Week 2 is over late Monday after Philly goes down hard to Jacksonville (second time in a row at the Wells Fargo Center). Wow… what a week. Who would’ve thought Portland at Orlando would be the game of the week? Then you have LA and Philadelphia throwing out complete dud’s, it was definitely a strange week in the Arena Football League, but isn’t that why we all love it? Anything can happen at 50 yards at a time!
1. Arizona Rattlers (Last Week – 1, Change –)
After Week 1 a lot of people were understandably in awe with what Arizona was able to do to Portland winning 80-28. Then again, it’s Portland (right?). We all thought “Alright, let’s see if they can do it again against a more formidable opponent”. Then Saturday night hit and now we sit here wondering if there will be a game in which Shane Boyd DOESN’T play. Nick Davila has thrown only 42 passes in two games while Arizona has put up 149 points. The streak won’t end this week as Tampa Bay comes to town just hoping to score 21 points.
2. Jacksonville Sharks (Last Week – 5, Change +3)
How can we not put Jacksonville at #2, they just went to Philly and punched the Soul in the mouth on their own turf. Joe Hills was unstoppable outside of a couple drops and probably could’ve had another touchdown had the refs not called an insane double pass interference in the 2nd Quarter. This was the team and the performance we were all expecting last year when it was announced that the Sharks were getting Tommy Grady, Tiger Jones, and Derrick Ross. At least for one night it looked as though Jacksonville might be the only team that will challenge Arizona. The Sharks have the talent on both sides of the field and a hunger in their soul after losing Arena Bowl 28. Jacksonville finally heads home for their home opener next week against Orlando, which will be the game of the week to find out if this team is for real.
3. Orlando Predators (Last Week – 4, Change +1)
Orlando finds themselves moving up another spot this week after squeaking out a win vs the Portland Steel in their home opener. They don’t deserve to move up, but with the way the KISS and Soul (didn’t) show up for their games, Orlando had to jump. I mean look, Orlando is a good team and will be right in the thick of things at the end, but you can’t have a mental lapse like they did on Saturday. If you want to be taken seriously in this league you have to come out like Arizona does and lay it to your opponent. Portland isn’t a good team and needing a last minute touchdown and interception to steal a win at home isn’t going to earn the Predators any respect. Coach Keefe better be on these guys this week because they are heading a short distance North next Monday to take on a team who just walked into Philadelphia and owned the defending AFL MVP.
4. LA KISS (Last Week – 3, Change -1)
There are no passes given in the Arena Football League. If you don’t show up, you will lose and when you refuse to show up against the Rattlers, you are going to lose big. But let’s look at this fairly, they didn’t just lose to a good team. Arizona may not be tested until the playoffs begin and Coach Guy is out there to prove the Rattlers shouldn’t have lost to San Jose in the National Conference Championship last year. There isn’t much to say about the KISS that hasn’t been said already. They need to lick their guitar strings and move on to Cleveland. If they have another showing like that against the Gladiators then we need to start talking about whether this team will ever get out of it’s own way. I expect Coach Smith to get Stanley’s head right by Saturday and we should see a much better KISS team then we saw on ESPN2 last Saturday.
5. Philadelphia Soul (Last Week – 2, Change -3)
You could argue that Philadelphia is too low on this list, but you could also say they are lucky to be this high. The Soul put up 55 points in the first half against Cleveland in Week 1, since then they have scored exactly 55 points in six quarters. There is something wrong in Philadelphia right now, Raudabaugh is making some bad decisions that we didn’t much of in 2015. He has now thrown five interceptions in two games after throwing only 12 all of last year in route to a league MVP award. Yes, no Marco Thomas on offense, no Beau Bell or James Romain on defense, but there is no excuse for getting blown out at home on opening night on national TV. They “only” lose by 18, but 7 of those points came with 20 seconds to go and you could argue it should’ve been worse. A terrible inadvertent whistle erased a pick six by LaRache Jackson in the second half. They pull another nationally televised game in week three when the Steel come to town after almost beating Orlando and it won’t be as easy as it looked only two weeks ago for the Soul. They need to figure it out and quickly or they are going to be chasing Jacksonville and Orlando for the rest of the season.
6. Cleveland Gladiators (Last Week – 6, Change –)
I was tempted to put Portland here since their performance against Orlando last week was more complete than anything we’ve seen from Cleveland this year, but I’m not putting a winless team above a .500 team. It’s tough to praise the Gladiators too much because honestly, they never should’ve needed a pick six from Joe Powell to put away the Storm on Saturday. The Storm was forced to throw Jonathan Bane to the wolves Saturday after starting quarterback Adam Kennedy was unable to return in the second half. This was the most action Bane has seen in the AFL and he looked very nervous to start out. Cleveland should’ve kept the pressure on and made the second half a glorified scrimmage, but instead they allowed Bane to get into a rhythm and almost lose at home to what is by far the worst team in the league. Ror whatever reason the Gladiators don’t play a home game after Week 10 which means they need to pile up wins while they play at home almost every week for the next two months. It looks like Havrilla is an instant upgrade over Chris Dieker, but that defense is going to need to play a lot better this week if they expect to beat Captain Morgan and the LA KISS on Saturday night.
7. Portland Steel (Last Week – 7, Change –)
I’m going to have to eat a little crow pretty early in the season. Yes, it was only one game, but for a team that I thought would only be able to compete with Tampa Bay this year, I was pleasantly surprised by their effort in Orlando Saturday. Danny Southwick came out and had one of those once a season performances that keeps him as a starting quarterback in the AFL year after year. Five touchdowns and only one interception was reminiscent to the performance last year as a member of the KISS when he quarterbacked the team to San Jose’ only loss of 2015. Losing Nick Truesdell last week to an ankle injury was supposed to make Portland’s chances even less, but newcomer Jabin Sambrano proved to be a capable go-to wide receiver for Southwick for the rest of the season. Look for Portland to be the most roller coaster team in the league in 2016 as they try to maneuver through an uncertain future while the league owns the team. Portland continues it’s murderer’s row of AFL Championship contenders in Week three when they travel to Philadelphia on Sunday for an afternoon matinee with the Soul.
8. Tampa Bay Storm (Last Week – 8, Change –)
I try not too, but it’s hard not to hammer Tampa Bay. I will give credit where it is due though, making a game out of what should’ve been a blow out after Adam Kennedy went down shows the type of leadership Coach Samuels possesses. Tampa honestly only has two stars players on their roster, Julius Gregory and V’Keon Lacey. Each player has only played one game because of injury and suspension, respectfully. There is no team in the AFL hurt by the lack of quarterback production more than Tampa. The duo of Kennedy and Johnathan Bane is as ugly as the pigtails of the QB up in Cleveland. What else can I say about the Storm, yes they showed some heart in the second half against Cleveland, but that wasn’t the 2014 Cleveland Gladiators they played Saturday. Jason Boltus can’t come back soon enough for the Storm and it won’t get any easier as they go travel to Arizona on Saturday to face the unstoppable Arizona Rattlers.
Biggest Jump – Jacksonville Sharks – +3
Farthest Drop – Philadelphia Soul – -3
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