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Week 16 was a tough one for the teams at the top of the rankings – three of the teams in last week’s top 4 lost. Conversely, three of the four teams that were in the bottom half of last week’s top 8 finished with wins. That’s the beauty of the NLL. Even as teams gear up for the final stretch of the March to May, there is no way to predict who is going to come out on top. Here’s how the seven games from this past weekend’s slate of games affected this week’s rankings.

#8 – Saskatchewan Rush (5-6)

Week 16 Result: 17-15 win vs. New York Riptide
Week 17 Opponents: at New York Riptide (6-8), at Georgia Swarm (8-7)
Previous Ranking: Not Ranked

With the level of parity that we’ve seen in the NLL this season, you could make an argument for a handful of teams to be slotted in this #8 spot. The Rush, however, have looked quite formidable over their last three games, including their OT loss to the Bandits in Buffalo in Week 15. In Week 16, the Rush tied a season-high 17 goals scored, and the team is averaging 15.3 goals per game over their last three matches. They have now won two of their last three games and four of their last six. Week 17 will give us more of an indication if they are contenders or not, as they face the Riptide and Swarm on the road on back-to-back nights.


#7 – Georgia Swarm (8-7)

Week 16 Result: 13-8 loss vs. Philadelphia Wings
Week 17 Opponent: vs. Saskatchewan Rush (5-6)
Previous Ranking: 4th

In Week 16, the Swarm suffered their most-lopsided home loss since their season-opener. After winning back-to-back one-goal games the two weeks prior, the Swarm looked out-matched by a Wings team that looked hungry and determined to keep their season alive. However, the eight goals scored tied for their fewest this season, and their 13 goals against was their second-most allowed at home this season. Consistency is key if you want to be one of the best teams in the NLL, and the Swarm have struggled with that all season long. We’ve seen signs of greatness and other moments of concern, but, the reality is that despite the team’s 8-7 record, the Swarm haven’t had a convincing, not nail-biting win since December.


#6 – Albany FireWolves (10-4)

Week 16 Result: 11-10 loss vs. Rochester Knighthawks
Week 17 Opponent: at Calgary Roughnecks (5-8)
Previous Ranking: 3rd

The Albany FireWolves are on a two-game losing streak at the moment, and they lost both of those games to the surging Knighthawks. While the team almost pulled off a dramatic comeback victory in Week 16, the team did not execute to their standard for the first 30 minutes. Newcomer, John Wagner showed a lot of promise in his debut with the team, and the FireWolves were able to buckle down and shore things up on both sides of the ball in the second half, it was just a little too late. How will this young team rebound in Week 17 against the Calgary Roughnecks, who are in desperate need of a win to keep their season alive? Can they bounce back and remain one of the top teams during this final and most grueling stretch of the regular season? 


#5 – Rochester Knighthawks (6-6)

Week 16 Result: 11-10 win at Albany FireWolves
Week 17 Opponent: at Colorado Mammoth (4-9)
Previous Ranking: 6th

The Knighthawks are on a three-game winning streak for the first time since December, and boy have they looked impressive on this run. They’ve taken down the Albany FireWolves at home and on the road during this streak and held them to ten goals in Week 16 – the ten goals against was their fewest allowed in a game this season. Riley Hutchcraft has played a big role in the net during this stretch, and Week 16 was another great performance as he stopped 40 of 50 shots on goal. He has now made 40+ saves in three consecutive games. We’ve known all season long just how good this offense can be, although, they seem to be getting better over time, but, if their defense can continue to shine, as it did for most of their game against the FireWolves in Week 16, this team is going to be a real problem for any team in the final month (and change) of play.

#4 – Buffalo Bandits (7-6)

Week 16 Result: 14-12 win vs. Toronto Rock
Week 17 Opponent: at Panther City Lacrosse Club (6-7)
Previous Ranking: 7th

The Bandits have been a gritty team that refuses to lose over the past two weeks. After beating the Rush in OT in Week 15, the Bandits stormed back and took down their biggest rival (the Toronto Rock) in Week 16. Their offense has been on fire lately, scoring 29 goals over their last two games (14.5 goals per game), and, on the season, they are averaging a league third-best 12.85 goals per game. The team is still quite banged up on the back end, but they did see a nice debut from their newest acquisition, Paul Dawson. Dawson notched four loose ball recoveries, three blocked shots and two caused turnovers. Offense doesn’t usually win championships, but if the Bandits can continue to shrink that goals against number (as they did in Week 16), they are going to look much more like the NLL Cup-winning Bandits of last season.


#3 – Halifax Thunderbirds (8-6)

Week 16 Result: 13-9 win vs. Panther City Lacrosse Club
Week 17 Opponent: at Toronto Rock (11-3)
Previous Ranking: 5th

The Thunderbirds needed another very strong performance to show that they are still a true contender for the NLL Cup, and they got it (at least for three of the four quarters) in Week 16. In front of a record-setting 10,196 Thunderbirds fans, Halifax put on a dominant showing in the first half – they led 10-2 at halftime. And, even though, they would be shut out 5-0 in the 3rd quarter, they still won 13-9. This was the fourth time this season that the Thunderbirds have held their opponent to under ten goals, and that seems to be a good target for them, as they are 4-0 in those games. This was a nearly complete effort from the Thunderbirds at every position. They delivered big hits, electric transition goals, solid goaltending, and gusty fighting skills, and displayed masterful teamwork leading to great passes. If they can do that for 60 minutes, instead of 45 for each of their remaining four games this season, I wouldn’t want to be facing the Thunderbirds in that stretch or in the playoffs.


#2 – Toronto Rock (11-3)

Week 16 Result: 14-12 loss at Buffalo Bandits
Week 17 Opponents: vs. Halifax Thunderbirds (8-6)
Previous Ranking: 1st

This Week 16 loss for the Rock is going to sting. The Rock were up 10-7 with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter in Buffalo on Saturday night, but they let their lead slip away. They were outscored 7-2 by their opponents in the final 19 minutes of the contest, and didn’t score over the final eight minutes. Now, the Rock have been riddled with injuries on the back end, and in transition for much of this season, but that was an uncharacteristic finish for one of the Goaltender of the Year front-runners, Nick Rose. Having all of that, even when not healthy, the Rock have arguably been the best team in the NLL this season. Once they heal up and have everyone back, it will be very hard to imagine an ending like they had in Week 16. In fact, I’m not sure who could beat them. 


#1 – San Diego Seals (10–4)

Week 16 Results: 7-6 win at Calgary Roughnecks
Week 17 Opponents: vs. Las Vegas Desert Dogs (4-9)
Previous Ranking: 2nd

The Seals are back on top of the rankings for the first time since Week 11. Brodie Merrill made his return to the floor (he caused a turnover and picked up two loose balls), the team held the Roughnecks to 10% shooting on the night, and Baptiste dominated at the face-off dot again. All of this and then some helped the Seals pull off a hard-fought, intense road victory despite having an off offensive night themselves. The Seals also benefitted in part from the Toronto Rock and Albany FireWolves picking up losses in Week 16. But, it’s not just all about wins and losses in these rankings. The Seals picking up Chris Wardle at the trade deadline and signing Merrill late last week will surely help this team on both sides of the ball during this March to May and their playoff run.