AFI’s Europe Top 20: 2018 Coaches Preview Poll

In the first Top 20 of 2018, we are excited to include the input of some of the best coaches in Europe. We’ve aggregated the choices of some of Europe’s top coaching talent, and present them along with our own choices.

The AFI Coaches Poll is conducted weekly throughout the European regular season using a panel of coaches at European clubs. schools. The panel is chosen by election, country by country plus independents, from a pool of coaches who have indicated to the American Football International their willingness to participate. Each coach submits a Top 20 with a first-place vote worth 20 points, second place 19 and so on down to one point for 20th.

This week’s panel include five coaches from four nations, many of which lead teams in our poll.

  • Stan Bedwell – HC Allgäu Comets
  • Dan Levy – HC Prague Black Panthers
  • Dave Likins – DC Braunschweig New Yorker Lions
  • Nick Johansen – HC Wroclaw Panthers
  • Geoff Buffum – HC Calanda Broncos

Because of the nature of disparate start dates of leagues throughout Europe, and with only half of the clubs in our Top 20 in action, we consider this Top 20 our 2018 Coaches Preview Poll.

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 in 2018 please email [email protected].

Now, our first 2018 rankings!

1. Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns (0-0 GFL1) – Germany

The 2018 poll begins as the 2917 ended, with the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns atop Europe. The Unicorns finally pulled off the upset and knocked off the defending champion Braunschweig New Yorker Lions in German Bowl XXXIX and finished the season undefeated with a 17-0 record. Until they are unseated, the Haller fans will can claim #1.

Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns captured German Bowl XXXIX

2. Braunschweig New Yorker Lions (0-0 GFL1) – Germany

At #2, the defending Eurobowl champion Braunschweig New Yorker Lions  were undone in the German championship game by a last second blocked field goal. The Lions open their season next week against the Flash de la Courneuve in 2018 Eurobowl action.

3. AFC Dacia Vienna Vikings (2-0 AFL1) – Austria

In 2017, the #3 Vienna Vikings from Austria enjoyed a resurgent year and finished back on top of the Austrian league, winning the Austrian title with a decisive victory over the Swarco Raiders. The Vikings have begun 2018 where they left of topping the Traun Steel Sharks 64-18 and Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants 45-32. This week the Vikings meet the Danube Dragons in Austria’s top league.

Vienna Vikings win Austrian Bowl

4. Swarco Raiders (2-0 AFL1) – Austria

The fall of the Frankfurt Universe in the polls, moves up Austria’s Swarco Raiders to #4 although they lost the Austrian final at the end of their 2017. However, in 2018, they played impressively in the Austrian Football League dominating the Bratislava Monarchs and AFC Mödling Rangers. Today they face the Graz Giants, watch live here!

5. Helsinki Roosters (0-0 SAJL) – Finland

In 2017, Finland’s Helsinki Roosters marched through Finland’s Maple League with an 11-1 record and dismantled all opposition in the playoffs to win the Finnish title. They sit solidly in the #5 spot. They also defeated Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders to win the Northern European Football League (NEFL) title. They re-signed a one of a kind leader in quarterback Brandon Connette, and have been preparing for 2018 with practice matches of Sweden’s Stockholm Mean Machines (a 47-19 victory). AFI expects the Roosters to dominate 2018 in Finland’s SAJL and possibly beyond.

Helsinki Roosters won Maple Bowl XXXVIII

6. Wroclaw Panther (2-0 LFA) – Poland

The coaches in our poll see great things coming out of Poland! The #6 spot goes to Poland’s Wroclaw Panthers who won the Polish championship in dominant fashion. They surprised the powerful Swarco Raiders in Central European Football League last year, forcing the Raiders to come from behind to win the game. The Panthers were undefeated in Poland and soundly beat Denmark’s Triangle Razorbacks in CEFL action. They are the back-to-back Polish champions under head coach Nick Johansen and have started 2-0 in Poland. Watch them meet Poland other top team, the Gydnia Seahawks on Sunday April 8.

7. Carlstad Crusaders (0-0 SAFF) – Sweden

Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders move to #7 following their dominant march to their 8th Swedish title. They suffered an  overtime loss to the visiting Helsinki Roosters in the Northern European Football League (NEFL) championship game but rebounded to capture the Swedish championship.

Sweden’s Carlstad Crusaders win 8th straight Swedish title

8. Dresden Monarchs (0-0 GFL1) – Germany

The Dresden Monarchs finished 2017 as the #10 team in Europe after losing two of their last two games including the quarterfinal game to the Frankfurt Universe. However, our panel sees potential in the Monarchs and have them at #8. Dresden is consistently competitive and maintain a strong German cast that keep them in the mix year after year.

