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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

AFL: week 3 roundup

Here are some thoughts looking back at Week 3 of the AFL season and looking ahead to Week 4. Teams are listed in order of the Week 2 power rankings. The new ranking will be posted on Saturday.

1. Nashville, 2-1 (W3: lost to Chicago 56-55; W4: vs. Colorado, Sat., 7 p.m.)
Kats lost a heartbreaker at Chicago in the league's first overtime game of the season. Nashville dominated statistically but was only able to get the game into OT on a hook-and-lateral play that sent Cornelius Bonner into the end zone on the the final play of regulation. Kats gave Rush the short field a couple of times with lost fumbles and Chicago scored on a missed field goal. Chicago is a good team, though, so Kats should still feel good about themselves as one the league's best. Any questions about contender / pretender status can be answered this week with a quality showing against Colorado. This will be one you will want to watch.

2. Georgia, 1-2 (W3: lost to Tampa Bay 61-60; W4: at Las Vegas, Fri., 9:30 p.m.)
Force coach Doug Plank always seems to have that sort of repressed smile but he's got to be ready to spit nails over the Force's losses. Last week, the Georgia defense struggled to get stops against the Storm, getting only a fumble recovery and a end-of-half situation in 10 Tampa possessions. Nothing wrong with the Georgia offense, however. Chris Jackson has emerged, as hoped, as a worthy replacement for Troy Bergeron. Chris Johnson had a big game last week as well. On top of all that, is there a better red-zone receiver than Derek Lee, well except for Damian Harrell? This week's game is huge for Georgia. Sure they're better than their record but 1-3 is 1-3.

3. Austin, 3-0 (W3: beat Kansas City 37-33; W4: at Dallas, Fri., 7:30 p.m.)
If the Colorado-Nashville game this week is Main Event #1, the Austin-Dallas game is 1A. The Wranglers put up their third straight excellent defensive effort in an extremely hostile environment in Kansas City. Still, they didn't get any big plays offensively. 37 point won't get it done in Dallas. A win over the also-undefeated Desperados would make me a believer in Skip Foster's bunch once and for all.

4. Dallas, 3-0 (W3: beat Columbus 52-38; W4: Austin, Fri., 7:30 p.m.)
Dallas was a little sloppy in beating an inferior Columbus team but defensive posted a 50% stop rate, easily enough to defeat the Destroyers. Austin likes to win ugly and will try to maul the pretty-boy Desperados in what will be a fascinating matchup of contrasting styles. Terrill Shaw came back to earth a little bit after Week 2's career performance but Will Pettis stepped up again and is establishing himself as an Ironman of the Year candidate.

5. Colorado, 3-0 (W3: beat Las Vegas 65-55; W4: at Nashville, Sat., 7 p.m.)
The Crush had me worried for a second there, last week, trailing Vegas 35-27 at halftime. Terrible week for Colorado offense: 3 stops in 13 possessions! Seriously, how good is this offense when it puts up 65 on an off-night? The defense finally made some plays this week, too. They'll have to make more this week in the great matchup with Nashville.

6. Utah, 1-2 (W3: lost to New York 84-81; W4: at Arizona, Sat., 8 p.m.)
Leave it to the irrepressible Blaze to take part in one of the most memorable AFL games ever in only its third game. 165 points - second-most ever. 20 touchdown passes by the two quarterbacks - a new record. Incredible. Utah has taken the great offense/no defense style of football to the extreme. They are to the AFL what the Paul Westhead-era Loyola Marymount teams were to college basketball. Utah has been the best team in a weak division but, still, has lost 2 of 3. With San Jose getting healthy, Danny White's crew simply has to start getting some defensive stops. This week will be a key road test for Utah as Danny White and many of the Blaze players return to familiar stomping grounds. Utah is a better team than Arizona but they need to show that they are learning to win the close one.

7. Philadelphia, 2-1 (W3: lost 47-33 to Orlando; W4: vs. New York, Sun., noon)
Uh, gee, I guess the Soul missed Tony Graziani after all. Matt Sauk did fine when he was able to actually get the ball from the center. Sauk fumbled five times in the game. Lost in the maze of Soul mistakes was the fact that the defense put up another fine effort. It'll have to do the same this week against the red-hot offense of Aaron Garcia and company.

