Throwing Their Weight Around
The Sharks were embarrassed in most conceivable ways by a familiar face – Kyle Rowley, who did not have a great relationship with the Sharks while he was with the team but loves annihilating them every time he plays them. After setting the franchise record with 69 points in 2014, he broke that record by helping put up 72. Fortunately for Jacksonville, it had enough of a lead over Orlando that it remains at No. 4 (Well, also fortunately, none of these rankings matter as far as playoff seeding or, well, anything).
Portland went from worst to 9th, vaulting over the new official worst team in the league, the New Orleans Voodoo! I suppose it’s to be expected when the team is owned by all of the other owners. No fun paying guys to beat your team.
Spokane and Vegas were jumped after uninspiring performances against the KISS and Rattlers, respectively. Since one of Spokane’s four touchdowns was a fumble recovery, Los Angeles stopped four of seven Shock drives in the slowest game of the season – 15 drives between the two teams (for comparison’s sake, Orlando and Tampa Bay each had 13 drives this week). Cleveland and Los Angeles are now tied in weighted ranking – four of the Gladiators’ seven wins came in the first five weeks of the season. Since then they’re 3-6 and are coming off of back-to-back blowouts. The KISS started 0-9 but are 3-2 since and have been within one score of every opponent since their first bye week.
Honestly, though, 1.00 is the goal number for anyone – it means that your offense and defense are balancing each other out to be in a position where you’re toe to toe with every team you’re playing. Five of the league’s 12 teams can say they’re above average, and two of them (Orlando and Jacksonville) can’t say for sure that they will be after next week.
Analysis of actual contenders is pretty easy to do without any graphs or much data. It’s San Jose and Arizona for the National Conference; it’s Philadelphia in the American and the aforementioned Sharks and Predators with a puncher’s chance to capitalize on Philadelphia’s annual playoff collapse. Everyone else is fighting to get to the playoffs and hope something like KISS 48-Sabercats 42 or Outlaws 70-Rattlers 53 happens.
Arizona at Spokane: C’mon, bro. Arizona, let’s say 70-38.
Orlando at Cleveland: Orlando is the better team here and the Gladiators are dropping off. Of course, with a really good game, they could pass Orlando in the rankings, but I’m taking the Predators, 63-49.
Philadelphia at Jacksonville: On the one hand, it’s impossible to take a team like Jacksonville seriously after last week. On the other hand, you could use “well, that loss will help them be motivated this week,” combined with the “Philly has nothing to play for in conference” theory, with a dash of “Maybe the Soul won’t take them seriously because of that game, either,” and talk yourself into a Sharks win. I, however, won’t talk myself into that squad. Soul, 62-56.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans: Conspiracy theories for the next couple games are what really make ‘em interesting. Does the league do everything it can to help get the VooDoo and Outlaws some wins or do the owners all agree “I’m not paying for them to exist so they can beat my team!”? Let’s assume that there are no backroom shenanigans going on. Tampa is decent and New Orleans isn’t. I’m now working on destroying all traces of my preseason predictions. Storm win, 69-34.
Las Vegas at Los Angeles: Remember when the Outlaws got those wins early in the season and people were thinking they were good? Good times, good times. Now they’re run by the league and still, no one cares about them. Luckily for them, they got two games against the KISS before they figured out they needed a defense and an offensive line. The KISS can make things sort of interesting with a win, presuming Arizona and San Jose take care of business – three teams will be tied with four wins. And I’ll say they do it, 48-43.
Portland at San Jose: Well, if the Thunder can play like they did against Jacksonville, AND the SaberCats can play like they did when they lost to the KISS…no, I’m going to stick with the best team in the league this season, 63-42.
Brian Beaudry has been both an intern and a Director of Communications within the AFL and occasionally provides analysis of the league and the Portland Thunder as an Oregon resident. He maintains a blog, Wrong Way Sports, and you can reach him with research or graphic design suggestions on Twitter at @BeaudryPDX.