Chinese National Football League Week 4: It all comes down to this

As the CNFL’s 2020 regular season comes to an end, it all comes down to one final week. With only ten teams playing this year, the top six teams make the playoffs, with the first and second seeds earning first-round byes and home field.

The current standings:

  1. Hangzhou Smilodons 3-0
  2. Chengdu Pandaman 2-0-1
  3. Shanghai Titans 2-1
  4. Beijing Barbarians 2-1
  5. Qingdao Conquerors 2-1
  6. Guangzhou Apache 1-1-1
  7. Foshan Tigers 1-2
  8. Zhengzhou Steamer 1-2
  9. Shenyang King Kong 0-3
  10. Shanghai Street Cats 0-3

Hangzhou and Chengdu currently sit in the top two spots, followed by a logjam as the Shanghai Titans, Beijing Barbarians, Qingdao Conquerors and Guangzhou Apache all have 1 loss. The Foshan Tigers and the Zhengzhou Steamer cling to slim playoff hopes and desperately need a win. The King Kong and the Street Cats have both been eliminated from playoff contention.

With that said, a glance at Week 4’s matchups:

Foshan Tigers (1-2) vs Hangzhou Smilodons (3-0)

Saturday, November 14, 12 pm, Skyway Field, Foshan

Good news for Foshan: Despite being 1-2, Foshan is still alive for a playoff bid. Bad news: Their opponent is the undefeated Hangzhou Smilodons, who are 3-0 and have looked very good thus far.

However, this is a long trip for the Smilodons and the Tigers are still a formidable opponent. The game being played in hot and humid Foshan also gives the Tigers an edge as the Smilodons are only bringing twenty some odd players to the game and many starters will have to play ironman football.

The Tigers will have to establish their ground game early behind Running Backs #24 Rao Zhuyi and #6 Liang Qiyu to keep the Hangzhou defense from teeing off with their multitude of blitzes and also to wear them out.

Path to the playoffs:

At 3-0, Hangzhou has already qualified.

Foshan needs to win and hope either the Guangzhou Apaches or the Shanghai Titans lose.

Chengdu Pandaman (2-0-1) vs Shanghai Titans (2-1)

Saturday, November 14, 2 pm, Chenhui West Road, Chengdu

The most exciting game of the week features two familiar contenders.

The Titans have been surging since a disappointing first game against the Street Cats and their win over the Beijing Barbarians signaled that they are still contenders for the title. A solid defense that held the Beijing Barbarian offense in check is once again their strength and the Titans complement it with a power rushing Wing T offense that features mobile Qb’s Stone and Wallace, who combined for four touchdowns against Beijing.

The Chengdu Pandaman have also been ramping up their performances after a near-disaster week 1 against the Zhengzhou Steamer. A tie against the Guangzhou Apaches was followed by a shutout victory over the Foshan Tigers. The Pandaman offensive line has been dominant, and they will need their blockers like OL/TE #94 Mickey to be up to the challenge of stopping Titans DL #58 Wagner, who also goes by the name of “Thor” as he is big, strong, fast, and a huge threat on the edge.

Path to the playoffs:

Win or lose, Chengdu has already qualified.

Titans are in with a win and/or a Foshan loss. Consequently, a loss and a Foshan and Guangzhou wins knocks out the Titans.

Guangzhou Apache (1-1-1) vs Zhengzhou Steamer (1-2)

Saturday, November 14, 1:30 pm

Guangzhou Baiyun Yagang Football Field, Guangzhou

Both teams are in a very precarious position and this serves as a de facto elimination game. The Apaches were dead even with the Hangzhou Smilodons in their last game before a cavalcade of mistakes doomed them, while the Steamer won their first game of the season with a gut-check 20-14 win over the Shenyang King Kong.

The Apaches look to be the favorite in this game, and it’ll be up to the Apache defense to contain the Steamer offense. The Steamer should be at relatively full strength as they will be bringing 30+ players to Guangzhou. The matchup to watch in this one is DB #4 Yang Shui Quan against Steamer Tight End #33 Sun Chenfeng, who scored both of Zhengzhou’s touchdowns last game.

This game will be impacted by the other game taking place in Guangdong province this weekend. If the Foshan Tigers lose, the winner of this game will sneak into the playoffs as the sixth and final seed.

Path to the playoffs:

Guangzhou qualifies with a win and are out of they lose.

Zhengzhou are in with a win and a Foshan Tigers loss.

If Foshan wins: Zhengzhou would have to win by more than 3 + (Tigers margin of victory) and hope Foshan doesn’t win by 19 or more points.

Pair of forfeits makes for anti-climactic playoff qualifications.

Qingdao Conquerors vs Shenyang King Kong

Beijing Barbarians vs Shanghai Street Cats

Due to covid-19 concerns, both the Shenyang King Kong and the Shanghai Street Cats have forfeited their games. As a result, both Qingdao and Beijing will finish with a 3-1 regular-season record and automatically qualify for the playoffs.

Things to watch:

Eyes on Foshan:

With two games canceled, the remaining three games all revolve around the Hangzhou-Foshan matchup. Every other team with hopes of making the playoffs will be cheering for Hangzhou. Hangzhou wins, they secure the number 1 seed with a perfect regular season, and the Titans automatically qualify as well. This would leave the Zhengzhou-Guangzhou game to determine the sixth and final playoff spot in a winner takes all game.

If Foshan wins, things would get a bit more dicey as potential tiebreakers would come into play.

Tiebreaker madness:

If the Foshan Tigers and the Shanghai Titans both win, this could result in a four-way tie with Hangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, and Qingdao all finishing with a 3-1 regular-season record. Due to the unique setup this year, normal tiebreakers such as head-to-head and common opponents would not apply as the only common opponent for all 4 teams are the 0-4 Shanghai Street Cats.

Alternately, if Foshan, Chengdu, and Zhengzhou all win, it’s a 3-way tie at 2-2 for the final two playoff seeds.


Allen Hu is a Chinese-American who grew up playing American Football in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. He primarily spends his time in both the United States and China