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Written By Matthew Slinn and Cliff Grizzly

Images by Jonny Law

The Slate

Keys to Victory

Queen City Corsairs (3-5) @ Denver Nightwings (7-1)

Queen City

Queen City is facing one of the leagues top two teams this week in terms of record. Only one team has solved the puzzle that is slowing down the Nightwings. They are so well balanced on offense, but penetrating the offensive line is always a great first step to ruining an offensive scheme. Duffy and Tilley need to play like their lives depend on it, blowing up play after play in the backfield. The corners can’t afford to leave too much space between them and the receivers, or else the defense will get picked apart. Look at how Baltimore managed to defeat Denver and try your best to emulate that same gameplan. 

Denver

Looking for the key to victory against the Corsairs? Look no further than playing that patented Nightwing brand of football. Let McChesney gash the front seven and open up the passing game. He may manage to break off some long runs in the process. Queen City isn’t a homerun hitting team on the ground, so make sure and keep your defensive backfield focused on the air attack.

Arizona Scorpions (4-4) @ Carolina Skyhawks (3-5) 

Arizona

The Skyhawks have the second-worst rushing attack, on average, in the SFL. On the other hand, they average the second-most passing yards per game through the air. Eddie Guage and crew better show up ready to play tight coverage in order to cause this offense to struggle. The Scorpions have a well-balanced offense and should continue that same gameplan against Carolina.

Carolina

The offense has got to find some success on the ground going forward in the season. Logan Jack is a good ballcarrier but has yet to eclipse a single 100-yard rushing game in season 15, and also has managed to score just 1 rushing TD. The Skyhawks need to find a way to get him some open field to run through so that all the pressure isn’t on Sully Richardson to win every game with his arm. Arizona runs and passes the ball effectively, but have lost a few games when they turn the ball over numerous times. Strive to pressure Jackson into making errant throws down the field, and trust your ball-hawking safeties to come down with some interceptions. 

Atlanta Swarm (3-5) @ Tulsa Desperadoes (3-5)

Atlanta

Last week was a tough one for Atlanta. Their offense just couldn’t find much success and fail way short of their usual passing numbers. If they want to win this week, Bryant Dynasty will have to play much better, as well as the offensive line. They allowed 6 sacks and threw 5 interceptions, those numbers are very hard to overcome. Tulsa has one of the best pass defenses in the league, so look to get Hollewood busy on the ground a little more than usual. The Swarm must improve their defense, which has allowed over 250+ yards passing and 100+ yards rushing per game thus far. When you’re facing Tulsa, you know they have an explosive play-maker who can take it to the house every time he touches the ball in Gabriel Manning. Make sure and pay him extra attention all game long.

Tulsa

Look no farther than last week to find the perfect blueprint to beat Atlanta. Get in Dynasty’s face and force him to throw dangerous passes. They’ve led the league in passing yards this season, so slowing their air attack will be vital. Atlanta’s run defense has been solid in season 15, but has proven vulnerable through the air. Utilize your passing game, and look for Gabriel Manning to be open early and often. A couple of big plays for him will give Tulsa a great change to win this one.

Baltimore Vultures (6-2) @ St. Louis Gladiators (4-4)

Baltimore

The Vultures, despite the mid-season loss of the Dazzos, have kept performing at very high level the last two weeks. New QB Jack Wigmore has stepped right into his new role in a flawless manner and led Baltimore to a huge win against one of the top defenses in the league in Mexico City. Despite being sacked 5 times, he has proved that he won’t be shaken. Use the same offensive scheme that Baltimore is known for, and trust that it will work. St. Louis has some weaknesses on the offensive line, so feel free to send some extra pass rushers and get in Javier Vazquez’s face. The Gladiators have a well balanced offense, but letting their rookie QB get hit has been their kryptonite.

St. Louis

Sitting at a .500 record going into this week, a win against Baltimore would be tremendous for the Gladiators. That’s much easier said than done, because the Vultures are arguably the top team in the league. Coming off a hard-earned win last week, ride that momentum into this game and build upon what was an impressive offensive performance. The Vultures are allowing 300+ yards a game through the air, so look to utilize the young talent at receiver. Javier Vazquez is well on his way to be a household name in St. Louis, and he very well may be the key to victory for the offense this week. Devise a scheme that will allow him time to hit his receivers before the pass rush can arrive. Vazquez has been sacked a lot this season, so quick routes to the outside will be the best bet. Prepare for a lot of passes out of QB Wigmore, he’s thrown the ball 40+ times in his first two starts of Season 15.

Chicago Wildcats (4-4) @ Las Vegas Fury (3-5) 

Chicago

Chicago has really seemed to fall and fall hard since the mid-season drama took place. They still have all the tools to be one of the SFL’s toughest teams, but they have to start playing better. Las Vegas has had some struggles so far this season, so winning this week will be a great opportunity to get back on the winning track. Running back Robert Johnson is a very capable player, but he only had 11 carries last week. Give him the ball often against Las Vegas and force them to contain him. He should have a big game this week. Las Vegas loves to pass, so a good pass rush would be big. Don’t give them time to sit back and pick your defense apart. The Fury are averaging the second least rushing yards per game so far, but two weeks ago they earned a victory by leaning on their run game. Don’t overlook their rushing attack, and make sure your top tier linebackers are in position to stop Scott Johnson early on.

Las Vegas

Two weeks ago the Fury found a key ingredient to winning games: Scott Johnson on the ground. This wasn’t the typical Fury offensive game plan as they usually are a pass heavy offense. Try to get the run game going early on so that all the pressure isn’t on Ramen to win the game with his arm. Chicago has a great rush defense, but they may not expect the run game to be much of a threat. Chicago has a tough running game to slow down, if they choose to utilize it. Make sure all 11 defenders are flying to the ball and gang tackling their running backs when they get the ball.

