Cutoff Weekend is just a few days away, and we’re taking a look at every team in the Big Central to see where we think they’ll end up in the playoffs.
We’re not looking at tiebreakers just yet, we’re looking at where we think teams will fall in the top 16. Tune in to our Playoff Projection show Saturday at 6 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio for all our unofficial pairings.
Below is our analysis, with each team’s current ranking in the UPR standings noted.
(Click here for official standings on Gridiron New Jersey)
#1 Phillipsburg: Even if the Stateliners were to suffer their first defeat of the season this week at winless East Brunswick, we believe they would still be the overall top seed. That’s even if Passaic Tech, Ridgewood, Clifton, Union City, Westfield and Watchung Hills all win behind them, and assuming all those teams get all possible residuals. Phillipsburg would be the top-seed in the North 2, Group 5 section.
#5 Watchung Hills: Can the Warriors make the top four, which would get them one of the No. 2 seeds in the sectionals and first-round through at least the sectional semis? We thought so, but they’d have to beat Elizabeth Friday night at home, and would need losses by Union City and Clifton – who, unfortunately for Watchung Hills, play each other. A loss, and they could drop as low in seven. We project they’ll be a top eight finish, meaning they will at least open up the playoffs at home.
#7 Westfield: The Blue Devils can get no higher than sixth place overall, which is still good for a top eight finish. That’s even with losses by the teams above them. If they lose, they might be able to finish in the top eight, but if things break the wrong way, they could drop as low as No. 9, meaning they’d start the playoffs on the road as a five-seed.
#8 Piscataway: We think the Chiefs top out at No. 8 if they beat New Brunswick in their finale this Friday afternoon at home – a good possibility – and they get losses from Eastside, East Orange and Bridgewater. It looks like all four need to happen, or else they’ll be a nine or lower and start the playoffs on the road.
#11 Bridgewater-Raritan: The Panthers could reach as high as No. 8 overall, even if Piscataway wins Friday, since New Brunswick is a weaker opponent than Old Bridge. But they would need some help. The Panthers would have to not only beat the Knights at Basilone Field Friday night, but also get losses from West Orange, East Orange, Eastside (Paterson) and Montclair. Ultimately, wherever they end up, if Briddgewater and P’way both win, we think the Panthers move higher because of the strength of their opponent.
#14 Union: Our initial inkling was that Union was a likely playoff team, and we still hold to that. If they beat Ridge Friday night, they’re in, and could finish as high as 11 overall if they also get losses from Montclair, Bridgewater-Raritan, and Piscataway. If they lose, it looks like wins from Elizabeth and Bayonne would send them outside the top 16, and into the consolation tournament, a new feature this year.
#16 Elizabeth: We think if the Minutemen can win at Watchung Hills Friday night – no easy task, mind you – they’re in, due to the strength of their opponent. And if Bloomfield, Bayonne, Columbia, Morristown, Montclair and Dickinson all lose, they could end up anywhere from 16 to 14 overall. Those six teams probably won’t all lose, though. In fact, Bayonne losing to North Bergen (0-7) would be a shocker in and of itself. So, they probably end up in one of the last two spots. What if they lose? We think that will leave them out, because the only way they could get in is if Bayonne loses to North Bergen.