Boston Uprising takes control of its destiny as Overwatch League playoffs loom

The Boston Uprising controls its own destiny as Stage 1 of the Overwatch League comes to a close. If the team sweeps Houston on Saturday, it will lock in at the No. 3 spot in the standings and make the Stage 1 playoffs. Photo by Robert Paul/Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

Boston Uprising 4 - Philadelphia Fusion 0

Boston brought out the broom to continue the exciting final week of Stage 1 of the Overwatch League, as the Uprising swept the Philadelphia Fusion 4-0 on Thursday at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California.

Both teams entered the match with Stage 1 playoff hopes on the line but also with something to prove; Philadelphia wanted to show it was more than just its DPS duo, and Boston needed to prove it could play its own game rather than playing up or down to the level of its opponents. In the end, Boston won out and kept its playoff hopes alive, edging into the third and final playoff spot over the Los Angeles Valiant thanks to an advantage in map differential. The Valiant fell down to fourth for the time being, and Philadelphia was eliminated from the playoff hunt.

Philadelphia proved its success as a team is, in fact, completely reliant upon the success of its DPS duo Lee "Carpe" Jae-Hyeok and Georgii "ShaDowBurn" Gushcha. While the Fusion has become a crowd favorite for its spectacular holds and ability to punch above its weight class for unexpected upsets, the team played poorly when it mattered most Thursday. ShaDowBurn remained relatively quiet all game, effectively sidelined by the Uprising's tank play, and the Fusion floundered as a result. The only time Philadelphia looked like it had a shot at victory was when Carpe heating up, and even then, he alone could not push this team past the Uprising.

Boston, on the other hand, finally showed some consistency. Ever since its humiliating loss to the San Fransisco Shock in Week 2, Boston has been something of a Stage 1 dark horse, waiting for an opportunity to jump into the playoff picture. Despite being disparaged by naysayers as a one-trick team, Boston finally ventured outside its high-powered dive composition to overwhelm the Fusion with a more balanced attack in the lopsided sweep Thursday.

Boston controls its own playoff destiny and could lock up a spot with a sweep of the Houston Outlaws at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday; its path could become easier depending on the result of Houston's matchup with the London Spitfire later today. The Fusion will close out Stage 1 against the Florida Mayhem at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

-- Travis Elliott

New York Excelsior 3 - Florida Mayhem 0

The New York Excelsior dominated the Florida Mayhem 3-0 in a one-sided series at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California on Thursday.

While the New York Excelsior locked up a Stage 1 playoff spot with this win, the No. 1 overall seed and its bye to the finals are very much up for grabs going into the final two days of competition. If the London Spitfire wins Thursday's closing match against the Houston Outlaws, Saturday's showdown between London and New York turns into an old-fashioned tiebreaker.

While Florida Mayhem once again suffered a huge defeat, there were some signs of improvement nonetheless. DPS Kevin "TivQ" Lindstrom's play looked a lot cleaner compared to the entire season, giving the team a nice jumping-off point heading into Stage 2. The entire team even stepped up and made a bold statement against the vaunted New York squad by bringing Horizon Lunar Colony to a 2-2 tie, which again gives the struggling Mayhem a building block in preparation for Stage 2.

New York, meanwhile, looked as strong ever as the entire team continues to fire on all cylinders in this final week of Stage 1. In particular, DPS Kim "Pine" Do-hyun was playing incredibly loose without much opposition on Ilios in Game 3 and support Bang "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon excelled on Zenyatta throughout the entire series. With these two, and the entire roster, playing better than ever, New York is setting up for a strong finish to Stage 1.

The New York Excelsior will next take the stage on Saturday against the London Spitfire at 2 p.m. ET in a match with major playoff seeding implications, while the Florida Mayhem will close out the season against the Philadelphia Fusion at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

-- Steven Nguyen

Houston Outlaws 3 - London Spitfire 1

Houston Outlaws made an already-tight playoff race even tighter with a 3-1 win over the London Spitfire to close out Thursday's slate in the Overwatch League.

While the Spitfire has enjoyed plenty of success throughout the season, its underlying struggle with integrating the former rosters of Kongdoo Panthera and GC Busan showed itself again Thursday. The between-match substitutions might have worked out well enough against most teams in the league, but it proved ineffective against the Boston Uprising in Week 3 and now the Houston Outlaws. Whenever Houston began to gain momentum, London searched for an answer from its bench. The end result was a lack of cohesion that moved Houston into the No. 3 spot in the standings and makes London's No. 2 position much more tenuous.

Houston was highly touted prior to the start of the season before going winless throughout the preseason and first week of Stage 1. Since then, it's been an uphill battle to prove the doubters wrong. First, the naysayers claimed that DPS player Jake "JAKE" Lyon couldn't play any hero besides Junkrat, and he proved them wrong by showing off his prowess on Genji, Tracer, Pharah and Reaper throughout the season. Then, it was said that Houston would be nothing without its other DPS Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin, and the Outlaws showed up its doubters once again by taking the Seoul Dynasty to the limit with its third-string DPS player, Matthew "Clockwork" Dias.

Even still the Outlaws' doubters claimed the team couldn't best an all-South Korean squad, and now Houston has torched one of the best all-South Korean rosters in the league. Houston is finally seeing the culmination of its tireless efforts come to fruition as the team is now one step closer to a Stage 1 title appearance. If Houston can beat Boston in its matchup against the Uprising at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, it will be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

After falling to second in the standings, the Spitfire is now forced to play for its chance at the Stage 1 playoffs in a series against the New York Excelsior at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday. If New York can sweep London in that matchup and the Los Angeles Valiant manages to sweep Shanghai Dragons on Friday, then the Spitfire will be left out of the Stage 1 playoffs.

-- Travis Elliott