Written by Matthew Slinn, Cliffy Grizzly and Mickey De Pinto
Keys to Victory
St. Louis Gladiators (3-2) @ Lone Star Glory (2-3)
Every week this team just looks impressive, and rookie QB Vasquez continues to prove that he was worth the draft pick. He hasn’t been throwing for a huge number of yards lately, but he’s playing smart and getting the job done. Continue to play smart, and minimize the turnovers this week. The offensive line will have to show up to play this week, for they are going to be facing one of the premier D-lines in all of the SFL. Protect your QB, and let Kairo Martinez continue to get yards on the ground. Lone Star just lost a nail-biter to Florida, but they still managed to put up a lot of points. Make sure your defense is aware of Liam Hammer and hit him early when he makes a reception because he can get some serious yards after the catch. They targeted him 15 times last week, so you know Lone Star wants the ball in his hands.
The Glory have a chance this week to make a big statement and slow down one of the hottest teams in the league. This should be a great battle between two rookies at the quarterback position. St. Louis has been prone to give up sacks this season, and pressuring the young QB would be a great place to start. If he gets hot, he can hurt you. Don’t allow them to gash the front seven with Martinez. Shut down the run and force them to rely on passing only. This will give your defensive line a chance to shine and take this game over. Keep protecting your own rookie QB Ace Fenech. Drive the ball down the field with safe passes and an effective run game, then punch it in with RB Ike McBride, who has rushed for 5 touchdowns the last two weeks alone.
Tulsa Desperados (2-3) @ Sioux Falls Sparrows (3-2)
Sioux Falls has allowed an average of over 300 yards passing per game this season. Deacon Nickens will need to find his rhythm and take advantage of a vulnerable passing defense. The front 7 on defense can win this game for Tulsa if they are able to put the clamps on a very dangerous Sparrows’ rushing attack. Colin Hart can’t be allowed to make big plays. Espnn Ry’ale has been highly productive this year at linebacker racking up 50 total tackles and 7 pass breakups. He needs to have another efficient performance and lead this defense to a victory with his infectious play.
It’s time to get Hart back on track. The Desperados are allowing over 100 yards rushing per game. Look for the star running back to make a huge impact in this one. After a shocking blowout loss to Fort Worth, getting back into focus will be a huge key for the Sparrows. This team is good. There’s no questioning that. It is time to show the grit that championship teams are made of. Tulsa has given up 21 sacks this season. The Sioux Falls’ pass rush could single-handedly determine the outcome of this one with a dominant performance.
London Knights (0-5) @ Atlanta Swarm (2-3)
After a nightmarish performance against Denver last week, it’s time to get the monkey off of the back. London needs to play with reckless abandon and forget about the season to this point. Safety Jack Russell has been a ball hawk this year with 5 interceptions. For London to win, the talented defensive back needs to live inside of Dynasty’s head this week and continue his outstanding season. Offensively, Merrill must have success moving the chains on the ground. Promising rookie wideout, Fox Highwind, has racked up quite a few catches this season, and a successful run game might just open up some big plays for the young receiver.
When Bryant Dynasty is on, this is a tough team to beat. The Swarm must keep him upright and allow him to continue to sling the ball all over the field. If he can throw for 300 yards and a few touchdowns, this might get ugly. Atlanta can’t focus on the 0 in the London win column. No game in the SFL is a guaranteed victory. The Swarm must stay focused and not look ahead, or they might just get surprised by a desperate team. Loading the box with 7 and sometimes 8 defenders to put a halt on the run game could pay dividends. Robert Merrill has shown that he can run for big yards for London, and shutting him down like Denver did last week could allow Atlanta to build a big lead early.
Houston Hyenas (3-2) @ Portland Fleet (0-5)
Houston scored a famous victory at home against the much-fancied Aztecs last week and will want to carry that momentum into the trip to Portland. This game seems to boil down to a classic case of great run offense versus bad run defense. Essentially, it’s exceedingly simple – give Warren Murray the ball and let him run. Murray has been virtually unstoppable since his break out game against Lone Star, this week getting the luxury of going against the worst rush defense in the league. Granted, this statistic is skewed because Portland often play from behind and their offense struggles to stay on the field, but Murray is the Hyenas’ sharpest weapon, so use him. On defense, keep an eye on the run game of the Fleet but focus most attention on stopping Connor Weston. Weston has shown elite flashes so far and could be a gamechanger if given the chance. Employ Everrett Garrison to shut Weston down.
I’ve been rooting for Portland to get their first win for a couple of weeks now, although they did seem to take a major step back last week against a Louisiana team who had come off their first loss of the season. The first port of call this week should be to stop Warren Murray early in the game. The Fleet’s LB group is one of the best in the SFL, with Mel Davis and Frank Champion having All-Star level seasons. Working alongside this should be Portland’s main goal and their main weakness up to this point – scoring points. Field Goals are a start, but in reality, touchdowns are what is needed. The Fleet only have 2 offensive touchdowns to their name all season. Give Matt South time, and get that ball into the end zone.
