offensive unit. The speed at which each team attacks cage will impact this game more than normal. I think the Redwoods will do a better job of slowing it down than the Whips will of pushing pace.
The pick: It's the Redwoods turn to dominate the rivalry.
Archers (4-3) vs. Chaos (3-4)
Friday, August 13th at 8:30 p.m. ET | NBCSN & Peacock
All-time series: Chaos leads, 3-1
Player to watch: Archers goalie Adam Ghitelman, No. 8
Yes, in a game with Blaze Riorden, I’m suggesting you watch the other goalie. Ghitelman enters this game tied Blaze Riorden in save percentage at 61 percent. Though Riorden has nearly 50 more saves, Ghitelman is putting up his case for the Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year Award with a 10.1 scores against average and allowing just four two-point goals. If Ghitelman winds up being the goalie behind a championship run, it’ll be hard to ignore his case for goalie of the year, no matter how good the Archers defense is. And if you’re into goalie goals, don’t count out Ghitelman, who has three offensive points this season.
Stat to know: 81%
The Chaos have the worst offensive runout rate in the league. Runout rate is a stat used to count how often a team keeps the possession on a missed shot (remember the closest player to the ball when a shot exits play is granted possession). Chaos retains possession on 81% of shots while the next closest team is the Cannons at 87%. Meanwhile three of the four teams at the top of the list, are ranked second through fourth in the league’s overall standings. Bottom line: Runouts might matter as much as your high school assistant coach said they did.
Why the Chaos: The Chaos have the second most efficient defense in the PLL, a good stat particularly for a team that currently has the least efficient offense in the league. The Chaos win this game by limiting the overall scoring, which has been done against the Archers just not often.
Why the Archers: The Archers defense grades well in areas the Chaos offense normally succeeds in. That’s always a good sign for the defense. The Archers excel in two-man game defense while that’s one of the Chaos’ best offensive sets. Couple that with the most efficient offense in the league and things begin to look good for the men in Orange.
The pick: The Archers defense, not the high-flying offense, steals the show in this one.
Atlas (6-2) vs. Waterdogs (5-3)
Saturday, August 14th at 4:15 p.m. ET | Peacock
All-time series: Atlas leads 1-0
Player to watch: Atlas attack Eric Law, No. 15
Eric Law has been a better player on the new look Atlas. Part of that is he’s shooting from the right areas. In fact no one in the league has found themself in a better place more often than Law, who’s scored 10 goals on 13 shots from the center doorstep.
Stat to know: 350
The Atlas lead the league in shots with 350 and the Waterdogs stand second in the league with 340. The 25.5 over/under on the DraftKings Sportsbook is the highest of the weekend. But this still feels like a game that hits the over. It’s like the kid firing up shots on the basketball pop-a-shot. If you shoot enough times, eventually, the ball goes in.
Why the Atlas: Simply put, they’re the hottest team in the PLL. Who would’ve thought the team that traded away a slew of veterans this offseason and completely reconstructed its roster has the best chance at getting a number one seed and bye headed into the final week? While the Waterdogs have a good defense, they aren’t particularly good at defending isolation dodges. The Atlas are one of the better teams in the league in that category. If this becomes a one-man show, it’s likely not the Waterdogs game to win.
Why the Waterdogs: The ‘Dogs aren’t the same expansion team that struggled to score and looked lost as a unit in the 2020 bubble season. This team has a clear identity and it may be getting even better. For the first time in weeks, Waterdogs attackman Michael Sowers is listed as questionable and could return this weekend. If he returns, look for the Waterdogs to take an even further step and solidify themselves in the top tier of efficient offenses.
The pick: It's difficult to stop a bull running full speed. The Atlas keep rolling.
Cannons (2-6) vs. Chrome (2-6)
Saturday, August 14th at 7:00 p.m. ET | NBCSN & Peacock
All-time series: N/A
Player to watch: Chrome long-stick midfielder Joel White, No. 11
White’s been wearing that jersey number since he played for Syracuse. He’s also spent much of the time since playing with his former college teammate John Galloway. With the goalie-LSM combo announcing they’ll retire together at the end of the season, Saturday could be the last game for a legendary lacrosse duo that won national and world championships together.
