AFL Power Rankings through Week 15
To say that the entire AFL season comes down to Week 16 might seem like hyperbole, but it's legitimately possible. The Arizona Rattlers and Orlando Predators are both quite possibly two wins away from having the road to the ArenaBowl go through their respective homes, and they have to go through each other first in order to settle their differences. The winner of this Monday's game is very likely going to end up having the easier trek to the ArenaBowl and hosting rights for the game, though Orlando would still have to clear the hurdle of the Philadelphia Soul in Week 18 first.
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1: Arizona Rattlers (11-3) (LW: 1) - That Rod Windsor guy? Pretty damn good. He's not going to win any postseason awards this year because of Joe Hills, but for my money, he's the best receiver this league has ever had. His 10 catches, 108 yards and six TDs kept the Arizona offense on schedule on a night when its defense wasn't at its best. The 'D' came up with the stop it had to make on the two-point conversion attempt against the Sharks to seal the deal though, and that win locked up the National Conference regular season title and no worse than the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. This week though, is the revenge game for sure. Remember that the Ratts threw up the white flag in Orlando back in May. Furthermore, they need to win this one by 19 or more to win the tiebreaker with the Preds.
2: Philadelphia Soul (11-3) (LW: 2) - The Soul offense scored touchdowns on all 11 of their offensive drives last week against Cleveland, and they now have 131 quarters in a row dating back to the end of the 2014 season with at least one score. Scoring in all four quarters this week against Tampa Bay will tie the all-time record of 135. If Dan Raudabaugh is going to go 20-of-21 again this week like he did against the Gladiators, there's going to be no stopping the Soul Train.
3: Orlando Predators (12-2) (LW: 3) - The Preds fended off a stingy Portland team last week to tie their franchise record for wins in a season. But rather than talk about that, let's have a history lesson instead! In 1998, Orlando was beaten early in the year by the old Nashville Kats by 14 points. The second tiebreaker between the teams was point differential in the games played against each other. Two months later when the teams played again, the Preds were up 34-22 with a few seconds remaining and had just took the ball over on downs. Jay Gruden elected to trot David Cool out for a field goal which seemed meaningless at the time. He nailed it. (Little did he know it would be the second biggest last-second field goal of his career against Nashville. See: ArenaBowl XIV.) Orlando and Nashville finished with the same record that year, and that was the difference between the two teams playing their first round playoff game in the Alley or in the Jungle. The Preds went on to win that game and then win the ArenaBowl. The point of this? Orlando beat Arizona by 18 in the first meeting of the year. You hate to say that a loss by 17 points is as good as a win, but in the event that the Preds do end up losing by 17 or fewer, they still hold their own destiny for home field advantage in the playoffs if they beat Philadelphia in Week 18. Kevin Guy and Rob Keefe surely know that that 18-point margin of victory is going to be a crucial number in this game.
4: Cleveland Gladiators (7-7) (LW: 4) - It's hard to fault the Gladiators for getting beaten by Philly. Their defense though, was a complete no-show, and that's nothing like what we're used to seeing out of this team. The Glads are basically playing their Super Bowl this week. A win in LA, and they clinch the last home game in the playoffs. A loss in LA, and they can pack their bags in the opening round to extend this road trip which has been on since June 11.
5: Jacksonville Sharks (5-8) (LW: 5) - This Jacksonville team remains one of the most frustrating in the league. The Sharks had every opportunity to beat Arizona for the second time this year, and for the second time, they ended up on the short end of the stick. They've got talent for sure, but that talent really hasn't been recognized. Jacksonville remains scary because of its run it went on last year in the playoffs, and it could have a very similar road this year (at Philly and at Orlando?). There's no counting this team out in spite of its 5-8 record.
6: Los Angeles KISS (6-7) (LW: 6) - Nathan Stanley was back under center again for KISS, and he made a world of difference. Sure, LA only scored 48 points, but it scored on seven of its eight possessions, making that its most efficient offensive game of the year and one of its best games in franchise history. The KISS now have a glorious opportunity in front of them. If they can beat the Gladiators at home on Saturday night, they'll have the inside track towards the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
7: Portland Steel (1-12) (LW: 7) - We keep saying that Portland is getting closer and closer, and we're standing by that after last week's 47-41 loss to Orlando. There are three winnable games left on the docket, and we would be surprised if they don't get at least one of the three. Portland has three losses by one score this year, and Shane Austin has been at the helm for two of the three. The Steel haven't allowed 60 points in a game in three straight weeks, and that's a step in the right direction for a club which allowed 66 or more four times in its first five games this year.
8: Tampa Bay Storm (1-12) (LW: 8) - And then there's the Storm. Tampa Bay hasn't scored more than 35 points in a game since May and has topped 40 points exactly twice this year. The fight at the end of the game in Anaheim which spilled into the stands was really just a microcosm of the season for the Storm. The frustration has completely boiled over in Tampa, and it's hard to imagine this team ultimately winning a second game this season, whether it be now or in the second season. There's a legitimate discussion to be had as to whether this is the worst team in the league in the last decade and a half.
ArenaFan Fan Power Poll
1. Arizona Rattlers (95.0 Power Points)
2. Orlando Predators (88.8 Power Points)
3. Philadelphia Soul (86.2 Power Points)
4. Cleveland Gladiators (70.0 Power Points)
T-5. Los Angeles KISS (55.0 Power Points)
T-5. Jacksonville Sharks (55.0 Power Points)
T-7. Portland Steel (37.5 Power Points)
T-7. Tampa Bay Storm (37.5 Power Points)