Both Playoff games feature rematches from the regular season and in both cases, the No.1 ranked teams were upset. Atlanta hosted Austin on July 9 and practically ran them out of the building with a 50-34 win.
One major asterisk in the earlier match-up was the absence of perhaps one of the best two-way athletes in the X League in Austin’s Kris Daniels. Without Daniels the Austin defense struggled especially in stopping the run, but so did Austin’s offense.
Quietly Austin’s QB1 Michelle Angel has posted an impressive season throwing for a league-best 9 touchdowns vs only 1 interception. Angel’s primary target has often been arguably the most explosive offensive weapon in the X League, wide receiver Kassandra Bills who leads the league with 12 receptions (an eye-popping 6 being touchdowns). With the return of Daniels to the line-up, it should free up Bills even more as Atlanta’s defense is not likely to double Bills with Daniels being on the opposite side. Where Austin has struggled offensively has been in the run game, simply because not enough touches have been provided to running back Rachel Washington who has shined when provided the opportunity.
Austin’s defense has been its Achilles heel, currently ranked as the worst in the X League and only the Denver Rush (112pts) have given up more points than Austin (69pts).
Outside of the Chicago Blitz’s run, no other team has impressed more than the Atlanta Empire. Perhaps the most complete football team coming into the Playoffs with an offense that features a dual-attack run game with Jessica Salazar and Lauran Ziegler and an aggressive defensive front. The question will be the development of 19yr old QB1 Bailey Hodgins, will the Playoffs spotlight be too bright for the young signal-caller? If Hodgins can manage the game as she has all-season, Atlanta should have a lot of success against Austin’s defense. An X factor for the Atlanta offense will be wide receiver Lindsey Ezell who has really come on as well as redzone target Jolie Efezhokae.
Atlanta’s defense leads the league in only allowing 34pts, primarily due to the play of its front three, led by Keyon Harrison.
Austin will be playing for the opportunity to play in their home arena for X Cup 2022 while Atlanta wants to cap a very strong regular season with a statement win in the Playoffs.
What: X League, Playoffs Saturday
Date: Saturday, August 27
Where: accesso ShoWare Center
Time: 9pm ET
Betting Line: Atlanta 8pts 68 Over/Under
Score Prediction: Atlanta 35 Austin 30
Watch: LIVE on FANPASS