Thursday, August 02, 2012

Playoffs, Round Two Preview

Time for the Semi-Final round of this year's Arena League playoffs. I sucked hard at calling last week's games, but frankly, that's what happens when the 8 best teams in the league take the field in a do-or-die situation. Anything can happen.

Of course, that means this week will be even worse.

Sharks at Soul
This game will be the tale of two teams - on both sides of the ball. It's all going to depend on who shows up. The Sharks have been up and down all season, and have some glaring weakness. There's the fact that Morris screws up under pressure and they are Power-like in their inability to play four quarters. A number of times this season, they've blown huge leads in the fourth to lose. Even last week they did that, but held on long enough for a miracle kick by Capz.

On the plus side, they've put together a late season winning streak to get them to the penultimate game. Bernie Mo has only been picked twice in recent memory and has done a good job of holding on to the ball. Furthermore, the Sharks boast the second and third best rushers in a pass-happy league - one of which is none other than Mo himself. And then there's Capz. The fact is, they have the weapons if they know how to use them.

The Soul, on the other hand, have been a nearly unstoppable juggernaut this year, but they played a sloppy, sloppy game last week. Penalties, poor execution and lackluster performance kept the Voodoo in the game way longer than they should have been. They've also lost their kicker Remy Hamilton to a groin injury, which is never good.

Of course, they're still the Soul. While the Sharks have rusher #2 and #3, Philly's got #1 in Derrick Ross. They also still have Captain Morgan and Jeff Hughley. They also have one of the best turnover defenses in the league.

So how will it shake out? We'll start with kicking, because it may be big. For the Sharks, Capozzoli is money. We know that. He's clutch at PATs, FG and most importantly, kickoffs. If he can drill the latter under the cross-bar (like he did to us) he can stick the Soul with crappy field position. Taking Hughley's returns out of the equation would be a major coup. Granted, Dirty Dan can get them out of that situation - but why spot them 15-20 yards if you don't have to?

For the Soul, losing Hamilton last week was ugly. They don't have a backup and even had LaRico Stevenson kicking off, and it showed. It gave the Voodoo a lot of ground to work with. Well, that couldn't continue, so rumors this week had them looking at one Massimo Scaccia. Rumors were close, because they went with his brother Fabrizio. Now, if we can all stop sniggering at the unlikeliness of these names, let's look at his ability. He kicked for a season and change for the Rattlers, but he kinda sucked at field goals and hasn't played in a year. No, the Soul don't go for many FGs, but that's still a hole. Also, he's rusty as all get out. Giving Terrance Smith a chance to return will result in the reverse of what I said above.

Regular on-field stuff is fairly straight forward. The Soul is the better team and should run all over the Sharks. Raudabaugh is one of the elites, and his arm is accurate. He also has all the play-makers he's had all season. Their defense is brutal against most teams, and could prove awfully deadly against Bernie Mo. Furthermore, the Soul isn't a team a team to run out of gas against in the late game.

Bottom line is that the Soul should win this one assuming they don't play sloppy. The thing is, I can't shake the feeling after last week that their constant "We Got This" posts on their FaceBook page are going to amount to hubris.

This game airs Friday night on the NFL network.

Blaze at Rattlers

The above game is going to prove easy to call next to this one.

Had the Ratts beat them twice, I would say with confidence after last week that they'd lose the third match-up. However, they've split the series so far. Strangely enough, the Ratts win was on the road, and they picked Grady a whopping four times. At home, they got thwumped (and picked twice.)

For the second week in a row, the Blaze's victory hopes hinge on defense. Last week, they and the Talons fought each other to a standstill, and that decided the game. Two top-flight quarterbacks were shut down on their respective sides of the ball. There's no reason to believe that the Blaze can't do it again this week, and if the Ratts want to win, they've already seen that this is what they will have to do.

The Blaze has, at times, let Grady take a beating, and not a little of it came at the hands of the Rattlers. They shored up their line a bit in the second match-up, but the fact is, the Ratts know how to get to him. Arizona's offensive line on the other hand, only allowed nine sacks in the regular season. Therefore, the Blaze has their work cut out for them. Their better chance is to go for the picks, which Davila is prone to. He takes risks, and they backfire sometimes. Also, I've noticed that AZ has a thing for onside kicks. They're good at recovering them, but if the Blaze return team is ready for them, they can pick up a few extra possessions.

If the defense just pounds themselves silly, and the O line holds, these two QBs should be able cut loose. The league released their first and second All-Arena lineups this week. While the Soul have but two players on there and the Sharks none, the Blaze and Rattlers account for a total of seven players on these lists. Because of that, I predict a higher score than the Blaze put up last week in this one. I will be rooting for the Ratts, but I have a feeling that the Blaze might pull this one off. They played just too hard last week, while the Ratts played their regular explosive game. The "have to" didn't seem to be there.

That's right, I'm back

So, that being said, I really don't know on this one. I called both these teams to lose last week, and neither did. Therefore, I hesitate to bet against either one here. I am, however, restating the fact that I think the Blaze can take it and go face the Soul in Arena Bowl XXV.

So, look forward to the Sharks and Rattlers heading to NOLA next week for a rematch.

This game airs Saturday at ten with full play-by-play coverage on

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