Stakes are raised. Win or go home. PLL playoffs are here. This weekend it’s the quarterfinals; a triple header played on Labor Day at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Three games, back to back, to see who moves on and who starts watching prospect tape and updating their free agent targets.
The Chrome are already in that camp. Their loss in the final week officially eliminated them from playoff contention, although given the way the season was going that felt like a foregone conclusion. Chrome are officially on the clock for the 2024 college draft. The other team that isn’t in action this weekend is Archers, who locked up the number one seed. They secure a bye into the semifinal weekend at Shuart Stadium on Long Island. They’ll play win the winner of Redwoods and Chaos. So let’s get to those games.
Last week, I was 3-1 on game picks and 1-3 on totals.
For the year, I am 16-12 on game picks and 10-18 on totals.
Chaos (5-5) vs Redwoods (6-4)
When: Monday, September 4th, 11:45am ET
The Spread: Chaos favored by 1.5, game total set at 24.5
This is my favorite matchup of the weekend. I had someone tell me they thought the winner of this game would win the whole thing. Is that a hot take? Absolutely. But I’ve heard hotter. This is like that first summer day in June hot, but it’s only about 70 and since it’s been a cold spring that feels super hot, even though there will be plenty of summer days way hotter than that.
Chaos are doing what they always do, and crescendoing into the playoffs. Dhane Smith had his season high in assists last week. Jarrod Neumann played his best game of the year last week. Will Bowen is rapidly reaching DPOY levels, and improving every week. The offense has a healthy Josh Byrne, but is sharing the ball as well as anyone. Eight goal scorers last week, 11 point scorers. And of course, Blaze Riorden is still standing in the net.
The Redwoods come in having won three straight, including two in OT with a win over the Cannons. They’ve strung together games where the offense looks comfortable, and plays with consistency. They were rattled a bit last week. After a 5-0 head quarter, and an 8-0 lead, a scary hit to Nakeie Montgomery looked like it shook the team a bit, and Atlas was able to climb back into this game. The Redwoods handling the emotions of a playoff game are critical. When they have high moments, they need to manage that high and continue to play with whatever energy and offense made it happen. When they have low moments, they need to avoid hero ball and their dodgers trying to end the run and win the game on their own. At both extreme highs and lows, the Redwoods can go looking for the big blow. They can take the heat check shot and hunt a knock out punch, even if the shot isn’t good, and they can have stars try to take on too much as they try to make momentum shifting plays.
The Chaos are a team that can put you in a low pretty quick. Because of how good their defense is, led by Blaze Riorden, teams can work hard to manufacture a halfway decent look, and still get robbed of a goal. They’ll hunt turnovers, they’ll be physical, and Blaze will make saves nobody else makes. It’s easy to get frustrated by that. Compounding it, the Chaos may go looking for a two pointer, or Josh Byrne may just do something ridiculous to score a goal on the other end. They are always a matter of seconds away from seizing momentum.
The Redwoods will be met with challenges when it comes to the emotions of the game, and they’ll be elevated because it’s the playoffs. These two teams are highly skilled and have the talent to win it all. Garrett Epple’s matchup will be interesting; he can only guard one of Josh Byrne or Brian Minicus. The Chaos, if they choose, can simply attack the matchup that isn’t Epple to try and take him out of the game.
Chaos thrive on high stakes, high energy, emotional moments, and the Redwoods haven’t handled them well consistently this year. Chaos win the game, and they cover the 1.5
Whipsnakes (4-6) vs Waterdogs (7-3)
When: Monday, September 4th, 2:20pm ET
The Spread: Waterdogs favored by 1.5, Game total set at 24.5
In the regular season, Waterdogs won 16-13. But the story of that game could have been written very differently. They were still without Brad Smith in this game. They didn’t have Michael Ehrhardt or Matt Dunn in this game. The Whips got out to a 4-1 lead in the first quarter. They then lost Kyle Bernlohr to an elbow injury, Brian Phipps came in cold, and things sort of fell apart for them. They still led at half time, and were even up 12-10 with about 8 minutes left in the game. But without their starting goalie and two best defenders, they gave up a 6-0 run in the 4th quarter. Late in the game, Matt Rambo left with a broken finger. That’s a winnable game for Whips, even without several of their best players. That won’t be the story on Monday. Whipsnakes will be at full strength, and will have added Jackson Morrill since the first meeting. He can run out of the box, he can play at attack.