8. Chicago, 1-2 (W3: beat Nashville 56-55 in OT; W4: at Los Angeles, Sat., 9:30 p.m.)
The Rush finally got a much-needed W. Like Georgia, Chicago has been much better than its record but you can't reasonably expect to bounce back from 0-3. The Rush won it when Mike Hohensee boldy went for two after the Rush scored on the second possession of overtime to cut Nashville's lead to 55-54. Matt D'Orazio hit Cornelius White for the two-point conversion to win it for the Rush. This week presents an excellent opportunity for Chicago to even its record when the visit the flagging Avengers.

9. Columbus, 1-2 (W3: lost to Dallas 52-38; W4: at Kansas City, Sun., 1 p.m.)
Even John Kaleo admits that the Detroyers can't pass. That's kind of a problem in arena football. Columbus was only able to hang with Dallas last week because of sloppy play by the Desperados. This week, Columbus looks to right its ship at winless Kansas City.

10. Kansas City, 0-3 (W3: lost to Austin 37-33; W4: vs. Columbus, Sun., 1 p.m.)
The Brigade are a hit in Kansas City but a win would be a nice gesture for their adoring fans. For the second straight week, Kansas City came up just short on the game's final play. They have to be licking their chops this week with the Destroyers coming to town. It's now or never for the Brigade.

11. Los Angeles, 1-2 (W3: lost to Grand Rapids 66-41; W4: vs. Chicago, Sat., 9:30 p.m.)
The quarterbacking situation in LA is an absolute mess. You can't win in the AFL without quality quarterbacking, not even against Grand Rapids. Brian Mann has his moments but must develop a repore with one or two receivers beyond Kevin Ingram. The defense had a bad week at Grand Rapids but the 66 points allowed were exaggerated by the offense's mistakes. This week, LA will have to get better in a hurry to fend off a very good Chicago team hungry to get back to .500.

12. Tampa Bay, 2-1 (W3: beat Georgia 61-60; W4: vs. Orlando, Sun., 2 p.m.)
One of the classic AFL rivalries is renewed this week when the Predators take on the Storm. Bobby Sippio stepped up with a big performance last week and may be emerging as a top-notch complement to Lawrence Samuels. Shane Stafford was outstanding against Georgia. The Storm really seems to be on the verge of establishing something big.

13. Las Vegas, 1-2 (W3: lost to Colorado 65-55; W4: vs. Georgia, Fri., 9:30 p.m.)
Craig Whelihan continues to turn in big plays - for both teams. Joe Douglas took advantage of the extra attention paid to Marcus Nash with 4 touchdowns against Colorado. But it really comes down to Whelihan - can the Gladiators line keep him upright and can he take care of the ball?

14. San Jose, 1-2, (W3: beat Arizona 58-50; W4: at Grand Rapids, Sun., 1 p.m.)
This week will be the third game of a five-game road trip for the Sabercats, who are expected to get James Roe back this week. They managed to put up plenty of points with Calvin Schexnayder as the featured guy and having Roe back should make them plenty dangerous going forward. Don't forget that Barry Wagner will be back eventually, as well. Defensive question marks still abound for San Jose. With games at Chicago and Utah coming after this week, this is simly a must win for the Sabercats against the inferior Rampage.

15. Orlando, 2-1 (W3: beat Philadelphia 47-33; W4: at Tampa Bay, Sun. 2 p.m.)
Look, I realize that Jay Gruden is a Hall of Famer. I realize that the Predators are 2-1. But I still don't think this is a good football team. I still think they should be 0-3. And I think they'll start to prove me right this week in Tampa. Sorry, Orlando fans, it's just the way I feel.

16. New York, 2-1 (W3: beat Utah 84-81; W4: at Philadelphia, Sun., noon)
I know that Utah's defense is putrid but, come on Aaron Garcia, 24-26 and 10 touchdowns? That's ridiculous. Garcia, Swayne, Horacek and company will find the going much tougher this week in Philadelphia. This week's game will determine who will be in position to run with Dallas in the Eastern Division race.

17. Grand Rapids, 1-2 (W3: beat Los Angeles 66-41; W4: vs. San Jose, Sun., 1 p.m.)
Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again.

18. Arizona, 0-3 (W3: lost to San Jose 58-50; W4: vs. Utah, Sat., 8 p.m.)
Thought this season might be the tipping point for this edition of the Rattlers and looks like I was right. If they can't beat expansion Utah - at home - this week, the season is toast. It won't be easy but with Sherdrick Bonner back last week, at least they look like a professional football team.

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