It's Stage 2 finals week! We're down to the nitty-gritty, and although Stage 1 finalists New York Excelsior and London Spitfire should make up two-thirds of the playoff picture, the final spot is still up for grabs between the remaining teams. Can the Seoul Dynasty make the Stage 2 playoffs an all-South Korean affair, or will the Los Angeles Gladiators make the ultimate turnaround to fight for the stage title?
1. New York Excelsior
Movement: No movement
NYXL is in cruise control heading into the final week of Stage 2 and the midpoint of the first season of Overwatch League, having dispatched rival Seoul Dynasty in another instant classic this past week. With its remaining matches consisting of the submarining Dallas Fuel and an up-and-down Valiant squad, the XL should be qualifying for its second straight Stage final.
After opening up a gap at top of the regular season standings through two strong Stage performances, the real story will come with how NYXL perform in the playoffs. In Stage 1, New York got reverse-swept by the London Spitfire. Luxury Watch Blue, the majority core of XL, was known for not living up to expectations in playoff matches. NYXL will need to win the Stage 2 title to legitimize itself as the clear favorite for the Overwatch League championship.
2. London Spitfire
Back and forth is the story of London. After looking like a team on the downslope, the Spitfire beat an ever-improving San Francisco team before blowing out the Seoul Dynasty to put itself in a comfortable position heading into the final week of Stage 2.
London's consistency will be tested heading into the final week of Stage 2. The Spitfire will be playing a Shanghai Dragons without a win on the entire season and a Fuel team that is falling apart at the seams. Anything other than a pair of sweeps will be a disappointment for a team wanting to head into the Stage 2 playoffs with momentum. A stage title fight rematch with the NYXL could be on the horizon.
3. Seoul Dynasty
It was a make-or-break week for the Dynasty, and unfortunately for Seoul, the team broke. The first loss to NYXL was a close one, but the beatdown by Spitfire has brought back flashbacks of Stage 1 when Seoul fell apart at the end of the quarter to miss out on the playoffs. With only two matches remaining in the stage for Seoul, its postseason destiny is no longer in its own hands. It needs the LA Gladiators to lose some maps to have a chance at making the Stage 2 postseason.
Seoul has lived and died by how much space and work its DPS ace Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun can do, and he was shut down against the two all-South Korean teams this past week. He was serviceable against NYXL, grabbing 39 kills to 36 deaths, but was stonewalled in the series with London, dying the same amount of times as he did against New York and only putting up 26 kills. When Fleta has been at his MVP peak, Seoul win. When he doesn't put up numbers, Seoul, like it did last week, struggles.
4. Los Angeles Gladiators
The Gladiators hold all the cards going into the final week of Stage 2. It has a +3 point differential over Seoul Dynasty in the standings, and if it can win both of its matches (Philadelphia Fusion, Boston Uprising) in comfortable fashion, the Gladiators will break into the Stage 2 playoffs and pull off an amazing reversal from a slow start to the season.
Baek "Fissure" Chang-hyung is undoubtedly the MVP of Stage 2, regardless of how the Gladiators finish in the standings. The former Spitfire player has come into the team after his transfer over to LAG and changed the entire culture of the squad, taking what appeared to be a gatekeeper, middling group and bringing them into playoff contention in less than a month. Fissure's play has opened up the field for the team's DPS players, and it has allowed João Pedro "Hydration" Goes Telles and Choi "Asher" Joon-seong to really come into their own as players and letting them revert back to comfort picks like Hydration's Doomfist.
5. Philadelphia Fusion
It has been a strange Stage 2 for Philadelphia. It started with sweep after sweep, then the team fell back to earth with losses of its own to Seoul and NYXL, and finally, it rebounded by taking care of business by sweeping both the struggling Fuel and Dragons. With one week to go, the Fusion still have an outside chance of the Stage 2 playoffs. To have any chance of making it into the top three, it must take out both LA teams in the final week, most notably needing to probably sweep the Gladiators to have a chance. A loss to the Gladiators will knock the Fusion out of the playoff race.
6. Boston Uprising
Oh look, the rubberband known as Boston Uprising is back on the up-and-up. After having an abysmal beginning to Stage 2, Boston has bounced back to the past two weeks, especially in its last matches, where it swept the ailing Dallas Fuel before ousting the Valiant in a close five-game set. At 4-4 on the stage with a -3 map differential, Boston can no longer make the stage playoffs, but it can get itself into an overall playoff position at the midpoint of the season if it can reel off two more wins to finish off it Stage 2 performance against the Gladiators and San Francisco Shock.
7. Los Angeles Valiant
It has not been a good stage for the Valiant. Following a 7-3 performance in the opening quarter of the season, it has been a bumpy ride for the team the past couple of weeks. A loss to the Florida Mayhem and then another loss to the Uprising handed Valiant an unexpected 0-2 week, and there is a chance the losing streak might continue with matches with NYXL and the Philadelphia Fusion on the docket. The team is still good in the clutch and on overtime pushes, but the team's overall play has dropped as the season has gone along and other teams have improved their own skill level.
8. San Francisco Shock
Buy Shock stock. San Francisco is inching its way up the standings, and the team might get even better in the upcoming weeks with the introduction of new players into the roster. Jay "Sinatraa" Won is finally of age and can play in the Overwatch League, and the team might have confirmed its place as one of the best DPS squads in the league with the signing of South Korea free agent Park "Architect" Min-ho, who is considered one of the world's best Genji's. The introduction of new support Grant "Moth" Espe was a positive one, and the Shock beat the Houston Outlaws whilst also taking a map away from London.
With how much of a turnaround the Gladiators have had in Stage 2, there is no reason why the Shock can't be the surprise contender for the stage playoffs in Stage 3 with its improved play and upcoming debuts.
9. Houston Outlaws
This is the part of the rankings where if you're from Texas you might want to turn your head. It only felt like yesterday when Houston was No. 1 in our ranking, beating London, and on the verge of becoming a Stage 2 title contender. Now, the team is in disarray, and the lack of an adept Tracer has left the team suffocated in matches where the opposing team can ignore one-half of Houston's DPS lineup. The team is 1-5 in its last six and quickly plummeting down the rankings. Although the Outlaws should pick up an easy win over the Dragons, unless the team can fix its glaring issues in less than a week, a meeting with Seoul should bring Houston another reminder how far its fallen in less than a month.
10. Florida Mayhem
It has finally happened. Florida, for the first time this season, has risen above the No. 11 spot and is ever so close to breaking into the single-digit club. The Mayhem is out of the playoff race for the initial season of Overwatch League, but the team's pride and work ethic has been on full display the last two weeks, as the team has battled back to become a crafty and well-respected team once more. Andreas "Logix" Berghmans is back playing like one of the elite Tracers in the world, and the Belgian DPS along with the rest of his team is hoping to close out Stage 2 with at least one more match win when it plays against the upward trending Shock and the playoff-contending Dynasty.
11. Dallas Fuel
This is rock bottom for the Fuel. The team has zero synergy, and the hope for a playoff run is all but dead. At 5-13 overall in the standings and the two best teams in the league, New York and London, on the schedule to close out Stage 2, a team expected by many to challenge for the Overwatch League Season 1 title is on its way to have a 25% win percentage through the first half of the season. It's easy to point at the coach or the ownership or a single player for this team's troubles, but for a team with this much talent to be so bad, it goes much further than just a single individual or a small group of players.
12. Shanghai Dragons