#1 – San Diego Seals (10-3)
Week 17 Results: 17-9 win at Panther City, 7-6 OT loss vs Buffalo
Week 18 Opponent: vs Calgary (10-4)
Previous Ranking: 1st
Some of you may be surprised to see the Seals here instead of the Bandits, and that’s understandable. In Week 17, the Bandits did beat the Seals – it was one of the more thrilling games of the year – but the Seals led in that game more often than the Bandits did. Not to mention the game against the Bandits was the Seals second game in as many nights, and they won the first game in dominating fashion on the road against a likely playoff team in Panther City. If you think of how much exhausting travel was involved for some of these guys in a 48-hour period last weekend and then think about how they faired against the Bandits, it’s very impressive. San Diego is also improving defensively and in between the pipes. The seven goals allowed by the Seals is tied for the fifth-fewest goals surrendered by them in franchise history. Also, over their last five games, the Seals have allowed 48 goals. That is one of the lowest combined totals of goals allowed over a five-game stretch in their franchise’s history.
#2 – Buffalo Bandits (11-3)
Week 17 Result: 7-6 OT win at San Diego
Week 18 Opponent: at Toronto (11-4)
Previous Ranking: 3rd
Buffalo could be in the #1 spot. Through Week 17, they have the best winning percentage (.786) and they are tied with the Rock for the most wins (11). On top of that, they just beat the best team (based on W-L record) in the West (San Diego). They have won seven of their last eight games and were the first team to clinch a spot in the postseason. However, despite having the majority of their offensive pieces back in the lineup, the Bandits have struggled to score on the attack. Their 35 goals scored over their last 4 games is their lowest combined goal total in a four-game stretch since 2014. Winning games is ultimately the goal, but each of the last four Bandits wins have been decided by one goal, and three of those game were won in overtime. If you like a team that knows how to win big games against the best teams in the league when the going gets tough, the Bandits are for you.
#3 – Calgary Roughnecks (10-4)
Week 17 Result: 14-6 win vs Saskatchewan
Week 18 Opponent: at San Diego (10-3)
Previous Ranking: 4th
The Roughnecks are keeping their collective heads down and are focusing on what matters most: winning games. Over the past two months, the Roughnecks have arguably been the top team in the NLL. They have won seven of their last eight games and have won those seven games by an average of over five goals. Their dominating 14-6 outing against the Rush was just the latest example of how the Roughnecks can beat you offensively, defensively and in transition. The Roughnecks Week 18 clash versus San Diego is massively significant. If the Roughnecks win, not only do they temporarily jump ahead of the Seals for the top spot in the West, but a win would give them the season series against their conference rival.
#4 – Toronto Rock (11-4)
Week 17 Result: 11-9 win at Albany
Week 18 Opponent: vs Buffalo (11-3)
Previous Ranking: 2nd
It’s a tough week for the Rock (in terms of their ranking). They won in Week 17, and yet they drop two spots. It hasn’t been a great March for these NLL Cup hopefuls. They are 3-2 over their last five games and their offense has cooled off significantly – they have scored 10.8 goals per game this month. To put that into perspective, through January and February, the Rock scored an average of 15.1 goals per game. Their Week 18 match against the Bandits is incredibly consequential. If the Rock win, they will temporarily move ahead of the Bandits for first place in the East, and, if they win, it means that the series season between the East Conference frontrunners will be decided in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season.
#5 – Panther City Lacrosse Club (8-6)
Week 17 Result: 17-9 loss vs San Diego
Week 18 Opponent: vs Albany (2-11)
Previous Ranking: 5th
Of the top-five teams, Panther City put together the least convincing performance to remain in the top five. Yet, because the teams close to them in the rankings had similar, or equally underwhelming results in Week 17, Panther City holds on to their spot. Their 17 goals allowed facing San Diego tied for the most PCLC has given up in a single game in the franchises very young history and the -8 goal differential tied for the third-largest deficit in franchise history. Nevertheless, PCLC were playing the Seals, arguably the most formidable opponent to face in the NLL right now. On top of that, there have been enough instances of extremely high-quality material from this team over the last two months. PCLC have gone 4-2 in their last six games and have won six of their last nine after starting the year with a 2-3 record. Be on the lookout for PCLC to rebound in a big way against Albany in Week 18.
Next 3 In (in alphabetical order)
Colorado Mammoth (6-7)
Week 17 Result: 14-12 loss at Vancouver
Week 18 Opponent: vs Las Vegas (5-8)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
Just when we thought the Mammoth were back, they were handed an unfortunate and (potentially) costly loss against the Warriors. Now, these weren’t the early 2022-23 Warriors that the Mammoth were facing in Week 17 – today’s Warriors are much improved – but you expected more out of the Mammoth, who were riding high after a huge and decisive win against the Bandits in Week 16. The pieces are coming together again for the Mammoth, and just in time. This team has five games left in the regular season to string a handful of wins together and secure a playoff spot. The fourth spot in the West is currently theirs, but it may not matter if the East ends up with 5 teams in the postseason.
Halifax Thunderbirds (7-7)
Week 17 Result: 14-10 win at Philadelphia
Week 18 Opponent: vs Georgia (4-8)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
The Thunderbirds look like they’ve figured things out just in time to make a late push for the postseason. In Week 16, the Thunderbirds beat the Rock at home 14-12 and in Week 17 they beat the Wings 14-10 on the road. This is the team’s first win streak of any kind since they won their first two games of this season. And, don’t let their 2-2 record over their last four games fool you. Their 10.5 goals allowed per game in that span is the fewest allowed in a stretch that length all season long.
Rochester Knighthawks (9-5)
Week 17 Result: 12-7 loss at Las Vegas
Week 18 Opponent: at Philadelphia (6-8)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
The Knighthawks are cooling off at the wrong time. They have lost two games in a row, three of their last four and five of their last eight. Thankfully, their incredible 6-0 start to the year is keeping them near the top of the East Conference. Don’t get me wrong, the Knighthawks are still very capable and still quite dangerous, but they are definitely coming back down to reality after their blazing hot start. It would be shocking if the Knighthawks didn’t make the playoffs this year, but with two games against the Wings and a game against the surging Swarm, this team needs to keep on their toes down the stretch to secure their franchise’s first playoff berth.