Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blood in the Water

Well, here we are already: Last game of the season.

And, we get to leave the season the way we entered it: On the NFL Network, prime time and nationally televised. (Hopefully with a win as well.) It would be really hard for them to flex us out of the slot as we're the only game Friday night.

For our last outing, we're facing off against the defending Arena Bowl champion Sharks along with our former quarterback, Bernard Morris. Now, yes, they won the big game last year, and yes, they're already locked for the playoffs - but this is not the team that mopped the field with us last year. They're tough, but beatable...maybe.

The only reason they are where they are is that they've been on a tear the last several games and had a late season surge. Bernard Morris has gotten a lot more comfortable in his skin and has held off some of his main weaknesses: Mainly the fumbles and holding the ball too long. Both are things that we saw last year when he played for us, and he had it happen a fair amount earlier this season.

Now, however, he's been getting in the habit of throwing perfect games. That's what we need to change. He still hangs in the pocket a little too long (not near as much as he used to) and the Power needs to exploit that. When he gets hit when he falls back or when he's making a scramble (he has almost a hundred more rushing yards than the next closest Jacksonville rusher) he doesn't always protect the ball very well. We've had a few games second half of the season where we brought the pressure hard on the QB.

Next is his pick-free games. That's always a concern, especially when the Power are absolutely ridiculously on the wrong side of the turnover ratio. If we want to ruin Bernie Mo's record for the night, we need look no farther than Christian Wise. The last two weeks, he has snagged the ball at least three times a game (whether they got called back or not.) As long as this hasn't gone to his head, he can be the turning point.

Coverage needs to be on Jeron Harvey and Josh Philpart, as they have been Mo's preferred targets recently. Also, we're going to have to be ready to cover the hell out of Terrance Smith and LaRoche Jackson on returns. Who knows what we can expect from the kicking game this week, but I think we need to at least be ready for soft kickoffs and spotty PATs. This means being prepared to shut returns down (something we're not good at), solid 3rd and 4th down lock-downs (something we've been doing well) and think about two point conversions (something we can do at times.)

Bottom line is that we need to fly in the face of everything the AFL stands for and concentrate on our strengths at defense. If PJ Berry, Mike Washington and Andrico Hines are on their game, the offense can take care of itself. We need to just make sure to keep Bernie Mo and the Sharks from doing the same.

Let's go Power and let's bookend the season with wins.

Elsewhere in the league
  • First up on Saturday is Chicago at Cleveland in a game that pretty much no one cares about. Neither team has anything to play for, so I'm going to pick my Chicago Rush because I can and because screw Cleveland. Also, Russ Michna's the better quarterback, if I need a reason.
  • Big game for the Voodoo when they host the Force. They've split the series with Jacksonville, but beat them by more points than they lost by and have the better division record. If they win and the Sharks lose, they snag first place in the South. They're also at home against a hot-and-cold Force. If they lose and TB wins, they're out, so they need to bring it. I'm taking the Voodoo because, even though it didn't work against TB, they're the better team.
  • Talons at Iowa is another meaningless game. Iowa's out, Talons are in charge and there's nothing on the line besides being a division matchup. Iowa's at home and want the same thing we do - close their season with a win at home. However, unless the Sharks play soft to preserve themselves, the Barnstormers won't get their wish.
  • AZ gets a softie to close out the season by hosting the Command.
  • Tampa Bay has their work cut out for them. They need to travel to Spokane and need the win to have a shot at the post season. Their road record has been crap and Spokane - though streaky - is really good. I'm taking the Shock to win and the Storm to reserve tee time.
  • Not much to say about the next game aside from the fact that the Mustangs should be able to end their season on a high note. It's a road game and the Preds are dangerous...but just like us, they're easy to overlook this year.
  • Finally, Utah travels to Philly. Utah needs the win a lot more than the Soul does, because first place in the division is on the line. Normally, I'd say that a team in Philly's position is best served by rolling over. The Blaze is strong, has one of the best offenses in the league, possibly the best quarterback and are hungry for a win. Philly has nothing to gain in regards to the post season, and everything to lose in regards to injuries. However, Philly never says die. I'm still going to take the Blaze.

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