Thursday, April 07, 2011

Bye Week Spotlight: The Orlando Predators @Philly Soul


Now sure if the schedule I read had a misprint, or if I'm just an idiot - this game was still a road game for the Soul, and their home opener is this week against the Storm on the NFL network


The Power gets a much needed break to rest and rearm this week after a tough loss to the Talons in week four. It’s a light week for the rest of the league with only four games on the schedule, but there is still football to be played. In the spotlight this week is the Orlando Predators at Philly.

Why am I featuring a game by our division rival this week? Two reasons: 1.) I want to watch a game this weekend and 2.) it’s actually fairly important in regards to league standings.

Right now, we are ahead of the Soul in rankings, but we’ve only got a one game lead on them. If they win this week, our records will be tied, and they have the head-to-head. Given that the Gladiators are so far ahead that they aren’t being caught any time soon even if they go on an epic losing streak, and the Mustangs are so far behind that the reverse is true, Philly is who I’m worried about. As things stand, we might be going neck and neck with them all season, and a loss this week will give us a small amount of breathing room.

To be honest, I haven’t followed the Predators a lot this season. I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for them, as they are one of the first teams that I ever watched back in the day, but with the amount of games that I watch for future Power matchups, they just haven’t fit in my schedule this year. They are a tough team to get a read on based solely on their record – in fact, I feel that their one loss so far this year speaks more than their two wins.

Week one, they beat up on the New Orleans Voodoo, which really doesn’t say much in my opinion. It is well documented that New Orleans is team in need of a lot of help, and remain one of the only winless teams in the league. Week two, the Preds won a good one against the Blaze, which is a team with the same record as them at this point. I’ll call that one a push.

This week, however, they lost to the Arizona Rattlers by one point. One. Remember how relieved we were when the Mustangs fell short by 2 points in week 3? That’s close. When you add to this the fact that the Rattlers have steamrolled everyone else they’ve played this season, I’m impressed. Even a when playing someone due for a loss from general fatigue, hanging with a team as powerful as Arizona right to the very end says a lot. These Predators are a team to watch out for.

On the ground, they’re not much to really be concerned about. Their top rusher is their QB Nick Hill, with only 71 yards and a couple of TDs to his name. He’s certainly no Russ Michna or Bobby Reid. However, in the air, he’s good for an average of 300+ yards a game and has a very solid receiving core lead by the awesomely named TT Toliver.

Toliver is an interesting Ocho Cinco-style character. A few years back, he was playing for the then impressive Tampa Bay Storm. One day, he walked in and told (former) head coach Marcum that he was done; not going to play for the Storm anymore. He was suspended for two games, cut, and signed by Orlando a day later.

I don’t know the details and I’m not sure if many people do. Maybe he’s a show-boatin’ idiot. Maybe he saw early all the crap that came out about Marcum. Maybe it was something else entirely – the fact remains that he found a solid home in Orlando and has over 300 yards and 7 TDs on the season this year. Look out, Philly.

On the other side of the ball, we have the Philadelphia Soul. Now, they’re a division rival, they took our home opener away from us, and they’re our main threat this season. That having been said, my two most loyal readers – my wife and my mother-in-law – are both Philly girls, born and raised, so I can’t make with too much hate-talk. (Besides, hockey playoffs are around the corner, and there will be plenty of smack to be spoken then.) I’ll try to stick with the facts – at least until we get later in the season.

Right now, the Soul are sitting at 1-2, with the Power being their only win. That’s not super fantastic. On the other hand, they’ve lost to the Rush, which there is no shame in, and the Mustangs, which was their third road game in a row. The main concern is how they did in the second half last week. It might have been fatigue, but I think Coach Hohensee put it best when he said, “Everything we did right in the first half fell apart in the second half.” Yep. That’s about the long and short of it.

We’ve seen QB Justin Allgood take the field here at home and, generally, his name is about accurate. He might not have the overall yardage of Hill, but he gets the job done. He throws deep and has Donovan Morgan as a solid answer to TT Toliver. Their only rushing weapon is Ryan Vena, so they’re about even on the ground as well. This matchup is going to be a gunslinger shoot out, pure and simple.

Another factor for this week is a series of improbable flukes. First, a little history lesson: Back in 2008, the then Bon Jovi-owned Soul was on top of the world. They beat the juggernaut San Jose Sabercats in the Arena Bowl* to be crowned champions of the league. The next year, that league folded. When it rebooted the following year, neither of those two teams came back with it. Now, they are both back as expansion teams with news faces, but old traditions.

Saturday is the Soul’s first home game of the season, due to a nasty opening schedule. Because of this, this week will actually be the first time that they get to unfurl that Arena Bowl Champions 2008 banner to their home crowd. That will either fire everyone up, or just leave the team shrugging their shoulders. Not many of these guys were around to win it.

*I still, and for always will, contend that Sambora lost money on that game. He didn’t seem happy shaking Jon’s hand afterwords.

How is this game going to shake out? Frankly, I think that the Predators are the better team here. They have a slight edge at QB, better options at receiver, and they’ve proven that they can hang with the best. Philly has been beaten up for three weeks now, win or lose, and they’re coming off a short week after a Monday night game (remember how that worked out for us?) They are finally playing at home and get to use an Arena Bowl banner as a talisman, and that might make the difference – but I really don’t think so. Coach Ho seems to be having trouble bringing his Rush-style tactics to a new team, and the wins just aren’t materializing. I think it’s going to be close, but I’ll take the Preds by five at least.

Next up for the Power: Jacksonville at home in Week 6.

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