Updated: April 19, 2007 2:11:58 PM PDT

ESPN'S GAME OF THE WEEK

Editor's note: This week's game of the week is the Monday matchup (ESPN2, ESPN360, 7:30 p.m. ET) between the Philadelphia Soul and the Columbus Destroyers. Merril Hoge takes a look at this powerhouse matchup.

Most people are probably going to be watching this game to see how the Soul's offense plays without QB Tony Graziani, but they should be watching this Columbus offense. The Destroyers have one of the best offenses in the league and QB Matt Nagy has done a wonderful job this season. Not only is he effective downfield, but he does a great job of softening up the defense by hitting the underneath patterns that force opposing defenses to have to come up to take it away. When that happens then the Destroyers are able to go deep.

This would have been a great game with or without Graziani. It's a shame that we won't be able to see these two great quarterbacks go at it, but we're still going to get a great matchup and a high scoring game.


Can Philly survive loss of Graziani?
http://espn.go.com/photo/2007/0405/afl_w_graziani_350.jpg
Losing Tony Graziani shouldn't destroy the Soul's chances.

In most cases losing a quarterback is about more than just losing a player ... it's losing the leader of a team. That's what the Philadelphia Soul are losing now that Tony Graziani is out for the next four-to-six weeks. Graziani is the face of the Soul. He's a guy who everybody on the team knows will be accountable and can and will take them to the next level.

Juston Wood will be a good replacement and while his numbers will probably be lower than what Graziani put up, they won't destroy the team's chances. This is still a good football team that will just have to rely a touch more on the defense to come up with a few more stops per game. They will also probably try to incorporate a little bit more of the running game into their game plans to keep opposing teams off balance and buy Wood more time to make downfield decisions.

This is still a playoff team and one that can contend for a title if Graziani is able to come back and quickly get back up to 100 percent.

-- Merril Hoge


MORE COVERAGE

WEEK 8 ROUNDUP
From Gary Horton's chat to previewing all the big games, we have Week 8 in the AFL covered.
Mark Schlereth's Top 5 games of Week 8
Dallas at Georgia
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Talk about two tough back-to-back games. Last week Dallas had to face Philadelphia and this week the Desperados travel to Georgia to face a potent Force offense. A week after giving up nine passing touchdowns to Las Vegas and their new quarterback Brian Jones, the Force have to face the league's best quarterback, Clint Dolezel, and one of the best offenses.

Philadelphia at Columbus
ESPN2, ESPN360, Monday, 7:30 p.m. ET

This is a fine opportunity for the Soul to go on the road in a tough game with a new quarterback and come away with a victory. Columbus has a solid team, but this Soul team will be trying to prove to the rest of the league that they aren't vulnerable without Tony Graziani.

Kansas City at Nashville
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

Every week is a veritable offensive explosion in the AFL, but this matchup is going to feature a lot of points as both offenses are clicking. This could very easily be a game where the winner has to score 80 points.

New Orleans at Austin
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Speaking of offensive explosions, the VooDoo looked great last week despite having to sit starting quarterback Andy Kelly due to injury. Backup QB Steve Bellisari had a great game and no matter who steps in and starts (Kelly or Bellisari), the VooDoo should put up a great deal of points.

Los Angeles at San Jose
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
A little West Coast action rounds out this week's top five. This is a game that could go either way as both teams have issues stopping opposing offenses. I fully expect one of these teams to blow the other away in the fourth quarter.

Gary Horton's April 18 chat wrap
Anderson (Texas): Gary I am new to the AFL so sorry if this question sounds naive, but could Dallas go undefeated this year?
Gary Horton: I don't think there is any question that they have the ability to go undefeated, but what I have learned about this league is that it is very easy to play down to teams and there is not that much difference between the good teams and the average teams. Dallas has already dodged the bullet twice this season with comeback wins over weaker opponents, and if they lose a couple of games it will be because they are not mentally ready to play. But they are a veteran team with a great feel for their capabilities. They may play with more of a sense of purpose if they think an undefeated season is possible.

Lane (Kukuihaele, HI): Wow, Joe Germaine has thrown for 52 touchdowns, only three interceptions has completed 71-percent of his passes, and has a QB rating of 134. Do you see him continuing to post big numbers or will teams figure him out as the season goes on?
Gary Horton: Right now I think Joe Germaine is the MVP of this league, although you could make a case for Clint Dolezel. Defenses don't figure out these quarterbacks because they cannot play sophisticated schemes because of the size of the field and the motion of the wide receivers. It all comes down to pass protection, and he is getting it. What is most impressive is his decisions making. He just not make mistakes and it so clam under pressure. It is no coincidence that he is being coached by Danny White. So I think his numbers will stay up. And this is a team that does not play consistent defense so they have to score a lot of points to win, which pads his stats.

For Gary Horton's full chat transcript, click here.

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