AFI’s First Europe Top 20 of 2017

With the European seasons now underway we now present our first Top 20 ranking of 2017.

Not much has changed in the Top 10 although the German season is only just getting started. We are aware that there are a number of undefeated teams throughout the leagues in Europe. And we know that many feel they deserve to be on our list. We do our best to examine all leagues and their leading teams.

Our panel, which will grow to include many more coaches throughout Europe, takes a look at the strength of schedules within each league. This is the same approach used in all other ranking systems. Although this is not perfect, it is as close as we can come at this point. We continually work to improve and always welcome your comments and insight.

If you are interested in being a part of the AFI Coaches Poll please email [email protected].

Now, on to the rankings!

The defending German and Eurobowl champion Braunschweig New Yorker Lions open the year in the #1 spot which should come as no surprise with just a few offseason changes and the return of quarterback Casey Therriault. The Lions opened 2017 with a convincing win over the Amsterdam Crusaders in Big6 play and looked solid in doing so.

Austria’s Swarco Raiders open at #2 and have looked impressive early in the Austrian season having won three straight games. They have also beaten Poland’s top team, the Wroclaw Panthers.

The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns stay at #3 but have yet to play a game without former head coach Siegfried Gehrke. The German finalists in 2016 have a solid organization and finished 2016 with a 16-1 record in Germany. They open their regular season April 30 against the Marburg Mercenaries.

The Dresden Monarchs stay at #4 and with little change in the roster apart from Garrette Safron in place of quarterback Brandon Connette, expect a high powered offense. The Monarchs open their season May 6 against the Hildesheim Invaders.

The Kiel Baltic Hurricanes have made some impressive additions to the team and with Australia national team quarterback Jared Stegman behind center, could surprise. They open against the Cologne Crocodiles May 6.

The Vienna Vikings from Austria have moved up to #5 on our list after an impressive showing so far in the Austrian league. Although they are 2-1 they were held of by the #2 Swarco Raiders and are much improved over 2016, partly due to the addition of import quarterback Kevin Burke.

Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders enter at #6 and have looked dominant in the early stages of the 2017 season. Despite playing the last two games in the Swedish Super Series without imports they have not lost a beat. Their two wins over Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers in the Northern European Football League (NEFL) were impressive.

The Frankfurt Universe enter the 2017 list at #8. They have started the German season with a narrow win over the Stuttgart Scorpions putting on a strong defensive display. Whether their offense can perform as well after the departure of Marcus McDade remains to be seen.  Nevertheless, they have the resources and should be a playoff contender.

Germany’s Saarland Hurricanes impressed in their first game against the Munich Cowboys and with the improvements they have made, they slide in right behind at #9.

Our #10, the Milano Rhinos have looked solid and remain under defeated midway through the season in Italy and in European play. In fact they have not lost a game since 2015.

Serbia’s Kragujevac Wild Boars occupy our #11 spot. They have not lost a game this season after winning the Serbian championship in 2016. They have opened the Central European Football League season with a win and have looked solid.

The Amsterdam Crusaders are at #12 after they have picked up where they left off in 2016 waltzing through the Dutch league and playing  even with the Braunschweig New Yorker Lions before losing 20-6.

The Allgäu Comets come in at #13 after making the German playoffs for the second year in a row in 2016. Under head coach Brian Caler they will be solid again in 2017. Quarterback Cedric Townsend has returned and the team looks to improve on their 8-6 record after reaching the semifinals in 2015.

Italy’s Milano Seamen stunned Germany’s Berlin Rebels beating them 14-13 in Milan and thus enter our rankings at #14. They have lost just one game in the Italian league this year, to the undefeated Rhinos.

The #15 spot goes to Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers who surprised the powerful Swarco Raiders in Central European Football League play a week ago, forcing the Raiders to come from behind to win the game. The Panthers are the reigning Polish champions and under head coach Nick Johansen along with Rick Rhoades, they look to defend their Polish title.

Finland’s Helsinki Roosters at #16 do not seem to have slowed down after the departure of head coach Juha Hakala to Italy’s Lazio Marines. The Roosters new head coach  Marquette Floyd added the top quarterback in Germany in 2016, Brandon Connette who moved over from the Dresden Monarchs. Helsinki has won both their Northern European Football League games against the Uppsala 86ers and have looked impressive.

Italy’s Bolzano Giants enter the Top 20 at #17 with quarterback Dustin Hawke-Willingham behind center have dropped just one game this season, to the Milano Rhinos, but have looked solid. They could well challenge for the Italian crown again this year.

The Berlin Rebels come in at #18 despite a narrow loss to Italy’s Milano Seamen. The Rebels looked sluggish in the hot Italian sunshine and were not expecting to face a defensive battle in the heat. They will improve with former New Yorker Lions running back Chris Smith complementing German rushing leader in 2016, Lawrence McClendon.

Great Britain’s top team, the London Warriors are at #19 and have continued their march in England while also disposing of Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers in Northern European Football League action. They will face a true test when they play the #6 ranked  Carlstad Crusaders in two weeks.

Finally, France’s number one team, the Thonon Black Panthers round out the list at #20. Thonon’s ground game has let them dominate opponents and they have racked up 314 points in seven games with running back Andreas Betza leading the way. They beat the Prague Black Panthers in EFL action last week.

Honorable mentions: La Courneuve Flash (France), Örebro Black Knights (Sweden), Koc Rams, Turkey, Lisbon Devils (Portugal), Badalona Dracs (Spain), Triangle Razorbacks, (Denmark), Stuttgart Scorpions (Germany), Hildesheim Invaders (Germany), Calanda Broncos (Switzerland), Warsaw Eagles (Poland), SBB Vukovi Belgrade (Serbia), Prague Black Panthers (Czech Republic), Reus Imperials (Spain), Aix-en-Provence Argonautes (France), Copenhagen Towers (Denmark).

AFI
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