By Cliff Grizzly, Matthew Slinn and Jeff Gagne
Images by Jonny Law
*Editors Note – Mickey De Pinto has decided to leave the SFL Server and will therefore not be contributing to this article any longer. Jeff Gagne is the special guest writer this week, taking time away from his ‘busy’ schedule as Head of Digital Content*
‘Keys to Victory’
Queen City Corsairs (3-3) @ Tulsa Desperados (2-4)
Queen City needs to be able to attack with a more balanced offense. If they get into a shootout with Tulsa, their QB AJ Caswell is up for the challenge. However, being 3rd in the SFL in interceptions with 15 leaves some room for error if QCC gets stuck airing it out. This is one way Tulsa can look to keep themselves in the game, is by winning the turnover battle. The issue is FB turn RB Jett Zero has yet to take off this year, with the team averaging 68.7 yards per game rushing, good for 18th in the league. A steady attack controlling the game flow and the clock is the key for Queen City this week.
For Tulsa, they will need to stop the one-man wrecking crew known as Jeff Duffy. Last week he just took over, earning DPOTW honours for his 4.5 sacks. That puts him at second in the SFL in sacks at 10.5 on the year. Tulsa will need to protect their QB Deacon Nickens and give him time. He leads the league in INTs with 18, and if he faces a stiff pressure this issue could show its ugly head. QCC is third-best in the league in terms of passing TDS allowed with 9 on the year. Tulsa will need to lean on a strong showing from their passing game, from top to bottom in order to win this one.
Denver Nightwings (5-1) @ Carolina Skyhawks (3-3)
Denver to some is the best team in the league. To others, they seem to be slept on. Any way you cut it they are one of two 5-1 teams in the league this year. The key to the victory of Denver has seemed to be simple this year, don’t let up. This is a team on a mission to return to glory.
Carolina had a HUGE win this past weekend over Chicago. Honestly, it may have been a season-saving win for them. This is something they need to build off from and show they are for real. Two tough games in a row for them, but it is doable. In order to win this week, they will need to lean on their defense, and to play smart on offense. If QB Sully Richardson is on, he plays like one the best. However, if he is off, he can play like one of the worst rookies in the league. Consistency will be the key to seeing the Skyhawks pull off another upset victory.
Charleston Predators (2-4) @ Chicago Wildcats (4-2)
A lot of the community believe that the Predators can pull off the victory heading into Chicago, and with good reason. Charleston have performed admirably considering their rough schedule, a 2-4 record being fairly respectable and kee[ing them firmly in the playoff hunt. One success story of their season and something I expect them to lean on against Chicago is the solid play of T.D Drew. Yes, Drew has had the odd dodgy game, but generally, he has looked very good and will need to be on the road this week, as I expect the Wildcats D to shut down Keith Swearingen, Chicago has one of the best running defences in the SFL, only conceding 1 solitary TD on the ground this season. The Predators need to look to give Drew as much chance as possible to sling the ball to big-play threat, Buchanon Simons. Defensively, it’s all about stopping the running game between the 20’s and playing tight coverage in the red zone. That may be made easier now that Chicago is playing without their former star tight end.
It has been a tough couple of weeks for the Chicago Wildcats and many expect it to get even tougher this weekend. The 17-9 road loss to the Carolina Skyhawks wasn’t exactly a pretty look for an offense recovering from the loss of a tight end and an experienced running back. However, I was very impressed with rookie, Robert Johnson. He stepped up to the mark last weekend and he will need to replicate that in Week 7. #33 can lay a good platform down for E.T King and his group of receivers (one of whom is playing his first game after the expected release of Corey Carter) which will be crucial as the Wildcats like to score their points through the air. Look for Greg Soto in short-yardage and red zone positions. Soto has made the transition to the SFL masterfully and is impressing every week. The Wildcats defense shouldn’t have any major issues in keeping Charelston below the 25-30 point mark. It is a defence that plays hard and plays well. Tim Hacksaw has been particularly impressive, so look to him for a big game.
