Philadelphia Soul Become First 0-1 Team To Clinch Division Title
In a wild Week 2 of Arena Football League action, the biggest winners were the Philadelphia Soul. They have officially become the first team in AFL history to clinch a division title without winning a single game. The Pittsburgh Power and the Cleveland Gladiators were beaten and beaten badly by the Jacksonville Sharks and Tampa Bay Storm respectively, dropping both teams to 0-2.
Ok, so this is obviously a bit tongue in cheek, but if Dan Shaughnessy can say that the New England Patriots "became the first team in NFL history to get back-to-back byes" in the NFL playoffs, I can surely declare the Soul the 2013 Eastern Division champions.
I, like most other reasonable fans, expect to see the Soul eventually turn on the jets and win at least 12 games or so this season, if not a heck of a lot more, and I don't think that anyone would be all that surprised if they finished 15-3 or perhaps even better. However, I, like most other reasonable fans should, see the Power and the Gladiators as complete and utter abominations and excuses for AFL teams.
Pittsburgh has played two home games this year and has been outscored by an aggregate tally of 125-68. The QB Jordan Jefferson experiment has gone horribly. The former LSU standout has only completed 55.4% of his passes, and he has seven touchdowns against four picks with a QB rating of just 77.01. Now, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jerry DiPaola is reporting that Jefferson has either a broken rib or damaged rib cartilage. Head Coach Derek Stingley doesn't have much to work with, and he already has one of the worst coaching records in AFL history at just 4-18 since he landed his first coaching gig with the New Orleans VooDoo in 2011. For coaches that have coached at least 20 games, Stingley has the second worst winning percentage ever at .181, only trailing the infamous Dave Whinham.
The Pittsburgh offense, for lack of better terms, have basically had a "power" outage in the second half of games this year, scoring just 20 points, six of which came on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game against the Utah Blaze. On top of that, the defense has just five total stops on the season.
Cleveland isn't in much better shape. The Gladiators absolutely played better than a 69-47 loss makes it seem on Saturday in Tampa Bay, but this was never a game that they had a real chance of winning. The defense has allowed 20 touchdowns in two games against just three stops.
As far as the offense is concerned, things aren't much better. QB Brian Zbydniewski has now thrown just eight touchdowns against three picks for the campaign. We already learned last year that this is a man that just isn't going to cut it in this league. Zbydniewski played on the 2011 Tampa Bay team that finished up at 7-11. In the 10 games that he started, Zbdniewski threw for just 53 touchdowns (56 total on the season), and he averaged putting up just 45.5 points per game for the Storm. How he ended up with a starting gig this year with the Gladiators is beyond me.
Even the oddsmakers and the betting public know how bad these two teams are. This week, the Power opened up at +3 against the Sharks, and they closed at +7.5. The Gladiators opened up at +2, and within 45 minutes they were bet up to +10.5. Needless to say, neither team even remotely came close to covering the number.
Matters aren't getting any better for either team any time soon. Cleveland will be a definitive underdog in each of its next four games (vs. JAX, @ PHI, vs. UTA, @ SJ), and perhaps in its next two games after that as well (vs. CHI, vs. SA). Pittsburgh has a bit more palatable schedule, but it will again be a certain underdog over its next five games (@ CHI, @ NO, vs. SA, vs. ORL, @ PHI). There is a legitimate chance that both of these clubs will be 0-8 when they meet for the first of two meetings this year on May 25th.
So there you have it. Think of this as the 2012 Presidential Election. The second that the polls closed in Washington DC, it lit up blue in favor of President Barack Obama. This year, you may as well already color the Eastern Division Soul Blue and grey. There is no way that Philadelphia isn't winning the East for the second straight season.