by: David Taylor
Week 11 only has one game, but it may just be the most important game of the season. Philadelphia travels to Atlantic City to take on the Blackjacks. The contest will determine the fate of Atlantic City, and willl heavily influence what Baltimore and Washington need to do the following weekend.
Two of the hottest teams in the AFL square off in this weekend’s only matchup. With a win, Atlantic City keeps its slim playoff hopes alive. A loss will effectively end the season for the Blackjacks. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is playing for one of the top two seeds in the playoffs.
Atlantic City has put up 131 points in its last two games (65.5 ppg) with backup quarterback Warren Smith, Jr. at the helm. Smith is 46-62 for 538 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two starts. Atlantic City is simply a different team with Smith at quarterback. Last week, the defense came up big as well, forcing 3 interceptions and recording one sack in the game. For the Blackjacks to win, the defense will have to step up and stop a Soul offense that was unstoppable against the best team in the league last weekend.
Philadelphia has won three in a row and four out of five. The Soul have clinched a playoff spot but is hungry for more. Philadelphia still has an outside shot at the number one seed, as referenced here. The biggest change for the Soul over the last several weeks has been on defense. Over the last three weeks, Philadelphia has forced seven turnovers and eight turnovers on downs. The offense is also more consistent. Last weekend, Philadelphia scored on every offensive possession except the first one. The key to victory for the Soul will be to get some pressure on Warren Smith, Jr. In last week’s game against Albany, Philadelphia got a crucial third-quarter sack that changed the entire game. This game will likely be very high scoring, meaning that whichever defense can come up with a big play will win.
Players to Watch:
QB Warren Smith, Jr., Atlantic City -Smith has set the league on fire in his two starts, so a big game from from him is what Atlantic will need to get the win.
DB James Romain, Philadelphia Soul– Romain is easily the defensive player of the year for the AFL. Romain leads the league with interceptions at 7. If Romain can step in front of a couple of Smith’s passes, it will be a long day for Atlantic City.
Some other interesting things to consider: Atlantic City is 3-1 at home this season while Philadelphia is 2-2 on the road. Philadelphia has worn white on white over its last three games and is 3-0. Atlantic City typically wears all black at home and is 3-0 at home when they do so. As superstitious as athletes are, expect a monochrome matchup this weekend.
Prediction: Blackjacks 64, Soul 61
Here are the staff picks: