ArenaFan Debate: Is an 18-0 Team Good For the AFL?
The Arizona Rattlers are a 3-0 team, and they clearly look like the best in the Arena Football League at this point. Whereas teams like the Spokane Shock and Jacksonville Sharks, also 3-0 outfits, have played their way through somewhat suspect looking schedules, the Rats have knocked off the Utah Blaze, San Jose SaberCats, and Philadelphia Soul, arguably three of the best five teams in the league coming into the season.
QB Nick Davila has thrown 20 TDs against just two picks, and the offense has shown a tremendous level of efficiency through two games. The defense already has six touchdowns scored on the season as well. No team has scored more than 52 points against Arizona this season, and the 'D' has a whopping 16 stops to show for its work this year.
With arguably its toughest game to date coming on Friday night against the undefeated Shock in Spokane, ArenaFan.com's Adam Markowitz and Jeff Sims debate just how good this Arizona team really is, and whether its level of dominance is good for the league or not.
Adam Markowitz: There is no doubt whatsoever that the prospects of Arizona going 18-0 in the regular season and playing as a 20-0 team in the ArenaBowl would be a great thing for the league. Here in this country, we like to see two things: We like dominance, and we like it when the little guy beats the big bully. No team in NFL history was more polarizing than the 18-1 New England Patriots, who made it all the way to the Super Bowl as a spotless team before losing to the New York Giants. Not only would AFL fans become polarized as to whether they love the Rattlers or hate the Rattlers, but perhaps our league would make national headline news. The '76 Miami Dolphins ran the table, and 18-0 going into the Super Bowl for the Patriots was great, but to be 20-0 going into a Championship Game? Unbelievable!
Jeff Sims: A dominant team is not what the AFL needs right now. This league is hardly getting any coverage (or game attendance) as it is. Would a dominating team actually make a difference? At a time when this league is looking to grow once again and make itself a viable option for family entertainment, dominance would be something that would only help in one place: Arizona. The Rattlers' first three games have been won by a combined 68 points. Boring! If the Rattlers are on your team's schedule this season, why bother? What should be more important is competition. If there is more of a competitive balance in all of the AFL markets, the league would have more of chance for growth and survival. How many alphabet leagues have survived with one dominant team?
Adam Markowitz: Except you tend to forget, Jeff, that a whole bunch of 10-8 teams aren't good for the league either. Who wants to watch an ArenaBowl on CBS between two teams that might have won just 20 games between them in the regular season? At least you know if the Rattlers are coming to town, you have a shot to beat the best team in the league, and you're going to want to take your best shot at them. It's all the more notable that Arizona won the ArenaBowl last season and played in the title game two years ago as well. This is the closest thing to a dynasty that the AFL v2.0 has had. It's also not like you won't see more good teams in the AFL this season. A team like Philadelphia will probably win 14-15 games, and the rest of the teams in the West might all be 10-win teams as well. It's a fact of life that some of the markets just flat out stink in this league, and I would much rather see a market that has zero hope of surviving in the future (I'm looking at you, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago) turn out a terrible team and watch some of the sturdier franchises in the AFL thrive. Remember when the Milwaukee Iron were one of the best teams in the league? They could barely find a place to host a damn playoff game because no one in the city cared. That's bad for the league. This Arizona team is a good thing.
Jeff Sims: A 10-8 record is not the worst thing in the world. It shows competitive balance. Who wants to watch an ArenaBowl blowout? This league is scheduled to once again have its showcase game on national network television. A blowout would be a disaster for the league and CBS. How many casual viewers would stick around to watch the whole game? Probably not many. What made for excitement two years ago was the competitiveness of the game with it coming down to the last second and Aaron Garcia thowing a title-winning touchdown pass. That's an attention grabber! That's what this needs to be about right now; an exciting game that will maintain the interest of the masses instead of a dominating team that maintains the interest of the minority. While Philadelphia may be a 14-15 win team, it lost to Arizona by 14 points, and it really wasn't even that close! Both Utah and San Jose could potentially be 10-12-win teams, and they havelost to Arizona by 28 points and 26 points respectfully. While it is a good thing to have a good team in a sturdy market year in and year out, this league will not stay the course with only 5-6 solid organizations.
Adam Markowitz: Yes, but what's to say that the game would be a blowout if Arizona were to play Philadelphia a second time? Remember, those not-so-perfect Patriots were killing teams to an extent that we had never seen before in the NFL. The Soul could push the Rattlers. And what's to say that a game between two 10-8 teams wouldn't end in a 63-34 drubbing anyway? Nothing. At least if the Rattlers are 20-0 going into the ArenaBowl, even if they are beating teams by an average of 20+ points per game by the end of the season, there's always a chance. Heck, in 2007, no one thought that Columbus could go into Dallas and beat the Desperados. In fact, the Destroyers weren't the better team, and they had to know it! But a clank, a clank, and a choke job later, and it was Columbus that lived to see another day, not the heavily favored Desperados. Anything can happen on any given day, and it's better to see the best of the best playing in the ArenaBowl than the best of the mediocre.
Jeff Sims: There is nothing that says there would be a blowout, however, Philadelphia has not even been close during the last two meetings.The American Conference is most likely a 2 or 3 team race with teams winning 12 or more games. Not good. The West will be competitive, no doubt. There will be teams with bad losing records that make the playoffs. Also not good. Arizona is a team that can boast having last year's ArenaBowl MVP and the last three Offensive Rookie of the Year winners on its roster. How does that happen? You never see that in the NFL. What made the Patriots run impressive was that they were beating quality teams with quality rosters. A balanced, more competitive league would give it more opportunity to thrive.
Obviously, we're not getting anywhere with this conversation, as neither Jeff nor Adam have backed down on their opinions. Care to weigh in on all of the discussion and provide a tiebreaker for us? Feel free to e-mail Adam at email@example.com or Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org or join us on our ArenaFan Message Boards or our ArenaFan Facebook Page and let us know your thoughts!