All Star Weekend is in the rear view, meaning it’s officially the second half of the PLL season. The final weekend before the All Star Game was held in Connecticut in front of a packed crowd, and this weekend, PLL will head into the Lone Star State to hold games at The Star in Frisco.
After a week break, the injury report is still long, but with almost everyone listed as questionable rather than out. Kyle Bernlohr and Owen Grant are definitely to miss the weekend, but basically everyone else is listed as questionable. Rosters will be final by the time this gets published though. It feels a little funny to say it’s playoff push time, because seven of eight teams make the playoffs. The Whipsnakes are 1-4 and currently have a 92% chance to make the playoffs per the PLL. But for Chrome and Atlas, this week is big. Loser is solely into that eight spot, and the only thing they’ll be pushing towards is Brennan O’Neill.
A look at the second half schedules and who has a solid road the rest of the way is available now for those of you into futures. This week, all four favorites are available at plus money, as the “just bet underdogs” strategy is popular given so many close games.
Last week, I went 2-2 on game picks and 3-1 on totals.
For the year, I am 8-8 on game picks and 7-9 on totals.
Atlas (1-4) vs Chrome (1-4)
When: Saturday, July 29. 6pm EDT.
The Spread: Atlas favored by 1.5, game total set at 24.5
Don’t let those records fool you, this is a big game. Two teams at the bottom of the standings, both of whom were teams I really liked to make deep runs this year so shows what I know. Loser of this becomes to sole owner of last place in the league, and the Atlas in particular have a very difficult second half schedule. The spot to watch here is in net. Drake Porter got the nod in CT and Pressler was pleased with his performance, but after some time off, we’ll see if veteran Jack Concannon gets his spot back. The primary problem for Atlas in the first half was offball and help defense. They can cover the ball well, they don’t always support well. For a matchup like this, the Atlas might be in a good spot. They are dressing Koby Smith again, a signal that pushing transition will be a focus. Chrome weapons like Sam Handley, Colin Heacock, and Jackson Morrill start the show by winning their individual matchups. When they struggle to do it, turnovers can follow. Atlas can play to their strength of winning 1v1 and try to steal a few possessions.
Also of note, Chrome are sitting Connor Farrell this week. He’s been a winning specialist all year, but teams are deploying the prevent against him in hopes of forcing turnovers. So far, it’s been working. On top of that, Farrell has (like just about everyone) struggled with Trevor Baptiste. This week, Chrome decide their best chance will be to use players like Eli Salama, Troy Hettinger, and possibly Ryan Terefenko to force Baptiste backwards and try to run some prevent themselves.
Atlas offense has not been a problem this year. They are second in the league in scores, fourth in assists, and have the third best team shooting percentage. The Chrome defense may be without Mike Manley this week, a big loss when it comes to individual matchups and a tone setter for the team. JT Giles’Harris likely guards Jeff Teat, after that, Atlas could have a matchup edge. Chrome will need to produce on the offensive end. They’ll get chances if they successfully deploy the prevent against Baptiste. If they don’t Atlas can make it a track meet, which favors them.
Atlas execute and start the second half off right. They cover the 1.5, and the game goes over.
Cannons (3-2) vs Redwoods (3-2)
When: Saturday, July 29. 8:30pm EDT
The Spread: Cannons favored by 1.5, game total set at 24.5
Everyone is a Cannons fan lately. They have the best offense in the PLL. Yes, Coach Brian Holman and OC Jim Mitchell rebuilt an offense, without Lyle Thompson, in a single year that at the halfway point now has the most scores, most assists, and best shooting percentage in the league. Asher Nolting has emerged as a legit MVP candidate. He’ll be tested this week in a matchup with Garrett Epple. Last week, he took it to reigning DPOY JT Giles-Harris dodging to score. This week, the Redwoods will be more ready to slide and support, and he’ll have to dodge to feed. He’s done both effectively, but ultimately the attack starts with his ability to do those things.
For Redwoods, they are coming off a forgettable offensive performance. They managed just three goals against Archers, and went scoreless for the game’s final 34:08. They regressed to the Woods of last year for a while, playing way too much hero ball, which just invited doubles from the defense that forced turnovers. There were possessions where only a couple players actually touched the ball. The roster has shuffled this week, with Myles Jones headed to reserve and Sergio Perkovic listed as an SSDM, while Nakeie Montgomery is listed on offense. An offensive shake up is underway. The good news is the Redwoods defense is intact. They still take the field with a stacked close defense and goalie, including DPOY candidate Garrett Epple. It’ll take a full team performance that’s well organized, and a good game from Kelly, for the Woods to compete here, but that’s exactly what they have every week. While their last game out was ugly, they did only surrender 10 goals to a potent Archers offense.
