North American Rival Series Preview: Doubleheaders Highlight Week Four

By Stax

Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks once said "it's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!" In week four of the North American Rival Series, all six teams in action will do exactly that. Birds and the Beez are back on the schedule after having a bye last week, they face The D00ds and Upper90 Esports. Those opponents sport a combined record of 2-7. The Peeps and RBG Esports face doubleheaders that include a matchup against each other. Outside of the head-to-head showdown RBG will take on Pittsburgh Embers, while The Peeps play The D00ds. The Pittsburgh Embers will have Friday off before battling Upper90 and RBG on Saturday's Rival Esports stream.

BIRDS AND THE BEEZ (4-0) vs. THE D00DS (1-3)

Last week must have felt like a nightmare with no end for The D00ds. Coming into the week at 1-1 (4-4), The D00ds were looking to climb the standings and establish themselves as a contender for the Promotion Tournament. But after scoring only four goals and losing all six games they played, The D00ds find themselves on the outside looking in, facing two even more unfavorable matchups on paper this week. Last week did no favors for any of the players and their stat lines. Skillz leads the team and is fourth among players with at least 10 games played in scoring (0.79 goals per game), but behind him sits JoeFreshness (0.29) and Ralph (0.07). Those two totals are the lowest in the league among starting players. All together, The D00ds average 1.14 goals per contest and have a shooting percentage below the "Tadpole Line" at 18.39%.

On the other side of the field, the undefeated Birds and the Beez have had a week off after a difficult start to the season. Of their opponents, only Afterthought currently holds a losing record. That match was the emotional showdown between Shock and the former teammates who had kicked him right before the roster lock deadline, and went five games. Birds and the Beez went five against The Peeps and Embers in week two after dominating Plot Twist. This week, expect their numbers to go up. Way up. The D00ds haven't allowed a ton of goals this season, but they're not scoring. And this team only allows 1.28 per game - second behind The Peeps at 1.17. Birds and the Beez also allow fewer shots than The D00ds take on average. While you can't expect The D00ds to remain dormant offensively through the entire season, there's no reason to believe Mist (18 goals in 18 games) won't have another strong series and lead Birds and the Beez to a 5-0 record. A win in this match almost secures a spot in the Promotion Tournament. By the end of the night, Birds and the Beez should make it official.
Prediction: Birds and the Beez wins 3-0

THE PEEPS (3-2) vs. RBG ESPORTS (2-1)

This is the biggest match of the weekend. The two teams that finished third and fourth in last season of the Rival Series put their new additions head-to-head in a series with huge implications for both the top-2, and top-4. The old Compadres from last season have added Rapid to replace Moses, while The Peeps have called on Retals to replace Pirates. Both players lead their league in one of the major categories: for Retals it's scoring where he averages 0.78 goals per game. Rapid is the defensive leader on his team as he was last season with The Magicians, averaging 1.36 saves per game.

Both of these teams take a ton of shots every game. They lead the league with 8.78 (Peeps) and 8.36 (RBG) taken respectively. Scoring numbers for RBG may be a bit skewed by their poor debut performance against Plot Twist in week two. If you eliminate that series, the team would be averaging 2.12 goals per game as opposed to the 1.73 total it currently holds. The revised number would put them just 7 one-hundredths of a point behind the average for The Peeps which leads the league. Both teams are very stingy on the defensive end as well. They both allow less than 6.5 shots per game, well under 2 goals per game, but RBG may have extra difficulty getting by Gyro. He averages over 2 saves per contest, and is a big part of why his team saves almost 80% of the shots it faces. For the sake of comparison, undefeated NRG Esports in the Rocket League Championship Series has a save percentage of 82.52%. Expect a grindy, low-scoring series and the defense of the Peeps to edge the defense of RBG.
Prediction: The Peeps win 3-2

BIRDS AND THE BEEZ (4-0) vs. UPPER90 ESPORTS (1-4)

