May 24, 2023
By Adam Ruffner
24. Detroit Mechanix (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 29-13 vs Pittsburgh
Jake Kenniv spent his first two seasons on the team as primarily a receiving-only threat, but showed an increased throwing dimension in his first start of 2023. Kenniv set a career high in throwing yards (214), and led all Mechanix players with 334 total yards. He has also been good at using his height and reach in coverage as a playmaker, and could use his size well in the backfield for Detroit.
23. Dallas Legion (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 28-17 vs Houston
The question heading into virtually every game this season for the Legion will be “Who will share the throwing responsibilities alongside Jason Hustad?” The third year bomber currently leads the league in yards per game (720) among players with at least two games played, and is tied for second in hucks per game (3). Hustad is also currently on pace to set the league record for most throwaways per game (6.5) due to his monolithic workload, so please get the man some help.
22. Seattle Cascades (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 24-20 vs Oakland
Yes there have been struggles in the win/loss column, but the ‘Scades remain one of the most fun teams to watch this season. They’ve scored 20 or more in three of their five games, and the playmaking core of Khalif El-Salaam, Garrett Martin, Marc Munoz, Jack Brown, and Zeppelin Raunig continue to fill up highlight reels. But the Seattle defense has softened, and has just 13 takeaways in their last three matchups while surrendering 25 goals per game.
21. Montreal Royal (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 17-15 vs Boston
Despite some impressive individual performances, including the season debut of All-Star Jakob Brissette, the Royal offense struggled to find consistency and scored just four goals in the middle two quarters of their Week 4 loss to Boston. The setback extends Montreal’s losing streak to seven games, dating back to last June. The Royal get a rematch with the Rush this Saturday, and a loss for either team could potentially be fatal for their playoff hopes in 2023.
20. Portland Nitro (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 24-23 vs Oakland
Even with Raphy Hayes averaging nearly 700 yards per game and both lines playing as hard as ever, the Nitro continue to not catch breaks in close games. They fell just short of catching Oakland after a furious fourth quarter rally last Friday night, and now carry a 13-game losing streak into their June 2 matchup against the also-winless Cascades. The Nitro failed to convert on 50 percent of their offensive possessions in each of their final six games of 2022, and have already surpassed that mark in three of their first four games in 2023; Portland was 18-of-31 (58 percent) on O-line possessions against the Spiders, their highest rate since June of last year.
19. Toronto Rush (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 20-13 vs DC
As much as I personally thought Toronto was in for a pretty visible improvement this year, the Rush appear more and more like a slightly punchier version of the 2022 team that won four games. Toronto has committed 26 or more turnovers in all three of their losses, and their defense has converted just four breaks total in those matchups. Luc Comiré is the only Toronto thrower with more than five passing attempts that has a completion percentage above 95, and the Rush as a whole rank fourth worst in team completion percentage (90.4 percent).
18. Houston Havoc (-2)
Most recent result: Loss, 23-17 vs San Diego
The experienced Growlers were always going to be a tough matchup for the expansion Havoc, as San Diego’s discipline and possession simply out-executed Houston on numerous points. This team has so far eschewed formal line structuring, which can really benefit them when the rotations are playing hot. But against a methodical group like the Growlers, the constant Havoc lineup adjustments seemed to contribute to their lack of a rhythm, particularly during San Diego’s surge in the second quarter of last Saturday.
17. Madison Radicals (-)
Most recent result: Loss, 22-21 at Indianapolis
It feels like I’m yelling this from the bottom of a well given their back-to-back heartbreaking road losses in the final moments, and the fact this franchise has never started 0-2 in their previous nine seasons. But hey: The young Radicals offense is suddenly top six in efficiency, and are converting at their highest rate since 2018. How about that! Rookie Anthony Gutowsky has been a great target in the red zone, and finished with six goals in Indy. But without the ability to generate stops on defense, Madison is in a bit of an identity crisis heading into Saturday’s big “Game Of The Week” showdown at Breese Stevens Field.
16. Chicago Union (-1)
Most recent result: Loss, 19-16 vs Indianapolis
Following their bye week, the Union are preparing for a tough away-and-home doubleheader this coming weekend, as they face the Radicals in Madison on Saturday before hosting Minnesota on Sunday. Chicago hasn’t started 0-3 since the 2017 season, and can’t afford to slip any further in the standings with playoff rivals Wind Chill, Thunderbirds, and AlleyCats all possessing two wins already. Ross Barker had just 16 touches in his 2023 debut, and could see an expanded workload, particularly against his former team on Saturday; Barker caught a last-second game winner in Week 10 of last season against the Radicals, and had seven scores in his last game in Madison.
