AFL Releases Jacksonville’s 2015 Schedule
by Erik Watkins
As an early Christmas present, the Arena Football League released their full 2015 schedule recently. For the Sharks, 2015 will be a season to rebuild and rebound from what many consider a sub-par 7-11 season. The good news is that the schedule sits in Jacksonville’s favor in two ways: fewer teams, and a better home schedule.
The Sharks have the worst road schedule in terms of strength, with teams winning only 41.4% of their games, and the 4th strongest home schedule with teams winning 56.3% of their games last year. Another good aspect is travel, as Jacksonville will travel the second fewest miles in the league during the season (only 870 miles more than Las Vegas, of all teams).
The particulars work out quite well, with the Sharks having no longer than a two-game road trip and no more than a two-game home stand. Two of the three division rivals (unless realignment changes due to the smaller league), Tampa Bay and New Orleans, will have the advantage in facing the Sharks in their building twice, whereas Orlando will come to the Shark Tank twice during the year.
Before the first bye week in Week 9, Jacksonville will only have three divisional games under their belt, and will face two West Coast teams at home in consecutive weeks, highlighted by a Week 4 rematch with San Jose, whose last visit in 2013 ended in a postgame brawl that led to a SaberCats assistant coach being charged with assault. If tempers don’t flare in the home opener against the archrival Orlando Predators in Week 2, they certainly will for that game.
Following the first bye, Jacksonville will be on the road for three of the next five, including facing an old foe in QB Adrian McPherson, who just signed with the LA KISS. Following two more divisional road games in Tampa Bay and New Orleans, the Sharks will go into the league-wide July 4 bye after hosting the defending American Conference champion Cleveland Gladiators, who notched their first win in series history last year in Cleveland, 62-20.
To close the season, Jacksonville will venture to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Thunder, and after facing the Philadelphia Soul (who beat Jacksonville in the American Conference Championship game in 2012 and 2013); the season ends with three straight divisional games. Keep in mind, if the South is as close as it has been in recent years, this would be the ideal stretch to either pull away from the pack and secure a better seed or stay into a race for a division title or playoff spot.
If the VooDoo are realigned into the East division, or if the league decides to abandon divisions and opt for two six-team conferences, things look good for Jacksonville to return to the postseason. If not, then there could be more questions than answers going into 2016.