Power Rankings - 2018 Week One
90 - 3 against the Bulls in a game that tells us nothing we didn't know already about the Seagulls. Well nothing except that they can almost reach triple digits against the bottom side in X1 without throwing a forward pass. OK maybe they did throw one. Skyler Howard's TD lob to Taku Lee in the flat might have been going forward or maybe that was the amount the Earth rotated while waiting for the Bulls defense to get out there. Regardless, we can't move Obic out of the top slot after what was in essence a bye week. The game against a better than expected Nojima this week should be more instructive.
Deja Vu all over again. Frontiers rolled over their Japan X Bowl opponents once more and look like they could be the team to beat again this season. Trashuan Nixon - what can you say about the man? Incredible performance once again. There were times when IBM's big front had him wrapped up at the line then suddenly he was ten yards downfield. New QB Michael Birdsong shook off some early rust and figures to get better as the season goes on. What are the odds that Mark Morrison's 'Return of the Mac' plays on a loop in the Fujitsu clubhouse?
Kinda surprising that Impulse got caught napping in the first half by Finies. The Kobe outfit may have been quiet in the spring but it was clear they had brought in some serious talent. We also expected Panasonic to come roaring out of the gate and make a statement early on. Regardless, the Osaka side make the adjustments they needed to and got the win. They still had to battle to the end though and had that long pass been caught down near the endzone we could be looking at a very different story. Week two against Challengers will tell us a lot about this team. Asahi Soft Drinks got off to a flyer and should be a tougher opponent than last term as well but with Obic and Fujitsu already in mid-season form Impulse will want to win and win well.
Nojima Sagamihara Rise
Very impressive showing by Rise. Jimmy Laughrea is really settling into the role and his efforts in the win over Lixil saw him voted Week 1 MVP by fans.
The big question for Nojima was what would the team be like without Devin Gardner but based on this showing they'll be just fine. We won't get too carried away just yet as Deers aren't the force that they were and Lixil have yet to beat any of the top three when it counts but it's a good start and enough to move them up a slot. Things don't get any easier for Rise with top ranked Obic up next but that game suddenly looks like it could be a lot more interesting.
Elecom Kobe Finies
Finies almost pulled off the shock of the season in week one giving the much vaunted Impulse all they could handle. Last week we said we felt uncomfortable with them at 8 but hadn't seen all their new pieces in action to have them higher. Well now we have and up they go. Are they better than Nojima? Could very well be but unfortunately that's not a matchup we'll see this season. Finies next face Cyclones in a game that just makes us wish the 'Super 8' system due to start in 2019 was already here. That'll be a slaughter based on what we've seen so far. WR Anas Hasic could make us look like geniuses for calling him a potential MVP. The Croatian just missed out on the week 1 MVP award and should add a ton more scores to the two TD grabs he had against Impulse.
IBM Big Blue
The Big Japan X Bowl revenge game we were all waiting for fell flat. Hard to know whether it was QB Kevin Crafts fracture that put him out of action for the game (and maybe much longer?) or the intense heat but there was a distinct lack of energy surrounding the game. One of the Fujitsu players was heard to remark that it was a 'strange game - almost like preseason'. Fujitsu fans showed up as usual, but perhaps knowing they'd be exposed to the searing sun, there was a much smaller than expected crowd in the opposite stand.
IBM will beat the Pirates in week two but it'll be another mid afternoon kickoff and hot again. Can last season's runners up stoke their own fires as well and put in a dominant performance? It's unlikely many people think Big Blue are the 6th best side in Japan but with Finies and Nojima showing up really strongly in week one there wasn't much choice.
Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers
41-0 over a weak Sidewinders team tells us little beyond Challengers can score when given chances. How will they do against an Impulse team out to show week one was an aberration? Hard to see them get the win but we think they'll fight hard and keep it tighter than last season. Kansai is a lot closer this year and that's good for the game in general. In 2017 this team finished bottom of the Super 9. The same result this year would have disastrous consequences. Challengers need big performances from their two new imports and given what we've seen so far they'll get them. Key to the season though could be the play of CB Clint Floyd. The Amagasaki side will score more than last year. That's almost a given. What it means though is that opponents will likely need to throw more and if the Arizona State man can take advantage of those increased opportunities and get more picks Challengers will be in a good spot.
