AFL Power Rankings through Week 18
As I think back to the 2016 AFL season, I'll remember a number of awesome moments both on and off the field. Joe Hills scoring eight touchdowns in a game. T.T Toliver essentially rewriting the record books. Nick Davila quietly putting up one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had in this league. The Amway Center standing as one in the #OrlandoUnited campaign. The list could go on and on. But now it's playoff time, and all eight teams, no matter how good or bad they were in the regular season, have a chance to go on a run. They're all 180 minutes away from a championship, and half of the teams will be 120 away after this weekend.
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1: Arizona Rattlers (13-3) (LW: 1) - Is it wrong that we look at this Arizona team which finished at 13-3 and ask why it isn't up to the same standards of the teams of the past in terms of records? The Rattlers though, are still every bit as good as they've been in recent years, and if not for one awesome play by Aaron Garcia and one awful call on the goal line in Stockton, we'd probably be talking about a team which has already won five championships in a row and is the heavy favorite for a sixth. I could make the argument that Kevin Guy is three wins away from cementing the Rattlers as the premier dynasty in AFL history, and I don't think many will argue with that. Don't be shocked if Arizona runs out from here with ease.
2: Philadelphia Soul (13-3) (LW: 2) - If the Soul do go on to win the championship this year, it will be a story comparable to just a few months ago when LeBron James led the Cavaliers to a title. Sure, the City of Brotherly Love won't celebrate an ArenaBowl the same way it would a Super Bowl, but for a city which has one title in eons, any trophy matters. In order to get the job done though, Dan Raudabaugh is going to have to get over his postseason demons. His last game in most of his playoff games historically have been duds, and two of those games have come against Arizona. It sure looks like we're going to have Raudabaugh vs. Davila Part Three in a few weeks, and if Raudabaugh can pull this one off, it will end all of the talk that he (and Tommy Grady, for that matter) can't win the big game.
3: Orlando Predators (12-4) (LW: 3) - There is definitely trouble in Predator Land right now, and I'm not so certain that my home team is getting out of this weekend alive. Jacksonville has been playing significantly better ball under Bob Landsee than it did under Les Moss, and Orlando has dropped two straight games and really hasn't put together one awesome game from start to finish in quite a while. Bernard Morris is another one of these quarterbacks who has a terrible history in the postseason, and if he can't shake that, the Preds, in spite of three very successful seasons under Rob Keefe, will drop to 1-3 in the postseason in his tenure.
4: Jacksonville Sharks (7-9) (LW: 6) - What an interesting team this is. There's no doubt that the Sharks have the talent to go on the road and beat both Orlando and Philadelphia as they did last season. This team is every bit as good as it was last year, though not having a defensive line force like Joe Sykes is going to make a big difference. The one thing that we have to be aware of is the patented Jacksonville collapse. No team falls apart in the clutch like this one, and when one little thing goes wrong, it all seems to fall apart. It happened in the second half of the ArenaBowl last year, and it happened once against Orlando already this season as well (not to mention the two games against Cleveland). If Landsee gets the most out of this team though, I think the Sharks actually have the second best chance to win the ArenaBowl in the league.
5: Cleveland Gladiators (7-9) (LW: 4) - The Gladiators were down 15-0 after 15 seconds after the National Anthem was finished in Phoenix to end their regular season, but that was the end of an incredibly long road trip which finally saw the team have a week off to regroup. The Glads can play for sure, and had they won two or three more games, I could've made an argument for Arvell Nelson as the MVP of the league. He was the right choice under center for Cleveland, and though he isn't Nick Davila yet, he hasn't been the problem for the Gladiators either. Remember that Cleveland's defense has allowed over 70 points per game in its last three, and that can't happen again if the team wants to win in San Diego to keep its season alive.
6: Los Angeles KISS (7-9) (LW: 5) - Maybe I'm wrong about the KISS, but I just don't see it with them. Nathan Stanley is hurt, and Pete Thomas is certainly no better than the seventh best starting quarterback in the AFL (and he's probably behind Jason Boltus, too). This defense is going to have to pick it up if LA is going to have any chance whatsoever to get to the ArenaBowl, and even then, if this game against Cleveland is passed this weekend, the likelihood of beating Arizona is slim to none. It'll be interesting to see how Omarr Smith handles his first game as a head coach in the postseason.
7: Portland Steel (3-13) (LW: 7) - Portland is absolutely a better team now than it was at the beginning of the season, and it certainly will have a better shot against Arizona than it did in the first game of the year when it was run off the field at the Moda Center. The Steel though, still have some big problems. They turned the ball over 41 times this season, easily the most in the AFL, and their -22 turnover margin is one of the worst we've ever seen in this league. As we all know, one turnover against Arizona can turn into an avalanche in a hurry, and it wouldn't be shocking if the same thing happened in what very well could be the last game in Portland's franchise history.
8: Tampa Bay Storm (2-14) (LW: 8) - The Storm might've beat Portland a couple weeks ago, but that doesn't change my mind that they're the biggest disaster in the AFL. The league did Tampa a favor by sending it to Philly in the opening round instead of where it belonged in Arizona, but it isn't going to make a difference. The Storm can take some solace from their 56-51 loss against the Soul at home a few weeks back, but the likelihood of Raudabaugh playing as bad of a game at home in "All-In Town" (a fantastic promotion, might I add by the Soul) is slim. Oh, and the Storm haven't scored more than 40 points on the road yet this year, and this isn't a likely place for that to change.
ArenaFan Fan Power Poll
1. Arizona Rattlers (99.1 Power Points)
2. Philadelphia Soul (90.9 Power Points)
3. Orlando Predators (80.0 Power Points)
4. Jacksonville Sharks (60.0 Power Points)
5. Los Angeles KISS (59.5 Power Points)
6. Cleveland Gladiators (59.1 Power Points)
7. Portland Steel (40.0 Power Points)
8. Tampa Bay Storm (36.4 Power Points)