It’s the final weekend of the PLL regular season. I know what you’re thinking. Seven teams make the playoffs, there’s nothing to play for, that’s what the comment section says so I’m saying the same thing, blah blah blah. Wrong. There’s plenty on the line. The only team mathematically locked into their spot is the Archers. Sure, it’ll take some longs shots for Chrome and Atlas to swap places, but it’s not impossible. Almost impossible, but non zero chance there.
The final weekend of the season has the PLL in Utah, playing games at Zion’s Bank Stadium. This was the site of the PLL Bubble in 2020, and has been a stop since. PLL pros like Will Manny, Adam Ghitelman, and Bubba Fairman call Utah home. Manny, Ghitelman, and both Marcus and Brian Holman have been on the Utah lacrosse staff. The connection between the area and the league grows all the time. Only one linear TV game this week, it’ll be Friday at 10:30pm, when Atlas and Redwoods play on ESPN2.
Last week, I was out of commission and didn’t get picks done in time. I’m so very sorry.
For the year, I am 13-11 on game picks and 9-15 on totals.
Archers (8-1) vs Waterdogs (6-3)
When: Friday, August 25, 8pm ET
The Spread: Archers favored by 1.5 goals, game total set at 25.5
Archers are locked in. They have the top spot and a bye secured. Their only loss of the season game in Week 3 at the hands of the Chaos, meaning they have won six straight games. That stretch includes a win in a shootout against the Waterdogs.
Archers will be without Matt Moore, who is working back from a hamstring strain. Archers have shown resilience to injury this season as Grant Ament was banged up early in the year, Moore has been hurt before, nothing seems to slow them down. A key to their success has been, to nobody’s surprise, the play of Tom Schreiber. Captain America has taken a solid lead in the MVP race, again likely to nobody’s surprise. A team that had shuffled a lot of pieces on offense coming into the year, the Archers would need a steady leader and offensive QB to keep everyone on the same page. Schreiber has done that, and his production has stayed a top of the PLL levels. With elite players at their positions at multiple spots, like Graeme Hossack and Brett Dobson in particular, standing out just on this team would be an accomplishment. Schreiber continues to rise above.
The Waterdogs do have some stakes in this game. They can finish either 2nd or 3rd in the standings, and there’s a big difference there. A 2nd place finish means a likely quarterfinal date with Atlas. Finishing 3rd means they could be up against the Whips, Chaos, or Redwoods, all scary teams. Waterdogs have gotten the better of Atlas twice, their prevent works well against Baptiste, it’s a comfortable matchup. They can’t rest on being locked into a playoff spot, they should be playing to win into that two seed if they can. They’ll need to win and make up some goal differential, so you’ll know early if they plan on going for it and racking up some points. They’ll have to pull it off without Thomas McConvey and Jake Carraway, both out with injury.
Waterdogs have the bigger motivation in this game. They can play their way to a favorable quarterfinal matchup. They’ve won two straight, and their defense has looked outstanding the past few weeks. They held Cannons to 12, Atlas to 11, and Chaos to 8. They can try and push tempo in this one and win their way to the two seed. Waterdogs cover the 1.5, and the game goes over as they play fast and loose.
Atlas (2-7) vs Redwoods (5-4)
When: Friday, August 25, 10:30pm ET
The Spread: Redwoods favored by 1.5, game total set at 24.5
Atlas are pretty securely locked into the seven seed. The only other place they can finish is eighth, and they’ll have to be on the receiving end of a pretty serious blowout for that to happen, and it also requires a Chrome blowout win. Atlas will have all their players in this one, the injury report is clear, although Gavin Adler remains on the PUP list. Brendan Curry is also on Bereavement leave, so he’ll be out this week. Myles Jones and Dylan Molloy likely remain in the lineup for Week 10. Jones has looked comfortable and confident in his Atlas action, the change of scenery has done him good. No doubt he’ll be looking to put it on his former team in the season finale and do some damage.
The Redwoods are playing for a spot in the Championship Series. With a win, they’ll lock up the four seed and that last spot in the February sixes event. With a loss, because of their goal differential, they could fall as far as 6th in the standings, but it will come down to what result the Whips and the Chaos get. The Woods have won two straight OT games, including a win over the Cannons in Denver. They’ve been trending in the right direction with the emergence of Cole Kirst. Romar Dennis was able to hit a two for the Redwoods last week, doing what they acquired him to do. Owen Grant is also back in the lineup. The Atlas defense has been a weak spot, and is without Gavin Adler. Romar, like Myles, will likely relish the chance to stick it to the team that traded him.
