A quick look at the Week 8 schedule
Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton takes an in-depth look at the Week 8 matchups.
A quick breakdown of the Week 8 schedule in the Arena Football League:
New York (1-5) at Orlando (3-3)
New York continues to play hard despite the lack of weapons, while Orlando is doing a nice job of fighting through injuries and remaining competitive. Orlando wins when it plays good, aggressive defense and has a fierce pass rush. That's tough, considering the Predators have a lot of injuries on the defensive line. On offense, they need to play smart football, cut down on turnovers and not give away offensive possessions. They are still thin at receiver. Right now Javarus Dudley is the go-to guy, and he likely will match up versus the Dragons' best DB, Billy Parker, who will try to get physical. To be competitive, New York must cut down on penalties and drive-killing mistakes. Although QB Rohan Davey is playing pretty well, he's down to one dependable receiver -- Mike Horacek -- because of injuries and that's not enough to beat the Predators in at home.
Kansas City (4-2) at Nashville (3-4)
Kansas City continues to be a pleasant surprise, while Nashville is a young team that shows flashes of brilliance but also periods of inconsistency. The Brigade are getting excellent production from QB Raymond Philyaw and make very few mistakes on offense. Defensively, they don't give up a lot of points or allow many big plays. They play solid man-to-man schemes in the secondary and match up very well versus the Nashville receivers. Nashville is inexperienced but plays hard and is getting excellent production from QB Jeff Smoker. The Kats also can run the ball effectively with FB Dan Alexander. These teams are tough to get a handle on because they don't play with the same sense of purpose week in and week out, but both are capable of big days when focused. Nashville gets the edge at home because it can create more big defensive plays.
Arizona (1-6) at Utah (5-2)
If Arizona doesn't play a perfect offensive game, it's in trouble because the defense just isn't getting the job done. Utah is a great offensive team that last week actually played a little defense in a big win over Los Angeles. Blaze QB Joe Germaine is playing at a championship level (329 yards, 10 TDs vs. L.A.) and doesn't get rattled or make bad decisions. He has two excellent receiving targets in Siaha Burley and Tom Pace and this offense appears unstoppable right now. That's not good news for an Arizona defense that gives up a lot of big plays. If the Rattlers play a mistake-free game and don't turn the ball over, they have a chance. But Utah will force them into a high-scoring duel and the Blaze defense will make a couple of key stops that will be the difference.
Las Vegas (1-6) at Colorado (4-3)
If there is any optimism in Las Vegas, it's the emergence of new QB Brian Jones, who played a brilliant game in a losing effort at Georgia (366 yards, eight TD passes). Colorado continues to be inconsistent, but discovered a way to beat visiting Nashville thanks to the duo of QB John Dutton and WR Damian Harrell. However, the Crush just don't seem to be jelling. Two of their losses have been blowouts, and Harrell has not been 100 percent healthy all season. Dutton is not playing at a championship level either, and yet they are still in the playoff race. Las Vegas is young, inexperienced and lacks the offensive weapons to get into a shootout. Neither defense is playing at a high level, but both teams have one solid playmaker in the secondary, Earthwind Moreland for Las Vegas and Rashad Floyd for Colorado. The key to this game will be defensive pressure, with Colorado trying to rattle inexperienced QB Jones and Las Vegas trying to flush immobile QB Dutton out of the pocket.
Chicago (5-1) at Grand Rapids (2-4)
The Rush, coming off a bye week, seem to be becoming a complete team. Grand Rapids, on the other hand, lacks the personnel to be an elite team. The biggest problem for the Rampage is their inability to make key defensive stops and slow opposing offenses down. They just don't have enough playmakers on that side of the ball. Chicago QB Matt D'Orazio can pick apart this defense if he has time to throw. The only chance the Rampage have is to generate a pass rush and disrupt the Rush passing game. Grand Rapids QB Chad Salisbury, meanwhile, faces one of the best defenses in the league. Not only does Chicago apply great pressure, it also makes excellent defensive adjustments that tend to confuse opposing quarterbacks. The Rush should get a big game from D'Orazio, and their defense should control the pace of the game and make enough stops to dominate the Rampage.
Dallas (7-0) at Georgia (6-1)
Georgia survived a scare at home against lowly Las Vegas last week thanks to their potent passing game and talented offensive skill players. Dallas played a great defensive game (eight stops) in a big win over rival Philadelphia, but the Desperados still won by only 10 points, so there is room for improvement on offense. This is a great matchup between veteran QBs Clint Dolezel (Dallas) and Chris Greisen (Georgia). Both teams have deep receiving units, can move the ball, play with a swagger and are full of confidence. Both also have solid defenses. Georgia will play a lot of "off" zone schemes, then close on the ball, while Dallas likes to play aggressive man-to-man techniques but can switch to zones to confuse opponents. This game will come down to the pass rush and which defense can make one or two key stops. Right now that appears to be Dallas, but it will be the most entertaining game of the weekend with a lot of scoring and big plays.
New Orleans (4-3) at Austin (2-5)
Without injured QB Andy Kelly, it seemed like New Orleans really would struggle. Instead, the VooDoo got a huge game from backup QB Steve Bellisari (seven TD passes) in a big win over San Jose. Austin continues to struggle on both sides of the ball and can't seem to make any key defensive stops. Wranglers QB Adrian McPherson is making plays with his feet, so the VooDoo must contain him when he scrambles. When he's pressured by a good pass rush, he tends to make mistakes so New Orleans will come after him with an all-out attack. New Orleans should move the ball against this Austin defense. The Wranglers have a playmaker in the secondary in Nate Coggins, but the VooDoo can spread the ball around to find favorable one-on-one matchups. This game will come down to New Orleans making several key defensive stops, while Austin will struggle to make any.
Los Angeles (3-3) at San Jose (3-3)
These franchises aren't playing up to expectations yet are capable of beating anybody when on their game. Right now neither is playing with enough consistency and must start making defensive stops and stop committing turnovers. Los Angeles had four turnovers against Utah, and it's simply not good enough on defense to get away with that. San Jose allowed New Orleans backup QB Steve Bellisari to produce eight touchdowns. Both teams have efficient quarterbacks with good receivers, both can get physical and run the ball if necessary and both have defensive playmakers. Yet something is missing. This is a must-win game in the division since there is not much that separates them. San Jose is at home, though, and that probably gives the SaberCats a slight edge.
Note: An in-depth breakdown of the Monday night game between Philadelphia (4-2) and Columbus (3-3) (ESPN2, ESPN360, 7:30 p.m. ET) will run Friday.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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