Week three was a mixed bag with two close games and two blow outs. Arizona was 33 point favorites going into their home opener and won by 33, Philly made sure Portland didn’t have a similar performance this week that they had against Orlando. Overall it was a typical week in the Arena Football League which was nice to see. Here are your AFL Fan Zone Week 3 Power Rankings:
- Arizona Rattlers (3-0) (Last Week 1, Change –)
The Rattlers remain far and away the best team in the AFL. Nick Davila continues to play some of the best ball of his career while no one seems to be able to stop Rod Windsor. Windsor hauled in four touchdowns for the third week in a row. When a team like Arizona just walks through its competition seemingly untested, almost like a glorified skeleton drill, you start to wonder if there are any weaknesses or flaws on this team. On the field it’s very tough to find any, but if you look at point differential in the first three week’s you start to notice a trend. Arizona won by 52 Week 1, 41 Week 2, and now 33 in Week 3. I’m not saying Arizona is destined to lose, but I am saying that teams may have been able to find something on film to exploit to slow down the Rattlers (as microscopic as it seems on the scoreboard). We will find out this week when the Rattlers travel out East to take on the 1-2 Jacksonville Sharks and their high octane offense.
- Orlando Predators (3-0) (Last Week 3, Change +1)
If there was a team in the league that frustrates you the most, it’s the Orlando Predators. After laying an egg in Week 2 against Portland by allowing the Steel to travel cross country to the Amway Center and nearly steal a game in the 4th, Orlando turns right around and takes it to Jacksonville on Monday night at Sea Best Field. The Predators even found themselves in a little bit of adversity going down 34-21 late in the 2nd Quarter. After scoring in the final seconds of the 1st half, Orlando took that momentum into the locker room and came out firing in the second half on their way to a last second victory. At 3-0, Orlando looks to be the most able to deal with adversity and possibly the only team to challenge Arizona. Coach Keefe’s main goal in practice this week is to preach consistency and intensity. They can’t continue to play to their competition. If they can play more consistent we won’t be seeing them in these tight 2nd half ballgames. Week 4 at home against Los Angeles will be our focus as Game of the Week.
- Los Angeles KISS (2-1) (Last Week 4, Change +1)
Los Angeles found out where they were among the elite Week 2 when Arizona came to town and dominated the second half in route to a 69-28 pounding. Week 3 saw the KISS go to Cleveland for their first away game of the season. Even though they needed an interception by Fred Obi late in the 4th quarter, I thought LA proved Week 2 was an anomaly. For the second time this season, LA forced the opposing QB into mistakes in the 2nd half. After throwing an early pick six, Cleveland QB Dennis Havrilla settled into the game and was playing well up until the 4th quarter. Midway through the final quarter, Havrilla clearly fumbled on a QB scramble, but Cleveland was sent a gift by the football gods in the tune of an inadvertent whistle. Then when the game was on the line with Cleveland only down five, Havrilla stared down his receiver which gave Obi the chance for the interception to seal the game late. Los Angeles is clearly a better team than they were the last couple years, but they are going to need their best effort of the season if they want to come out of Orlando with a victory in Week 4.
- Philadelphia Soul (2-1) (Last Week 5, Change +1)
In the preseason, I had Philadelphia as my Arena Bowl 29 champions over the Arizona Rattlers. I think Arizona has proven that outside of an injury or fluke game, they will be hosting the title game this year. On the other side of that prediction, the Soul are too up and down to really predict. They go into Cleveland Wk1 and smack around the Gladiators only to return home and get embarrassed by the Jacksonville Sharks in a game that even Luke Collis took some snaps it was so ugly. Then you look at Week 3 and you have a team in Portland who took Orlando to the brink in Week 2 and the game was over by halftime. QB Dan Raudabaugh finally looked comfortable for the first time this season over the course of an entire game and this game might have been the one that will get Philly back to their winning ways. On Saturday they welcome Cleveland to town and if the Soul can show some kind of consistency, look for a repeat performance of Week 1 when Philadelphia confused QB Chris Dieker on their way to a blowout victory.
- Jacksonville sharks (1-2) (Last Week 2, Change -3)
No team has moved up and down this list as much as Jacksonville has. For the amount of talent they possess on both sides of the ball, there is no reason they should struggle late in games they way they have in their two losses. Just like in Week 1, a late first half touchdown by the other team seemed to deflate the team at halftime. Of course, there is plenty of time for the Sharks to right the ship. If you look back to last year, remember it took until Week 5 for the Sharks to find the win column. They just need to settle down, stop out thinking themselves, and work on some time management strategy. Les Moss is one heck of a coach, so don’t worry Sharks fans, Jacksonville will be there at the end when the playoffs roll around. I’d be very surprised if they knocked off Arizona this weekend, but I expect them to at least compete and give the Rattlers their toughest test to date. They have the offense to get the job done, they just don’t have the mental toughness to withstand adversity right now.
