Wild Card Playoffs set to go in Chinese National Football League

The Chinese National Football League has reached the playoff stage in this COVID-19 shortened season with six teams heading into the final three rounds. The top two teams, the Hangzhou Smilodons and Chengdu Pandaman, have earned a bye into the semifinals while the Shanghai Titans, Beijing Barbarians, Guangzhou Apache and Qingdao Conquerors play in the wildcard round.

Wild Card Matchups

#6 Shanghai Titans (2-2) @ #3 Beijing Barbarians (3-1)

Saturday, November 28, 2pm, Beijing Shounong Yingshi Sports Park, Beijing

This is a rematch from week 3 when the Titans beat the Barbarians 28-20 in Shanghai.

The Titans have been on a rollercoaster ride this season, after handing the Foshan Tigers their only win of the year, the Titans turned around dealt the Barbarians their only loss of the season before getting smoked by Chengdu.

The Barbarians once again face the question of whether they’re good enough. It’s been the same old story for the Barbarians the past two years. Beat up on weaker teams from the North, lose as soon as they run into a Shanghai team in the playoffs. Losing to the Titans in Week 3 did nothing but reinforce this questioning.

However, the big difference this time around is that the game is in Beijing and the Barbarians will be at full strength at home rather than playing in Shanghai. If Beijing can finally beat a Shanghai team, they can truly be considered contenders.

The game being in Beijing gives the Barbarians an edge, as recent covid surges will strain the ability of the Titans to bring a full line up to Beijing.

The gameplan for both teams will be the same. The Titans want to stop Beijing’s running game and dominate the time of possession just like they did in their first meeting, while Beijing wants to flip the tables and establish the running game themselves. Despite WR Terry Xing catching 3 touchdown passes in the first game, it wasn’t enough for the Barbarians without their power-running game.

The winner of this game will go to Chengdu to face the #2 seeded Chengdu Pandaman in the semifinals.

#5 Guangzhou Apache (2-1-1) @ #4 Qingdao Conquerors (3-1)

Saturday, November 28, 1pm, Qingdao Baishawan Football Field, Qingdao

This is a first time meeting between two teams largely made up of playoff rookies.

Despite their gaudy 3-1 record, the Qingdao Conquerors haven’t played a game since September, when they dominated the Zhengzhou Steamer from start to finish. After having 2 consecutive games canceled, Qingdao’s biggest concern is rust. Last year, the Conquerors made a splash in their first regular-season as they went 4-2 and clinched the third seed in the North, but they were unable to gather enough players for their first-round playoff game and had to forfeit to Chengdu. This game will be their first real taste of the postseason.

In contrast, the Guangzhou Apaches have been able to play their full slate of games, and won’t have any rust issues. Their biggest concern will be the long road trip, which almost certainly guarantees that they won’t be at full strength.

The Apaches will look to go up early as Qingdao tries to get back into game form, and they will be relying on their defense and running game to set the tone early. Qingdao has to look to force turnovers if they want to win, as Guangzhou’s habit of carelessness cost them the game against Hangzhou and let Zhengzhou back into the game in their week 4 game.

The winner of this game heads to Hangzhou to face the #1 seeded Hangzhou Smilodons in the semifinals.

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