Mexico City Aztecs (3-2) @ Vancouver Legion (3-2)
Mexico City was a bit stunned last week against Houston, who showed up to play and took the victory against the Aztecs. MXC had counted on the ability to shut down the run, but they ran into issues when Houston started passing the ball. They gave up over 300 yards through the air. This week, they will have to be prepared to shut down a pass-heavy offense in Vancouver. The Legion passed the ball 55 times last week and threw 5 interceptions. If they show up with a similar game plan, the Aztecs will have to get pressure on Tom Pepper and force him into making bad passes again this week. Keep RB Robert Redford contained, because he can really hurt you if he gets rolling. The MXC quarterback, Matt Willson, is leading the league in passing yards while maintaining the second-best completion percentage. They should be able to find similar success through the air this week, but make sure to let your ball carriers get their touches and force Vancouver to respect the run.
Get ready for, arguably, the most efficient passing game in the league. Everybody knows what kind of threat TE Mike Daggs represents for MXC, so be prepared to pay him extra attention all game long. Mexico City RB Phoenix Jones hasn’t broken a run longer than 25 yards this season, so the Legion shouldn’t be too concerned about giving up the long TD run. With that being said, they’ll have to make sure to not overcommit to stopping the pass. It’s a tough task for LB’s to worry about the run when there’s a game-changing tight-end lining up against you, so make sure your best coverage guy is over the top of Daggs. On offense, Vancouver can’t afford to turn over the ball like they did last week. MXC has a tough run defense, so getting the ball to the Vancouver receivers is going to prove huge for their offense.
Las Vegas Fury (2-3) @ Queen City Corsairs (2-3)
Las Vegas has been a pass-first team all season. Running Back Scott Johnson is averaging roughly 2 yards a carry so far this season, so it makes sense why the scheme is built around the air-attack. The Corsairs defense hasn’t proven to be stellar thus far, so don’t change too much in your offensive scheme. Keep Duffy and Tilley from wreaking havoc in the backfield, and allow Thomas Ramen to play his game and you should find success scoring points. Queen City will bring a balanced offensive attack powered by Jett Zero and AJ Caswell with his group of solid receivers. Limit the big plays down the field, and keep an eye on their playmaking TE.
The Corsairs are going to be facing a very pass-heavy offense. This will be a good chance for the pass rush specialists to really shine against a suspect offensive line. Ramen will make mistakes if he’s forced into bad throws. Offensively, keep pounding the rock with Zero and make fatigue a factor for the front seven. This will open up your passing game, and give you a chance to make the big play as the game progresses. Limit the turnovers and play consistent on offense, and the Corsairs could very well turn into a 500% team.
Arizona Scorpions (3-2) @ Denver Nightwings (4-1)
When going to Denver, you best bring your A-game, as they are undefeated at Richard L. Snowden Stadium. Arizona must play aggressively and take the home-field advantage out of the picture by forcing an early lead. Getting Josh Miller to the ground the entire game is key. Sachs and Melo must keep the pressure on and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. The Scorpions can not afford to allow him to get hot in this one. This offense has to put up points this week. Denver has not scored less than 40 points in a home contest this season and they have to be confident after putting up 58 last week. It could be a matter of winning a shootout.
Josh Miller threw a touchdown on nearly a quarter of his completions last week with an astounding six. If he can stay hot and get rolling early, Denver is nearly unstoppable. With an effective passing game comes open running lanes. McChesney has certainly taken advantage of that this season and should look to do the same this week. Offensive linemen, Benazzi and Ryans, have been unsung heroes for the Nightwings this season. Winning the line of scrimmage and letting this powerhouse of an offense roll down the field should keep this Denver team unscathed at home.
Chicago Wildcats (4-1) @ Carolina Skyhawks (2-3)
As much as the Wildcats have looked great this season, obviously we can’t head into Week 6 without taking into consideration the loss of a star tight end. On the field, Varner was a big presence and having a career season, so the hole left will be tough to cover. However, it is possible and this Wildcats team are as capable as anyone. Firstly, try and keep that balanced attack that has been working so well. The rushing game has been making the yards, the passing game finishing drives with TD’s. Carolina have a solid defence, but they tend to give up touchdowns at a high clip and don’t often turn the ball over, so Chicago can afford to be aggressive. Chicago have been great defensively, especially against the run. Sully Richardson likes to throw the ball alot and Logan Jack is more of a receiving threat back, so shift hat defensive focus. Go heavy against the pass and harass Richardson in the pocket.