- Cleveland Gladiators (1-2) (Last Week 6, Change –)
The good news for Cleveland is they seem to have found a quarterback they can trust this season. I know it has only been two games, but Havrilla is still young and has plenty of room to develop. They have the WR core and the talent on defense to compete, the Gladiators just haven’t been able to put it all together for an entire game yet. They got Joe Phinisee back last week, but then had to face All Arena WR Donovan Morgan without rising superstar Joe Powell. Of all the teams in the lower group, Cleveland looks to be the most poised to break through. Outside of one half vs Philly, Cleveland has gone toe to toe with two top four teams. The Gladiators pack their bags and hit the road for the first time in 2016 as they head East in a rematch with the Soul in Week 4.
- Portland Steel (0-3) (Last Week 7, Change –)
If the league hopes to market Portland to the owner of the Trailblazers, then they can’t be happy with the effort they saw in Week 3. After going down to Orlando and pushing an undefeated team to the edge, they laid an absolute stinker of a game against the Soul. A game in which Coach James saw his team down 42-6 at halftime. Danny Southwick isn’t the answer for the Steel, but even a great QB like Davila would struggle behind Portland’s offensive line. Southwick was punished yet again this week which now seems to be a weekly occurrence, the main reason they see themselves at 0-3. Losing how they did in Orlando seemed to still be in the back of the heads of the players, but they need to head into the bye week this week and erase the first three weeks. They come back to action Week 5 against Arizona and if they hope to compete, they are going to need to forget this loss and move on.
- Tampa Bay Storm (0-3) (Last Week 8, Change –)
I tend to see football a lot differently than most people do. I say this because I saw an article posted this weekend that mentioned Tampa Bay looking lifeless, almost as if they didn’t want to be in Arizona. I must have been watching a different game. Did Tampa Bay get run off the field, sure, but let’s be honest here, the level of talent on both rosters isn’t even comparable. Tampa Bay’s best WR is on Injured Reserve, TT Toliver is clearly showing his age, and Philip Barnett and V’Keon Lacey are both good receivers, but neither is a number one Jason Boltus returned three days before kickoff and was thrown right into the mix because the team would rather that than throw out Jonathan Bane again. But what I saw, was a team who clearly looked out-matched that continued to fight and push Arizona to their lowest margin of victory of the season. With Boltus back at the helm, I think Tampa Bay is going to climb out of the cellar at some point in the season. Are they going to be contenders at the end of the season, not a chance, but they will get better than this. They weren’t given any favors from the schedule makers either as they welcome Jacksonville to the Amalie Arena when they return from the bye week in Week 5.
Biggest Jump – Predators, KISS, Soul – +3
Farthest Drop – Jacksonville Sharks – -3
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State of the Team – LA Kiss – They’re staying!
by Sharon Soares
If you wanted to know the answer to the question, “Are the LA Kiss going to be around next year?”; we now have it. In the State of the Team Address by Joe Windham, Saturday, June 20th, he says “They’re not going anywhere. This team is here to stay.” Joe Windham is the Chief Executive Officer for the LA Kiss as of May 27th. Since he began, many needed changes within the franchise have occurred. Joe talked about the changes, upcoming changes, and the state of the team throughout the speech. The Kiss aren’t only going to be back for 2016, but they are planning to do things better. They have already started and wanted to commemorate the new beginning with fan loyalty rally towels that stated, “We are family.” Joe said that the owners, Gene, Paul, and Doc, are very passionate about the team and Paul even refers to the team as “his baby.” So what are the Kiss doing, right and wrong?
First off, what are the Kiss doing right?
Listening to the fans: Joe offered up his direct email address to everyone there. JWindham@LAKissfootball.com. Feel free to send him suggestions. He gets a lot and will reply or act upon them, but give him time. He has heard the positive and negative. He reads the message boards and is active in finding out what the fans want.
Fan appreciation: Joe mentioned that the fans will be receiving emails soon regarding season ticket renewals. Season ticket holders have a lot to look forward to with mentions of additional packages, lower ticket prices, and even some gifts included when the ticket package arrives. He is also offering each season ticket holder a change to bring a friend, or 2, next game against the Arizona Rattlers. More information is to be found on the LA Kiss website.
Website Redesign: Speaking of information on the Kiss website, this will become more prevalent and get a revamp. It doesn’t include the information he wants the fans to know and is not easily navigated to find the information.
Entertainment: Being at multiple games throughout the years, I’ve seen a lot of different games and watched the entertainment between plays, quarters, and half-time. The Kiss, even this year, is far better with their entertainment than a lot of teams. There is a constant flow, a live band, and a true desire to put a good product on the field, the real entertainment.
Taking care of the players: Last year was sub par on what the players received from the places where they were staying to the food that was provided. Health care, trainers, practicing facility, were all less than what the players deserved and was less than what the team expected. This year, especially since Joe has been on board with the Kiss, it has changed. The players are being taken care of and are getting their breakfast and lunches provided for them.
What do the Kiss still need to work on?
