Preview of Arena Bowl XXV: Arizona Rattlers vs Philadelphia Soul: August 10, 2012
The Arizona Rattlers defense, which has been outstanding this season will be tested on Friday when they meet the Philadelphia Soul, in Arena Bowl XXV in New Orleans. The Soul crushed last years Arena Bowl Champion, the Jacksonville Sharks in this years American Conference Final, by a score of 89-34. Their 55-point margin of victory over the Sharks represents the largest in AFL postseason history.
The Rattlers journey to Arena Bowl XXV was not as easy as the Soul. They squeaked by the Utah Blaze last Saturday to win the National Conference Final, by a score of 75-69. The Rattlers needed some big plays at the end of the game to pull out a victory. With 35 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter and the Rattlers down 69-67, Kevin McCullough intercepted a Tommy Grady pass in the Rattlers end zone which led to the winning drive. Maurice Purify scored his 5th TD in the second half on a pass from Nick Davila, with only 9 seconds left in the game.
Thus the Soul cruised to a lopsided victory, while the Rattlers found a way to win by the narrowest of points. Both these teams are powerful, and both have momentum.
In the regular season, the Soul were ranked #1, in both scoring offense, at 68.2 points per game, and rushing offense, at 44.2 yards per game. The Rattlers ranked #4 in scoring offense, at 62.1 points per game, and #7 in rushing offense, at 20.0 yards per game. In terms of pass offense, the Rattlers had the edge over the Soul, ranked at #3 with 319.0 yards per game, as compared to the Soul ranked at #7 with 279.2 yards per game. Another key stat is Total Offense, which show the Rattlers ranked at #2 with 332.0 yards per game, vs the Soul ranked at #5, with 323.4 yards per game.
The teams were also close in “scoring defense” with the Rattlers ranked #2, allowing 48.9 points per game, compared to the Soul ranked #5, allowing 51.1 points per game. Rushing defense was a different story, where the Rattlers were ranked #2, allowing 13.4 yards per game, vs the Soul ranked #17, allowing 26.5 yards per game.
These two teams are so close in stats that the regular season doesn’t matter. What matters is who will execute their game plan the best and avoid turnovers. The game will come down to who will make the least amount of mistakes, and which team will create the most amount of stops/turnovers.
During the regular season the Soul was ranked #1 in turnover margin, with a plus 23, as compared to the Rattlers ranked #4, at a plus 10.
Special teams will have a big impact. The Rattlers need to recover the ball when their opponent attempts onside kicks. The Rattlers had 2 turnovers on onside kicks last week against the Blaze, and will need to improve in this area.
Prediction and Why:
Both the Rattlers and the Soul are offensive powerhouses. The Rattlers have a slight edge in defense, and the Soul are better in turnover margin. Yet, the edge goes to the Rattlers for the following reasons:
1. The National Conference West Division is the best division in the AFL. Every team in this division were above 500 this year and 3 out of the 4 teams made the playoffs. The American Conference East division had only one team above 500 which was the Philadelphia Soul. Thus the Rattlers have had to battle better teams, which has prepared them for this epic battle.
2. The Rattlers are back in the Arena Bowl after a bitter last second loss last year, to the Jacksonville Sharks. Many of the Rattlers have returned to this years team, dedicated to have a different outcome. The experience goes to the Rattlers, as well as that extra motivation. Erasing last years memory of the last second loss certainly will have a profound impact in this game.
3. Nick Davila, 2011 MVP and 2nd team all arena honors in 2012 has the type of leadership skills that few possess. Combined with his top end skills as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, along with his ability to stay poised, and execute the game plan to perfection, will be the X factor in Arena Bowl XXV.
4. Super star wide receiver Maurice Purify led the AFL in receiving yards per game at 128.8. Purify can’t be stopped and will prove to be another X factor in Arena Bowl XXV.
5. 2011 Coach of the year, Kevin Guy is the total package as a coach. Guy has created a “culture” and “environment” of success. Guy’s leadership skills, as well as his preparation and execution of his game plan is exceptional, and continues the great tradition of Rattlers football.
The game is being played at a neutral site — the New Orleans Arena — for the first time since 2008.
The Rattlers look to capture their first title since 1997!
Let the games begin!