Two Four-Game Playoff Winning Streaks Collide In Philadelphia
Never before, and never again in the history of professional football, will you likely ever see anything like this again. The Jacksonville Sharks have won four straight playoff games dating back to last year's ArenaBowl when they beat the Arizona Rattlers. On Friday though, they are going to be taking on another team that has won four straight playoff games, the Philadelphia Soul in the City of Brotherly Love in the American Conference Championship Game.
Jacksonville of course, has beaten a bunch of Southern Division teams over the course of the last two years in the playoffs, and this is the first time in six postseason tussles that it will be playing someone from the Eastern Division. It is also the Sharks' first road playoff game that isn't an ArenaBowl.
It certainly wasn't an easy road to get here, though. The Sharks blew a 48-21 lead that they held in the third quarter last week to the Georgia Force, and from the moment that they blew it, they really needed a miracle just to be able to keep their season alive. Their miracle was answered in the form of a 51-yard field goal by Marco Capozzoli at the gun that eliminated the Force and put them here in the City of Brotherly Love.
The bottom line for Jacksonville though, is that last week's effort just isn't going to cut it here against the Soul. The team can't go on a stretch in the second half of this game where it turns the ball over on consecutive plays, because Philadelphia's offense is a heck of a lot better than that of Georgia, and it will make the Sharks pay. In fact, Jacksonville hasn't scored more than 64 points in a game since a June 2nd victory over the Tampa Bay Storm.
The Soul haven't scored fewer than 62 points since May 27th against the Cleveland Gladiators.
Many forget that Philly is also on a four-game winning streak in the postseason after winning the ArenaBowl in 2008. The team didn't make the playoffs in 2011, its first year back playing since the league's relaunch. Again, for the Soul, it wasn't the easiest to get into the second round of the postseason, though.
The New Orleans VooDoo gave the Soul everything that they could handle last Saturday night, taking a one-stop lead right off the bat and being in a position where they could have taken the lead late in the game if not for a suspect pass interference call on the final meaningful drive of the game.
If there is a worry for the Soul, it is that their passing game has been suspect at times of late. We might be nit-picking just a bit, knowing that QB Dan Raudabaugh threw for 4,790 yards and 115 TDs on the campaign. With WR Tiger Jones and his 2,010 yards gone and now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles though, the team is down to the combo of Donovan Morgan, Jeff Hughley, Emery Sammons, and Larry Brackins.
Last week, Raudabaugh completed just 19-of-31 passing, and he really hasn't had a great passing game over the course of the last three clashes. Jacksonville's defense accounted for three straight games holding teams in the 30s in scoring to end its season, but there is a real difference between facing this Philly offense and the ones of the Milwaukee Mustangs, Orlando Predators, and Pittsburgh Power.
The Sharks and the Soul have met twice this year, and neither game was really all that close. Jacksonville never had a chance in a 62-27 loss in the Sunshine State, knowing that the Soul went on a 34-0 run over the span of nearly two full quarters of action. QB Bernard Morris threw seven INTs in the two games against Philly, and though Raudabaugh threw three INTs when the teams met back in May here at the Wells Fargo Center, he also had seven TDs and his team never trailed.
According to BetOnline Sportsbook, Jacksonville is a bigger underdog than New Orleans was last week. The Sharks are +14.5. The 'total' is set at 113 even though neither game got particularly close to the 'total' this year..
Friday night's kickoff starts at 8:00 p.m. (ET), and the game will be broadcast on the NFL Network. The winner will battle either the Utah Blaze or the Arizona Rattlers next week at ArenaBowl XXV.