Preview: Week 3 Big Matchups

May 10, 2024
By Sam Weiger

Boston Glory at DC Breeze  
Friday, May 10 - 7:00 PM/ET - Watch link

Following New York's worst loss since pre-dynasty days, the East Division appears to be up for grabs for the first time in ages! This is a golden opportunity for teams like Boston and DC, who are both seeking their first trip to Championship Weekend. The stakes for this game are now much higher.

Neither the Glory nor the Breeze have ever finished the regular season atop the East Division. Securing the top spot in the division for either Boston or DC would hold considerable importance. This is because playing the East Division Championship Game on New York’s home turf would pose a tougher challenge for advancing to the final four. Incredibly, the Empire haven't suffered a home game defeat in 2,145 days!

With so much on the line, what key storylines will unfold in this pivotal matchup?

The revamped Boston Glory face their first real test of the season. Jeff Babbitt, though quieter than usual in Week 2, might need to step up significantly in what could be a closely contested match. In close games, Babbitt has a knack for morphing into an unstoppable force. Notably, in both of New York's games decided by a margin of two goals or less last year, Babbitt elevated his play to a seemingly superhuman level. Will we see another MVP-level performance on Friday?

A potential Babbitt breakout throws a spotlight on DC's defensive line. While they handled Philly's O-line well last week, Boston presents a far stiffer test. The struggles of DC’s D-line were evident in Week 1 against Salt Lake, but key reinforcements are back. The return of veterans Rhys Bergeron and David Bloodgood is a major boost. These D-liners hold significance as valuable assets in both offensive and defensive plays, and the Breeze D-line needs help on both fronts at the moment.

One Big Number:
9 - Babbitt has averaged an impressive plus/minus of nine in his last three games decided by two goals or less. Clutch.
364 - Bergeron and Bloodgood were both top five on the Breeze last year in defensive points played, combining for a total of 364 points played. 

Atlanta Hustle at Carolina Flyers | Game of the Week
Saturday, May 11 - 6:00 PM/ET - Watch link

The Game of the Week promises a captivating matchup for UFA fans, with a few compelling narratives to follow.

Shorthanded due to injuries, both Atlanta and Carolina face a critical test. This Game of the Week will reveal which team's depth can rise to the challenge.

We’re all trying to figure out Atlanta and Carolina's championship potential, and it’s important to remember that UFA champions are built for adversity. Teams like last year's New York Empire, where Ben Jagt's eight-goal performance filled the void left by Babbitt's absence in the 2023 East Division Championship Game, prove depth is crucial for championship runs.

The Hustle sent shockwaves through the league last week with their win over New York. But Atlanta will be without their two best performers from the win, Brett Hulsmeyer and Justin Burnett, when they take on the Flyers. Hulsmeyer's knack for taking control of a game and Burnett's stingy defense are simply irreplaceable, so it will be interesting to see who tries to fill their roles.

The offensive void left by Hulsmeyer will likely be filled by a collective effort from several teammates. Bobby Ley is riding high after a standout performance, one of the best in his eight-year career, making him a player to watch this Saturday. Jeremy Langdon, who has a history of being a game-changer, played well in Atlanta's impressive win last week and could be a factor again.

A shroud of uncertainty hangs even heavier over Atlanta's defense. Losing both Burnett’s stellar blocking and Hulsmeyer's O-line defense leaves a significant hole. Dean Ramsey is capable of disrupting plays with his size, so he could be in for a busy night against Carolina.

The Flyers return to action for the first time since their eight-goal Week 1 win over the Hustle. Carolina loses three significant players for Week 3: Allan Laviolette, the team's visionary quarterback, along with D-liners Sol Yanuck and Henry Fisher

These losses likely won't be as devastating as Atlanta's, and the Flyers' depth is well-positioned to weather this storm. At quarterback, both Alexander Wilcox and Elijah Long have a proven track record of efficiency. Similarly, the D-line boasts a deep rotation, featuring Trevor Lynch, Suraj Madiraju, Drew Swanson, and Clint McSherry.

This game holds major playoff implications, particularly for Atlanta. The Hustle's tendency to perform better at home has been apparent in the first two weeks of the season. Should they secure the top spot in the South Division, they would only need to win one home game to secure their first-ever Championship Weekend appearance. Their brutal regular season schedule makes every divisional win, especially against Carolina, a must-have. 

While Atlanta has excelled in minimizing turnovers in recent years, their inability to do so against playoff teams frequently results in defeat. Thus, their offensive line should make it a priority to avoid turnovers when taking on Carolina. The main Atlanta throwers to watch are Ley, Christian Olsen, Hayden Austin-Knab, and Austin Taylor.

One Big Number:
- The Hustle have lost all of their last six games when they committed 17 or more turnovers against teams with winning records.
98 - Wilcox, who in Week 1 was primarily stationed on Carolina's O-line for the first time in his two-year tenure with the Flyers, completed 98 percent of his passes (48 out of 49). 

Minnesota Wind Chill at Chicago Union 
Saturday, May 11 - 8:00 PM/ET - Watch link

The Chicago Union, who had a very successful offseason, host their division's toughest adversary, Minnesota. This game will provide a clear glimpse into Chicago’s true capabilities for the first time this year.

In their season opener, Chicago boasted the largest win of the 2024 season so far, but it offered a limited glimpse of their true potential. They defeated Detroit, the unquestionably weakest team in the league. Moreover, the Union were without two major offseason pickups, Jeff Weis and Joe White. The good news for Chicago is that Weis will be in the lineup for this important matchup.

The Wind Chill will be dealing with some bad news - their defense will be short-handed as D-line standouts Dylan DeClerck and Bret Bergmeier are unavailable. Rookie Thomas Shope, who had three blocks in his UFA debut, will also miss the game.

Consequently, the Wind Chill may require additional support from their O-line, which struggled against Chicago last year. In 2023, Minnesota had their two lowest O-line conversion percentages in games against the Union. Players like Josh Klane, Jordan Taylor, and Tristan Van de Moortele, who have shown inconsistency on the O-line, could play pivotal roles on Saturday night - particularly in the absence of William Brandt and Abe Coffin.

There’s a strong chance that these two teams will be playing for a spot at Championship Weekend, and this game could reveal which team is better equipped to get there.

One Big Number:
- Weis led the Union in receiving yards per game in 2022, averaging 275.69 yards.
12 - In their only trip to Chicago last year, the Wind Chill mustered only 12 goals - their lowest output in a game since May 28th, 2019.