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Saturday Arena Football preview

AR182

Senior Member
#1
Saturday's Games

Orlando Predators (0-0) at Georgia Force (0-0)

This is the first of two AFL Conference Championship rematches this weekend. The Predators had a veteran-laden team primed for a championship run, but lost a heartbreaker to the high-scoring Force to miss out on a trip to the Arena Bowl. Head Coach Jay Gruden has had heavy turnover to his club and we don’t know as of yet what type of offensive unit he will have as he rebuilds this storied franchise. Gruden’s team has gotten younger but he retained an important piece in QB Joe Hamilton. With Hamilton under center he will be able to put pressure on the Force defense both with his arm and mobility. Hamilton is in his third year and has improved every season but has an unproven receiving core to start the season.

There are some great individual matchups in this game highlighted by Orlando DS Kenny McEntrye (5 INT in 05), who will be matched up against Georgia OS Chris Jackson. These are two elite players, who will go after each other. So, let’s for argument sake call this one a draw, and analyze the rest of the matchups. Georgia clearly has a big advantage with WR/LB Derek Lee against DS Jeroid Johnson and the other Orlando DBs. Lee caught over 100 passes in his rookie season and will give Johnson or McEntyre trouble with his size, especially in the red zone. I feel the Predators may not have enough depth to consistently make stops against the receiving core of Georgia. So the key for Orlando will be to get pressure on QB Matt Nagy and hope to force him into making some bad decisions vs. Orlando’s ball-hawking secondary. But replacing the loss of E. J. Burt, who had 8 sacks (4th in AFL) for this defense last season, may be the biggest thing to watch if you’re a Predator fan. He had been a force rushing the QB for Orlando up front and will be tough to replace.

Georgia is favored by 5.5 over Orlando with a total of 94


Utah Blaze (0-0) @ San Jose Saber Cats (0-0)

Hall of Fame Coach Danny White is no stranger to the Sabercats with his days at Arizona. White made aggressive moves in putting this team together and has his core in place. He brought a familiar face in QB Joe Germaine along with five other former Rattlers. Germaine had a TD to INT ratio of 40-7 with Arizona last season in six starts. So there’s no doubt that he is primed for the roll of a full time starter. But most importantly for the Blaze, White signed 2005 AFLWA offensive player of the year, Siaha Burley. Burley is extremely dangerous with his quickness and play-making ability. Burley vs. San Jose DS Clevan Thomas will be the marquee matchup of this game. Thomas, a two-time Defensive Player of the year in his own right, has aged but is still considered one of the best. The thing to watch between these two great players is the battle at the line of scrimmage. How aggressive will Thomas be with Burley? If Thomas plays soft and does not mix in some press coverage, it may be a long night. So keep your eye on this matchup as this will be the first of two exciting battles between the two.

The Blaze have a lot of unanswered questions being an expansion team, but so do the Sabercats who have been a perennial power over the past six years, winning two titles and double digit wins in five of those seasons. Changes in the coaching staff as well as the loss of Rashied Davis (NFL) and James Hundon (retirement-injury) are cause for concern on the offensive side of the football, but QB Mark Grieb is one of the best in the game and WR/LB James Roe, who despite being named to three straight All-Ironman teams, has been underrated for years. Roe is simply a playmaker and will have his opportunity to grab national headlines as he should be Grieb’s go-to guy. Utah must handle Roe when he is in high motion as he is awfully tough to stop when he’s on the move. Utah is not deep in the secondary and Roe should be able to have his way. While Utah has a punchers chance at the upset, San Jose has too much experience and talent to lose at home to an expansion team.

San Jose is favored by 12.5 over Utah and the total is 107


Nashville Kats (0-0) at New York Dragons (0-0)

This game will be interesting from the Nashville standpoint because it will answer a lot of tough questions about this team. The Kats had the top ranked defense in 2005, but also had the worst scoring offense as well. Head Coach Pat Sperduto made major changes bringing back former Kats WR/LB Cory Fleming and re-signing WR/LB Daryl Hammond. But he also added Rookie of the Year QB Clint Stoerner and the talented FB/LB Frank Carter. But Stoerner has been banged up while in a QB battle with incumbent Leon Murray. So who will lead this team? The Kats have not named their starter and it may be a game-time decision. Regardless of who starts expect Sperduto, who runs the football more than any other coach, will want to avoid a shootout. Although he needs to take some shots at the Dragons defensive specialists. The Dragons will start two unproven DS in this opening weekend.

On the other side the Dragons will look to turn this into a track meet. New York returns all of its offensive weapons from a year ago. Led by QB Aaron Garcia, OS Kevin Swayne, WR/DB Will Holder, WR/LB’s Mike Horacek, and Chris Anthony, the Dragons are very deep and explosive. Swayne lit up the Kats last year with five touchdowns in the Dragons win. DS Kahlil Carter (7 INT’s in 05) is talented and will match up vs. Swayne. The Kats made moves in the offseason to create depth at this position by adding veteran Cornelius Bonner (6 INT’s in 05).

While the headlines heading into this game will focus on who will start at QB for the Kats and on the Dragons offensive skill players. The real story of this matchup will lie with the big fellas up front. The Kats led the AFL in sacks and added Carter (9 sacks) to their front four. The Dragons have had major turnover on the line and the FB/LB positions. Protection will be the key for New York and Nashville’s ability to get pressure on Garcia will go a long way to slow down the Dragons offense. Expect the Dragons to use a lot of three step drops and mix up their protections early to allow let their new line get comfortable.

New york is favored by 3 over Nashville and the total is 93
 

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