ELF: Wildcard Playoff Preview and Predictions

It’s finally upon us! The ELF postseason is here. After a long and intense summer of American Football in Europe, the wildcard weekend is here to kick off the final quarter of the 2023 season. I missed last week, unfortunately, but there’s nothing to stop me from being here giving you the insight into the postseason.

Berlin Thunder v. Frankfurt Galaxy

We start the weekend off with a matchup between a team that had to battle into the playoffs all the way to the final week, and quietly, one of the best teams in the league all season long. The Thunder had to overcome an injury to their QB midseason and at one point, they were bouncing back and forth with the Panthers Wroclaw for the final spot in the playoffs. The Galaxy had to overcome a QB injury themselves. They were able to handle that injury period a little better than Thunder, and they closed the season with only one loss. The Thunder have had one of the best defenses in the league and its leader on that defense is none other than 2022 Defense Player of the Year, Kyle Kitchens. Kitchens has been a nightmare for opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks since joining the ELF. Kitchens also went on record this week to say that the Thunder, making their first playoff appearance in the 3-year existence of the league, are “preparing for war.” Meanwhile, the one-loss Galaxy are preparing for their biggest game since the 2021 Championship game. There’s a lot hanging in the balance of this game as the Thunder try and set the tone of the weekend by pulling off the first upset of the weekend. For the Galaxy, they need to play better on defense than the Thunder do. They have to turn this game into a dogfight and make it ugly early.

Prediction: Galaxy’s defense shows up and shows out. Frankfurt 24-13

Panthers Wroclaw v. Stuttgart Surge

The second of the three teams battling for the final two spots, the Panthers set themselves into the postseason with a big victory last weekend. After spending a chunk of the summer battling for the 6th seed with Berlin, the Raiders Tirol had a late season collapse and both Berlin and Wroclaw slipped into the postseason. While this is undoubtedly great news for the Panthers, it’s not all cake and ice cream for them. This week they elevated QB Mak Sexton to the main roster but ended up putting dynamic A-import WR Tony Tate on IR. Unexpectedly, it’s a damaging blow to the Panthers offense, which has been one of the most explosive this season. The Panthers signed LB AJ Wentland midseason and he’s been a difference maker for them. Wroclaw has their hands full this week with QB Reilly Hennessey and the Surge defense. Stuttgart rocketed out of the gate this season by setting themselves as one of the best teams in the league. After a surprising upset loss midseason when they were battling a QB injury stretch, they rallied around that loss before losing to the expansion Munich Ravens in week 11. They ended the season with 3 straight victories, though, proving that they’re a resilient group and overcome any kind of adversity. Even though the Panthers may not be 100% and have all their firepower on offense, they still boast one of the best running games in the league and have one of the toughest defenses. The Surge can’t let their guard down or they could see a fast exit.

Prediction: Panthers fall just short in their bid to continue their season. Stuttgart 24-20

The intensity is about to start moving full speed into extreme levels this weekend. The season is winding down and the league’s best players are going to kick it up a notch and really show their dominance. While I’m fairly confident in these two picks, anything is possible in American Football and Wroclaw and Berlin are both really good teams.

~Michael Washington

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