15. Philadelphia Phoenix (+3)
Most recent result: Loss, 18-16 (OT) vs New York
Even with their defense containing the Empire attack, and huge offensive performances from both James Pollard and Greg Martin, Philly could not quite edge past New York last Saturday. And even though it’s the Phoenix’s worst start as a franchise since the 2017, there’s a lot to build on following their game against the defending champs. Opponents have the eighth lowest hold rate this season against the Philly D-line, and they’re the first team to earn 10-plus blocks against the Empire in their last seven matchups; the Phoenix were also the last team to earn double-digit takeaways against New York in Week 11 of last season.
14. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (-2)
Most recent result: Loss, 26-12 at Minnesota
Week 4 was a big reality check for the T-Birds as they surpassed their turnover total from their first two wins (28) in one game in Minnesota (29). Without Clint McSherry in the backfield, the Pittsburgh offense had trouble getting the disc into the attacking half of the field, much less scoring against the Wind Chill defense, and threw two different Callahans. Now the Thunderbirds are in a precarious spot as they get set to host the battle for the Commonwealth Cup against an 0-4 Philly team that is salivating for their first win.
13. Los Angeles Aviators (-4)
Most recent result: Win, 20-13 vs Portland
The Aviators must have gotten their pilots license revoked somewhere over the Rockies as LA managed just 27 goals at altitude over their two-game road trip in Week 4. They’re averaging the third fewest goals per game in the league (15.5), and have converted less than 50 percent of their offensive possessions in three of their first four games. The offense is actively undergoing lineup adjustments every game, and that’s leading to little miscues and miscommunication that pile up over four quarters of play. Sean McDougall has shown out in his return to the team, though, and has just two throwaways compared to 20 scores in four starts.
12. San Diego Growlers (+2)
Most recent result: Loss, 21-17 at Austin
San Diego showed a tough-as-nails resolve in their two-game split of their road trip through Texas, especially given they were without team leader Travis Dunn for both matchups. And for all the noise and additions elsewhere in the division this offseason, the steadfast Growlers sit just a half game out of the third place, and with the confidence of knowing that they got here without having Dunn and Paul Lally both available in any of their four games. The Growlers defense is currently second in the AUDL in converting break opportunities, with Jordan Queckboerner, Stefan Samu, and Tyler Bacon looking to engage in transition quickly following opponent mistakes.
11. Indianapolis AlleyCats (+2)
Most recent result: Win, 22-21 vs Madison
If you haven’t already, go read about what made Cameron Brock’s game-winning goal extra meaningful in this week’s “Tuesday Toss”. It was his 586th career goal, putting him 251 goals ahead of number two all-time Matt Smith; if you created a player with 251 career goals, he would be tied with Mischa Freystaetter and Sean McDougall for ninth all-time, to give a perspective on the gap between Brock and everyone else. But as dramatic as the finish was, Brock was largely an exclamation point on top of a tremendous team-effort win. Keegan North spelled onto defense and was a big presence, and rookie William Wettengel now has multiple blocks in three of his first four starts, and ranks second in the league in takeaways.
10. Boston Glory (+1)
Most recent result: Win, 17-15 at Montreal
The BoGlo defense continues to roll as the franchise earned its first road win since August 2021 in last Saturday’s matchup in Montreal. Opponents are converting a league-low 33 percent of their offensive possessions against the Glory D-line through three games, which is five points lower than the second worst conversion rate. Boston’s opponents have just a 1-9 record so far this season, so the team’s first big test will be against 4-0 New York on June 2 in a much-anticipated battle of two unbeaten teams atop the East Division.
9. Oakland Spiders (+1)
Most recent result: Win, 24-20 at Seattle
Doubleheader road trips are always good tests for young teams in development, and the Spiders emerged from their Pacific Northwest venture with two big wins and a firm hold of third place in the crowded West Division. Walker Frankenberg finished the weekend with 11 scores and 768 total yards without committing a turnover, and leads all rookies this season in scores (25), goals (16), and total yards (1765). Keenan Laurence is in the midst of a breakout season in his fourth year with the Spiders. He has 24 scores compared to just three turnovers in four starts, and is averaging nearly 24 yards per touch.
8. Austin Sol (-)
Most recent result: Win, 21-17 vs San Diego
The Sol got the win at home in Week 4 and sit just a half game back of Atlanta for first place in the South Division. But more offensive miscues, and a second half San Diego comeback, leaves the Sol with some questions as they approach the midpoint of their 2023 schedule. Austin’s offense finished top six in efficiency a season ago but now sit middle of the pack in 2023. The team isn’t committing an abundance of turnovers—Sol are averaging just 16.7 turns per game in their last four—but the O-line is struggling at times to pick up in transition and stop the counterattack. Evan Swiatek, Kyle Henke, and Mark Evans have already combined for 74 scores and almost 7,000 yards of offense this season.
