Italy: Final weekend of play will see first place, last place and the last playoff spot decided

The Italian Football League (IFL) will play the last three games of the 2023 season today. All three have major significance with some fighting for a playoff spot and others fighting relegation.

The IFL playoffs include six teams with the top two teams automatically having a bye into the semifinal round and teams #3-6 playing a wild card round.

The most decisive game of the week will be the Milano Rhinos and Varese Skorpions. If the Skorpions win, they will be guaranteed a playoff berth. The Rhinos are already in, but a loss could take them down to the sixth-place playoff spot drastically altering their seeding.

The Lazio Ducks and Parma Panthers game is also seed driven. Following the weird mid-week rescheduling of the Frogs game earlier this week and even weirder forfeit with the team showing up with 13 players, the Ducks are now confirmed a playoff spot. It is now only their seeding that is currently up for debate. Similarly, the Panthers can leapfrog the Guelfi from seed two to seed one with a win over the Ducks.

Finally, the Emilia Stainless Steel Warriors game against the Verona Mastini will be huge for altogether different reasons entirely. Both teams are currently sitting firmly at the bottom of the table and will be fighting to stay in Italy’s top league.

Mastini Verona (0–7) @ Emilia Stainless Steel Warriors (1–6)

The first game of the weekend will feature two winless sides, despite what the Warriors’ record says. The Warriors were gifted their first win of the season on Wednesday following their opponent showing up to the game with just 13 players and eventually forfeiting shortly after kickoff.

The Mastini, similarly, are yet to win a game. They have come painfully close in a handful of games, against solid sides, but haven’t been able to get one over the edge. Despite this, they are ranked dead last in nearly every category. Their 2022 campaign wasn’t much better either. 

For both Mastini and the Warriors, this game will mean a lot. Getting a proper win will do much for each team going into the off season, as well as avoid a possible relegation to the second division.

Milano Rhinos (4–3) @ Varese Skorpions (3–4)

The Skorpions were promoted this year from the second division, and despite a pummeling in the first week against the Guelfi, the squad from Varese has performed admirably. They are well within reach of a playoff spot with a manageable opponent in front of them.

Quarterback Calvin Brownholtz has been extremely effective in the pocket for the Skorpions. He has managed to rack up 1,200 yards in seven games (third in the league) but has been far careless turning the ball over with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The rest of the Skorpions, however, are the perfect picture of consistency. If Brownholtz can convert a few more scoring opportunities, they should be able to get one over on the Rhinos who have been wildly inconsistent since losing star quarterback Joey Baughman.

Ducks Lazio (3–4) @ Parma Panthers (6–1)

The final game of the season will be about seeding. The Ducks and Panthers have both clinched post season spots but do not know yet which one. Parma is fighting for the number one spot while the Ducks are battling to rise above the sixth seed which they occupy now.

The Ducks offense, and more specifically quarterback Austin Albericci, have been nothing short of remarkable this season. In seven games, Albericci has amassed nearly 2,000 yards, 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He is currently the number one candidate for MVP and has shown himself to be able to lead his offense down the field on any team.

The Ducks Achilles heel however has been their defense. They are ranked second to last and have hemorrhaged points left, right and center since Week 1. This has been the team’s downfall. 

The Panthers, on the other hand, are currently the hottest team in the league. They have waxed off both the Firenze Guelfi and Ancona Dolphins with relative ease in the latter half of the season. No team even comes close to the numbers their defense has put up, or rather prevented. Their offense on the other hand has struggled. Defensive back turned running back Ryan Minniti has been their most impactful weapon but has still managed just 700 yards and one touchdown.

Due to what’s at stake and the teams being polar opposites, it should prove to be an exciting game. If the Panthers can shut down Albericci, they will likely walk away with an easy win. The only issue for them is that no one has been able to show them how.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.