2012 AFL Playoffs & First Round Playoff Dates & Times Now Set
A wild weekend in the Arena Football League is now completed, and the eight teams that are going to be fighting for the Foster Trophy are now set.
On Friday night, the Jacksonville Sharks beat the Pittsburgh Power to clinch up their third straight Southern Division title. The Sharks came out of the blocks hot, leading 27-0 with possession of the football, and they never looked back. QB Bernard Morris threw for eight scores and completed 20-of-25 passes to lead Jacksonville to the division title. This will be the third straight year that the Sharks get into the playoffs with a division banner in tote, though this is the first time that they have not been the No. 1 seed with homefield advantage all the way to the ArenaBowl.
The pressure was on the Georgia Force and the New Orleans VooDoo on Saturday night, knowing that one of the two teams would be in the playoffs, and the other would need some help to be able to partake in the second season. The Force were heavy 12-point underdogs in the game on the road, but they were able to prevail by the count of 55-48. The Force got into the postseason in spite of some massive struggles down the stretch offensively, and though they won on Saturday, it was hard to ignore the just two passing touchdowns for QB Bryant Moniz for the evening. Still, Head Coach Dean Cokinos and the crew are off to the postseason for the second straight year as the No. 3 seed, and they will visit Jacksonville next week.
The VooDoo lost their final three games of the regular season, and any one of the three wins would have put them in the playoffs. The VooDoo had only made the playoffs once before, and that came back in their expansion campaign. They have been on the verge of the postseason a number of times before, most notably in 2008 when they lost out to the Grand Rapids Rampage on the final day of the season to fall out of the playoffs. The VooDoo have never won a playoff game in their history.
Perhaps their luck is changing, though. The Tampa Bay Storm already had a bit of bad luck with the Force and the Cleveland Gladiators winning earlier in the night, and they knew when they took the field against the Spokane Shock that they had to win on the road if they were to extend their season into the playoffs. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, it was a night to forget, as a slew of penalties erased the fact that WR Joe Hillis had the fourth best receiving game of the year for a wide out, as he hauled in eight catches for 215 yards. Tampa Bay once owned the record for the most consecutive playoff appearances in American sports history, but since that streak was broken in 2006, it has failed to reach the second season in four of the last six campaigns.
As a result, New Orleans will be in the playoffs at just 8-10 for the year, and it will have to travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia Soul next week.
In the National Conference, there was plenty of movement all the way down to the final game of this 20-week season.
The Arizona Rattlers booted the Kansas City Command 47-22 in their regular season finale to keep their dreams of another Western Division title and a first round home game alive. They still needed some help in the form of a Utah Blaze loss to the Philadelphia Soul on Sunday to lock up their second straight Western Division title, though. The Blaze ended up going a whopping 29 minutes without a single point in a 69-34 loss to the Soul, a shockingly slow finish to the year for an offense that set all sorts of records this year behind QB Tommy Grady. They will be the No. 4 seed and have to go on the road to take on the San Antonio Talons in the first round. Arizona is now No. 2 seed with the Utah loss. The San Jose SaberCats were idle in Week 20, and they are going to visit their longtime rivals from Phoenix on Saturday night to wrap up the first round of the playoffs.
Finalize 2012 American Conference Playoff Bracket
#4 New Orleans VooDoo @ #1 Philadelphia Soul (Saturday 7/28, 7:05 p.m. ET)
#3 Georgia Force @ #2 Jacksonville Sharks (Saturday 7/28, 7:00 p.m. ET)
2012 National Conference Playoff Picture (if Utah loses)
#4 Utah Blaze @ #1 San Antonio Talons (Friday 7/27, 8:00 p.m. ET)
#3 San Jose SaberCats @ #2 Arizona Rattlers (Saturday 7/28, 10:00 ET)