Chinese National Football League regular season comes to a close, playoff matchups set.

It has been a very interesting season for the Chinese National Football League, and the regular season came to a close on November 14th. A lack of upsets ensured there would be no chaos in the standings, as the top teams cruised to comfortable wins to solidify their playoff positions.

Hangzhou dominant en route to #1 seed.

Hangzhou Smilodons 29 – Foshan Tigers 0, Skyway Field, Foshan

The Hangzhou Smilodons wrapped up their best regular season ever with a dominant 29-0 win over the Foshan Tigers.

Despite only having 20 players available for the road trip, it was more than enough as the Smilodons defense overwhelmed the toothless Foshan offense, a recurring problem this year for the Tigers. On offense, it was also smooth sailing for the Smilodons as the Tigers defense put up little resistance, a far cry from last year’s playoff game, a hard-fought 25-22 victory for Foshan.

The Smilodons will finish the regular season with a perfect 4-0 record and first place in the standings. The Tigers fell to 1-3 and were officially eliminated from the postseason in what is their worst season ever since they entered the league in 2015.

Pandaman romp past Titans

Chengdu Pandaman 36 – Shanghai Titans 7, Chenhui West Road, Chengdu

The Shanghai Titans came crashing down to earth as they were soundly thrashed by the Chengdu Pandaman in what was probably one of the worst games the Titans have played in the past 5 years. The Titans were undisciplined, racking up over 200 yards in penalties and the Pandaman took full advantage.

Pandaman QB#7 Ivan had another fantastic game, picking apart the Titans’ 3-3-5 nickel defense as he hooked up with WR #11 Rivers for 3 touchdowns and #6 Bao Fengrui, also known as SwaggyR, for another. On the other side, the lack of skill position players made it difficult for the Titans to keep up, as the well-prepared Pandaman defense stuffed the Shanghai running game.

The Pandaman finished their regular season undefeated at 3-0-1, good for second in the league.

Despite the loss, the Titans still qualify for the playoffs after Foshan’s loss. At 2-2 however, they will have to hit the road for their first true road playoff game ever. Their previous playoff road games were against their Shanghai rivals.

Apaches return to playoffs after 4-year hiatus

Guangzhou Apache 33 – Zhengzhou Steamer 20, Guangzhou Baiyun Yagang Football Field, Guangzhou

With Foshan’s loss turning the Guangzhou-Zhengzhou game into an elimination game, it was the Guangzhou Apaches who were able to take care of business at home, beating the Zhengzhou Steamer to clinch the final playoff spot and the Apaches returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The Steamer started strong, after holding stuffing the Apaches on 4th down and short on the Apaches’ opening drive, the Steamer running game took advantage of the short field and QB #19 Wang Zile ran it in for the first touchdown of the game, and after an unsuccessful two-point attempt, took a 6-0 lead.

The Apaches responded as their workhorse running back #27 Lun Wenjun ran one in, and the Apaches took a 7-6 lead after converting the extra point.

However, the underdog Steamer would take the lead once again as #19 Wang Zile found WR #77 Guo Yu in the endzone for the touchdown, and the Steamer would convert the two-point try to take a 14-7 lead into halftime and knowing they would get the ball to start the second half.

With their season on the line, the Apaches came out and surprised the Steamer with a successful onside kick to start the second half. This seemingly gave the Apaches a jolt as they completely took over the third quarter. The Apaches would score twenty consecutive points as Wenjun would score two more rushing touchdowns to make it a hat trick as the Apaches took a 26-14 lead going into the 4th.

The Steamer would refuse to go away quietly however and it was the Steamer defense making the big play as middle linebacker #93 Liu Xiabing would strip-sack Apaches quarterback #28 Huang Xiaoyu, allowing defensive end #87 Xu Wei to scoop up the fumble and run it back 60 yards to make it a one-possession game. But that would be all for the Steamer, as the Apache offense would score to put the game out of reach when QB Xiaoyu connected with WR #11 Yao Jiehao to ice the game and make it 33-20.

The Apaches will go into the playoffs at 2-1-1 and will be on the road for their first-round playoff game. The Steamer will end their season at 1-3 and are eliminated from postseason contention.

Qingdao and Beijing automatically clinch

The Qingdao Conquerors and the Beijing Barbarians automatically qualified when their opponents forfeited the games. The Shenyang King Kong and the Shanghai Street Cats both finish the season winless at 0-4, while Qingdao and Beijing both qualify for the playoffs with 3-1 records.

Playoff Picture Set

The final regular-season standings are:

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

As the top two seeds, Hangzhou and Chengdu earned a first-round bye and will be at home for their semifinal matchups. The Hangzhou Smilodons will play the winner of the Qingdao Conquerors/Guangzhou Apache game; the Pandaman await the winner of the Beijing Barbarians/Shanghai Titans rematch.

It’s been an exciting regular season, but there’s no time to relax as the first round will take place on November 28 and 29, a mere two weeks after the regular season ends!

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