Japan’s X League and the Brazilian Football Association, BFA, head into their semifinal rounds this weekend with familiar names in the second last round for the respective titles.
The X League has changed up its playoff format and now the top four teams in the eight team league will square off with the #1 and defending champion Fujitsu Frontiers facing the #4 Elecom Kobe Finies and the #2 Obic Seagulls taking on the #3 Panasonic Impulse.
In Brazil, the 33 team, seven division BFA has been whittled down to four teams as the the Joao Pessoa Espectros and reigning champion Belo Horizonte Galo face each other in one semifinal while the Timbo Rex takes on the Brasilia Tubaroes in the other. These are the same four teams that advanced to the semifinals in 2018 only in a slightly different order. Last year, the Espectros and Galo faced each other in the final after Joao Pessoa eliminated the Tubaroes and Belo Horizonte defeated Timbo Rex in the semifinals.
Fujitsu Frontiers (7-0) v. Elecom Kobe Finies (3-4)
The defending champion Frontiers waltzed through the regular season with relative ease compiling an unbeaten 7-0 record, averaging 46.4 points a game. However, only two teams held them to under 30 points and one of them was Elecom. Fujutsu defeated the Kobe Finies 27-10 in their only encounter during the regular season. The only other team to keep Fujitsu under control was Obic who lost 16-14. Frontiers starting quarterback Michael Birdsong has had a solid season throwing for 1,051 yards, good for fifth overall.. However, Elecom finished the regular season on a three-game losing streak, and dropped the final game 41-9 to the Panasonic Impulse. Elecom quarterback Cody Sokol was the third leading passer throwing for 1,240 yards and 11 TDs. If he can get his passing game untracked, this could actually be an interesting game.
Obic Seagulls (6-1) v. Panasonic Impulse (5-2)
The Seagulls came within seconds of beating the Fujitsu Frontiers in the final regular season game of the year but a blocked field goal attempt by Fujtisu on the final play of the game thwarted them. Panasonic only lost two games in the regular season, one to Obic 14-7 and the other to the Frontiers 45-27. In other words, they could surprise in this one.
Seagulls quarterbacks Skyler Howard and Shun Sugawara have thrown for 763 and 422 yards and lead a balanced attack. Impulse quarterback Anthony Lawrence is the second leading passer in the X League having thrown for 1,482 yards and eight touchdowns. This could turn into a quarterbacking duel.
Joao Pessoa Espectros (7-1) v. Belo Horizonte Galo (8-0)
This is a classic playoff matchup with the unbeaten Galo taking on the Espectros in a rematch of last year’s title game. The defending champion Galo marched through the regular and post season with only one close game, when they got by the Sao Paulo Portuguesa 22-19. The two teams have met in the last two championship finals with Belo Horizonte coming out on top both times, 17-13 in 2018 and 30-13 in 2017. The Espectros suffered only one loss during the regular season, dropping a 35-19 decision to the Recife Mariners. They avenged that loss in the playoffs beating the Mariners 26-12.
Joao Pessoa has been averaging 51 points a game but Belo Horizonte is on a roll. Still, every game between these two powerhouses of American football in Brazil is a toss up.
Timbo Rex (7-1) v. Brasilia Tubaroes (8-0)
Interestingly, these two teams were eliminated in last year’s semifinals by the other two semifinalists. T-Rex were beaten by the Galo in last year’s semifinal round while Brasilia succumbed to the Espectros. Timbo Rex dropped their opening game of the season to Gaspar Black Hawks 10-6 and then found their offense reeling off seven straight wins, scoring 219 points in the remaining seven games. Meanwhile, Brasilia pummeled their opponents with the highest scoring offense in Brazil, averaging 55 points a game over eight games.
The quality of the opposition for the Tubaroes could be the question but still the T-Rex defense will be put to the test.
Watch for the livestreams of all four games here on AFI.