Stat to know: 28
The Cannons have allowed more goals off initiations from up top than any team in the league. They’ve also allowed more goals following initiations from the lefty wing defensive area than any PLL team. While those aren’t specific areas of strength for Chrome, if Chrome can get to those weak spots often, it could expose the Cannons defense.
Why the Cannons: The Cannons have more star power in this matchup. It’s hard to imagine Lyle Thompson and Paul Rabil not finding a way to will their young group of players to a playoff appearance. But they have their backs against the wall for a reason, and at times this year this team has felt snake bitten as good performances haven’t led to wins.
Why the Chrome: Chrome’s defense has had breakout games in the past and will likely need one here against the PLL’s second most efficient offense. While the Cannons have struggled to close games out, Chrome closed out both the Whipsnakes and the Archers. In big games, Chrome has shown up.
The pick: I like the Cannons veteran offensive leaders to pull through in a win-or-go-home matchup.
Chaos (3-4) vs. Redwoods (4-3)
Sunday, August 15th at 2:00 p.m. ET | NBCSN & Peacock
All-Time Series: Chaos leads 3-2
Player to watch: Redwoods midfielder Myles Jones, No. 15
Jones has really emerged as a passer this season. He’s dished 12 assists on 17 assist opportunities, the highest success rate of any PLL player with more than 10 assists. But we’re highlighting him this week because of a prop bet. DraftKings Sportsbook currently has Jones at -130 odds to score more than one goal. He’s scored at least a goal in four of seven games thus far.
Stat to know: <1%
The Redwoods have a less than one percent chance of earning the first round bye. In other words, if the Redwoods beat the Whips on Friday, there might be little to gain for the ‘Woods on Sunday. If that’s the case be wary of any over/under or spread picks in this one as the Chaos might have more to play for.
Why the Chaos: Chaos has already shown it can beat the Redwoods this year. That game proved to be a good blueprint for the Chaos, which boast a better statistical defense than the ‘Woods. Chaos limited quality shot opportunities and held the Redwoods scoreless for both the second and fourth period.
Why the Redwoods: The Redwoods offense has only improved as the year has gone on. Unfortunately for the ‘Woods their preferred style of dodge, the isolation dodge, is Chaos’ strength defensively. When those isolation dodges have failed, the Redwoods offense can fall fairly stagnant. But if TD Ierlan plays in this one, the Woods are almost certain to have the possession advantage.
The pick: Chaos' defense will shine in a momentum-building win.
Archers (4-3) vs. Whipsnakes (4-3)
Sunday, August 15th at 4:45 p.m. ET | Peacock
All-Time Series: Whipsnakes lead 3-1
Player to watch: Whipsnakes attack Matt Rambo, No. 9
Rambo has been out with a wrist injury since the fourth game of the season. The Whipsnakes recently moved him off the injured reserve list and he is now listed as questionable for the weekend. It’s likely both he and head coach Jim Stagnitta would prefer Rambo see some game action before the playoffs. His health will be a storyline to track during both Whips games this weekend and in the first round of the playoffs in Utah.
Stat to know: 72%
The last time these two teams played, the Whipsnakes won 72 percent of the faceoffs. While Joe Nardella is one of the premier faceoff specialists in the PLL, the Archers need to be better at the stripe. Whether it’s adjusting wing play, or a switch up at the stripe at the itself, something needs to change for the Archers if they want to get over the hump against the Whipsnakes.
Why the Archers: The Archers were within a goal of the Whipsnakes the first time these two teams met this year. Their offense is potent enough to keep them in any game, and the Whips moving parts on offense could be an advantage for the Archers consistent defense.
Why the Whipsnakes: The defending champions aren’t typically the kind of team that loses two games headed into the playoffs. With the faceoff advantage in this game, I like their odds. Through two years in this league, the Whipsnakes have found a way to build momentum when it matters. Watch out if the ‘Whips get hot here.
The pick: The Archers continue being snakebitten against the league's best. Whips win.