Lone Star Glory (3-3) @ Sioux Falls Sparrows (4-2)
This season LSG has beaten just one playoff team. They also seem to win one and then lose one. They seem to still be struggling to find their identity, though the season is still young for them as they are in the playoff race. This is a statement game for the young franchise. Winning this game will not only prove to themselves they are a top team, but it would prove it to the league. In order to do that, they will need some consistency. They are just below average on offense averaging the 11th most rushing yards and 15th most passing yards. On defense, they are 6th best at stopping the run, however, 22nd best in stopping the pass. They live or die by winning the turn over battle, and in a game where Sioux Falls may not aim to pass often, that means winning the 3rd down battle. LSG’s key to victory is going to be out game planning and out coaching a juggernaut of an established team in Sioux Falls.
Sioux Falls needs to pound the rock this week. LSG have a strong and big front 7 on defense. If RB Colin Hart gets going, he plays at an MVP level in his best games. Sioux Falls leads the league currently in rushing yards a game at 175.8 yards per contest. Add to that the fact they are 2nd in rushing TDs in the league at 10 and you know how they plan to win games. It’s also no secret what they want to do, as they are dead last in passing yards per game at 185 yards. They want to control the flow of the game through the offense and this is the best way for them to beat a young LSG team.
Florida Storm (3-3) @ Las Vegas Fury (2-4)
Florida is feeling really good right now after getting this season turned around. They seem to finally be getting back to their old championship ways after a rough start to season 15. This week will provide some tough challenges, but another win this week and Florida is suddenly right there in the mix for one of the toughest teams in the league. Las Vegas has the 8th ranked defense in the SFL, but the Florida offense is on fire. They just need to keep doing what they’re doing…with the exception of throwing so many interceptions. QB Ron Cockren is an all-time great quarterback in this league and he’s surrounded by a core of star receivers. Cockren needs to get hot early, play smart, and limit the turnovers. Las Vegas loves to throw the ball down the field, so prepare to keep padding those interception numbers this week. Florida’s DB’s personify ballhawks, so expect them to stand out this week.
You’re facing a team that has all the momentum in the world behind them. This is your chance to put an end to a surging Storm. Everybody knows the weapons Florida has on offense. Respect the passing game, and don’t forget about JW Doyle in the backfield. The Fury has to make sure Doyle doesn’t break off any long runs this week and make Florida’s offense a one-trick pony. Cockren has been throwing a lot of interception this year, so slowing the run game should lead to turnover opportunities. Las Vegas is tied for the league lead in takeaways, so strive to keep up that same pace this week. Look to strike early, take the lead, then put all the pressure on Cockren. Florida’s rush defense has been exploited at times this season. This could be a good opportunity to get the ground game going a little more often than usual.
Arizona Scorpions (3-3) @ London Knights (0-6)
The early season darlings have come back down to earth as of late. Arizona is still a strong team, but they are reeling. This is one of those classic trap games where they could overlook London and it could cost them. They need to ensure they are focused and have a game plan in front of them to win. They should lean on AJ Jackson making smart throws and riding the powerful legs of DJ Moses to stay on the field. The key to victory for Arizona this week will be to hit on 1 or maybe 2 big plays to get themselves out in front early and hope their defense just smothers the Knights’ fading hopes at seeing a win this year.
London can’t stay on the field, and they can’t get other teams off the field. In the game of football, you don’t win many games like that. HB Robert Merrill has not been able to get started this year, having to play from behind a lot. Meanwhile, opposing offenses are taking the top of the Knights’ defense and passing them into submission. If London wants to win this week they will need to control the clock. They need to convert 3rd downs on offense to prevent drives from stalling and losing the field position game. Meanwhile, on defense they can’t allow the other team to score in two plays by allowing huge passing plays. After a rough start, the year may be lost for London…how does the locker room respond? Do they pack it in, or do they come out fighting?
