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With Cutoff Weekend coming up in three weeks, it’s crunch time to figure out who will be in the NJSIAA playoffs, and where.  Let’s take a look, supersection by supersection:

North 5

The overall top seed right now is Ridgewood, and they would be slotted into their natural section of North Jersey Section 1, while Passaic Tech would be in the unfamiliar position of being in North Jersey Section 2.  Currently Ridge and – factoring the New Brunswick forfeit win – Piscataway are 3rd and 4th in the section.  Both are virtual locks to make the playoffs barring utter collapses.  But they’ll need to keep winning to remain among the top eight teams, which would get them at least a first-round home playoff game.  The Chiefs chances at that were bolstered by the forfeit victory against New Brunswick.

Watchung Hills is 4-2 and in 11th place, a good bet to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2015.  They finish with Mongtomery, at Ridge and at New Brunswick.  Bridgewater-Raritan is 3-3, but they have a tough road, with Westfield, Union and Woodbridge all coming up, all of them at home.

Perth Amboy, which got off to a 2-0 start, is far behind in 23rd.

South 5

The overall top seed is Toms River North, followed by Williamstown, last year’s CJ5 runner-up.  North Brunswick close behind in third.  They’re a shoo-in to make it, and want should stay in the top four here, with some distance to fifth-place Southern.  That would get the Raiders at least home field through the semifinals.

Old Bridge and Hillsborough are right next to each other in 6th and 7th.  The Knights are 5-0, and should get at least a first-round home game, the way they’re playing.  The Raiders are 4-2, but have a crucial home game with Colonia this Friday night (on WCTC at 7 pm).  They also visit East Brunswick, then visit Piscataway on cutoff weekend for their first matchup with the Chiefs since 2007.  There could be a lot at stake for both teams in that one.

Speaking of Piscataway and crucial games, South Brunswick could use a win over the Chiefs this Friday to bolster its cause; the Vikings are 13th with a UPR of 14.2, and the number 17 team is not far behind (Rancocas Valley, 17.8).  The Red Devils are 0-5, so any win could give them a big boost in both power points and OSI.  It’s almost like the playoffs start now for the Vikings. The same could be said for Sayreville.  The Bombers are 2-3, and close with three road games:  Old Bridge, South Brunswick and Union.  Very tough path indeed, but everyone outside the playoffs from 17th down to 20th is dismal with one or no wins.

Still, keep an eye on Monroe.  The Falcons may be in 21st, but are only 3.4 UPR points out of the playoffs; that’s not a wide gap by any means.  Monroe only has two games left:  at Immaculata this weekend and home to JFK at the cutoff.  What could hurt them is the relative weak strength of those teams.

North 4

Phillipsburg is the overall top seed and would go to its natural North Section 2, while Old Tappan right behind them would go to its natural North Section 1.  Woodbridge would go into the North 1 section as the two-seed behind Old Tappan.  The Barrons are unbeaten at 5-0 and should be in.

The only other team in the mix here is Colonia.  The Patriots are 3-3 and one spot (0.6 UPR)  out of a playoff spot.  That means they would have to move up either one spot in the OSI rankings or two spots in the power point rankings:  a definitely reachable goal.  They would get a big boost out of a win Friday night at Noonan Field against Hillsborough (on WCTC, 7 pm).  The Patriots also visit Edison and Scotch Plains the next two weeks – weaker teams – so this is their biggest chance to make a splash.

Note:  Gridiron has different official numbers for Morris Hills, putting Colonia in 15th place.  We’ll keep you posted.

South 3

Wall is the overall top seed, and Somerville stands in 5th.  They likely won’t get a top seed as they did last year, with too many good teams ahead of them, and a lot of ground to make up to catch either Wall or Rumson.  But they still have a chance at the top four, which would mean at least home round through the sectional semifinals.

South 2

The top two seeds here are West Deptford (5-0) and Cedar Creek (4-2) over (yes) Hillside, which is 6-0, but has a much lower OSI average than the two teams ahead of them, and has three teams ahead of them in power point average.  Bernards comes in 6th at 4-1, but they’ll have to keep winning to assure themselves of a top 8 finish for a first round home game.  Last three games:  at Voorhees, home to Bishop Ahr, and home to Middlesex.  That last one is intriguing, because the Blue Jays are undefeated, and it could be crucial to them (see further down the page) and would be a good test of their (potentially, at that point) undefeated record.

Not too far out of contention are Spotswood and South River.  They are 18th and 19th respectively, after wins last Saturday.  The Chargers are 1 UPR point out of a playoff spot, but close with three road games at Dunellen, Roselle and St. Thomas Aquinas.  Trouble is, the strength of those three teams may not be enough to help them.  South River plays at Highland Park this weekend, then finishes with Roselle Park and Metuchen, both at Denny Stadium.  The Bulldogs are the best of the six teams Spotswood and South River face the rest of the way, so if both win out, the Rams could have the leg up.  There’s one caveat:  if they end up tied for the final playoff spot, or even with South River 16th and Spotswood 17th, the Chargers would get in based on head to head, no matter their UPR.

North 1

Were it not for a heartbreaking defeat last week at Brearley, Bound Brook would be 5-1 and likely in the top 10, perhaps as high as 6th.  Alas, the Crusaders are now in 15th place at 4-2, 3.6 UPR points ahead of No. 17 Wallington.  Wood-Ridge in 17th at 18.8 UPR is 5.6 UPR points back, so the Brookers may not face much of a challenge beyond Wallington.  Still, Bound Brook has Roselle Park at home Friday night, before traveling to Hillside (gulp!) and then closing at Dayton.  Neither Roselle Park nor Dayton will do much to help the Crusaders, and Hillside is a tall task, particularly on the road.

South 1

There are the Blue Jays, right in the middle of the pack.  Middlesex sits at number 8, undefeated at 6-0.  Their danger is that there are a number of teams in close proximity behind them.  Asbury Park and Glassboro are within 0.4 UPR points, meaning a jump of one place in either power point or OSI ranking could knock down the Blue Jays.  They host Johnson this Friday night, then visit South Hunterdon (both are two-win teams) before closing at Bernards, so that one will be a huge opportunity for them.

Non-Public 4

These are easier to predict!  St. Joeseph of Metuchen currently stands in 5th, with St. Peter’s Prep at the top.  The Falcons will be in; whether they get a top four-seed and a first round home game is doubtful, looking at the North Jersey powers above them.  And the section will be seeded by a committee again this year.

Non-Public 3

The top-seed should be Donovan Catholic, which is 6-0 at the moment, tops in both power point average and OSI.  St. Thomas Aquinas sits in 7th, not too far ahead of the 9th place team, Bishop Eustace.

Non-Public 2

St. Joe’s of Hammonton may be the class of the section, as they sit in the catbird’s seat.  Immaculata – even with a 2-4 record – should make the playoffs here, with a UPR of 6 and the 9th place team sitting at 9.6.  That’s Gloucester Catholic.  But winless teams can’t make the playoffs, so they’ll have to pick up a W and can’t just make it on power points alone.  Newark Academy also won’t qualify because they don’t meet the criteria of New Jersey teams on the schedule.  The rest are far back.

In Summary

Potential playoff qualifiers:  20

How many teams should be in?  13

How many are on the bubble?  7

Outliers:  1  (Monroe)