Two matches remain for every club before Stage 1 comes to a close and the top three teams battle it out Saturday night for the first hardware awarded in the Overwatch League. With only five teams mathematically ruled out from making it into Saturday's one-night postseason gauntlet, every game -- every single map -- will hold importance in Round 5.
In other news, Shanghai has become a respectable team, Boston Uprising might actually be the league's best chance at beating the trio of all-South Korea teams and the Florida Mayhem officially don't have a roster of six anymore, signing Finnish flex player Joonas "zappis" Alakurtti.
Without further ado, onto our final rankings before Stage 1 crowns a champion in Burbank, California, later this week.
1. New York Excelsior
New York is sitting pretty going into the final week of Stage 1. The team's only loss is a five-mapper against the Philadelphia Fusion, in a game where the team admitted to looking ahead at its clash with the Seoul Dynasty. Besides that, the team has only gotten stronger as the rounds have gone along. NYXL should have an easy berth into the Stage 1 playoffs as long as it can take care of the 1-7 Florida Mayhem in its first game of the week.
On Saturday in the final regular-season games of Stage 1 NYXL will take on the only other team with a lone defeat, the rejuvenated London Spitfire, who smacked their opponents in Round 4 ... including the Seoul Dynasty. It will be the stout defense and star support duo of Hong "ArK" Yeon-joon and Bang "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon of the XL seeing if it can shut down the four-headed offensive beast that is London's DPS quartet of South Korean assassins.
2. London Spitfire
Speaking of London's attacking firestorm, the team woke up in Round 4. When it came to talent, no one denied that the Spitfire had as much or more than anyone else in the competition. The issue was how the team was going to juggle two full world-class rosters and how long it would take for Panthera and GC Busan to go from two separate entities into one fused behemoth. It's too early to say if this is the London that we'll see for the rest of the season, but if it is, even New York and Seoul might be in major trouble.
London struck down Seoul in what turned from the most anticipated match of the week into a quick shellacking and then breezed past the winless Dragons to enter the final week of Stage 1 in prime position to make the Saturday night title match. Houston and NYXL are a difficult pair of opponents to end the first quarter of the season, and although the Spitfire was flawless in Round 4, a return to lackadaisical form in previous weeks could see the team fall out of the top three entirely.
I doubt it, though. Spitfire, at worst, should be in the final three battling for the Stage 1 title on Saturday.
3. Seoul Dynasty
Breaking news: Ryu "Ryujehong" Je-hong is a vital part of the Seoul team. The best support in Overwatch history and Dynasty's captain sat on the bench during the team's 0-4 loss to the Spitfire, and although it pained him to watch from the sideline, the Dynasty attempted to execute on the plan it practiced throughout the week. Thankfully for Seoul, Ryujehong returned for its next game against the Houston Outlaws, and the South Koreans survived what turned out to be one of the more competitive matches of Stage 1.
At 6-2, Seoul controls its own destiny going into Round 5. If it can 2-0 the Los Angeles Valiant and San Francisco Shock, the Dynasty will be playing in the Stage 1 playoffs. If it does, the Dynasty might have an advantage over its all-South Korean rivals London and NY, as Seoul plays its final regular-season game on Friday while the Spitfire and XL have to play each other in the first game Saturday. When it's all said and done, either NY or London might have to play three games on the final day of Stage 1 to become the first title winner in Overwatch League history.
4. Houston Outlaws
Houston was one map win away from taking down a full-strength Dynasty team without its ace DPS player, Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin. It didn't happen as the Outlaws fell on the tiebreaking map, ending a five-match win streak, but it did reaffirm that Houston can go toe-to-toe with any team in the league. The issue for Houston now, even if LiNkzr can play in Round 5, is that it'll most likely need to beat both the red-hot Spitfire and Uprising, the two strongest teams in Round 4, to make the Stage 1 playoffs. In addition to actually beating those two teams, it will also need the Seoul Dynasty to drop one of its final two games to make it. Houston has a better map differential than the Dynasty, but that won't mean much for Stage 1 as long as Seoul can take care of business.
If the Outlaws don't make the Stage 1 playoffs, thoughts of "If only LiNkzr could have played" will be haunting fans until Stage 2 kicks off.
5. Boston Uprising
New England fans, don't worry about the Patriots losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. You have the Uprising now! The Robert Kraft-owned team has gone from the laughingstock of the league when its roster was first announced to a legitimate contender in little under two months. The team has been called the most well-disciplined squad in the league by opponents, and it shows: The Uprising started Stage 1 at 1-3 before turning it around the last two weeks with a four-match winning streak, which is currently best in the league.
