AFL Power Rankings through Week 9
Remember back when there was a clear cut between the "Haves" and the "Have Nots" in the AFL? It was only a few weeks ago that most of us would have scoffed at the idea of any of the Storm, Gladiators and Sharks beating the Rattlers, Soul and Predators, let alone all three doing it in the same week. The end result? Perhaps the most difficult set of Power Rankings I've had to put together all season long.
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1: Philadelphia Soul (7-2) (LW: 1) - We're going to give Philly a pass here. Cleveland has had its number over the course of the last few seasons, and it's hard to blame the Soul for coming down to earth after beating Orlando and Arizona in consecutive weeks. The Soul just weren't sharp at all on offense, something that's going to happen from time to time. Let's give credit where credit is due, though. If this was Twitter, and I was limited to 140 characters and was permitted to use emojis, the proper way I would describe the Gladiators' defense right now would be with 140 flames.
2: Jacksonville Sharks (4-4) (LW: 5) - Go ahead. Laugh at me. Tell me that I'm a joke. I'm ready for it. I was there last week when Jacksonville dismantled Orlando. That game wasn't even remotely funny in spite of the final score showing that the two teams were separated by just three points. I had a better chance of knocking out Floyd Mayweather than any of those Orlando defensive backs had of defending against Joe Hills. The Sharks might be just 4-4, but they've proven to me that they've got as much talent as anyone else in this league. How many teams can say they've beaten both Philly and Orlando, let alone beating both on the road and doing so convincingly both times? And the fact of the matter is that the Sharks got a lot more talented this week when they signed Reggie Gray. Color me skeptical that three receivers who are used to all being No. 1 targets can get along in the same offense, but for now, the jury is still out. If those three make it work together, Jacksonville has the most explosive offense in the league. I'm impressed with what I see even though most will disagree with a 4-4 team being ranked No. 2 in my Power Rankings.
3: Orlando Predators (7-2) (LW: 2) - The Predators really need to get their act together here in a hurry. Since beating Arizona a few weeks ago, they've been merely average offensively, scoring on 71% of their possessions. This team has been squeaking by most of the season, and the eye test tells me that they're going to finish as the fourth-best team in the league this year, falling back one spot beyond Arizona. This road game in LA is dangerous for sure this week. If the Orlando defense can't figure out how to defend against Donovan Morgan as it couldn't against Joe Hills, this game could be an upset in the making.
4: Arizona Rattlers (6-3) (LW: 3) - It doesn't get much worse than losing to Tampa Bay in a game which should've been won time and time again. Injuries have really decimated the Rattlers this year, and it really has shown over the course of the last several weeks. This offense hasn't topped 60 once in a game in its last four after scoring 60+ in each of its first five games. The defense has allowed 60+ three times in its last four after holding four of its first five foes under 30 points. But there's good news for Kevin Guy and company. This week's game in Cleveland is the last time the Rattlers have to leave the West Coast this year, and five of those six games are going to be at home. I still think Arizona will be alright and will end up winning the ArenaBowl, but in this form with all of the injuries, this team is merely average.
5: Cleveland Gladiators (5-4) (LW: 6) - Ron Selesky deserves all the credit in the world for what he's done with this defense. No team in the AFL last season had more than six interception returns for touchdowns in an 18-game campaign. We're through nine games this year, and the Glads already have seven pick sixes, many of which have effectively sealed games. Since Arvell Nelson has left his jack linebacker post and become the starting quarterback for this team, Cleveland has thrilled, winning four games in a row. The road ahead is tough, knowing that this week is the last home game of the season, but if going on the road galvanizes this team, the Gladiators could be sneaky at the end of the year.
6: Los Angeles KISS (4-4) (LW: 4) - It's hard to say that the KISS should fall two spots in the Power Rankings after winning last week, but it's also hard to say they're better than any of the teams above them right now either, especially with Nathan Stanley out for goodness knows how long. Pete Thomas has been alright, but he's got some growing up to do in a hurry if he's going to keep LA in the discussion for a home playoff game this year. Not every game is going to come against Portland.
7: Tampa Bay Storm (1-7) (LW: 7) - My favorite quote of the week comes from Lawrence Samuels: "The league is in trouble right now." Look, good for you, Tampa, but you're still 1-7. The Storm are a lot better with Jason Boltus under center for sure, but the best story this team has to tell right now is the fact that T.T. Toliver is 167 receiving yards away from becoming the all-time leader in that category surpassing the great Damian Harrell. Even if the Storm win go 6-2 the rest of the way, they still won't host a home playoff game, and that's really all that matters at the moment.
8: Portland Steel (0-8) (LW: 8) - You're hearing it here first. Portland is getting its first win of the season this week. This article isn't one in which I'm in the prognostication business usually, but the spot is just too good. The Storm on a short week, travelling across the country to play against a team which they must feel like they should be able to beat. And on top of all of that, it's the first time the Steel have played a home game since the Nixon Administration… or something like that. If not this week, when will that elusive first win come for Portland? Ron James is too good of a coach to have this team go winless for the season.
ArenaFan Fan Power Poll
1. Philadelphia Soul (97.1 Power Points)
2. Orlando Predators (88.6 Power Points)
3. Arizona Rattlers (82.9 Power Points)
4. Cleveland Gladiators (64.3 Power Points)
5. Jacksonville Sharks (62.9 Power Points)
6. Los Angeles KISS (54.3 Power Points)
7. Tampa Bay Storm (39.3 Power Points)
8. Portland Steel (35.7 Power Points)