AFL Power Rankings through Week 12
On the surface, the Predators had themselves a week in Week 12. They beat Jacksonville and moved into sole possession of the best record in the AFL, locking up a first round home playoff game in the process. However, they also lost Randy Hippeard to what could be a season-ending knee injury as well, and that's only going to continue to shake up an already murky situation atop the league.
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1: Arizona Rattlers (9-3) (LW: 2) - The Rattlers have proven their point. It's nearly playoff time, and they're starting to play like it. Kevin Guy's crew made Dan Raudabaugh look awful last week, and the 80 points they dropped on the Soul is the most they've ever conceded in a game in their history. If Hippeard really is done for the season, there's a really good chance the road to the ArenaBowl goes through the desert now. This week's road contest at LA is very likely the last time the Rattlers have to leave home this year.
2: Philadelphia Soul (9-3) (LW: 1) - It's difficult to come down on the Soul too hard for losing in Arizona; after all, the Rattlers are 40-2 at home in their last 42 games overall. However, the loss might be incredibly symbolic. It's nice to know that Philly can beat the Rattlers and the Predators at home, but they've always seemed to be just a smidge short once they leave the City of Brotherly Love in these big games. That's a big concern considering the fact that the Soul no longer control their own destiny regarding the No. 1 seed, and they're going to pretty much be forced to win in Orlando the last game of the regular season to lock up the American Conference title.
3: Orlando Predators (10-2) (LW: 3) - The Orlando defense had arguably its best game of the season last week in Jacksonville, but there are some real problems for sure with Hippeard likely done for the season. Bernard Morris is a capable backup, and he's led the team on touchdown drives in eight of his 10 chances this year, but just as Philly has no history of winning really big games, B-Mo has no history of beating Philly. If the Predators are going to win the ArenaBowl this year, they're likely going to either have to beat the Soul twice at home or once on the road, and we can't say we love their prospects of doing either one at this point. Friday's game against Tampa is far more dangerous than it looks on paper.
4: Jacksonville Sharks (5-6) (LW: 4) - There's trouble in Jacksonville for sure right now, and if the playoffs were to start today, the Sharks would be the No. 6 seed. Rumors of discontent are swirling, and ownership continues to speak of the displeasure of this team and how the franchise should be ashamed of itself. Is it really too late in the season to fire Les Moss? With as important as a home playoff game is to Jeff Bouchy, it's entirely possible that a loss this week to Cleveland will be the end, either literally or for all intents and purposes for Moss.
5: Cleveland Gladiators (6-6) (LW: 5) - The Gladiators had to have that win last week in Portland, and they got it with some room to spare. It was the best game the Cleveland offense has played all season long with eight touchdowns and a field goal on nine possessions, and play like that when you've got a defense which leads the league in pick sixes is going to translate into a lot of wins. If the Gladiators can pick off Jacksonville this week, they can put themselves in prime position for the No. 4 seed.
6: Los Angeles KISS (5-6) (LW: 6) - Clevan Thomas just keeps getting after it. He picked off pass No. 81 in his career last week, and the KISS beat the snot out of the Storm far worse than 54-27 suggests. The defense was dominant all game long until the very end when things were out of hand, and Pete Thomas played arguably the best game of his young career. The big problem the KISS have is that they just can't string wins together. They've got Arizona this week at home, and if they want to send any messages whatsoever to the big boys, they'd better win this week.
7: Portland Steel (1-10) (LW: 7) - Portland is getting closer. The Steel have effective been mercy ruled by Arizona three times this season and Philly once, but we have a sneaking suspicion they'll keep the second meeting with the Soul on Monday a lot closer than a 22.5-point spread suggests. The big problem they've got is that they just can't stop turning the ball over. Thirty is too many turnovers for two seasons, let alone for 11 games.
8: Tampa Bay Storm (1-10) (LW: 8) - Finally, the Storm are making some sweeping changes, and all it took was a third straight loss by four scores or more and a ninth game this year scoring 40 points or fewer. Kendrick Ings and Prechae Rodriguez are returning to the team, while Julius Gregory was effectively jettisoned to Arizona to complete the trade for Mike Washington, who was put on reassignment to make room for the newcomers. Cornelius Dixon is new to the squad as well. For all intents and purposes, the Storm have a five-game audition process. They know they're going to Phoenix, Philly or Orlando in the opening round of the playoffs, and they're just looking for the right combination of guys to bring with them.
ArenaFan Fan Power Poll
1. Arizona Rattlers (92.5 Power Points)
T-2. Philadelphia Soul (88.8 Power Points)
T-2. Orlando Predators (88.8 Power Points)
4. Cleveland Gladiators (65.0 Power Points)
5. Jacksonville Sharks (58.8 Power Points)
6. Los Angeles KISS (54.4 Power Points)
7. Portland Steel (40.0 Power Points)
8. Tampa Bay Storm (36.9 Power Points)