Pulling The Flag

Remaining Fixtures and Predictions – SWC

The last of our conference predictions focuses on the SWC.

With two of the last three national champions coming from the conference, could we see one of them reclaim their title, or maybe a different team make the big game?

SWC North

Birmingham Lions 9-0

Remaining Fixtures: Northants Phantoms, Exeter Falcons, Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks, Hereford Stampede, Cardiff Hurricanes & Leicester Eagles

Predicted Finish: 15-0

Image courtesy of Bec Edwards Photography

Comments: The Lions have stated, “they are coming for their title”!

Strong words from a team who capitulated last year and forfeited their defense of their title as national champions. This time around though, we believe them. They seem to be far more focused on taking the league seriously and despite the antics of making their players come off the field and do press ups every time they drop a pass, they have fielded a much stronger line-up when it mattered.

With tough games and a particular highlight in the way of the Stampede and Hurricanes, we strongly believe that they will go undefeated on the way to a division title and what will be a top seed from the SWC.

We also anticipate that they will take the overall number one seed in the South, by virtue of their net points looking to be healthier than the Buttonhookers, and the Lions having a much more favourable run in than the London outfit.

The South playoffs to run through Birmingham is surely much more of an incentive to the Lions than going to play golf this year, right?

Northants Titans White 4-6-1

Remaining Fixtures: Plymouth Buccaneers, Cardiff Hurricanes, Leicester Eagles & Exeter Falcons.

Predicted Finish: 7-7-1 – SWC North – Runners Up

Image courtesy of James Thomson

Comments: The Northants Titans White started off slowly, though they have plateaued towards the middle section of the season and a key 53-41 win over the Coventry Cougars Mixed team has them very much in the running for that second spot.

That win evens out the head-to-head with the Cougars, and although they trail the Coventry team by half a game right now, that half a game may just be what gets them over the line. They’ve got very competitive games against the Plymouth Buccaneers and Exeter Falcons to come, plus the Hurricanes. But we can see them picking up two of those wins, along with a win courtesy of the Eagles and making the playoffs.

Coventry Cougars Mixed 5-5

Remaining Fixtures: Cardiff Hurricanes, Hereford Stampede, Exeter Falcons, Coventry Cougars Ladies & Northants Titans Blue.

Predicted Finish: 7-8 – SWC North – Third Place

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Comments: Still a very young side, but one with lots of flair and speed. The Cougars may rue the game day, where they had no recognised quarterback and lost to the Phantoms and Buccaneers . They still gave the opposition a run for their money though and can seemingly pluck a win from anywhere. Just as the Copenhagen Barabarians, Big Bowls runners up, who they beat in the group stages.

Realistically, they need to beat the Falcons and Cougars Women, then take a win against at least one of the Hurricanes, Stampede or Titans Blue to make sure of claiming second place. That or hope the Titans White drop a game that we anticipate them winning (as above).

It’s conceivable for sure, so don’t be surprised if the Cougars and Titans flip in our predictions and we get this wrong.

Coventry Panthers 1-8-1

Remaining Fixtures:Plymouth Buccaneers, Leicester Eagles, Cardiff Hurricanes, Hereford Stampede & Northants Phantoms.

Predicted Finish: 2-12-1 – SWC North – Last Place

Image courtesy of Rob Connor

Comments: A win over the Coventry Cougars Women and a tie against the Northants Titans White are thus far the Panthers highlights of the season.

They have a hard run in with the Hurricanes, Stampede and Phantoms to finish, however we expect them to focus on supplementing their win total with games against the Buccaneers and Eagles. The Eagles game the most likely.

Further off season tournaments are planned, such as a return to the Outlaw Flag League. So we expect progression for next year.

SWC Central

Northants Titans Blue 10-2

Remaining Fixtures: Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks, Coventry Cougars Mixed & Cardiff Hurricanes.

Predicted Finish: 13-2 – SWC Central – Champions

Image courtesy of the Northants Titans Blue

Comments: Last year, the Titans Blue just missed out on reaching Brit Bowl finals, after a grueling seven rounds of overtime against the Victoria Park Panthers. This year, we believe they will make a big impact of the playoffs once more.

Sitting at 10-2, we think they will hit 13-2, albeit with a very tricky couple of contests between the Coventry Cougars and Cardiff Hurricanes. The Cardiff game being crucial, as it will likely be for the second seed in from the SWC. Third overall.

Their strength really is in their high powered offence, scoring a mighty 521 points with three games to play. Their defense is almost as impressive only conceding 128 in those games.

Northants Phantoms 8-3

Remaining Fixtures: Exeter Falcons, Birmingham Lions, Hereford Stampede, Coventry Panthers.

Predicted Finish: 10-5 – SWC Central – Runners Up

Image courtesy of Howard Goldberg

Comments: Two more wins expected for the Phantoms in the form of the Exeter Falcons and Coventry Panthers. We also expect them to give the Hereford Stampede a good game and possibly win if they go full tilt. They should, they will need to sharpen their game for the playoffs, where they went one and done last year.

So far this season their losses have come to the premier teams in the SWC in the two losses to the Northants Titans Blue and Cardiff Hurricanes. They still have the Birmingham Lions to navigate, a Lions team who they tied and beat last year. So that should be their benchmark for performance.

If quarterback Jez Smith is available to them for this years playoffs, they will hope to put in a stronger performance than the 2016 playoffs.

Leicester Eagles 1-9

Remaining Fixtures: Coventry Panthers, Northants Titans White, Exeter Falcons, Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks & Birmingham Lions.

Predicted Finish: 1-14 – SWC Central – Third Place

Image courtesy of Howard Goldberg

Comments: Not the season the Eagles would have wished for. Their only win comes against the Coventry Cougars Women, a win that was over turned when the Coventry outfit beat them last time out.

