Wroclaw Panthers host Berlin Thunder in crucial Eastern Conference battle

On Saturday, the Wroclaw Panthers will host the Berlin Thunder in what is perhaps the biggest game of the European League of Football season so far in terms of playoff implications.

In the Eastern Conference, both teams trail the undefeated Vienna Vikings, who have already clinched the conference title.  However, these teams are right in the thick of the wild card race, as they are two of four teams that are fighting for two wild card spots.  The Thunder currently have the upper hand over their conference rivals, as their record of 6-3 is superior to the Panthers’ record of 6-4.  Furthermore, Berlin will be granted an automatic victory next week, as they will defeat the defunct Leipzig Kings via forfeit, so their current record might as well say 7-3.  

A Berlin win would leave their record at 8-3 heading into the last week of the season, while the Panthers would fall to 6-5, so this matchup is a must-win game for Wroclaw, since they would be all but eliminated with a defeat.  They could technically sneak in if other teams in the wild card hunt like the Raiders Tirol and the Munich Ravens collapse down the stretch, but that is not something they can count on.

Photo: Eric Muehle

These teams met in Berlin back on June 18th, when the Thunder defended home turf with a 36-27 victory.  That game is currently the difference in the standings between these two squads.  Berlin’s offense was virtually unstoppable, as they racked up 478 total yards and averaged 7.5 yards per play.  The Panthers also had a strong day on offense, as they posted over 400 total yards, but ultimately could not keep up with their opponents.  While Berlin primarily did their damage in the passing game, Wroclaw’s offense was powered by their outstanding run game.  They amassed over 250 rushing yards, 223 of which came from star running back Dawid Brzozowski.  The Panthers’ pass protection proved to be their downfall, as quarterback Matthew Vitale was sacked a whopping 10 times.

It is important to note that Berlin will have a new quarterback in this meeting, as the starter in their last matchup, Donovan Isom got injured and has since been replaced by Slade Jarman. Jarman joined the Thunder midway through this season after spending most of last season with the Wroclaw Panthers of all teams.  This will be Jarman’s first matchup against his former team, which adds yet another element of intrigue to this game.

If Berlin can go on the road and take home a victory, the playoff picture will look pretty clear after the weekend.  If Wroclaw can defend home turf, we could be in for an exciting race to the playoffs in these last few weeks.

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.