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So...the Arena Football League's regular season is officially in the books. Which means the playoffs are just around the corner. This Friday the AFL wild card round kicks off with the sixth seeded New York Dragons taking on the third seeded Dallas Desperados, in Dallas. Here's an in-depth look at the weekend's wild card matchups, along with my predictions.
Friday June 27th
6 New York Dragons @ 3 Dallas Desperados
Can the Dragons follow Eli Manning's road in New York, and upset the favorites in Dolezel, and the Desperados? I think the answer is a plain and simple, NO. Dolezel knows how this league works, and doesn't make many mistakes. He knows how to get the job done, unlike NY's Aaron Garcia, who failed to lead New York to the playoffs the past two years. New York's offense was 15th in total offense throughout the regular season, and remember that the AFL had just 17 teams this season. Dolezel leads Dallas to big win, 64-48.
Saturday June 28th
5 Colorado Crush @ 4 Utah Blaze
Ah, yes...the first upset of the postseason. Colorado QB John Dutton has had a solid season under center, and I think he will lead Colorado to a first-round win over the Blaze despite great QB play during the regular season. Utah's offense, which is led by Joe Germaine, was the second-highest scoring offense in the entire Arena-League this year, behind only the number two team in the Western Conference, the Georgia Force. But, I'm feeling an upset. Dutton passed for 4,548 yards this season, which was fifth best in the League. Dutton has the leadership skills, and the ring (2005) to back up my prediction. Colorado over Utah, 62-55.
Monday June 30th
5 Orlando Predators @ 4 Cleveland Gladiators
In their first season in Cleveland, the Gladiators went 9-7, good enough for third place in the Eastern Division of the National Conference. Cleveland's QB Raymond Philyaw, former Chicago Rush, and Kansas City Brigade QB, threw for 83 TD's, and 10 INT's this season, and has done a nice job leading this team, ranked seventh in total offense. Cleveland was also second in the league in rushing with 497 yards on the ground, and a 3.2 YPC. No upset here, I believe the Gladiators will finally win a postseason game, which will be the first since 1998, when they were known as the New Jersey Red Dogs (they went 8-6, and second place in the Eastern Division). Cleveland over Orlando, 52-48.
6 Grand Rapids Rampage @ 3 Arizona Rattlers
For a second straight season, the Rattlers finish in second place, going 8-8. But, this year was different, Arizona earned the third seed in the Western Conference. But, I'm not too sure Arizona will have much success, despite the Grand Rapids 6-10 regular season record. The Rampage are on a three-game win streak, and QB James McPherson is on a hot streak. McPherson threw for 80 TD passes, and just 16 INT's with a 118.7 QB Rating in 14 games this season. McPherson's hot streak, and the fact that Arizona has a situation at the QB position leads me to believe that the Rampage will pull off the upset. GR 51, ARI 42.
Divisional Matchups (according to my wild card predictions):
6 Grand Rapids Rampage @ 1 Chicago Rush
5 Colorado Crush @ 2 San Jose Sabercats
4 Cleveland Gladiators @ 1 Philadelphia Soul
3 Dallas Desperados @ 2 Georgia Force