Cannons will deploy the prevent again, using Ethan Rall to disrupt faceoffs and try and force TD Ierlan into turnovers. It worked for them against Chrome.
This is a game where Asher Nolting and Garrett Epple can set the tone for the entire day. Nolting can notch an early assist off the dodge and start a snowball down hill. Epple can stop Nolting early and force the Cannons to become a midfield initiating team. Ultimately, the game is likely decided at the other end of the field. Which version of the Redwoods shows up? Share the ball, big little games behind, swing throughs above the net? Or the “five guys watch Rob or Ryder dodge” offense? The shuffled lineup can signal it’s the latter. But the Cannons are just too hot.
Cannons win and cover the 1.5, and the game goes under.
Waterdogs (4-1) vs Archers (4-1)
When: Sunday, July 30. 3pm EDT
TV: ABC, ESPN+
The Spread: Archers favored by 1.5, game total set at 24.5
Winner gets sole control of first place. Both teams are very firmly in the playoffs, and look like comfortable bets to make the top four for Championship Series at worst.
Archers defense executed very well against the Redwoods. The doubled aggressively and stayed on the ball carrier until the ball hit the turf, because they understood matchups and tendencies. Tony Resch continues to deliver an excellent game plan every week. This week, that defense will get to matchup with a Waterdogs offense that gets Connor Kelly back and can attack in lots of different ways. The young SSDMs that have been so good for Archers will face what is probably their toughest test of the year. Kelly, Currier, and Hannah at the midfield together. That will be a place the game could be decided.
Waterdogs will need to win those midfield matchups. Graeme Hossack has erased his matchup every week and looks like the DPOY favorite right now. This week, the ask will be Michael Sowers. If Hossack wins reliably, the midfield will need to produce and initiate. Early in the year, that was a problem, though the Waterdogs found ways to win. The Waterdogs defense will also be without Dillon Ward who is on paternity leave. Matt DeLuca has been great in game action this year, so it’s not projecting to be a massive loss, but nobody just replaces Wardo.
Archers have been rolling. They have one loss this year and it was in a game where Blaze Riorden made 19 saves and was at 65% in net. The Waterdogs will go without a faceoff specialist again, but Sisselberger has been able to consistently get upfield and beat the prevent on his own anyway, without needing to shuffle personnel much. Archers take control of the standings, and the league, with a win.
They cover the 1.5 and the game goes under.
Whipsnakes (1-4) vs Chaos (3-2)
When: Sunday, July 30. 5:30PM EDT
The Spread: Whipsnakes favored by 1.5, game total set at 23.5
It seems silly to keep excusing the pun, but excuse the pun, the Whips are snake bit. The injuries mount every week. Kyle Bernlohr is out, but otherwise, this is close to a Whips playoff game roster. After the fear was an missing a couple weeks for Rambo with a broken finger, he’s back in the lineup this week. Brad Smith returns from injury. Rookie Tucker Dordevic has taken on a lot of the burden, and delivered on his promise as a primary dodger and scoring threat. He even is hitting from two point range, which wasn’t necessarily something that was considered a primary skill for him coming out of college. Zed Williams has been otherworldly as the offense leans on him more every week. Keegan Khan stepped in nicely to create from behind the goal last week. For the first time this season, we may see the Whips at full strength.
The Chaos defense has handled the Whips well in the past, even with Rambo. The Whips defense is, like their offense, banged up, as Matt Dunn and Michael Ehrhardt are both working back from injuries though they are active. Chaos have plenty of weapons that are sharing the ball well, and there is not yet a defender in the league who has adequately guarded Brian Minicus 1v1. Josh Byrne even saw the second pole in CT when the Chaos played Atlas, that’s the respect with which Minicus was treated. Any time your offense has that level of firepower, you’ll find mismatches. And of course, Blaze Riorden is still standing in the net. Chaos will look to force Zed and Tucker to spots where Blaze can see the shot well and kill the angles, and take their chances attacking a banged up Whips defense.
Chaos have the depth now to wear down and overcome a Whips team that may still not be all the way healthy, even if they are all the way active. The Whipsnakes should not be counted out, they are not your average one win team. They are talented, but their chances in this one are like the injury status of so many of their stars. Questionable.
Chaos are +1.5 and win outright, and the game goes under.