If it's Week 6 of the football season, it's time to start talking seriously about playoff projections.
This edition of Eyes on Five looks at some of the many swirling postseason scenarios.
1. The latest Super Bowl:
For those of you who thought the unbeaten showdown in the DuPage Valley Conference between Neuqua Valley and Naperville North was this week's game of the century, you're only partially correct.
Without nearly the amount of hype, Friday's West Suburban Gold meeting between Hinsdale South (2-3, 2-1) and Addison Trail (2-3, 1-2) is essentially a playoff game for both teams. Even though three games remain after this weekend, whichever team walks away with a fourth loss will have a very tough time qualifying for the postseason.
That's because Hinsdale South will be a major underdog when it faces unbeaten Hinsdale Central in Week 8, and Addison Trail is even more of an underdog in its regular-season finale at Glenbard West.
For both teams, avoiding a fourth loss in Week 6 drastically improves the chances of playing in Week 10.
2. Tough loss:
Believe it or not, the sun actually rose Sunday in Glen Ellyn after Glenbard West suffered its first West Suburban Silver loss since 2010. Unbeaten Lyons Twp., the last Silver team to beat the Hilltoppers, won 28-14 Saturday at Duchon Field.
Glenbard West (4-1, 2-1), the defending Class 7A champion, now faces two straight games against the other Silver unbeatens in Hinsdale Central and Oak Park. There's no question the Hilltoppers will reach the playoffs -- regardless of how they fare the next two weeks -- but what will the team look like when they get there?
On consecutive first-quarter plays on Saturday, Glenbard West saw two of its top players go down with significant injuries. Without running back D.J. Ficarella and linebacker Eric Samuta -- returning starters and senior captains out indefinitely due to injuries suffered vs. Lyons Twp. -- the Hilltoppers are much thinner on both sides of the ball.
There's still plenty of talent at Glenbard West, and there's no doubt the Hilltoppers remain a threat in the playoffs. The question is how deep of a run can they make?
3. The guru:
Kankakee Daily Journal prep sports writer Steve Soucie is known statewide as THE authority on IHSA playoff football bracketology.
And like Christmas arriving early, Soucie on Monday released his first draft of this year's projected brackets in each of the eight classes. It's always a lot to take in, but some interesting information emerged.
First, the cutoff between classes is starting to take shape. Glenbard West is considered a bubble team between Classes 8A and 7A but appears firmly in 7A with four of Soucie's other projected 7A schools larger than the Hitters.
Related to that, Soucie projects Fenwick to bump down to 6A along with Batavia and Lincoln-Way West. That'd thin out the strength of 7A.
Finally, Willowbrook is projected to win five games and, like last year, the Warriors would miss the playoffs because of a low number of playoff points. Soucie believes the cutoff for playoff points, the total number of wins by the opponents on a team's schedule, could be 38.
We'll have plenty more to talk about in future weeks, but that's a slice of some initial thoughts.
4. The wrinkle:
Throw that entire projection out the window if there's a teachers' strike in the Chicago Public Schools.
On Monday the Chicago Teachers Union announced that 90 percent of its members voted on whether to authorize a strike, and that 95 percent of the voters said they're ready to walk if a contract impasse continues.
The earliest the teachers would strike is Oct. 11, which is at the beginning of Week 8 on the football schedule.
About 15 CPS schools are potential playoff qualifiers, but many of them won't get to five wins and playoff eligibility if they don't play Weeks 8 or 9. For the Chicago teams that do qualify, it's possible the IHSA would force them to forfeit in the first round of the playoffs.
A strike could completely jolt the brackets. With so many teams knocked out of the picture, it also could open the door to 4-5 teams qualifying.
It's something to keep an eye on.
5. Stat time:
Congratulations to the four DuPage County teams that notched their fifth victory last week.
By staying unbeaten on the season, Hinsdale Central, IC Catholic Prep, Naperville North and Neuqua Valley all became the first area teams to become playoff eligible. Get a sixth straight win this weekend and they'll be guaranteed a postseason berth.
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