9. Frankfurt Universe (0-0 GFL1) – Germany

The Frankfurt Universe financial controversy still remains unclear. The club has not lost its Samsung sponsorship, but apparently is struggling. However the club has signed coaches and players and has been working towards playing in the 2018 GFL season. With less than a week until the season starts, we expect the club to play. The question remains if this funding issue will affect their ability to compete. Based on past performance our panel has them at #9.

10. Milano Seamen (3-0 IFL) – Italy

Italy’s defending champion Milano Seamen has impressed our panel. The Seamen grab the #10 spot early in the 2018 season.

Italy’s Milano Seamen win Italian Bowl

11. Kiel Baltic Hurricanes (0-0 GFL1) – Germany

The Kiel Baltic Hurricanes have slid down to #11 after losing their final two regular season games and then losing to Schwäbisch Hall 33-11 in the German semifinal. In 2018, the Baltic Hurricanes are celebrating their 30th anniversary. They’ve have signed former Pittsburgh Steeler and West Virginia Mountaineer wide receiver JD Woods. Kiel opens their GFL campaign against the Cologne Crocodiles on April 21.

12. Berlin Rebels (0-0) GFL1) – Germany

The Berlin Rebels begin the year at #12. In 2017, they lost in the German quarterfinals to eventual champions the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns but pushed the Unicorns to overtime. The club has signed a number of international stars including Lauri Vanio (Finland), Mamadou Sy (France), and Chris Smith (Netherlands) and will complete with the top GFL Nord clubs.

13. Marburg Mercenaries (0-0 GFL1) – Germany

Our #13 team is the Marburg Mercenaries who reached the German quarterfinals where they lost to the Kiel Baltic Hurricanes. Marburg finished the year in the German Football League South with an 8-7 record marking the biggest improvement of any team in the league. For 2017, the Mercenaries signed Austria’s top domestic quarterback, Alexander Thury and dangerous receiver Peter Jinkens.

14. Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers (4-1 FFFA Elite) – Germany

From the top of the French table comes the 4-1 Thonon-les-bains Black Panthers at #14. Despite an upset loss to the Asnières-sur-Seine Molosses 20-13 in week 4, our panel sees potential in the Black Panthers.

15. Calanda Broncos (2-0 SAFV) – Switzerland

The Calanda Broncos enter the list at #15 with their impressive play in the 2017 Swiss league and lopsided win in the championship game over the Basel Gladiators. Our panel recognize two big SAFV early season wins. Outside of the Swiss league the Broncos are competing in the EFAF tournament.

Calanda Broncos win Swiss Bowl XXXII

16. Kragujevac Wild Boars (1-0 SAAF) – Serbia

The Kragujevac Wild Boars finished the Serbian season in style winning the championship game over the Novi Sad Dukes to defend their title. They also held their own against the Swarco Raiders in losing the Central European title game.

In 2018, they started strong topping national rival the Vukovi, in their season opener 38-21. Next up for the Wild Boars is a CEFL match against reigning Turkish champions Koc Rams.

17. Prague Black Panthers (1-0 CAAF) – Czech Republic

The Prague Black Panthers from the Czech Republic are our #19 team after running away with the Czech league blanking the Ostrava Steelers in the championship game.

18. Amsterdam Crusaders (1-1 Independent) – Netherlands

An early season loss to the unranked GFL club Cologne Crocodiles have dropped the Dutch champions from their 2017 perch at #11. The Crusaders are playing a completely independent schedule for the first time in 2018

Copenhagen Towers win Mermaid Bowl XXIX

19. Parma Panthers (3-0 IFL) – Italy

Parma was unranked at the end of 2017, but their strong start in the IFL has our panel seeing stars. The Panthers dominated the Pesaro UTA (48-7), Torino Giaguari (49-6), and Bolzano Giants (36-0). Parma will be tested in a few weeks when the face the Milano Seamen and Firenze Guelfi.

20. Copenhagen Towers (0-0 DAFF) – Denmark

Denmark’s Copenhagen Towers rebounded in the Danish league and dominated the Sollerod Gold Diggers in Mermaid Bowl XXIX to win the Danish championship.

Copenhagen has joined the NEFL for tests at the Oslo Vikings and at home against British champion Tamworth Phoenix. The Towers begin their 2017 campaign on Sunday 4/8 against the Frederikssund Oaks.


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