For Waterdogs, they’ll be without Jake Carraway in this game, already ruled out with an injury. Thomas McConvey, Matt Whitcher, and Kieran McArdle are all listed as questionable, but I’m expecting to see Whitcher and McArdle in the game. Either way, the Waterdogs needed a 4th quarter comeback to beat a Whips team missing many weapons in the last go around, that won’t be the case this week. Matchups could shuffle, scheme could shuffle. The Waterdogs come in on a three game win streak, most notably ending the regular season with a buzzer beating comeback to knock off the league’s top team, Archers. They’ll be playing with confidence. Dillon Ward has been at an All Pro level but has appeared in just five games. He’s still the only goalie in the PLL with a save percentage north of 60%. Whipsnakes will need to stick shots.
Whipsnakes are healthy, and when they are playing their brand of lacrosse, it’s death by a thousand cuts. They play their trademark “hit singles” offense and score methodical, clean goals that may not generate highlight clips, but get the win. They play a smart, well organized defense, led by Matt Dunn. Ehrhardt will be an X factor in this game, as the Waterdogs will run the prevent off faceoffs, which could give Ehrhart some unsettled two point opportunities.
Whips are +1.5, I’ll take them to cover and this game to come down to the wire, while it goes under 24.5.
Atlas (2-8) vs Cannons (7-3)
When: Monday, September 4th, 5pm ET
The Spread: Cannons favored by 2.5, game total set at 26.5
Atlas backed into the playoffs, losing their last three and six of their last seven. The sole win in that stretch was over the league’s worst team, Chrome. Atlas managed just seven goals in the season ender against Redwoods, which is not a good sign. As woeful as Atlas have been at stretches of the season, the offense has remained pretty good. Until Week 10. Jeff Teat is the league leader in assists. Myles Jones has been very good since joining Atlas, scoring seven points in three games despite not seeing a big uptick in touches per game. Chris Gray continues to be a weapon that can stretch the field. Eric Law is Eric Law. The question for Atlas will be the defense. Gavin Adler is listed as questionable, he’ll be a massive loss if he can’t go, since stopping the Cannons still really starts with handling their attack. Atlas have opted for four poles, plus Jake Richard taking some run with a pole as the fifth if need be, in the last two games. That’s a dangerous proposition against Cannons. The Cannons defense can attack from enough different places that they’ll be able to find a weakness in the Atlas somewhere.
The Cannons have the leagues’ top two point scorers at attack in Asher Nolting and Marcus Holman. One of them almost certainly wins Attackman of the Year. Matt Kavanagh has missed the last two games, but Adam Charalambides has filled in well at the lefty attack spot. The nature of the offense means that the ball gets shared, regardless of who’s out there, and if you can share the ball and play intelligent offense, you can be productive here. That’s a bigger ask than you might think. The defense is underrated, but their personnel moves have been outstanding. Add Cade Van Raaphorst, who now gets a revenge game this week, and potentially adding Craig Chick to the lineup in place of the injured Matt Rees, another revenge game this week. CVR is a two point machine who’s again one of the top help defender’s in the PLL. Jack Kielty has quietly and humbly played his way to a DPOY finalist. Something to watch is how injuries go. Bubba Fairman, a SSDM of the year finalist, is questionable, as is Jake Pulver. Colin Kirst is as well, but it feels like it would take a minor miracle for him to miss this game. This defense needs to be near 100% to limit Atlas.
An X factor here is, of course, Trevor Baptiste. Cannons will deploy the prevent. Atlas will win every faceoff. Bulls will have to be at their best dealing with their biggest problem of the year: playing efficient offense in 32 seconds. Atlas have not done that all year, but if they can flip the script this week and do some make it take it, they’ll have a shot in this one.
Cannons offense is just too good at moving the ball, making defenses rotate, and punishing disorganization. They’re the best in the league at it. Atlas are the worst in unsettled and help defense situations. Even with the 2.5 goal line, Cannons look like a team that’s ready built to make life miserable for Atlas. Cannons cover, and the game goes over.