Atlas defense is just too hard to trust to get stops. Settled, in transition, anything. Without Gavin Adler, they also might struggle in matchups with the Redwoods attack, namely Rob Pannell and Ryder Garnsey. The Redwoods are playing well and looking to keep things rolling into the playoffs. They also secure the sweet bonus checks that come with Championship Series spots with a win, and that shouldn’t be ignored. Redwoods are favored for just the second time all season, but they win and cover here, and the game goes over.
Cannons (6-3) vs Whipsnakes (4-5)
When: Saturday, August 26, 7pm ET
The Spread: Cannons favored by 1.5 goals, game total set at 25.5
The Cannons are tied in the win column with Waterdogs, but hold a 10 goal lead in the score differential column. Like Waterdogs, the Cannons are playing for the two seed and chance to take on Atlas or Chrome in the Quarterfinals. And like the Waterdogs, the Cannons likely would rather see the Atlas. Cannons will enter this game knowing what they need to do to win. If they see the Waterdogs win on Friday night, they’ll know they need a win to lock up the two spot. If the Waterdogs lose, they’ll know they can still take a loss here and get the two spot, just with an eye on goal differential. They’ll also know the Atlas result and if the Bulls have locked into the seven spot. Knowing what they need likely won’t change much in all honesty, Coach Holman has these players on an even keel, focused on executing on a game to game basis. But just on a human level, it has to enter their mind. They’ll be without Matt Kavanagh again, and Jake Pulver is doubtful, which is big as the Whips offense is daunting.
The Whips acquired Jackson Morrill this week, meaning the Cannons will be the first team to see him in a red (or green) uniform. Morrill likely features as an invert weapon, bringing an element that the Whips don’t have much in their offense. Their primary midfield weapons are Brad Smith and Tucker Dordevic, they tend to attack from above the net. Matt Rambo and Zed Williams do their damage from behind the goal. Morrill bridges the gap, something that really only Keegan Khan brought to the table for the Whips. The Cannons short stick defensive midfield unit has been great this year, they could be tested by Morrill as he works to fit in on his new team. On the other end, it’ll be about the Whips defense holding up against a loaded Cannons attack. Matt Dunn’s play since returning from injury has been sensational, and a matchup with Asher Nolting would pit two of the best players in the sport against each other. With a win and a Redwoods loss, the Whips can head back to the Championship Series. They’ll finish somewhere between fourth and sixth regardless of outcome.
Whips have been hot, and now that they’re healthy, they’re as dangerous as ever. The Cannons story this season has been one of the best in the league. They’ve lost one game in regulation this year. They’ve lost once since Week 3, an OT loss to Woods. They are finding ways to win, they are incredibly efficient on both sides of the ball. But the Whips are turning into the Whips of the playoffs that we all know and fear. The Whips cover the +1.5, and the game goes under.
Chaos (4-5) vs Chrome (1-8)
When: Saturday, August 26, 9:30pm ET
The Spread: Chaos favored by 1.5, game total set at 22.5
Chrome traded away Jackson Morrill this week for picks, a white flag of sorts on the year. They are winless in their last eight games. I liked the Chrome coming into the year, but the offense has been terrible, and they just can’t string quality possessions together. This week, they’d need to beat Chaos by enough, and have Atlas lose by enough, to make a up 17 goal deficit to the 7th place Atlas. The discourse around this team has already turned to who they should take number one in the draft, with Brennan O’Neill being a favorite choice. Teams in this situation do sometimes take the opportunity to leave it all out there, play care free lacrosse, it’s all just for pride at this point and for pro athletes pride means a lot. Chrome may go down, but they’ll go down fighting.
For Chaos, they list Josh Byrne as questionable. Coach Towers will need him at 100% for the playoff run, and with this likely being a game he’s confident about even with Byrne out of the lineup, it may be best to hold Byrne out one more week. They’ll head into the game still with Dhane Smith, Brian Minicus, Kyle Jackson, Tye Kurtz, Ian Mackay, their usual lineup of weapons. Blaze Riorden will be in net behind an very strong defense, facing down an offense that just traded away one of its top weapons. Chaos have the added incentive of only trailing the Whips in goal differential by six. If the Chaos win, and win big, they can leap over the Whips in the standings, potentially all the way into fourth and a spot in the Championship Series.
Chrome are the type of team, with the the type of coach, who are dangerous in games like this. Take the field with nothing to lose, play free, have fun, and see what happens. It’s the kind of thing that can make for a wonderful story. Unfortunately, the Chaos are in their way, with a stalwart defense. The Chrome offense may put together some great plays and give the fans some hope for 2024, but the Chaos are looking to climb the standings with a big win. They cover the -1.5, and the game goes over.