Let us know or send an email to Joe.
If you want to listen to the whole question and answer session from the State of the Team, click this link. Warning: around 50 minutes long.
4th and Ouch: The LA KISS Landslide Continues
By Alex Gustafson
People have been talking about Los Angeles football to come back for years. It’s sad to report that the incarnation that the City of Angels received was in the form of the 2015 L.A. KISS. What is there left to say? We can make terrible rock star puns, stare in awe of the front office dumpster fire, and shiver at the fact that the young franchise only has three wins to its name. Not this season, but last. One can also look at the KISS and look at history.
In 2003, the Arena Football League looked almost completely different. Back then, not only was Los Angeles’ arena team known as the Avengers, the Carolina Cobras became the only AFL team in the history of the league to go 0-16. The KISS have now been handed their seventh loss of the season, close to being halfway there. Not saying that L.A. will be the seventh team to go an entire AFL season without one in the win column, but after their defeat at the hands of the Spokane Shock on Friday night, they are one step closer to doing so.
After a heartbreaker of a loss of their own at New Orleans in Week 6, Spokane came back home to host Los Angeles for the first time ever. Coming in with only one win on the season, the Shock needed to get an extra boost to stay alive as the season draws near the halfway mark. Quarterback Warren Smith got the nod over Carson Coffman for this contest, and made his debut a worthy one. His first arena start went 23-29 with 313 yards in the air and seven touchdowns including one rushing score.
“I just wanted to come out and get a win and look sharp. We had a great game” said Smith who won the Offensive Player of the Game award. “We did a great job on all sides, offensive, defensive, and special teams. We only let up 46 tonight. It was great.” On top of a Shock debut, there was a return in Linebacker Micah King. After two years in San Antonio, King returned to Spokane as the Shock faithful welcomed him back with open arms. “It felt be way better to be playing for (Spokane) than against them” said King who’s comeback was highlighted by a fumble recovery in the second quarter. His play showed there wasn’t a big hitch for him getting back into the AFL after an extended break. “I’ve been training. There’s nothing like getting in football shape. This is a great thing for me.”
The Shock special teams had a great outing with Sergio Gilliam scoring on Spokane’s first return attempt of the night and Nick Truesdell recovering a botched KISS return for a touchdown of his own. And to make matters more interesting, both scores happened in the first quarter. Defensive Back coach Will “Shoulder” Mulder was exceptionally pleased. “We told these guys stick to the plan, you stick together, and you’re in a situation to make plays if not make every play. I’m really proud of that never die attitude.”
For Los Angeles, they conclude their three week road trip in Portland to visit the Thunder. This is an interesting matchup, because two of their three wins last year were against Portland. The only thing is that both those wins came in Anaheim. The KISS’ trips to the Moda Center this year and last have resulted in losses. This is the 13th(!) consecutive loss when counting last year’s season ending skid. This wound is opening wider and wider every week and here comes some salt to pour in it: Matt Bassuener broke his hand in the fourth quarter. Three of their four quarterbacks they’ve played this year are injured.
Something has to eventually go right for these guys, right? Donovan Morgan’s star is shining pretty bright, but having a new quarterback every two games will get tiresome for his chemistry. The team is lacking… well… just that. Team. The ball may be spread around and can click for some drives, but when it rains, it pours. It’s either a huge touchdown, or a lost fumble for that offense. When the notorious Goal Line Bandits are missing three guys, and they still get in your head, there’s a problem.
A great opportunity presented itself on Saturday, and one of the teams was destined to lose and blow that very opportunity. Again, it happened to be the KISS. Spokane is walking wounded this first half of the season, and L.A. still couldn’t buy a win like Gene Simmons buys licenses for KISS memorabilia. What’s funnier is that the smallest market team beat the biggest in terms of potential money making for the league right now. If we could make another analogy for the way the team is going, Paul and Gene are to the L.A. KISS what Ted Turner was to WCW. Big money superstar owner, but with so many other ventures of theirs going on, the inmates that really run that asylum are starting to make it implode from within.
Not a whole lot of celebration or rest will be had for Spokane though. San Jose is dominating the league, and Spokane’s contest versus the SaberCats is looming in Week 8. This will be a homecoming for Adron Tennell and Eric Meyer who played four and five years respectively in Spokane. However with the injury Meyer sustained in Week 6 against Arizona, the likely man under center for San Jose will be Nathan Stanley. And though the Shock has the benefit of home field advantage, attendance in the Spokane Arena Friday night dropped under 8,000 for the first time in franchise history. To go a decade with nine or ten-thousand plus as the normal crowd is an absolute blessing for Arena ball, so this will be interesting to see how Spokane turns out next week against one of the top teams in the league after a big win.
Both matchups of San Jose vs Spokane and L.A. vs Portland take place on Saturday, May 16th Spokane kicks off at 7 est and Portland will kick off at 10 est. As always, all AFL games can be seen on ESPN3.com and on the WatchESPN app.