Chris "Huk" Loranger has made it his goal to get the most out of his team every step of the way, and the team has bought into his hard-nosed philosophy, no more so than Jonathan "DreamKazper" Sanchez, who has gone from an afterthought signing to being regarded by his peers as one of the best DPS players in the league. The Uprising will need to get Super Bowl revenge for its city by beating the Fusion and then the Outlaws to even have a chance at the playoffs. While it seems unlikely the Uprising will get enough help from rest of the league to make the Saturday night games, I'm done trying to predict this team.
6. Los Angeles Valiant
Like Houston and Boston, the Valiant has a shot at making the Stage 1 playoffs, though it's going to take some work. First things first: The Valiant need to beat the Dynasty in its first matchup of Round 5. Both Boston and Houston will be pulling for the Los Angeles squad to topple the Dynasty, needing Seoul to drop back into the three-loss pack to have a non-miracle chance of making the Stage 1 playoffs. If the Valiant can beat the Dynasty, making it into Saturday night's games will more than likely come down to differential in points. For the Valiant, while a final regular-season game against the Dragons seems easy enough, even dropping a single map to the scrappy Shanghai squad could be the difference between the Valiant playing in front of its home fans for a Stage 1 title or watching the action from the stands.
7. Philadelphia Fusion
The Fusion actually need a miracle to make the playoffs. A 5-3 record means that Philadelphia has had a strong opening to its Overwatch League campaign, especially when you consider the team missed the entire preseason, but then a quick glance at its point differential (-1) shows that it will need to pull off a flawless Round 5 to even have a prayer of making it to the title matches. At best, the Fusion can end Stage 1 at 7-3 with a +7 differential, and even then, it would take Houston, Seoul, Boston and the Valiant all choking to extend its Stage 1. We are talking about a city that just won the Super Bowl with Nick Foles as MVP, so let's not count out Philly just yet.
8. San Francisco Shock
Welcome to the part of the rankings with teams that don't have a shot at making the Stage 1 playoffs. All things considered, the Shock didn't have a half-bad start to its Overwatch League run. The team was the last to take down the Uprising prior to Boston's recent hot streak, and though it lost to the Outlaws in Round 4, the Shock made sure not to end its week winless by becoming the umpteenth team to sweep the Florida Mayhem this season. Jay "sinatraa" Won turns 18 in little over a month, and that means San Francisco fans can officially start getting excited about their star player who should join the lineup soon.
9. Los Angeles Gladiators
It has been a tough fall from grace for the Gladiators. Ever since blowing a 2-0 lead against their in-city rivals, the Valiant, the team has gone from contender to pretender in the blink of an eye, getting eliminated from Stage 1 playoff contention and needing to look forward to Stage 2. As with the Shock, at least the Gladiators could beat up on the Mayhem.
10. Dallas Fuel
Will Dallas be better in Stage 2 when Mercy is nerfed and Dylan "aKm" Bignet joins the roster? Of course, it's really hard to do much worse than the team has done in this stage. But that doesn't mean I can rank the Fuel any higher than No. 10 heading into the final week of its horrendous Stage 1. This was a team that expected to be on the playoffs come Saturday night, and instead, even if it can blow past the Dragons and Gladiators, it will watch the title matches from home with a 3-7 record. The Fuel looked much better in its match with the league-leading NYXL, and things aren't all doom and gloom in Dallas. But at this point, I can't justify putting the team any higher than 10.
11. Florida Mayhem
Since beating the Dragons three weeks ago, the Mayhem has only won two maps. The team got a sub finally, and that's great, but the damage has already been done. Unlike Dallas, who I still have high hopes for come Stage 2, Florida will need more than a single change to turn this team from basement dweller to playoff contender. If it wasn't for the Mayhem sweeping the Dragons, I would put Florida last in the rankings. The team's only saving grace is that single blowout win. Since then, Shanghai has improved leaps and bounds, while Florida has ... just existed.
12. Shanghai Dragons
Take my energy, Dragons. The only winless team in Overwatch League, Shanghai has two more chances to end Stage 1 with a win. Although beating the 5-3 Valiant -- who have outside hopes of making the playoffs -- is going to be difficult, a win over Dallas, which has gone left when everyone thought it would go right, is not out of the question. Even if this team doesn't make any groundbreaking transactions in the downtime between Stage 1 and 2, the Dragons will win a match before this season is over. An overall record of 0-40 is not in this team's future, and if it continues to ramp up compared to Florida's stagnant results, Shanghai might actually move up in our rankings come next week, even at 0-10.