A quick breakdown of the Week 9 schedule in the Arena Football League:
Friday, April 27
Colorado (5-3) at Kansas City (4-3)
Last week against Las Vegas, Colorado finally got big days from QB John Dutton and WR Damian Harrell. When that happens the Crush are an explosive team. The Crush also got a solid defensive effort with three big interceptions, two by playmaking DB Rashad Floyd. Kansas City is coming off a lethargic loss to Nashville in which it simply couldn't play good run defense.
Brigade QB Raymond Philyaw continues to play smart, almost mistake-free football, and has formed a dynamuc duo with WR Jerel Myers. We will see two good individual matchups -- Myers versus Floyd, and Harrell versus DB Kenny McEntyre -- but the key to this game likely will be decided by which defense can force hurried throws and mistakes. Both Dutton and Philyaw can pick a defense apart, if given time. Kansas City might have a slight edge playing at home.
Georgia (7-1) at New Orleans (4-4)
The Force are coming off a huge win at home, knocking off undefeated Dallas with a great passing day from QB Chris Greisen and his talented receivers. New Orleans got QB Andy Kelly back from an injury, but simply could not convert key plays in an OT loss to Austin. Now New Orleans faces the almost impossible task of slowing down the best trio of receivers in the AFL.
Chris Jackson, Troy Bergeron, and Derek Lee combined for 24 catches, 356 yards and 10 TDs versus a good Dallas secondary, and the VooDoo do not have the personnel in the secondary to match up. Their only hope is to manufacture a great pass rush against an offensive line that protects well and a quarterback who knows how to get the ball out quickly. New Orleans DE Henry Taylor needs to have a big game to give his team a fighting chance.
Nashville (4-4) at Dallas (7-1)
The Kats used a clock-eating run game -- six rushing TDs by FB Dan Alexander -- to beat Kansas City, while Dallas suffered its first loss of the season at Georgia with a bad defensive night. The Desperados gave up 10 TD passes to Force QB Chris Griesen, as an ineffective pass rush exposed a usually good secondary.
Nashville, with a lot of young players, is getting better each week, but the Kats don't match up well against a veteran unit like Dallas. The Kats have one outstanding DB Ahmad Hawkins, while Dallas can put two excellent receivers (Marcus Nash and Will Pettis) on the field, with two good complementary receivers in Andre Thurman and Anthony Armstrong. It's doubtful the Kats can make enough defensive stops to stay in this game. Look for Dallas to rebound with a big offensive day.
Saturday, April 28
Arizona (2-6) at New York (1-7)
Arizona played a near perfect offensive game in a huge win at Utah, putting up a record 83 points, as it welcomed back WR Randy Gatewood from an injury. The Dragons have a decent passing duo of QB Rohan Davey and WR Mike Horacek, but that's about it on offense. Defensively, they struggle to make quality stops.
Arizona QB Sherdrick Bonner is a master at the indoor game and knows how to read defenses. If he has time to throw, he will pick apart a Dragons' secondary that has only one quality playmaker in DB Billy Parker. With Parker likely matched up on Gatewood, Bonner can simply go to his other receivers to make plays. If the Rattlers get a decent pass rush and can control WR Mike Horacek, they will be in good shape for a nice road win.
Grand Rapids (2-5) at Los Angeles (3-4)
The Rampage simply lacks enough playmakers and depth to put together four quality quarters, and Chicago exposed that last week with 34 unanswered points in the second half. Grand Rapids converted only 2 of 11 third- and fourth-down possessions. Los Angeles has quality talent, but doesn't play with any consistency. Both offenses have decent receiving corps, but defenses that play physical coverage schemes can take these receivers out of their rhythm.
Both quarterbacks -- the Rampage's Chad Salisbury and the Avengers' Sonny Cumbie -- can make quality throws, but when DBs push their receivers around, it leads to coverage sacks or bad throws. L.A. has more playmakers on defense, which should be the difference in this game. Grand Rapids just doesn't have enough explosiveness on either side of the ball.
Utah (5-3) at San Jose (4-3)
Utah's defense was a no-show in last week's 83-69 loss to Arizona, while San Jose QB Mark Grieb played almost a perfect game in a big division win over Los Angeles. Blaze QB Joe Germaine continues to play at an unbelievably high level. He just does not make bad decisions, and has three quality receivers -- Siaha Burley, Tom Pace, Aaron Boone -- who will be tough matchups for San Jose.
Look for SaberCats DBs Clevan Thomas and Omar Smith to try to be physical with the Blaze receivers, trying to push them out of their routes and disrupt their timing, which could force Germaine to hold the ball and take some sacks or hits. The difference in this game is the SaberCats make plays on defense, and Utah does not. Watching Germaine work versus this San Jose secondary will be very interesting. You know Grieb's offinse is going to score.
Sunday, April 28
Columbus (4-3) at Tampa Bay (1-6)
Tampa Bay is coming off a much-needed bye week, but still has major questions, especially at quarterback. The Storm have some quality players, but they just don't have enough depth to overcome their penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes. Now they look like a very frustrated organization as they try to find a combination of players that will work.
Columbus might be the most underrated team in the league. The Destroyers have a terrific passing combo in QB Matt Nagy and WR Damian Groce, and they are dominant on defense. Columbus has a great pass rush with Ken Jones and Kelvin Kinney, and even when those two don't get sacks, they knock the ball down. The secondary also is playing at a high level, led by DB Jerald Brown. The Destroyers likely will frustrate the undermanned Tampa Bay offense.
Orlando (4-3) at Las Vegas (1-7)
Orlando finally is playing efficient offense with QB Shane Stafford. In last week's win over New York, the Predators scored on all but one of their offensive possessions. They also have an aggressive defense, making them tough to beat. Las Vegas continues to play hard, but just doesn't have enough playmakers, especially on defense.
The difference in this game likely will be that Orlando has a much better pass rush. If Gladiator DB Earthwind Moreland can control Predators WR Javarus Dudley, that eliminates Orlando's best offensive target. But unless Orlando gets caught up in the bright lights of Las Vegas, the Predators should win this game.
Note: An in-depth breakdown of the Monday night game between Philadelphia (5-3) and Chicago (6-1) (ESPN2, ESPN360, 7:30 p.m. ET) will run Friday.
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