07/29/2011 2:59 PM
Playoff Capsule: Arizona Rattlers
The Rattlers may be the favorite to win ArenaBowl XXIV and enter the playoffs as the AFL’s hottest team. Arizona’s won its last nine games and the 16 regular season wins this season is the most in AFL history.
The most impressive statistic for Arizona in the regular season was turnovers. The Rattlers had 34 more takeaways than giveaways. The next closest team was Jacksonville, at +20. Arizona finished third in the AFL with 54 forced turnovers and 35 interceptions. The offense gave the ball up just 20 times. The Rattlers’ 62 percent third-down conversion rate led the league, 10 percent higher than the Sharks, the next closest team.
Quarterback Nick Davila is a top candidate for either league MVP or Offensive Player of the Year. He threw 603 passes this year. Of those, he completed over 70 percent of them. His 117 touchdown passes tied the AFL single season record, while he only had 10 interceptions. Look for wide receivers Chris Jackson and Jason Geathers to step up at wide receiver. Even with the loss of Rod Windsor to the NFL, the Rattlers still have a stable of scary targets for Davila to throw to.
The Rattlers’ ranked second in the AFL in both points scored and allowed. The offense scored 1,114 (61.9 per game) and the defense gave up 836 (46.4 per game).The offensive line gave up 17 sacks, third fewest in the AFL.
Playoff Capsule: Spokane Shock
The Spokane Shock are still the AFL’s defending champions and will keep that title until the team gets knocked off.
The Shock also turned things around after starting the season 4-7 to finish 9-9 with a 5-2 run. If Spokane can make a playoff run, coach Rob Keefe’s decision to bench quarterback Kyle Rowley may prove a good one. Injuries and inconsistently play threw Erik Meyer, Casey Hansen, Steven Sheffield and Bill Stull into action as signal callers this year. But Rowley still emerged through the tough season and still threw for over 3,300 yards, and 78 touchdowns with a 64.8 completion percentage. The Shock’s 1,058 points (58.8 per game) was the fifth most in the AFL.
Spokane’s weakness is defense. The unit finished 15th in the AFL, giving up 57.1 points per game and picked off 11 interceptions, the second fewest in the league.
The offense should also get a huge boost from wide receiver Markee White, who returns to the Shock after the UFL announced a delay in starting its season. In four games this season, White caught nine touchdowns and put up 303 receiving yards.
Dating back to the time the Shock played in af2, this will be the first time Spokane will play a road playoff game. The team won’t have the Deaf Valley behind its back if it makes an ArenaBowl run. It’s also the first time the team finished without a winning regular season record.