Jacksonville Kings (4-2) @ Atlanta Swarm (3-3)
The Kings went into Charleston and scored a very important victory last week, keeping them ahead of .500 and setting them up for a great second half of the season. They follow up this week with a trip to the defending champions, Atlanta, another opportunity to claim an important scalp on the road. The fact that the Swarm are defending their crown shouldn’t worry the Kings quite as much as one may assume, as Jacksonville’s offensive strengths match up nicely with Atlanta’s defensive weaknesses – that being, the running game. Jared Willis has had a stellar season so far, only trailing Reggie Streeter in rushing yards and Frank Goodin should look to establish Willis’ impact on the game early. If the Kings fall behind and have to use the pass more, they will be relying on an inconsistent Christian Christiansen. Defensively, it’s all about stopping the check down to BDG Hollewood. BDG hasn’t been running the ball much this season, however, that doesn’t matter if he garners success through short passes. Clay Jones and JR Lawless need to martial Hollewood carefully in the flats, taking away that option.
The Swarm sit at 3-3 after winning all of their home games and losing on the road. If they want to keep up that trend of home victories and ensure that the Hive is impenetrable, they need to find a way to defend more consistently. Obviously, Atlanta have talent on defense, but they have the third-worst scoring D in the SFL and the Kings OC will be licking his lips at the thought of crossing the 6-point whitewash multiple times. Want to stop that? Hit Jared Willis out of the game. Experienced linebacker Aquantis Shyne needs to take up this responsibility and show newcomer, Cole Finnegan, what it means to play in the SFL. Finnegan has just replaced long time LB, Dillon Rolland. Offensively, I believe the Swarm will score on Jacksonville, riding the ocnfidence wave Bryant Dynasty is on. Dynasty has a QBR of over 100, in large part down to the effective check down game with BDG Hollewood. Against Jacksonville, I would like to see Dynasty get back to his Week 1 performance, hitting big-play receivers like Siege Falco deep for maximal gain.
Portland Fleet (1-5) @ Mexico City Aztecs (4-2)
They finally did it. The Fleet managed to pull off their first win as a franchise after several close encounters to start season 15. After forcing an early turnover against Houston, they just seemed to gain momentum and keep it for all 4 quarters. When your team just isn’t quite as talented as your opponents, sometimes, you have to scratch and claw your way to a victory. This week will be another one of those weeks. If Portland hopes to beat the Aztecs, they will have to force turnovers on defense. Matt Willson and the rest of the Mexico City offense have been very efficient this season, and are capable of putting up a lot of points. Look for chances to take the ball away when it goes up in the air. Offensively, maintain that same “dink and dunk” scheme that led you to victory last week. No need to go crazy and take a lot of chances. Just play your game and take the short-yardage out routes, and let runningback Truezman get his carries to keep the defense honest.
You’re facing a team that’s still flying high after their first win. With that being said, this week should be a good opportunity to let your team shine. Portland has a young defensive backfield, so this should play right into how your offense operates. Test their young corners in coverage and look to have a pass-heavy attack. The strength of their defense is their LB’s, but your TE Daggs is hard to stop. Expect him to be open early and often. This could be a week where you score a lot of points. Portland doesn’t necessarily pose a huge offensive threat. They have some solid weapons, but nothing too overpowering. Play tight man coverage on the outside. They rely on short out routes to Weston and the other receivers, so staying in their face will cause major issues. Your defense is plenty good enough to stop their lacklustre rushing attack, so just make sure your coverage duties are taken care of.
Fort Worth Toros (2-4) @ St. Louis Gladiators (3-3)
This week Fort Worth needs to bounce back from a tough loss to Florida. Runningback Williams did not find much success last week. In the two wins this season for Fort Worth, he’s rushed for over 100 yards. They should be working to get him those big numbers this week. St. Louis hasn’t been very strong rushing the ball this season, and your defense should be able to outmatch them upfront. Bottle Martinez up in the backfield and force their rookie QB to beat you. Pay extra attention to receivers Eagle Mondavi and Paul Dillavou. They know how to get open, so keep your eyes on them all game long.
