It's been just more than a week since DODDS-Europe announced a new format for determining the eight participants in the Division II football playoffs. But already the bracket is rounding into form.

With one week remaining in the regular season, seven teams have clinched spots in the Oct. 18 quarterfinal round. Two more – International School of Brussels and SHAPE – will play Saturday for the final playoff spot.

Menwith Hill/Woodham emerged this week as a possible complicating factor in a playoff picture that was otherwise approaching clarity. DODDS-Europe’s most unorthodox football program is comprised of players from two small Northern England schools that each played nine-man ball in the short-lived Independent League last season. The team hasn’t fared well in Division II, losing decisively to SHAPE (49-0) and International School of Brussels (47-8).

But the new DODDS-Europe playoff system didn’t dismiss Menwith Hill/Woodham so easily.

To review, the new system awards 50 points for a win over a team that finishes with a winning record, 45 points for a win over a team with a losing record, 30 points for a loss to a winning team and 25 for a loss to a losing team. That point total is divided by five – the number or games played - to produce a points ranking, to which bonuses or penalties may be applied: three and a half points added for an undefeated season, three and a half deducted for a losing record.

The caveat: Menwith Hill/Woodham will play only four games this season. The team’s 16-10 overtime win over Baumholder on Sept. 27 kept the team hovering near .500, and it could finish an even 2-2 with a win over Alconbury on Saturday. In that event, averaging their point total by four instead of the standard five would leave them with a top-eight points ranking and a playoff game for which to prepare.

Instead, the Menwith Hill/Woodham season will definitely end Saturday.

In an email conversation shared with Stars and Stripes, Menwith Hill athletic director and coach Pete Resnick wrote to DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore that his team would bow out of the playoff race and avoid the uncomfortable position of taking a playoff spot ahead of a team that defeated it by multiple touchdowns.

Resnick wrote that it was Menwith Hill/Woodham that was unavailable for a fifth DODDS-Europe regular-season game, which complicated the schedule and, eventually, the playoff picture. Seadore subsequently announced that the team’s point total would be averaged by five, therefore mathematically eliminating Menwith Hill/Woodham regardless of Saturday’s outcome.

“Menwith Hill/Woodham have been grateful to have been able to play this past season,” Resnick wrote in the email to Seadore. “It was a great experience for all.”

With that settled, the final weekend of Division II regular-season football becomes much more straightforward, if anticlimactic for some teams.

While SHAPE-ISB is still a postseason play-in game, the Naples-Aviano game is now purely for seeding. Under the points system, the loser of Naples-Aviano will finish ahead of the loser of SHAPE-ISB and will therefore claim a playoff spot.

Here's a closer look at where each of the division's 13 teams stand:

Definitely inAnsbach (4-0): The Cougars will put their unbeaten season on the line against a dangerous Rota team Saturday. Either way, Ansbach will host at least one playoff game.Hohenfels (4-0): The defending champions survived a revenge-minded Bitburg team Saturday to stay unbeaten. Their finale against Vicenza might affect their playoff seeding, but they'll be hosting at least one playoff game.Vicenza (3-1): Rival Naples ousted the Cougars from the ranks of the unbeaten on Saturday. But even another loss this weekend to Hohenfels would not offset Vicenza's 3-0 start. Rota (3-1): The upstart Admirals assured themselves of a winning season and a playoff berth with Saturday's 42-16 win over AFNORTH.Bitburg (3-2): The Barons are done for the regular season. Though their record isn't up to recent standards, it's plenty good enough to earn a shot at taking their lost title back.Naples (2-2): A brutally tough schedule featuring Ansbach, Hohenfels and Vicenza has primed the Wildcats for the postseason and piled up valuable points on their ledger. They can round out a winning season with a victory over the Saints.Aviano (2-2): Despite identical .500 records, the Saints are an underdog against Naples due to the fact that they were shut out by the same Vicenza team Naples defeated. But the math will work in Aviano’s favor regardless.

Definitely outMenwith Hill/Woodham (1-2): A win over Alconbury would put the team at .500 and in the playoffs, but Seadore and Resnick agreed Wednesday that the team won’t advance to the playoffs.Alconbury (0-4): The Dragons have inched closer to wins over the last two weeks, but time has run out this year.Baumholder (0-4): Injuries pushed this already-thin 2013 playoff qualifier back into the basement.AFNORTH (0-4): The Lions can avoid a winless record against Baumholder this weekend, but that's their ceiling this season.

On the bubbleSHAPE (2-2): A year removed from advancing to – and nearly winning – the Division II championship game, the Spartans are at risk of sitting out the postseason entirely. A 13-12 win over Alconbury saved their season but didn’t exactly sow optimism.International School of Brussels (2-2): The weak Division II north region will send only one of its teams to the eight-team playoffs. ISB, playing for its third straight victory this weekend, might ride its momentum all the way to the postseason.

Twitter: @broomestripes

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