By Jeff Melinyshyn
Wow! Season 12 is almost in the books. Another season come and gone in what seems like the blink of an eye. How many would have thought that Denver would be in the championship game? Are we to be surprised by Alaska’s run back to a third championship game in a row? Can anyone stop Alaska in the playoffs where they have not lost since the Conference Semi-Finals in Season 9? Both Jeremy Vega and Max Paul have been hard at work with their playbook and game prep as the final hours near the start of their much-anticipated final bout in the Season 12 Championship game. Can Denver, who is the little engine that could, find one more ounce of magic and pull off what would be a stunning victory for the ages? Or will Max Paul once again prove he is the greatest coach and game planner and win a 3rd consecutive championship?
In the short two-year history of the Denver Nightwings, they have only faced Alaska one time. That was a 34-21 loss in Week 11 of Season 11. Looking over this year’s schedules and looking for common opponents, Denver and Alaska have just 3 to count: Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Houston. In this case, both Alaska and Denver took care of their common opponents. Denver started the season off hot, winning seven in a row (1-8, had a bye Week 6). Alaska had winning streaks of three (between weeks 3-5) and a winning streak of five to close the season out before the playoffs started (9-13).
In terms of stats for these two teams, Alaska scored 392 points compared to 386 for Denver, which shows these teams can score on any given night. Alaska scores most of their touchdowns through the air, scoring 29 passing touchdowns compared to 17 for Denver. Rushing was Denver’s bread and butter all season, and that showed, scoring 18 rushing touchdowns compared to 14 for Alaska. Defensively, Alaska was a beast, allowing just 18.5 points per game compared to 25.17 for Denver. Denver (yielding 378.5 yards per game) gives up 43.2 more yards on average than Alaska (allowing 335.3 yards per game).
Denver has a +8 in turnover differential compared to +2 for Alaska. Now, looking at playoff stats it is only a two-game sample for both teams, but it may give us a better look at previewing what we might expect tonight. Denver has scored 44 points over a two-game average, while Alaska has scored just 33.5 over that same two game stretch. Defensively, Alaska is giving up 20 points on average in the two games, while Denver is giving up 24 points. Denver is giving up 467 yards on average compared to Alaska’s 365.5 yards.
While some people may chalk this one up to Alaska, Denver has a case to make. Both teams are statistically close to each other in offensive and defensive stats. While Denver runs the ball better, Alaska moves the ball through the air more efficiently. Both teams use their strength well. The battle will come down to Denver’s run game vs Alaska’s run defense. Jarrod McChesney needs to come out right away and establish his presence. Alaska will need to stop the run and turn Denver into a one-dimensional offense.
Alaska is the heavy favorite by the community, but this looks like the year to get Alaska. Make no mistake, this will be a dog fight and the best team will win. Alaska has been battle tested throughout the season. Denver has battled through their schedule as well. Sioux Falls and Dallas were no slouches.
Prediction, Denver 34, Alaska 31.