A roster made up of several rookies continues to impress, despite falling short last week to Lone Star. Quarterback Vazquez will need to avoid turning the ball over as often this week in order to avoid another loss. In the three wins, the Gladiators have this season, he’s thrown for 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. In the three losses, he passed for a total of 3 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Those turnovers have been detrimental to the team’s success. Receivers Mondavi and Dillavou both had their biggest games of the season last week yardage wise, both having over 100 yards receiving. Continue to get the ball to them down the field. Kairo Martinez has shown flashes of greatness this season, while some games he just can’t seem to pick up any yards. Fort Worth’s defense has been a strength this season, especially against the run. Don’t change up your strategy, continue to use a balanced attack and let your passing game win the game.
Vancouver Legion (3-3) @ Louisiana Revolution (5-1)
Ohhhhhhh Vancouver. I know this sounds biased, but myself, along with most of the community, were really pulling for victory in Week 6 against the Mexico City Aztecs, in the wake of the recent sad news. Alas, it didn’t happen, and you now sit at 3-3 after an excellent 3-1 start. This is a difficult game to try and halt the skid, but the Legion are always dangerous. Any offense that carries players like Redford, Killian and Pratchard will have a shot at victory. Give this trio the ball as much as possible. Trust in your pass defense, and key in on Reggie Streeter as much as is legally possible. Rush D has been a strength so far this season, so get the pursuit angles right, hit Streeter hard and wrap those legs. DeAndre Washington and Kevin Brackett – you need to be the difference makers.
Like myself, much of the league we surprised that the Revolution dispatched Baltimore so handily last week, taking them to 5-1. Now that I think about it, I’m wondering why. The Revolution have created a winning culture since Day 1 and should go into every game from now on thinking they are going to win. A large part of that is down to the play of Reggie Streeter and the efficiency of Jonny Pichler at QB. Keep this balance in your offence this week. Vancouver will likely key in on Streeter, so give him his touches, but don’t be surprised if Pichler needs to air the ball out during key moments. Chase Earl and Seren Storm are both solid receivers – get them involved and move those chains. On the other side of the ball, the focus will depend on which Robert Redford decides to show up. Redford is the engine to the Legion’s offence when they play well, so force him into mistakes and make Tom Pepper play nervously. If you pressure Pepper, he does make mistakes which have cost Vancouver in the past. This should be a priority for the Revolution. Luther Gond – I’m looking at you.
Houston Hyenas (3-3) @ Baltimore Vultures (4-2)
You know the news. Baltimore lost two huge parts of their team this week. Play aggressive this week and make them question themselves after losing the Dazzos. With all the attention being on the loss of their quarterback, don’t forget they still have a stud at running back. Gaines is a proven playmaker with the ball in his hands, so get your defense ready for a heavy dose of TRoy out of the backfield. A win this week would push Houston back into a good place going forward in Season 15.
Say it isn’t so…the Dazzos have officially hung it up in their amazing SFL careers. This is a HUGE blow to a team that is playing great football this season. Losing a leader, much less two leaders can be detrimental to a team’s morale. However, this gives Baltimore a shot this week to prove how resilient they really are. Transitioning from a HOF quarterback to a newcomer will be very interesting to see. How will the offense respond to new leadership under the centre? Look to let T-Roy Gaines get extra carries this week while the new quarterback builds his confidence. Make some big plays this week to build confidence. FS Bolt returned a kickoff for six last week, and doing so again would be huge against the Hyenas. Houston’s offense can do a little bit of everything. Warren Murray has put up 4 straight 100+ yard games, one of which he rushed for over 200. Don’t let him get rolling early in the game. This should throw their offense off track, and force them to take risks as the game progresses.