ELF: Playoff picture with four weeks remaining – Who’ll likely be in?

There was no action in the European League of Football this past weekend, as every team took a bye week due to a break for international competition.  As such, this is a perfect time to take a step back and take a look at the playoff picture with only a few weeks remaining in the season.

Out of the 16 active teams in the league, there are nine with a record of .500 or better.  With six playoff spots available, these teams are the ones that have a chance of making it to the postseason.  Here is a breakdown of each of these teams and their playoff hopes.

Two of the six spots have been all but locked up already.  The Rhein Fire and the Vienna Vikings (the defending champions) are both undefeated with records of 8-0, and we can safely assume that they will clinch the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, respectively, sooner rather than later.  Barring a slip-up or two from either team, they will be the top two seeds in the league and will receive first-round byes.

Rhein Fire QB Jadrian Clark #18 Photo: Rhein Fire

The current front-runner in the Central Conference is the Stuttgart Surge, who have a record of 7-1.  After two abysmal seasons in their first two years in the ELF, they have rebounded in a big way thanks to new head coach Jordan Neuman and the plethora of talented players and coaches that joined the team in the offseason.  Fresh off of a 78-27 drubbing of the Milano Seamen, the Surge will look to carry the momentum from that gained into the last four games of their season.  If they can win at least three of those, they should be able to clinch their conference and host a playoff game.

Stuttgart Surge QB Kenjatte Allen #17 Photo: @zwenjazwenja

The Raiders Tirol are right on Stuttgart’s tail with a record of 6-2.  They recently made the surprising and perhaps controversial decision to part ways with quarterback Christian Strong, which also led to the departure of top receiver Jarvis McClam. The Raiders made this decision despite their record and will now rely on new quarterback Joe Dolincheck to help guide the team into the playoffs for the second straight year.  In order to win the division, they will have to beat the Surge in week 13.  Otherwise, they will likely find themselves in a wild card spot if they make it back to the playoffs.  If the Raiders can finish the season 3-1, they should be able to comfortably clinch a playoff spot.  However, with matchups against the Surge and Vikings in their way, this will not be easy to achieve.

Frankfurt Galaxy SS Joshua Poznanski #14 and teammates DL Mete Konya #8 and LB Sebastian Gauthier ¤41 @fritzphilipp_photography

With a record of 7-1, the Frankfurt Galaxy have had a fantastic year after not receiving a ton of hype in the offseason.  They lost their first game of the year to the Fire but have not dropped a game since.  The 2021 champions will face the Cologne Centurions and the Milano Seamen in their next two matchups and will all but guarantee a playoff spot if they can win those games as they will be expected to.  However, with the Fire ahead of them in their division, Frankfurt will more than likely wind up in a wild card spot.

Wroclaw Panthers WR Tony Tate Photo: Lukasz Skwiot Fotografia Sportowa

In the Eastern Conference, the Wroclaw Panthers at 6-3 and the Berlin Thunder at 5-3 are also right in the thick of the playoff race.  The Thunder will receive an automatic win in a couple of weeks, as their scheduled matchup against the now-defunct Leipzig Kings will result in a victory by forfeit.  As such, these division rivals might as well be tied in the standings.  The Panthers will have a tough test next week as they host the Vikings, and a loss would mean the Thunder would gain the upper hand (assuming they can beat the lowly Prague Lions).  The Panthers and Thunder face off in Wroclaw in week 12 in a massive game for both franchises.  Chances are that one of these teams, but not both, will end up in the playoffs.

Munich Ravens WR Markell Castle #2 Photo: Munich Ravens

Finally, at 4-4, the Hamburg Sea Devils and Munich Ravens are technically still in the hunt, but would need a miracle to make the playoffs.  These teams would most likely have to win out to have a shot at the playoffs, which is especially unlikely considering that each team will have to face the Rhein Fire and other strong teams.  However, both of these teams are talented squads, so it is too early to count them out just yet.

Barring some major surprises, four of the six playoff spots will be claimed by the Fire, Vikings, Surge, and Galaxy.  That leaves the Raiders, Thunder, Panthers, Sea Devils, and Ravens fighting for the last two spots.  For these teams, the playoff season might as well begin once the league returns to action next week, as every game will have big implications in the standings the rest of the way.

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.