Hanszen (5-2) vs. Lovett (5-2)
These two teams have both shown elite potential over the course of the season. Lovett looked for the majority of the year like one of the best teams in the league. The offense may not be as explosive as it once was but looked strong against, and the defense has been dominant all year. Hanszen exploded as the year progressed, putting up 51 points in the two games prior to its matchup against Baker, but the offense has been inconsistent over the year. In Hanszen's favor is that it have the best player on the field at all times in Priyanka Duvvuru, who nearly carried it to a first-round playoff victory last year. Conversely, in each of the past two years Lovett has had to beat the two best teams in the South Division to win a title, and both times it has succeeded. Both teams went 5-2 over the course of the regular season, including matching 3-2 marks in conference, but while Hanszen held the superior point differential (50-19), Lovett won the two teams' lone matchup of the year.
Pace and the flow of the game will be crucial for both sides. Hanszen is explosive and racks up points on big plays and turnovers. Lovett grinds teams into the ground, letting its defense do the majority of the work while its methodical offense accomplishes enough to get the job done. If Hanszen can keep the game up-tempo and high-scoring, Lovett could be hard-pressed to keep up, but if Lovett can force Hanszen to play ugly it could be an entirely different story.
Overall, Hanszen has looked like the better team for most of the year and has the best player in the league on its side, and so we have it advancing to the next round.
Jones (5-2) vs. Sid Richardson (5-2)
At first glance, this contest looks lopsided. Jones matched Sid with a 5-2 record during the regular season and actually posted the better point differential, outscoring opponents by 30 points during the year as opposed to Sid's 21. Still, we think Sid is clearly the better team here. For one, both Jones' record and point differential are bolstered by playing against the weaker competition of the North Division. While, Jones is a remarkable story, going 5-2 just a season after going 0-7 Sid has looked utterly dominant at times this year.
Sid's offense has for stretches looked like the best offense in the entire league. The defense is near-lockdown at its best. Few teams, if any, that have a higher ceiling than Sid does, but Sid does seem more prone to variance that other teams, which could bite it in the playoffs. It is difficult to see it winning consecutive games against quality competition, which it needs to do in order to win the championship, but the odds look good for a victory over Jones. Jones had some big plays in ket moments this year, which are crucial to any successful playoff run, but we like Sid as the superior team overall and winner here.
Sid's ultimate fate will lie in the hands of quarterback Rachel Tenney and the team's wide receiver corps, but at least for this week, better depth and talent level should be enough to overcome Jones.
GSA (4-3) vs. Hanszen (6-2)*
This iteration of the GSA has not been the team we have come to expect over the last few years. If Hanszen is able to defeat Lovett, it should have no problem beating the GSA. The physicality and experience of the GSA could prove problematic, but Hanszen will again have the most talented player on the field to counteract this advantage. This game will undoubtedly be aggressive and tense, as these two teams played each other extremely tough in their matchup earlier in the year, but we would expect Hanszen to come out on top once again if they play in a rematch.
Baker (7-0) vs. Sid Richardson (6-2)*
A few weeks ago, this matchup could have easily been the championship. There was a stretch when they looked like the two best teams in the league. However, since then, Baker has continued to roll, while Sid has struggled through inconsistency. Sid, more than any other team in this bracket, has the potential to knock off Baker, but Baker has been too dominant this year to actually predict a loss. This game would be a battle, and Sid could certainly win if it executed and luck broke its way, but we see Baker winning if these two teams end up playing.
Baker (7-0) vs. Hanszen (7-2)*
For the better part of the second half of the season, these two teams have looked like the best in powderpuff, so it is no surprise that we have them battling it out for this season's championship. Hanszen's greatest asset in each game is Duvvuru and the knowledge that she will be the best player on the both sides of the ball. However, in this potential matchup, that advantage would be neutralized: Baker quarterback Kristine Karvonen has arguably been the most valuable player in the league this season. Its defense has also been stout, having not allowed a single team to score more than a touchdown. The team went a perfect 7-0 and led the league in point differential, outscoring opponents by 78 total points over the course of the year despite playing in the tougher South Division. While it may not necessarily be against Hanszen, we are confident Baker will complete its perfect season with a win in the championship game and end the year 9-0, claiming the title in decisive fashion. It has been an incredible year for Baker, and it would be fitting if it were to culminate in a dominant playoff showing to match the consistent brilliance we saw all year.
Final Prediction: Baker 27, Hanszen 13
*Records are updated based on predicted results from the previous round (i.e. Hanszen entered the playoffs 5-2 but would be 6-2 in the semi-finals after winning the necessary first-round matchup).