7. Minnesota Wind Chill (-)
Most recent result: Win, 26-12 vs Pittsburgh
Over a three year stretch from 2017 to 2019, Josh Klane averaged over 60 assists and 615 completions per regular season while showcasing one of the biggest arms in the AUDL. With incoming talent and more throwers than ever before, Klane’s role on the Wind Chill the past two-ish years has shifted from a primary hucking howitzer to more of an even keeled distributor, with the eight-year vet excelling early in 2023. He has one throwaway on 75 passing attempts, and has assisted or assisted-the-assist on 17 Minnesota scores in just two games. He’s also on fire from deep: Klane was 11-of-20 on hucks during the 2022 regular season, and is already 8-of-9 in this year.
6. Atlanta Hustle (-3)
Most recent result: Loss, 21-15 at Carolina
Aside from some spark plug moments, like Justin Burnett attempting to claim a soul, the Hustle came out a little flat against the Flyers and had trouble matching their opponent’s physicality and intensity. And after converting a robust 23-of-37 (62 percent) of their break opportunities through their first three wins, Atlanta scored on just 2-of-9 on Sunday in Carolina, and managed just five takeaways on the game. Even with the off game, the Hustle are still just one of two teams to rank in the top six in both offensive and defensive conversion rates, and they lead the league in team completion rate (94.9 percent); Atlanta’s top seven throwers have a combined 26-to-1 completion to turnover ratio.
5. Carolina Flyers (+1)
Most recent result: Win, 21-15 vs Atlanta
The Flyers struck back against their closest rivals after falling to the Hustle in Week 2, with Carolina’s handler defense locking up throwers all game long and holding an impressive Atlanta attack to a season-low 15 goals. Carolina is still floating some players between offense and defense—Terrence Mitchell has been stellar in multiple roles on both lines, and has four blocks in his last two games—but there’s much more of a rhythm in their rotations now that the team has warmed up. Anders Juengst is such a problem to guard when he plays with the tempo he did against Atlanta, knifing through coverage with his feet and throws and continually putting the Hustle defense on their heels with his insistence.
4. Salt Lake Shred (+1)
Most recent result: Win, 25-13 vs Los Angeles
For the third time in five games the Shred notched double-digit break scores as Salt Lake is once again leading the league in goals per game for the second straight season. No playoff team lost more defensive starters over the offseason than Salt Lake, and yet the Shred still remain one of the most disruptive forces in the AUDL. Kyle Weinberg is the league leader with 10 blocks this season and is one of the strongest defenders, able to assert himself with both speed and size almost anywhere on the field. Rookie Everett Saunders has been tremendous as a two-way playmaker, coming up with blocks in coverage and being able to lead the transition attack as a thrower, with a great hammer in his toolkit inside the red zone.
3. DC Breeze (+1)
Most recent result: Win, 20-13 at Toronto
The DC defense finished with a season-high 17 blocks in their bounceback win in Toronto, and have been excellent at applying pressure on opposing offenses throughout all four quarters. Moussa Dia and AJ Merriman both finished with four takeaways against the Rush, with Merriman playing like his 2021 DPOTY self through the first four games of the season. The D-line is averaging 1.5 more break scores per game than in 2022, and opponents are converting just 40.7 percent of their offensive possessions against DC, third worst in the league. And Andrew Roy had his best game in a Breeze jersey, committing just one turnover on 36 pass attempts and contributing six hockey assists. Roy now leads the team in total completions (148), and is fifth in the AUDL in completion percentage (97.4 percent) among passers with more than 100 completions this season.
2. Colorado Summit (-)
Most recent result: Win, 18-14 vs Los Angeles
After finishing 2022 as a top-two hucking team in the league, the Summit are still calibrating their long range attempts in the first month of the season. Jonathan Nethercutt and Quinn Finer are as dangerous as ever as throwers and have a combined 19 huck completions through four games. But aside from those two, no other Summit player has completed multiple hucks so far this season, and the team as a whole is connecting on just 51 percent of their attempts, 15 percent less than a season ago. And yet because of their tenacious defense and radical improvements in the red zone—Summit have gone from a middle-of-the-pack 76 percent conversion rate in 2022 to a league-leading 88 percent rate in 2023—Colorado has offset their struggles with the longball. Case in point: The Summit have more red zone scores (28) than turnovers (27) in the past two games.
1. New York Empire (-)
Most recent result: Win, 18-16 (OT) at Philadelphia
On the one hand, the defending champs have been taken to overtime in each of their past two games, possibly signaling a closing of the gap between the top team in the East and their divisional challengers. The red zone is becoming a bit of a concern, as New York ranks just 18th in red zone conversion rate (78 percent) after finishing number one a year ago. But then there’s the 19-game winning streak, and the fact that in their last 11 games going back to 2022 opponents are averaging just 15 goals per game against the Empire defense; New York’s average margin of victory over that same stretch of games is over seven goals per game.
Follow Adam Ruffner on Twitter