- Gary Horton, Scouts Inc.
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A quick breakdown of the Week 6 schedule in the Arena Football League:
Friday, April 6
Utah (4-1) at Austin (1-4)
As usual, the Blaze used a strong offense and a so-so defense in their win over Las Vegas last week, while Austin put up a lot of points, got a big lead and played hard against Dallas but could not hold on for the win. Utah has a potent passing attack led by QB Joe Germaine (36 TD passes), and WRs Siaha Burley and Ryan Dennard have combined for 24 TDs. They are solid producers and this might be the most explosive passing game in the league. Even third WR Orshawante Bryant can give them production. That is deeper than the Austin pass defense, ranked only 16th in the league, is capable of going and why Utah has the edge. Neither defense will make a lot of stops, but unless Wranglers' QB Adrian McPherson plays a clean game with no mistakes, Austin doesn't have much of a chance. The Wranglers are capable of running the ball to slow the game down in hopes of keeping the explosive Utah offense on the bench, but not sure that would be enough.
Arizona (1-4) at Los Angeles (2-2)
After a brutal opening month with three road game, Los Angeles finally ran out of gas in Chicago, playing an unemotional, mistake-filled game and was crushed by the Rush. Arizona, which showed signs of an improving defense in Week 4, was back to being all about offense in a disappointing loss to Kansas City last week. So neither team enters this division game with a lot of momentum. With WR Randy Gatewood, Arizona's best offensive weapon, on IR, QB Sherdrick Bonner has found new targets in WRs Trandon Harvey and Jeremiah Pope (18 combined receiving TDs). The Rattlers can score on almost every possession, but they also give up TDs on almost every possession (41 in five games). Los Angeles has as excellent passing trio in QB Sonny Cumbie and WRs Kevin Ingram and Lenzie Jackson (16 combined receiving TDs), and this offense makes very few mistakes. Both teams have excellent run games with big and physical FBs (L.A.'s Lonnie Ford and Arizona's Bo Kelly). Defense, however, separates them. The Avengers don't allow a lot of points, and have a great playmaker in DB Damen Wheeler. Los Angeles will match up well versus the Arizona receivers and that will be the difference in this game.
Colorado (3-2) at San Jose (2-2)
The SaberCats finally got to play at home last week and it resulted in a nice win over hapless Tampa Bay. Colorado is still not playing real well, but was good enough to beat a very young Nashville team at home last week. Veteran Crush QB Jon Dutton has one great receiver in Damian Harrell and two good ones in Willie Quinnie and Robert Thomas, but he has not been as consistent as in the past with seven interceptions and a mediocre 99.4 passer rating. Colorado also is last in the league in rushing offense. San Jose has three quality receivers (Ben Nelson, James Roe and Rodney Wright) and a consistent veteran QB in Mark Grieb, but the SaberCats are not a great run offense, either. Both defenses have quality players, and each has one superb playmaker -- San Jose has DB Clevan Thomas while Colorado has DB Rashad Floyd -- but neither is coming up with a lot of big plays or stops. Grieb will exploit the Crush secondary early and force them to play from behind, which will lead to mistakes.
Saturday, April 7
New York (1-3) at Grand Rapids (1-3)
These are two struggling teams that cannot seem to play with any consistency, especially at quarterback. Statistically, these offenses are worst in the league (23 TDs each). New York, though, has shown glimpses of improvement in the last two weeks. Dragons' QB Rohan Davey looked sharp in a loss to Philadelphia. He has an excellent trio of veteran receivers in Mike Horacek, Kevin Swayne and Chris Anthony, but he must cut down on his mistakes (eight interceptions). Grand Rapids has a go-to receiver in Timon Marshall, who also excels on kick returns, but inconsistent QB Michael Bishop struggles to get him on the ball. Neither defense creates turnovers or makes enough key stops, but the Rampage pass defense is last in the AFL and that's the difference in this game. New York's three receivers are not a good matchup for the Grand Rapids secondary and Davey should make enough good throws to win this one.
New Orleans (3-2) at Tampa Bay (0-5)
The Storm are in the biggest slump of their AFL history, while the VooDoo are playing better than anybody anticipated. Tampa Bay has made a change at QB, starting Stoney Case, and he actually played pretty well versus a good San Jose defense. But New Orleans QB Andy Kelly continues to be a model of consistency, getting good pass protection and making very few critical mistakes. The VooDoo have an excellent duo in WRs Tyronne Jones and Kenny Henderson (21 combined TDs) and an excellent FB in Dan Curran, who makes them more effective in the red zone. Tampa Bay has three quality receivers (T.T. Tollvier, Lawrence Samuels and Terrill Shaw), is good in the red zone and at running the ball (14 rushing TDs). Despite being loaded with talent, the Storm are only 17th in pass offense and just don't convert scoring opportunities. The difference in this game likely will be the marginal pass defense of Tampa Bay (18th in the league; 40 TDs allowed). That does not bode well versus an offense that can pick a secondary apart.
Chicago (4-1) at Nashville (2-3)
In beating Los Angeles, Chicago finally played a complete game. When the Rush play like that, they're scary. Defensively, they have an excellent pass rush up front, which gives the most underrated secondary in the league a lot of opportunities to jump routes and capitalize on opposing quarterbacks' mistakes. Nashville played hard for three quarters at Colorado last week but fell apart in the fourth quarter. That is not good news against a veteran Chicago team that keeps the pressure on and eventually wears out a lot of their opponents. The Kats play a lot of rookies and inexperienced players, including QB Jeff Smoker. They have two excellent receivers in Cornelius Bonner and Kenny Higgins, and FB Dan Alexander already has 15 TDs, which is good news facing a Chicago defense that is last in the league against the run. Nashville can score if Smoker gets protection and doesn't force the ball into coverage, where the opportunistic Rush secondary can make plays. Chicago has a great receiver in Bobby Sippio and two complementary receivers in Andy McCullough and Ahmad Merritt. The Rush should move the ball on this young Kats defense with a big a day by QB Matt D'Orazio.
Sunday, April 8
Kansas City (2-2) at Las Vegas (1-4)
These teams have so many new players that they have struggled to establish any consistency from week to week. However, Kansas City continues to play hard and has quality wins over Chicago and Arizona, while Las Vegas seems ready to implode, as early-season bickering and second-guessing has started. Veteran Kansas City QB Raymond Philyaw plays with a lot of savvy, but he doesn't have a lot of weapons. WR Charles Frederick is the go-to guy as a receiver and also as a running back. The Brigade already has 12 rushing TDs, and Frederick is a unique weapon in the red zone. Las Vegas gets erratic production from QB Shaun King and is the league's 17th-ranked pass offense. What is puzzling is that Gladiators have depth at receiver in Thabiti Davis, Kevin Prentiss, Joe Douglass and Etu Molden, and should be a better offense than they have shown. Kansas City will move the ball versus this Las Vegas defense, while the Brigade defensive secondary will match up well versus the Gladiators receivers to further frustrate QB King.
Note: An in-depth breakdown of ESPN2's Monday night game between Georgia (4-1) and Philadelphia (5-0) (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET) will run Friday.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton takes an in-depth look at the Week 6 matchups.