Lixil weren't all that bad but at no stage during their game against Nojima did you feel like they were going to win. After tying things up in the first quarter Deers struggled to make any kind of impact offensively. Normally a game against Tokyo Gas would be just what they need to get back on track but given how Creators played in their opener there is a serious danger of Lixil dropping their first two games ahead of facing Obic, IBM and a resurgent Finies. An unthinkable 1-4 or even 0-5 start isn't outside the bounds of possibility. Make no mistake. Deers NEED to win in week two.
Tokyo Gas Creators
There is an argument to be made for moving Tokyo Gas up but we'll wait and see how they fare against a stronger team than Minerva.
We won't have to wait long. Creators have a mouth-watering showdown with Lixil in week two. This is a team with serious ambitions and there is a feeling in the squad that they can take down Deers. If they do it'll be the biggest win in Tokyo Gas history without a doubt and could actually set up an unbeaten season. Definitely one not to be missed.
All Mitsubishi Lions
Monday night football at Tokyo Dome! Lions did what they needed to and got the win against a weaker team in front of a surprisingly decent crowd of over 6,600. That's four times as many people as showed up to see the marquee Fujitsu - IBM game the day before in Kawasaki. Evening kickoff in a central and easily accessible Tokyo location. The league should take note and try and get more games going in places like Jingu and Chichibunomiya. Lions will continue their winning start in week two when they entertain Dentsu. Nothing short of making it into the Super 8 next season is going to satisfy All Mitsubishi this year.
Asahi Beer Silver Star
When Jonah Hodges crossed the goal line early it seemed as if all Silver Star's troubles were behind them and the team was finally back on track. That quick scoring drive proved to be an illusion though as it took until the third quarter for Asahi Beer to find paydirt again. Hodges certainly gives the team hope but even if LB Anthony Wallace is cleared to play in week two it's not going to be enough to stem the red tide of Fujitsu. With IBM and Panasonic up the following two games things could get ugly quickly for the Kawasaki based side. The bottom team in the Super 9 is going to find itself automatically relegated and on the outside looking in when the new top tier starts up in 2019. To avoid that fate it is looking like a win in week six against Lixil is going to be non-negotiable. Lot of football to be played before then though so maybe Jared Stegman and the offense can get things clicking.
Meiji Yasuda Penta Ocean Pirates
Pirates weren't awful but weren't great. Lions have more good players and just took advantage of that fact to get the win. Being shutout is never a good look though. Meiji Yasuda gets the final game of the round again in week two but things don't figure to get much brighter against Big Blue even if IBM seemed sluggish in the opener.
Cyclones went down to Osaka and beat As One on their own turf. If they can repeat the feat in week four in Nagoya they'll be sitting pretty. Central Japan's only X1 team is in for a beating this weekend at the hands of a ticked off and much improved Finies side but given the schedule they have it's not unreasonable to see them win all their other games. If they play like they did in the opener a surprise playoff spot might be there for the taking.
Dentsu once again made Silver Star work hard for the win. They held the Super 9 side to a single score in the first half and while never really a danger to get the upset, played well on defense for most of the encounter. Caterpillars will likely have to wait until week three for their first real crack at a win but strong performances in and of themselves have value and can build confidence.
Fuji Xerox Minerva AFC
Minerva took a beating at the hands of Creators that would have been a lot worse had Tokyo Gas not eased up in the second half. Still though all the new foreign players make Creators a vastly improved side from last year, especially as they now have a top class American QB under center. Fuji Xerox shouldn't feel too down about losing to such a team. Minerva get an immediate chance to even their record when they face bottom side Bulls in week two. The downside of their success last season though is one of the relatively toughest slates in 2018.
As One Black Eagles
Black Eagles suffered a surprising ten point loss to Nagoya Cyclones at Expo. Then again when just 129 people are on hand to see the game 'home field advantage' becomes meaningless. The Osaka side's soft schedule has probably made them seem better than they are over the past couple of years but anything other than a bounce back win over Sidewinders could spell real trouble this year.
Sidewinders went down heavily to Challengers which was no surprise. We'll get a much better idea of what kind of team they are when they face As One Black Eagles in week two.
Bulls Football Club
When the bottom ranked club losses 90-3 to the top ranked one there isn't really a whole lot to say. That result was as predictable as it was awful. Thankfully we are in the last year of such mismatches. Minerva in round two will be a chance for Bulls to break their long losing streak in regular season play.