By Kyle Sander | firstname.lastname@example.org
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on July 27, 2016 at 08:00 AM
With one more week to go in the regular season there is still the overall #1 seed up for grabs as well as the American Conference championship. I can’t overstate the importance of the Philadelphia Soul at Orlando Predators game this Saturday on ESPN3. If Philadelphia wins it is a win for Philly AND Arizona as the Rattlers hold the tie-breaker over the Soul for the overall #1 seed. If the Predators win, they get the #1 over-all seed and host Tampa Bay instead of Jacksonville.
Let’s get right into it, below is the AFL FanZone Power Rankings after Week 17.
1. Arizona Rattlers 13-3 (LW #1, Change –)
There is no better team in the league heading into the playoffs then the Arizona Rattlers. They were the season favorites for most experts and they showed by giving Cleveland a reenactment of Arena Bowl 27 (credit to Toph for that). Arizona will host the Portland Steel in the first round of the playoffs, but they better not take them for granted as the former Portland squad (the Thunder) sneaked into the playoffs last year and almost took down the Rattlers in their own building. Look for Coach Guy to spend the bye week making sure the Steel are out of the game by halftime this time.
2. Philadelphia Soul 12-3 (LW #2, Change –)
Philadelphia went into the bye week refocused after a close win in Tampa Bay in Week 16. I don’t know if it was the classic case of overlooking an opponent or that QB Adam Kennedy has really figured it out for the Storm. Either way, Saturday’s game is of the utmost importance as the Soul and Predators play for the number one seed in the American Conference. Raudabaugh is also in a dead heat with Arizona Rattlers QB Nick Davila for the AFL FanZone QB of the Year, so a strong showing against the Predators will go a long way in winning the inaugural award.
3. Orlando Predators 12-3 (LW #3, Change –)
Just like Philadelphia, Orlando will be fresh this week after being off in Week 17. They went into the bye week celebrating a 17 point loss to Arizona as it gave them the tie breaker over the Rattlers, but I can tell you right now that Coach Keefe was not happy with that performance. If Orlando comes out flat on Saturday night like they did against Arizona, look for Philadelphia to take quick advantage in the jungle. Regardless of the records, Orlando has the hardest road to the Arena Bowl, so they need to beat Philadelphia and get that overall #1 seed if they want a chance to lift the Foster Trophy in 2016.
4. Los Angeles KISS 7-8 (LW #4, Change –)
Here we go again with the KISS. After a strong performance against the Gladiators, Coach Smith’s defense came out flat against the Sharks giving up a whopping 72 yards on the ground. Nathan Stanley also went down with another injury, so we all play the waiting game this week to see who will suit up for the KISS in their meaningless regular season finale against the Steel. This week’s game means nothing as the KISS already know they will be hosting the Gladiators next week Saturday in San Diego, but a win in Portland would be a good momentum builder headed into their first playoff game in team history.
5. Cleveland Gladiators 7-8 (LW #4, Change –-)
I was very tempted to drop the Gladiators down a spot due to their performance in Arizona, but let’s be honest, Cleveland has been on the road since Week 11. Their last home game was June 3rd. So I give them a little slack as playing that many road games with what is basically their third string QB is bound to come back to haunt a team at some point. They were thrashed in every facet of the game Sunday night in Arizona. They gave up 9 points before their defense even stepped foot on the field. Luckily for Cleveland they have a bye in Week 18. That gives them two weeks to prepare for another long road trip to play the KISS on August 6th. I suspect that the Gladiators haven’t forgotten the chippy game in Week 16 in Los Angeles.
6. Jacksonville Sharks 6-9 (LW #7, Change +1)
So after losing in embarrassing fashion in Week 16, Jeff Bouchy (owner of the Sharks) decided to let go of the only head coach this franchise has ever seen. At least for one week, that looked to be a genius move. The Sharks were able to move the ball efficiently while giving the ball to Derrick Ross 14 times, which is a season best (previous high was 9, twice). New HC Bob Landsee (at least for a week) looks to know the right buttons to press to get the most out of this Sharks team. All of that hype will be killed though if they let Tampa Bay come into Sea Best field and earn a W. Jacksonville will travel to either Orlando or Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs, two cities that they have already won in this year.
- Tampa Bay Storm 2-13 (LW #8, Change +1)
After Tampa Bay lost to Portland in Week 10 I said that the Steel earned the #7 spot because they were both equal teams and the head to head went to Portland. The same idea holds true now. These two teams are easily the bottom teams in the league in 2016 and both have two home wins, one against the other. The other tie breaker comes into the other team Tampa Bay beat, the Arizona Rattlers. With QB Adam Kennedy at the helm, this team seems to be playing more effective while not turning the ball over quite as much as it did with Boltus calling the plays.
8. Portland Steel 2-13 (LW #7, Change -1)
One week after essentially firing an opponent’s head coach, Portland heads to Tampa Bay in Week 17 and lays an egg. Sure, they only lost on a blocked field goal, but this game was almost out of reach by halftime. A sloppy second quarter is why the Steel lost to the Storm this past weekend. If Portland wants any chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets in league history next weekend in the playoffs, they will need QB Shane Austin to play mistake free and this defense put a little more pressure on Davila then they did on Adam Kennedy. Look for the Steel to use a vanilla game plan to try and not tip off any strategy as Arizona will be sitting at home watching this game live.
Highest Climb – Jacksonville, Tampa Bay +1
Hardest Fall – Portland -1
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