AFL ArenaFan Preseason Power Ranking
This is the first ArenaFan AFL Power Ranking for the 2015 season. The offseason has seen much activity across the league that included teams leaving and one joining as well as major roster activity that saw teams completely rebuild for the coming season. Jacksonville has made the biggest jump in the ranking from where they finished 2014 while Cleveland takes the biggest drop.
1. Arizona Rattlers (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Arizona is coming off a 40-point victory over the Cleveland Gladiators in ArenaBowl XXVII that secured the third consecutive championship for the Rattlers and capped off a season that saw Arizona open with a league record 14 consecutive wins. Quarterback Nick Davila led the Rattlers to all three titles and will be behind center for the 2015 campaign making Arizona the team to beat. The Rattlers will host Spokane in Week 1.
2. Jacksonville Sharks (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Jacksonville has responded to a disappointing seven win season by bringing in a number of arena ball veterans, including former Pittsburgh QB Tommy Grady, that make the Sharks an offense that can light up the scoreboard. Jacksonville will be challenged by Orlando, also improved over last season, for supremacy in the Southern Division but the Sharks look poised to take the division. After last season, all those involved with the franchise are motivated to bounce back in a big way and have the talent to take the American Conference. Jacksonville opens against New Orleans in the Super Dome against a VooDoo team trying to rebound from a disappointing season of their own in 2014.
3. San Jose SaberCats (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – San Jose will be led by former Spokane quarterback Erik Meyer this season in their quest for the AFL title. The addition of Meyer makes San Jose better and should help keep them atop the Pacific Division another year. The SaberCats open the season against the newest member of the AFL when they travel to Las Vegas to play the Outlaws.
4. Philadelphia Soul (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Philadelphia finished what was an up and down season by losing to Cleveland by two-points in the American Conference semi-final game last season. Since then, Philadelphia has improved on both sides of the ball by signing receiver Marco Thomas (151 receptions for 1,946 yards and 39 TDs) and trading for Mack linebacker Beau Bell. Thomas was last season’s Receiver of the Year while playing for the Iowa Barnstormers while Bell racked up 13 sacks for LA in their inaugural season. Philly will open against Orlando on the road on March 29.
5. Orlando Predators (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Orlando is a playoff caliber team that will challenge Jacksonville in the Southern Division. The Predators look better on paper this season than they did last season, especially if quarterback Bernard Morris stays on the field after playing just nine games in 2014. Philadelphia will visit the Amway Center to meet Orlando in a big Week 1 contest.
6. Cleveland Gladiators (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Cleveland lost to Arizona by 40 points in the ArenaBowl for a disappointing conclusion to a stellar season. The Gladiators have added receiver Amari Jackson (110 catches for 1,341 yards) to minimize the loss of Thyron Lewis but don’t look to have the offensive firepower of last season. The defense will be better with the addition of Ron James, another of the former Power players that have signed with new teams, but the offense will be inconsistent-especially early in the season. Cleveland travels to Tampa Bay on March 27 to open the season.
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7. Spokane Shock (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Spokane is going to struggle to score consistently after quarterback Erik Meyer, who accounted for 2,519 yards passing and 54 touchdowns last season, to Pacific Division rival San Jose. The Shock also lost receiver Adron Tennell and his 14 TDs and nearly 600 receiving yards as well as a number of other top players in free agency making 2015 a rebuilding season. If Spokane can play near .500 ball the first half of the season they could make a run for a postseason slot as the offense gets in synch. Spokane plays Arizona on March 28 in a tough opening day matchup.
8. Portland Thunder (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Portland’s second season in the league will see a better product on the field as a result of coaching changes that will lead to a team that can compete week in and week out in the near future. The Thunder organization made the decision to go with a first-year head coach in the franchise’s inaugural season resulting in a lack of direction early. Matthew Sauk has been replaced by Mike Hohensee, an experienced coach that has earned a reputation as an outstanding judge of talent that can assemble a strong roster. Portland will be home against the KISS in Week 1.
9. Tampa Bay Storm (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Tampa Bay decided that wholesale changes were in order after failing to advance to the playoffs for the third time in the last five seasons and spent the offseason completely reworking the roster. New quarterback Jason Boltus will be playing with his fourth team in as many AFL seasons and will be trying to follow up the best season of his young career after throwing for 54 TDs and 2,711 yards with Jacksonville last year. Tampa will be home on Friday, March 27 against Cleveland to open the new campaign.
10. Las Vegas Outlaws (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Las Vegas is the newest member of the AFL. The Outlaws hope for better results with their first-year head coach than Portland had in their inaugural season. League QB legend Aaron Garcia will be on the sidelines for his first season as a head coach and looks to be a good hire for Las Vegas. He went heavy on defense in the expansion draft, picking defensive players as four of his first five selections. J.J. Raterink will be the quarterback and has the ability to light up the scoreboard so the defense first strategy looks to be a good one for a young team trying to build offensive stability while avoiding shootouts. Las Vegas will get an early character builder when they face San Jose to open the season.
11. New Orleans VooDoo (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Dean Cokinos returns to the AFL as the new head coach for New Orleans and has been tasked with rebuilding the VooDoo, a team that posted a 16-38 mark in the last three seasons, as quickly as possible. Cokinos last coached in the AFL in 2012 when he was the head man for the Georgia Force. He spent the last two seasons as the head coach of the Alabama Hammers of the PIFL, winning a title ring in 2013. New Orleans will host Jacksonville, arguably the most improved team in the league, on Saturday, March 28.
12. Los Angeles KISS (0-0) (LW: Did Not Play) – Los Angeles is coming off a disastrous inaugural season that saw the team post a 3-15 mark on the field that was a result of personality conflicts and poor roster management. The KISS added quarterback Adrian McPherson as well as wide receiver Thyron Lewis to add some punch to an offense that was ineffective last season and while the duo is a great step, there are many more positions that have to be upgraded before this team can be competitive on a weekly basis. Like New Orleans, Los Angeles is in danger of finishing the season with less W’s than first-year franchise Las Vegas. The KISS will be on the road against Portland on Friday, March 27 to kickoff the 2015 season.
Game of the Week: No. 4 Philadelphia @ No. 6 Orlando
The team that had the higher power ranking won 78% of the pairings overall last season, but the first few weeks of the season see the most movement in the ranking as a result of many unknowns becoming clear. Look for possible moves in the bottom half of the ranking due to big question marks that can only be answered on the field.