Without Garcia, Sharks Look To Continue Dominance Of Southern Division
To say that the Jacksonville Sharks have had their way with the rest of the Southern Division is a bit of an understatement. In their brief history, they have won a whopping 36 regular season games and three straight division titles, and they are now the first team in the history of the league to win three division crowns in a row to begin a franchise. Jacksonville went 12-2 in its first two regular seasons in the Southern Division, and it had a 2-1 mark against those foes in the playoffs as well. QB Aaron Garcia led the way in all of those victories though, and for the first time ever, the Sharks will have to go into battle in a playoff tilt with someone aside from #8 calling the shots. Jacksonville will hope to do some more damage to the South on Saturday night when it hosts the Georgia Force in the American Conference Semifinals.
The feats that the Sharks have pulled off over the course of these three seasons have been remarkable. This is already the franchise's fifth playoff game in its brief history, and that already puts Jacksonville tied for 19th in the history of the league of all-time playoff games played. The Sharks already have three wins under their belt, all of which came from last season, and a fourth win would join them with 13 other franchises that have at least four postseason victories in their history.
Head Coach Les Moss had never been a head coach in the AFL before getting the job with Jacksonville in 2010. Since then, he has racked up a .696 winning percentage, the third highest mark in league history for coaches that have been on the sidelines for at least 20 games. There are only 13 coaches ahead of Moss on the all-time playoff wins list as well, and five of those could be caught this year if Jacksonville wins another ArenaBowl.
It's true that Jacksonville comes into the postseason having won three games in a row. However, there is still a real concern that has to be present about the quarterback position.
Jacksonville has had a heck of a time replacing Garcia this year. The Chris Leak experiment lasted a total of one game, and Omar Jacobs didn't fare all that much better. Collin Drafts came off of the bench and played horribly for the most part, too. That has left the team with just Bernard Morris to carry the torch. Morris has good wheels for a quarterback, as he has gained 291 yards to go with his 11 TDs on the ground. He also threw for 2,402 yards and 59 scores against 14 INTs. Still, Morris only had one game this year with more than 267 yards passing, and he had just one game with more than seven scores. He started 12 games, and of those two, he threw at least two INTs in four, and completed fewer than 53% of his passes in five.
If you think that the Sharks had quarterback troubles this year, what about Georgia? The Force are going to be starting Bryant Moniz for the fourth straight game this week, but that doesn't mean that there is a heck of a lot of confidence in him. In those five games, the Force have generated just 47.5 points per game, and the offense has only accounted for 42.3 points per game. Needless to say, that likely isn't cutting it in the playoffs.
In his final two starts of the year, Moniz completed 30-of-67 passes (44.8%) for 359 yards with six TDs against two INTs. Averaging just three touchdowns per game is pathetic by the AFL standards of today, and averaging 5.36 yards per pass attempt is possibly even more brutal.
It is a mystery how the Force really did get into the playoffs with a quarterback this bad, but it isn't as if they are void of talent. Larry Shipp caught 133 passes for 1,584 yards and 33 TDs this year, and CJ Johnson had 1,075 yards receiving and another 1,985 as a kick returner. Tracy Belton was also one of the few this year in the league that reached double digits worth of interceptions, recording 11 picks.
There have been five meetings between the Sharks and the Force, including last year's American Conference Championship Game. Jacksonville won that one 64-55, but the Force have struck back this year with a pair of wins in the regular season. The Sharks have accounted for just a total of 80 points in the two games against Georgia in 2012.
According to BetOnline Sportsbook, Jacksonville is favored by nine-points in spite of the fact that it was swept in the regular season series. The 'total' is the lowest of the weekend at just 96.
Saturday night's kickoff starts at 7:00 p.m. (ET). The winner with either head to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia Soul or come home to take on the New Orleans VooDoo in next week's American Conference Championship Game.