By Kyle Sander | firstname.lastname@example.org
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on July 27, 2016 at 8:00 AM
We are finally here!! The moment all of us fans have been waiting for; Postseason 2016. Even the league’s biggest critics of the playoff format have to be geared up for an exciting month of playoff football. The following Power Rankings are NOT where each team stands after 18 weeks of football. No, these are AFL Fan Zone’s Momentum rankings. Teams with the most mojo working in their favor headed into postseason play.
Let’s get right into it, below is the AFL FanZone Power Playoff Momentum Rankings after Week 18.
1. Arizona Rattlers – 2016 Record 13-3
No team in the league is hotter headed into the postseason than the Arizona Rattlers. After dismantling the Gladiators in Week 17, Coach Guy and the Rattlers had a bye week which gives them two weeks to prepare for Portland. If you remember back to 2014, Portland traveled to play #1 seed Arizona in the first round of the playoffs. If you don’t remember, Portland only lost that game 52-48 and almost shocked the Arena League. I have a feeling Coach Guy has reminded his team of that game and will have Arizona more than prepared for this year’s Portland squad on Saturday at 10pm ET on CBS Sports Network.
2. Philadelphia Soul – 2016 Record 13-3
With Philadelphia’s Week 18 victory over the Predators, Dan Raudabaugh and company showed that they are aware of what went wrong in last year’s defeat in the American Conference championship and have vowed to correct it. It may have been a regular season game, but let’s be real, that game last week in Orlando was a playoff game. Due to Philadelphia’s win, they will host 2-14 Tampa Bay this Sunday at 6pm ET on ESPN2, while Orlando plays host to the suddenly hot Jacksonville Sharks squad. Another winner in that game was Arizona. Philadelphia beating Orlando made sure that Arizona would host the Arena Bowl if they are able to get out of their conference unscathed. With the way Raudabaugh has been playing and the fact that Philadelphia boasts the league’s best turnover defense, I see Philly making sure 2015 was a fluke.
3. Jacksonville Sharks – 2016 Record 7-9
This may surprise some people and even anger some others, but hear me out. After firing Head Coach Les Moss, the Jacksonville Sharks finished the season 2-0 while giving up an average of 33.5 points per game which is 13 points less than their yearly average. The team has seemed to respond to new Head Coach Bob Landsee and with the talent this team has on its roster, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this team finds itself in a 2015 American Conference championship rematch against the Soul next weekend. Coach Landsee has made a point to put his future Hall of Fame Fullback to good use racking up 20 carries in the past two games (a mark that took almost the four previous game to hit). With the way Orlando is limping into the playoffs, don’t be surprised if the Sharks go into Orlando and knock off the Predators this Saturday at 7pm ET on CBS Sports Network.
4. Orlando Predators – 2016 Record 12-4
It was only three weeks ago that we were talking about a 12-2 Orlando Predators squad needing only one more win to clinch the overall number 1 seed in the playoffs. Fast forward to now and we are looking at a banged up team heading into the postseason licking their wounds. Star WR Greg Carr missed last week’s matchup against the Soul in what I already described was a de-facto playoff game. If he is unable to go this weekend against Jacksonville, a lot of pressure will be on Brandon Thompkins to get the job done. Bernard Morris has shown he is a capable quarterback in this league, but he has also shown why Randy Hippeard beat him out of the starting spot the past couple years. Morris doesn’t seem to have the killer instinct needed to put teams away and that may come back to haunt them if they let Jacksonville hang around into the fourth quarter on Saturday. I also wonder if the team go too jacked up after the horrible tragedy that happened some time ago and we are now seeing the hangover from the emotion onslaught the team went through. This team will still be favored on Saturday against the Sharks, but unless they come out with a renewed sense of urgency, I don’t see Orlando making it out of the first round.
5. Los Angeles KISS – 2016 Record 7-9
Although Los Angeles lost in the final seconds of their game Monday night, I still believe they are more set-up for the post season heading into the weekend. The game in Portland was a complete wash, the final score meant nothing to seeding, so why would the KISS go full speed and throw and wrinkles into a game to give Cleveland more on film to study? With that being said, they were still in the lead for most of the game and if not for an untimely penalty, would’ve beaten the Steel in their final home game of the season. The Gladiators must prepare for both Nathan Stanley and Pete Thomas which gives the KISS an extra edge in their matchup on Sunday at 6pm EST on ESPN3. Expect to see a very motivated Donovan Morgan as this may be his last game as he has already stated he will retire at the end of the season.
6. Cleveland Gladiators – 2016 Record 7-9
Cleveland went into Week 16 holding all the cards to be able to host Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs. All they needed to do was beat LA by more than six points and hope either Jacksonville or Portland could knock them out. Instead, Cleveland lost their final two games on the West Coast and head into the playoffs on a downswing of momentum. Due to the Republican National Convention pushing all their home games to the first half of the season, Cleveland has been on the road for almost two months which is clearly weighing on the team. Having the bye week in Week 18 was the best thing Coach Thonn could have asked for. But if the Gladiators want to go into LA and knock off the KISS on Sunday, they are going to need Arvell Nelson to play much better than he did in the second half in their last game at the Honda Center. It also wouldn’t hurt if WR Quentin Sims is back healthy and ready to go as he was unable to suit up for the Gladiators in their game against the Rattlers Week 17.
7. Portland Steel – 2016 Record 3-13
The Portland Steel have become the new Jacksonville Sharks in the past few weeks of the regular season. In a span of three weeks they beat Jacksonville and Los Angeles, but lose to Tampa Bay. Of course those two wins were at home while the loss was on the road, but they showed a ton of heart in their Week 18 come from behind victory against the KISS. No one knows if that was the last home game for the Portland franchise, but if it was, they sure put on a good show. I think Coach James will try to bottle up that emotion and take it on the road to Arizona this week because if Portland has a chance it will be by outworking the Rattlers. Arizona has arguably the most talented roster in the league, so if Portland doesn’t bring the effort, the game will be over by halftime. It doesn’t help their chances that WR Nick Truesdell was picked up by the NFL this past week either.
8. Tampa Bay Storm – 2016 Record 2-14
What is there left to say for the Tampa Bay Storm other than “Which quarterback will be behind center in 2018”? This team has shown heart at home when the game is going well, but there is no other team in the league that shies away from adversity like the Storm. Jason Boltus is clearly not the answer and this past game showed again that we may have seen the last of him in the AFL as he pursues another career path. I don’t expect their game in Allentown against the Soul to be anything other than a warm-up for Philadelphia. I’m excited to see what the Storm do in the off-season as I feel they have some pieces with Kendrick Ings, Prechae Rodriguez, and their talented defensive backfield. But if this is TT Toliver’s last game, it’s a shame his Hall of Fame career will end this way. Sorry Storm fans, but there is always next year!
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