The NFL/ESPN bought into the AFL, and they impressed the NFL playoff format on us. Hence, we'll have 3 sub-.500 teams playing this weekend and two .500 teams golfing. These are the matchups for the wild card weekend:
Friday, 27 Jun 08:
8-8 New York Dragons at 12-4 Dallas Desperados:
1930 Eastern, ESPN
All time series: Dallas leads 8-3, first playoff meeting.
New York in the playoffs: 7-9 all time, 1-3 on the road. 10th trip in 14 years of the franchise. 0-2 in title games.
Dallas in the playoffs: 2-4 all time, 2-3 at home. 5th trip in 7 years of the franchise.
New York could be without their starting QB Aaron Garcia (Sacramento State) as he received a concussion in the first half of their game today. 3rd-year backup Juston Wood (Portland State) proved to be less than adequate in his relief appearance today, and Dallas will run him all over the field. Both teams are wobbling into the post season, each posting 1-2 records in their last three games. The Desperados won both regular season games by a total of 4 points. Dallas will probably play well enough to earn a trip to Georgia the following weekend.
Saturday, 28 Jun 08:
6-10 Colorado Crush at 6-10 Utah Blaze:
1600 Eastern, ESPN
All time series: Utah leads 3-0, first playoff meeting.
Colorado in the playoffs: 5-3 all time, 2-2 on the road. 5th trip in 6 years of the franchise. 1 title, 2005
Utah in the playoffs: 0-2, first home playoff game. 3rd trip in three years of the franchise.
Danny White pwns Colorado, holding a 6-2 record against them and beating them by an average score of 52-38, 61-25 in the past two meetings in Salt Lake City. Colorado takes their 13th-ranked scoring defense (allowing 56.8ppg) up against Utah's 4th-ranked scoring offense (58.8ppg) while Utah's defense has allowed 60 points only once in the past two months (they're 6-1 over that span, the Crush are 2-5). Utah hosted Colorado in Week 11 this year and ran 'em back to Denver 71-36. Danny gets his 21st AFL playoff win this Saturday. Monday, 30 Jun 08:
9-7 Orlando Predators at 9-7 Cleveland Gladiators:
1900 Eastern, ESPN2
All time series: Orlando leads 9-3, 2-0 in the playoffs, 1-0 on the road in the playoffs vs the Gladiators.
Cleveland in the playoffs: 1-4, 1-1 at home. 5th trip in 12 years of the franchise.
Orlando in the playoffs: 22-14, 9-9 on the road. 17th trip in 18 years of the franchise. 2-5 in title games, wins in 1998 and 2000.
Jay Gruden (5 Arena Bowl rings as a player and coach) takes his Predators on their 19th playoff road trip and their 9-9 road record in the playoffs is the best in league history. The Gladiators turned in a 2-14 record in Las Vegas last year, and Bernie Kosar (The U) bought part of the franchise and moved them to Cleveland this past off-season. Together with first-year coach Mike Wilpot, the Gladiators improved in every facet of the game, starting at the QB position where they filled that void with veteran Raymond Philyaw (Northeast Louisiana State). Orlando counters with their own veteran QB, Shane Stafford (Connecticut). These teams met in Cleveland in Week 11, with the Gladiators pounding out a 62-43 win. But this is Jay's time of year, and the Preds will put the upstarts in their place Monday night.
6-10 Grand Rapids Rampage at 8-8 Arizona Rattlers:
2130 Eastern, ESPN2
All time series: Arizona leads 5-2, 1-1 at home. First playoff meeting.
Grand Rapids in the playoffs: 3-4, 0-2 on the road. 6th trip in 11 years of the franchise. 1 title, 2003.
Arizona in the playoffs: 21-11, 16-3 at home. 14th trip in 17 years of the franchise. 2-3 in title games, with wins in 1994 and 1997.
First year coach Steve Thonn and first year starting QB James MacPherson (Wake Forest) have put some dignity back into a once-upon-a-time good franchise. Over the past 4 years, the Rampage have posted a 14-50 record, the worst for such a period in league history. MacPherson has posted a 6-8 record as the starter and Grand Rapids is riding a 3 game winning streak, it's first such since 2003. Arizona is making only it's second playoff appearance in the 4 years since Danny White was let go by new ownership (the same folks own the Phoenix Suns). While the Rampage come smokin' into the playoffs, the Rattlers have forgotten that there are quarters to be played in the first half of games. They've lost the last two first halves by a combined 73-20 score and they're not good enough at the QB position to overcome such silliness. Look for Grand Rapids to score early and often and then head off to meet their fate in Chicago.