The Skyhaws dipped under .500 again last week with a loss on the road against the Jacksonville Kings. This should have no bearing on the confidence heading into Week 6, however. The Wildcats are currently a team reacting to an adverse situation, so it could be the perfect time to play them. Carolina’s front seven wants to be aggressive and play mean this week. The Wildcats have had to replace Ash Odom with a player who has never seen the field of play before in the SFL. Hit him hard and hit him early. Next, take advantage of the lack of opposing star tight end and mark the other receivers out of the game. Cut off the big play and there shouldn’t be much threat underneath. On the other side of the ball, try and get Logan Jack hitting it up on first or second down more often. Jack is a great receiving back, but the offense doesn’t want to become one-dimensional.
Baltimore Vultures (4-1) @ Louisiana Revolution (4-1)
The Vultures’ only loss came in a close one to Atlanta, in which Mike Dazzo suffered four sacks. Keeping the veteran play-caller on his feet will allow him to implement the years of his experience against a tough Louisiana defense. When playing against a young quarterback in a big game like this, it is important to try and rattle him early. Pichler has certainly displayed the reason behind his hype, but forcing him into bad situations will really test his mettle. This is a potential playoff matchup and treating it as such is necessary to walk out of Louisiana with a victory. Baltimore can count on a fired-up Revolution squad and must be ready for a slobber knocker.
In big games, an early lead can take the wind out of an opposing team’s sails. Pichler must lead this offense down the field for some quick points. No running back has had a much better season than Reggie Streeter. He has certainly stayed busy, rushing the ball over 30 times in 4 games, but it has been highly effective. The Revolution offense should get on his back and allow him to carry this team to a victory. The defensive front of Napoli, Wilder, Genco, and Gond need to disrupt the timing of Dazzo on every passing play. They have shown glimpses of being one of the league’s most complete front four and must continue to get better this week.
Fort Worth Toros (2-3) @ Florida Storm (2-3)
The Toros managed to shock the SFL and most of the Northern Hemisphere last week with their absolute demolition of the championship favourites, Sioux Falls. The defense looked great, Jason Williams was busy and Xander Gold looked more like the Xander Gold from Season 12. They are going to need all that firepower, and possibly more if they are to come away from Florida with the W. This road victory, like most away from home, starts on defense. Swarm all over Ron Cockren and force him into turnovers. The experienced QB has suffered from the turnover bug for the majority of the season and there is nothing to say he still won’t be carrying it in Week 6. Nacho Sicario and his secondary should be licking their lips. When Fort Worth does have the ball, only an idiot would say that they shouldn’t maximise the use of Williams. Florida has been poor against the run this season, and with rookie LB Roland Parrott seemingly leaving for good, Erich Hammer is looking awfully lonely in the LB room. Let Williams show his class against his former team.
Things are FINALLY looking up for the Storm after a dismal start to the season and they are riding the wave of 2 wins on the bounce. Ron Cockren put ina much more ‘Riverboat’ style performance last week and he will need to build on that as he faces off against one of the best defences in the league. The timeless connection with Optimus Cline needs to be firing on all cylinders and Ron may need to go for some risks against a secondary that isn’t high in the SFL when it comes to takeaways. The defensive line really needs to start putting pressure on. Alex Dominguez is yet to register a full sack and we’re 6 weeks into the season. This week I want to see ‘Big Sexy’ knock pads with the QB and put him to the floor.
Jacksonville Kings (3-2) @ Charleston Predators (2-3)
Coming off a game in which the Kings put up 44 points against Carolina, expect a confident group of guys who are looking to take it to Charleston. This team has been tough all season…when playing at home. They’ve played two road games this season and have lost both. They’ll need to change that pattern this week against the Predators. Jacksonville’s offense was very efficient last week with a high completion percentage through the air and a solid number of yards-per-carry. A balanced offense is hard to stop. Charleston is giving up an average of 100+yards per game on the ground, so let your RB Jarred Willis get going early and test this front seven. Continue to distribute the ball to your receivers. Gossett, Willis, St. Green, and Wall all had multiple catches last week and the opposing defense had no answer. Jacksonville has all the right pieces on defense to give any offense trouble. The Predators running attack has been struggling lately, so look for them to try and right that wrong early.
After losing a close one last week, Charleston will need to come out and play motivated football against Jacksonville. The offense has been playing well this season, they just can’t seem to close the games out towards the final minutes. Once the offense gets going, keep that foot on the gas and don’t let up. Momentum should play a big role against this tough Kings defense. On defense, Charleston must find a way to limit the yards on the ground. Jarred Willis is a homerun-threat, so keeping him wrapped up will be huge. The Kings also have a variety of weapons through the air, so tight coverage and a good pass rush should help lead Charleston to victory.