Shaggy's Game 6 Preview

By Shaggy Shragis

Photo by Shawn Lanzillo 

Philadelphia (1-4) travels north to take on the first place Boston Glory (5-2) in a rematch of their Week 3 contest. Philadelphia is looking to build some momentum after their historic comeback last week, and seek their first win against Boston since 2022. The Glory are coming off the best weekend in franchise history, defeating both the DC Breeze and the New York Empire, and hope to cement their position atop the Eastern division.

The first meeting between these two teams started out strong for the Phoenix before quickly spiraling out of control. Philadelphia jumped out to a 5-2 lead, and were promptly outscored 17-5 for the remainder of the game, including a 16 minute stretch from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the third where they did not score a single point. It was the third worst offensive performance by a team all season, and the worst by Philadelphia since last year against Boston.

Boston’s success this season has come from long offensive possessions and an extremely efficient defense. Boston is sixth in the league in completions per game with nearly 300, and runs their offense off an incredible workload from Nate Dick and Ben Sadok—both are top 10 in the league in completions per game. It is surprising to see an attack centered around a handler dominated offense with such lethal downfield options in Jeff Babbitt and Tannor Johnson-Go, but it has worked for a Glory squad that finds themselves ahead of New York and DC in the win column. Ben Sadok is currently slated to miss the game, which would certainly present a very different offensive look for Philadelphia.

On defense, Boston has the second best defensive conversion rate in the league. They are converting on 64% of opportunities, and forcing a turnover on over half of all opponent possessions. The key to their success has been the vast improvement of defensive handler Brenan McCann, and the addition of former college All-Star Jonah Stang-Osborne. Last year McCann erratically quarterbacked the Boston defense, completing less than 90% of his passes. This year he is at 96%, and has already matched his season total of completions in 2023, a dramatic increase in both production and efficiency. Stang-Osborne is currently listed as not rostered, so McCann will look to shoulder a larger load trying to pick apart Philadelphia’s offense.

The Phoenix offense has provided plenty of opportunities to be picked apart. They have had just a single game this season with a 50% or better O-line conversion rate, meaning they turn it over on more than half of every offensive opportunity. Their backfield is in shambles, with Sean Mott, Jordan Rhyne, Alex Thorne, Mark Philipson and Peter Cauchy combining for just a +1 in plus minus through five games. Thorne and Mott are particularly distressing,with a combined 19 assists and 20 turnovers. Every team has had to adjust to the new disc, but for Mott and Thorne, who built their careers on perfect accuracy with extremely difficult throws, the transition may have been harder than for others.

Adding to the inconsistency has been Philly’s inability to find their ideal offensive unit. Through five games, coach Roger Chu has called for four different starting offensive lineups. Last week James Pollard moved back to defense and rookie Michael Maroon was called up to the offense. Scott Heyman is slated to return from Pittsburgh this weekend, and we could see him taking another spot in the offense. It may be less important for this Phoenix team to determine the perfect combination of pieces, and rather what is so broken about the offense to begin with.

Despite defeating Toronto for their first win of the season, Philadelphia went down 10-2 to start that game, and after stabilizing in the second half, still finished with holds on just half of all offensive possessions. If the offense can find their way to being mediocre, rather than awful, it will give the Phoenix D-line an opportunity to cook. Only one defense has been more effective with the disc in its hands than Boston, and that is Philly. Last week they converted on 9/11 break chances, and Philadelphia leads the league in D-line conversion at an astonishing 77%. Without Sadok, the Hotbirds will be looking for miscues from a slightly out of step Boston offense in order to take advantage. The defense has earned the right to work the disc when they have it in their hands, the problem has been forcing turnovers.

The Phoenix are last in the league in blocks per game at just 6. They are also last in the league in opponent turnovers per game, just a hair more than 10. In their previous meeting with the Glory, Philly forced just four total turnovers from the Glory offense. That simply will not do if they hope to beat Boston this time around. Without Sadok, Boston may look for more involvement from Jeff Babbitt, Simon Carapella, and Tannor Johnson-Go, all players who have had field days against Philadelphia in the past. 

This game is less crucial than it looked a week ago. In a quirky turn of events, Philadelphia can lose this game and still make the playoffs provided they defeat New York and sweep their remaining 3 games against the Canadian teams. However, it would be a lot easier to make the playoffs if they defeat the Glory. That is absolutely within the capabilities of this team, provided that their defense can force turnovers. My recommendation would be to go all in on that eventuality, even going so far as to move Paul Owens—who has been the most consistent player on the team this year—over to the defense, and hope that the offense can scrape together enough holds to give the d-line an opportunity. It seems out of reach for the Phoenix to best the Glory on the offensive side of the disc, but they can certainly come out on top in a defensive battle.

The Glory follow up this game with four straight games against Montreal and Toronto, both one-win teams. Philadelphia still has New York and Carolina on their schedule, plus a matchup with a resurgent Pittsburgh Thunderbirds team. The Glory can lose this game and still end up in first place in the division given how relatively easy their schedule is versus DCs and New York. Philadelphia could conceivably lose and still make the playoffs, but it would require needing to win out. With Philly needing it more, and Boston missing some key pieces, I think the Phoenix have what it takes to pull this one out on the road. 16 - 12 Philadelphia. Go Birds!