Contenders begin to emerge in China after Week 3

It was an exciting third week in the Chinese National Football League’s 2020 regular season, as contenders began to emerge from a tightly packed field. A new team established themselves as the team to beat after week 3, while another stumbled and fell back into the crowd. Meanwhile, an old favorite showed why they can’t ever be counted out of title contention with a monster upset.

Pandaman shut out Tigers in Chengdu

Chengdu Pandaman 22 – Foshan Tigers 0, Sanfen No.2 Football Field, Lufang Sports Park, Chengdu

In their first true road game of the season, the Foshan Tigers were shutout in Chengdu.

In yet another bizarre backyards football-Esque circumstance involving the Pandaman, the only field available for this day was about 50 yards long and completely fenced in. As a result, special teams were canceled for the game and both teams automatically started at the 25, and making it to “midfield” resulted in play being stopped and resetting for the next 50 yards. Unlike “traditional” backyard football, players who made it to one end couldn’t simply turnaround and run back the other way.

Despite their big-play offense seemingly being limited by this ruleset, the Pandaman were able to rely on a steady diet of short passes to open up the Foshan defense, allowing Running Back #30 Ly (李颜) and veteran receiver Rivers Zhang (#11) to combine for Chengdu’s 3 scores, which was more than enough to beat the toothless Tigers.

Chengdu moves to 2-0-1 and maintains their spot near the top of the standings while the Foshan Tigers fall to 1-2 and are currently in danger of missing the playoffs.

Smilodons smash Apache enroute to first place

 Hangzhou Smilodons 37 – Guangzhou Apache 23, Huasu Lingyun Football Park, Hangzhou

The Hangzhou Smilodons moved to 3-0 and assured themselves a playoff bid with a very impressive 37-23 win against the Guangzhou Apache. Both teams traded scores in the first quarter, but a second-quarter mishap for Guangzhou resulted in a safety and Hangzhou went into halftime holding a narrow 9-7 lead.

Disaster struck again for the Apaches to start the second half as a blocked field goal led to another Hangzhou score and from there the floodgates opened as Hangzhou scored 3 consecutive touchdowns to make what was a hard-fought close game up to that point into a lopsided Hangzhou victory despite the Apaches trying to rally back with a pair of touchdowns late.

Hangzhou moves to 3-0, assuring themselves a playoff spot and one more win would seal up first place and home-field advantage. The Apaches fall to 1-1-1 and are still barely in the playoff race. Their next game is a must-win situation where they have to win just to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Titans smite Barbarians

Shanghai Titans 28 – Beijing Barbarians 20, Sanlin Sports Center Football Field, Shanghai

Rumors of the Shanghai Titans demise have proven to be greatly exaggerated, as the Titans reaffirmed themselves as title contenders with a 28-20 victory over the Beijing Barbarians.

Nick Feng, highlighted as a key player for the Barbarians defense, went down early with a season-ending knee injury and the Titans took full-advantage by ruthlessly running the ball to what was his side of the field. Titans Quarterbacks Stone and Wallace (#77) combined for the 4 Titans rushing touchdowns on the day, and WR Terry Xing (#87) had 3 touchdowns for the Barbarians offense, but it was not enough.

The Barbarians (2-1) continue to be bedeviled by the Shanghai teams and fall to 2-1. While they are still almost mathematically assured a playoff spot, they no longer have the inside track for a first-round bye.

The Titans (2-1) are suddenly in the thick of the playoff race and have a genuine chance to finish in the top 2. While they are not a lock for the playoffs, they also control their destiny and a win in their last game of the regular season would lock up a first-round bye, while a loss would put them on the edge of missing the playoffs.

Steamer stave off Shenyang, keep slim playoff hopes alive

Zhengzhou Steamer 20 – Shenyang King Kong 14, Zhengzhou

The Zhengzhou Steamer earned their first win of the season and kept their playoff hopes alive with a 20-14 victory over the Shenyang King Kong. Tight End #33 Sun Chenfeng (孙臣枫) scored twice for the Steamer, catching both of QB #19 Wang Zi Le’s touchdown passes.

Running Back #56 Xiao Yu (肖玉) and Wide Receiver #8 Shu Pian (薯片) had a touchdown apiece for the King Kong, but it wasn’t enough as they fell to 0-3 and are eliminated from playoff contention.

Qingdao awarded forfeit

Due to Covid-related concerns, the Shanghai Street Cats elected to forfeit their game against the Qingdao Conquerors. This puts the Conquerors at 2-1 and suddenly the Conquerors are one game away from the playoffs.

Sadly, the Street Cats drop to 0-3 in what has been a trying season.

The current standings after week 3:

  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. Zhengzhou Steamer 1-2
  8. Foshan Tigers 1-2
  9. Shenyang King Kong 0-3
  10. Shanghai Street Cats 0-3

The biggest change in the standings sees the Beijing Barbarians falling from first place into 4th, while the Foshan Tigers fall to 8th place as Qingdao moves into the playoff picture.

A glance at Week 4’s schedule:

Hangzhou Smilodons @ Foshan Tigers

Zhangzhou Steamer @ Guangzhou Apache

Shanghai Titans @ Chengdu Pandaman

Shanghai Street Cats @ Beijing Barbarians

Shenyang King Kong @ Qingdao Conqueror

Hangzhou and Chengdu wrap up the top 2 seeds with a win; however, they both meet formidable opponents. The Shanghai Titans are looking resurgent, and a win puts them in the number 2 spot and sends Chengdu down to the 5th or 6th spot, while the Foshan Tigers are playing for their playoff lives at home and are desperate for a win. Qingdao and Beijing are in with a win as the already eliminated Shenyang and Street Cats look to play spoiler. Finally, Zhengzhou and Guangzhou meet in what is essentially an elimination game.


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