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OWL 2022 Playoff Picture Explained

Bradley Long

After a very strange season, the 2022 OWL playoff picture is finally coming into focus. This year has been frustrating for pros and fans alike, but Overwatch 2 is nearly here. For the first time since 2019, the league will have fans in attendance for the Grand Finals. Before we can get there, we must first make it to the postseason,

OWL 2022 Playoff Picture

Photo courtesy of the Overwatch League.

Three weeks remain in the regular season. Every team has four matches remaining and the vast majority still have something worth fighting for. Playoff seeding, the last few guaranteed slots, and a shot at the Play-In bracket are all on the line as OWL enters the home stretch.

Five Teams, Four Byes

2022 has been one of the league’s most competitive seasons ever. Past years have often seen two or three teams really separate themselves from the pack. This year, we’ve got five teams that have been neck and neck with each other the whole way. In the East, Seoul and Shanghai are the clear best teams, while the Fuel, Shock, and Gladiators have led the way in the West.

In the league’s 12-team playoff, the top four seeds overall will get byes into the second round of the double-elimination bracket. After the first round is completed, they will then choose their opponents in order, with the top seed picking first. As a result, seeding remains incredibly important even for the teams already locked into playoffs.

Picking first means a potentially much easier matchup to start your playoff run and build confidence. Picking last means you most likely have to face the one top team that didn’t earn a bye or another squad that looks strong in the playoff meta. Every step higher in the standings can make a playoff run substantially easier.

So where do we stand? At the moment, San Francisco sits atop the standings at 23 points. Dallas has the same but loses the tiebreaker on map score. Seoul is in third with 22 points. Despite missing out on any points from the Summer Showdown, the Gladiators hold the fourth spot at 21 points thanks to their two tournament wins. With 20 points, Shanghai is currently on the outside looking in.

Before the start of the Countdown Cup, it seemed like the Shock might have already locked up the top spot. Then they went 0-2 to start the final stage and opened the race right back up. The Dragons put up a similarly putrid showing, possibly playing their way out of a bye.

Our other three teams took care of business to start the stage, going 2-0 and looking comfortable in the more open meta. That being said, the first week of a new meta is always funky, so there’s plenty of opportunity for fortunes to change.

Sadly, none of these top squads will play each other the rest of the way. If the Shock and Dragons can right the ship as we’d expect, all five should be favored to win their four remaining matches. There is no room for error. Time to see who rises to the moment.

One More Spot in the East

The distance between the top two in the East and the rest of the region has been pretty vast this year. Despite their best efforts, no one has really held a candle to Seoul and Shanghai. Hangzhou never makes the most of their talent, Chengdu gave up much of theirs just before the season started, and Guangzhou needed a roster overhaul to find any success. The Valiant are a dumpster fire despite scrounging out a few wins this year. To their credit, the Fusion showed up to the tournaments, and as a result, they’ve got the inside track on the East’s third seed.

Philadelphia sits at 13 points with Hangzhou just behind them at 12. Chengdu remains technically alive with 9 points, but they would need to be perfect from here on out while both teams ahead of them completely collapse. They’ve been playing well in this meta, but they’ve still got Seoul and Shanghai on the schedule, so it’s fair to assume the third seed is out of reach for the Hunters.

Last week, however, neither the Spark nor the Fusion looked like they really wanted to seize the third seed for themselves. Philly managed to take the head-to-head matchup against Hangzhou, but couldn’t find the win over the Valiant that would have given them a comfortable lead over the Spark.

Now the pressure mounts. Philly was the better team of the two, but they’ve also got the slightly harder schedule. Both teams will face Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Seoul over the next two weeks. The only difference is the Fusion’s match against Chengdu while Hangzhou faces the Valiant. The Spark have the edge in match record and map differential, so they only need to outperform Philly by one match down the stretch. Neither team has inspired much confidence lately, but one will have to cross the finish line first.

A Free For All in the West

Six teams from the West will earn direct playoff spots with two more coming from the Play-In tournament. Three of those slots are already locked by LA, Dallas, and San Francisco. A fourth is all but secured by Houston. With a four-point lead over Toronto and a match against Paris remaining, even the Outlaws shouldn’t be able to blow this.

That leaves two more playoff spots and five teams still in the mix. London lead the way at 15 points followed by Atlanta, Toronto, Florida, and Washington with each team one point behind the other. If the season ended today, the Spitfire and Reign would make the playoffs while the rest would fall into the Play-In alongside Boston.

London may be leading the pack, but their road to playoffs is anything but easy. Next week they face the Fuel and Gladiators, the West’s two top teams in the current meta. Then they close the season against NYXL and the Shock. Much will depend on San Francisco’s form, but it’s not hard to see the Spitfire going 1-3 and falling out of the top six.

Given their success at tournaments across the last two years, it’s easy to assume Atlanta will come through in the clutch. The talent is there, and they’ve looked much improved in the Countdown Cup meta. None of their final four matches is any kind of guaranteed win, but they should be able to get across the line here.

Coming into this stage, the Defiant seemed like they might take the momentum from their run at the Summer Showdown in Toronto and let it carry them to playoffs. They were tied with London in points and had winnable matches up and down the schedule. Instead, they went 0-2, dropping heartbreaking five-map series to Atlanta and New York. They need a fix fast, or they can kiss those playoff hopes goodbye.

Unfortunately for them, both Florida and Washington are long shots to claim those top-six spots. The Mayhem were mediocre to start the stage last week, and the Justice are likely just too far back. Even if they play the best Overwatch of their season, they’ll need just about everything to break their way to pass all the teams ahead of them at the moment. More than likely, we’ll see these two battling it out in the Play-Ins.

The Overwatch League returns to action on Friday, September 30th as Week 2 of the Countdown Cup plays out. You can catch all of the action live on the OWL Youtube page.