Available players/injuries seems to have been their downfall this year, coupled with a lack of ability to train with a purpose. But they will be looking to the next four games against the Panthers, Titans White, Falcons and Thunderducks to steady the ship and salvage the season somewhat.

Sadly we don’t see one of the oldest teams around fairing any better through the rest of the season.

Coventry Cougars Women 1-10

Remaining Fixtures: Exeter Falcons, Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks, Coventry Cougars Mixed &  Cardiff Hurricanes.

Predicted Finish: 1-14 – SWC Central – Last Place

Image courtesy of Mandy Keating

Comments: They entered the adult league with the desire to strengthen their game and try and be the first all women’s team to beat a team in the league.

Whilst they didn’t perform as well at Big Bowl as they would have hoped, they did achieve their goal of beating a team in the league, by beating the Leicester Eagles 12-7.

With that goal achieved, they will look to their remaining fixtures to overtake the Eagles in the standings. To do that they need to either hope they can better their net points or get a win/s over the Falcons, Thunderducks, Cougars Mixed & Hurricanes.

They have a chance, however we play it safe and predict no further wins this season. That doesn’t mean they wont have had a highly successful season in 2017.

SWC South

Cardiff Hurricanes 7-1

Remaining Fixtures: Coventry Cougars Mixed, Northants Titans White, Coventry Panthers, Birmingham Lions, Northants Titans Blue, Coventry Cougars Women, Hereford Stampede & Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks.

Predicted Finish: 13-3 – SWC South – Champions

Image courtesy of Howard Goldberg

Comments: Cardiff look to be heading somewhere close to where they were in 2015 this season. With bolstered numbers and the realisation that they were transitioning last year, has focused them to kick on.

They have eight games left, the most of any team in the league and there’s some toughies in there. Both the Coventry Cougars and Northants White will need navigating with caution, but the main focus will be on the Titans Blue and Birmingham Lions.

Right now, we maybe feel those two teams are ahead, so we have got the Hurricanes going into the playoffs as potential fifth seeds overall.

Hereford Stampede 6-3

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Remaining Fixtures: Coventry Cougars Mixed, Northants Phantoms, Birmingham Lions, Coventry Panthers, Plymouth Buccaneers, Cardiff Hurricanes & Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks

Predicted Finish: 11-5 – SWC South – Runners Up

Comments: Before the last round of games, it looked like the Stampede may have the advantage over the Hurricanes, having beaten them earlier in the season 26-24. However, a slump last time out whist fielding a weakened team, may have cost them the opportunity to hold on to that advantage. Loses to the Exeter Falcons 43-32 & Plymouth Buccaneers 52-9 are worrying to say the least, that said, we believe that half the squad were on a stag do.

We expect them to still finish second and with a decent record of 11-5. They will also be a nightmere to play in the playoffs, especially if JJ Spencer is on his game!

Exeter Falcons 5-5

Remaining Fixtures: Northants Phantoms, Coventry Cougars Women, Birmingham Lions, Leicester Eagles, Northants Titans White & Coventry Cougars Mixed.

Predicted Finish: 7-9 – SWC South – Third Place

Image courtesy of the Exeter Falcons

Comments: A very fine debut season for the Falcons.

They sit at .500 after ten games and could if they turn it on, give the Stampede a run for second place. Their only concern is the caliber of the opposition they face in the run in.

Now we are looking at wins against the Coventry Cougars Women and Leicester Eagles as a must for them. But they’ll have to show some character to best the playoff bound Northants Phantoms & Birmingham Lions, plus the embattled Coventry Cougars and Northants Titans White, who will be scrapping for their lives.

This time around, they look likely to come up short, but nevertheless, it will have been a good first outing for the Falcons.

 

Plymouth Buccaneers 5-7

Remaining Fixtures: Coventry Panthers, Northants Titans White, Hereford Stampede, Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks.

Predicted Finish: 7-9 – SWC South – Fourth Place

Image courtesy of Howard Goldberg

Comments: Along with the Northants Titans Blue, the Buccaneers have played the most games of anyone this season so far.

Sitting at 5-7 with only four games left, their playoff ambitions are all but dashed. A couple more wins look likely to occur before the season is done though and they certainly have the capacity to play spoiler to the likes of the Northants Titans White and Hereford Stampede.

Plymouth will be grateful to longtime stalwart Gareth Hawcroft, who has retired mid way though the season for all his hard work and service to the club, but will be looking to the new blood to drive the club forward into 2018 and beyond.

Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks 3-6

Remaining Fixtures: Coventry Cougars Women, Birmingham Lions, Leicester Eagles, Northants Titans Blue, Plymouth Buccaneers, Hereford Stampede & Cardiff Hurricanes.

Predicted Finish: 5-11 – SWC South – Last Place

Image courtesy of the Merthyr Tydfil Thunderducks

Comments: Unlike the Buccaneers, the Thunderducks have seven games to get themselves back in the reckoning. The only negative to that is, they face the Birmingham Lions, Northants Titans Blue, Hereford Stampede and Cardiff Hurricanes within those seven, ouch!

They got off to a bad start when they weren’t able to commit to their first game day, so lost two straight away against the Plymouth Buccaneers and Exeter Falcons.

Wins mighht come in the form of the Cougars Women and Leicester Eagles, but quite equally, they could go the other way too.

Predicted Playoff Placing: 1: Birminham Lions (#1 Seed – Home field advantage over of SEC) 2: Northants Titans Blue, 3: Cardiff Hurricanes, 4: Hereford Stampede, 5: Nortnants Phantoms & 6: Northants Titans White

So who’s your pick for the 2017 Playoffs?

Check in with Pulling the Flag this week for more insights on who we feel will make waves come the post season and who’s going to win it all.

 

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