They swept The Peeps in week one. Since then, Upper90 has gone 0-4 with a 5-12 overall games record. While U90 averages almost 2 goals per game, the team has allowed 2.3 on the other side. In addition to that, only Afterthought allows more shots on target in the league. So a team that averages 8.2 already in Birds and the Beez, will take on an Upper90 team that allows 8.7 shots. That is the recipe for a blowout. Shadow will need to have a huge day as he always does for Upper90. Shadow leads the league among players that have played more than a single series with 1.06 goals per game, but he'll need help. And he may get that help: Radoko (0.65) scores slightly more than Roll Dizz (0.61), and Demokat (0.45) just edges Hockser (0.39). But those numbers haven't come against a team like Birds and the Beez. Upper90 should put up a fight. But Birds and the Beez should have too many opportunities and take advantage of those chances.
Prediction: Birds and the Beez win 3-1

THE D00DS (1-3) vs. THE PEEPS (3-2)

Just like last season, The Peeps will try to finish 5-2 and gnaw away at their fingernails until naught is left. It's the tightest defense in the league against the worst offense in the league. The D00ds had a strong weekend outside of the Rival Series, beating G2 Esports, Rogue and Splyce in the Dreamhack Dallas Qualifier. But they could very well be coming off a loss to Birds and the Beez that would plunge them further down the standings and potentially out of contention for even retaining their spot for next season. It's not worth really rehashing all of the points made above both for The Peeps and against The D00ds. The numbers paint the picture of a clear favorite here, and The Peeps should be able to keep The D00ds off the scoreboard.
Prediction: The Peeps win 3-1

Rival Esports Stream (Saturday)

PITTSBURGH EMBERS (2-2) VS. UPPER90 ESPORTS (1-4) & RBG ESPORTS (2-1)

Two matches for the Embers against teams in very different places in the standings. First up is Upper90. There will be some added motivation for Upper90 for various reasons, not the least of which being that this could be the team's last ride together. It's their seventh and final series of the season, and the team for Dreamhack Dallas has Dappur and Firstkiller replacing Radoko and Shadow due to those players not being able to make the trip. Shadow will also be gunning for unofficial Golden Striker honors as the top scorer in the league. He'll have to contend with not only Mist for that title, but also with the Embers Coach and Manager Kai99jr.

After being thrust into the spotlight last week following the suspension of Demon, Kai responded with clutch goal after clutch goal and put together a line for the series that included 4 goals, 3 assists and 3 saves while only taking 6 shots. While expecting the 1.33 goals average to hold up is unreasonable, the Embers have renewed hope this season and now a whole week of practice under their belt. But if and when Kai cools off, someone will still have to replace what the team lost. Last week, neither Sosa nor Grills did that. If that continues and Kai picks up right where he left off against Afterthought, they could win at least the first match and be competitive with RBG. But if not, it could be a long Saturday morning for the Embers.

The second match will be a much tougher test against a team with comparable offensive and defensive numbers. Both RBG and Embers have a +1 goal differential, similar goals scored and allowed totals, almost identical shots against, while RBG average 1 full shot more per game than the Embers. Aeon and Astroh will both need to step up their games to reach the level they were at last season. Namely, Astroh's assists are way down from 0.75 last season to just 0.36 this time around.  Coming into this week the team is still in control of its own fate, and still has a match with Birds and the Beez next week. Expect the first series to feature inspired Rocket League from two teams that probably don't like each other, and for Shadow to have a huge day. In the second series, Embers will have to eliminate any emotional hangover from the first match if it goes south, against an RBG team that is close to a spot in the Promotion Tournament.
Predictions: Upper90 wins 3-2; RBG Esports wins 3-1

Friday's North American Rival Series coverage kicks off Friday at 6:00 PM Eastern Time, 3:00 PM Pacific, on www.twitch.tv/RocketLeague - Saturday's action begins at 12:00 noon ET, 9:00 AM Pacific on www.twitch.tv/RivalEsports

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