Mexico City Aztecs (5-3) @ Lone Star Glory (4-4)

Mexico City

The Aztecs have been impressive the majority of the season but suffered a tough loss last week to Baltimore. They struggled to find much success offensively after their star running back went down early, and just never could quite get on track. They need to bounce back strong this week with a healthy roster. That effective passing attack may very well be the Aztecs key to victory, as the Glory have lost a few games due to an inability to stop receivers down the field. Get that fearsome d-line hyped up to play this week and bury Lone Star’s rookie QB in the ground early and often. 

Lone Star

Out of the new teams introduced this offseason, Lone Star has definitely been one of the more successful organizations. To move to a winning record in season 15, they’ll have to produce a solid offensive and defensive performance this week. In the games that the Glory fell short, they struggled against the passing attack. This week will once again test their coverage abilities, so they must make sure and prepare for a heavy dose of passing. Aztecs Matt Willson leads the SFL in passing yards and completion percentage and failing to respect those stats would be a costly mistake. Mexico City has a young D-line that can really get after the quarterback, so make sure and protect your rookie signal-caller Fenech.

Vancouver Legion (4-4) @ Sioux Falls Sparrows (6-2) 

Vancouver

Everyone knows the Sparrows have Colin Hart leading their offense. They average the second best rushing yards per game in the league, and rely on that to wear down their opponents defense. If the Legion wants to win, they have to force Sioux Falls to pass the ball. Stack the box on defense, do whatever it takes to keep Hart from breaking loose for big yards. Getting ahead early in this game will be a huge key to upsetting one of the SFL’s best teams. The Sparrows are allowing right at 300 yards per game through the air, so look to go deep and score early. Robert Redford had a HUGE game last week, but in all fairness, it was against Portland who is a very young team. Sioux Falls will provide a much more effective ability to slow the rush, so a balanced attack will have to be utilized.

Sioux Falls

The whole league knows what the game plan is for Sioux Falls, yet very few teams are capable of slowing down the offense. As the old saying goes: don’t fix what isn’t broken. Force Vancouver to stop that lethal running game. When they come prepared to overly commit to the run, throw the ball down field. Vancouver can do a little bit of everything on offense, they pass and run the ball effectively. Expect them to try and get the running game going early. Robert Redford is riding a hot hand after torching Portland last week for nearly 300 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.

Florida Storm (4-4) @ Portland Fleet (1-7)

Florida

The Storm will look to reach a winning record for the first time in season 15 this week against an underwhelming squad in Portland. The first key to victory for Florida will be avoiding turnovers. Play smart on offense. There’s no need to make risky plays early in the game against Portland. Test the run game and trust Doyle to be effective on the ground. Look at what Vancouver did to Portland last week and do your best to copy it. In coverage, the Storm’s receivers should outmatch the Portland defenders without much trouble. Defensively, Dominguez and Tomaello could both have huge games this week against a team who has allowed a lot of sacks. Keep up the same defensive scheme this week and Florida should move to a winning record.

Portland

The struggles continue for the new team in Portland as they face a hot team from Florida this week. They were obliterated on the ground last week, allowing nearly 300 yards rushing against Vancouver. The key to getting their second win will begin with forcing Ron Cockren to take risks from the QB position. Keep the Storm running game contained, and they will have to look to make plays through the air. Florida does have great potential to hurt teams through the air, but Cockren has had a lot of trouble turning the ball over. If the Fleet wants to stand a chance, they have to force turnovers and keep the ball in their possession most of the game. On offense, Florida has run into some issues against the running game early on, but they have improved drastically. Maintaining possession of the football and wearing down the Florida defenders will be huge. This game could surprise a lot of people if the Portland defense shows up to play.

Fort Worth Toros (3-5) @ Charleston Predators (3-5)

Fort Worth

Could this be the last chance for Fort Worth to steal a surprise Playoff spot come the end of the season? Maybe not, but a loss would make it 3-6 – not ideal. Either way, the Toros have produced some outstanding football this season, and their defence has time and time again proven to be elite level. It may not need to play it’s absolute best against Charleston to limit the Predators scoring, however, the offence needs to take a step up. Stephen Hacker has drastically improved his performances of late and the rest of the unit need to take his example and apply it to their own showings. Jason Williams hasn’t quite been consistent enough and Xander Gold plays at one end of a very large spectrum. We just never know which end he will be on. Improve the offensive consistency this week at the Predators and the Toros could stand a very good chance.

Charleston

This is a MUST WIN game for the Predators. The schedule has been brutal, but here is a home fixture vs a team below .500 – prime opportunity to put your name in the playoff bound hat. It’s very simple for the Predators this week. Don’t rely on Keith Swearingen too much – use your underrated receivers. And, play the defense you played against Denver. Fort Worth have been inconsistent on offense, so mathematically, shouldn’t trouble you as much as Denver did.

Houston Hyenas (3-5) @ London Knights (2-6)

Houston

Houston fought manfully at home to the Revolution last time out, going down 45-35 in a high scoring contest. Kentez Johnson found a way past the tight Louisiana secondary (he did also throw 4 picks) and I will be looking for more of the same from him this weekend against a London defense that is young, keen, but has some holes. The Hyenas need to get Warren Murray his mojo back also, as when he plays well, the team is instantly elevated. Defensively, watch for the deep ball to Vin Calia and keep an eye out for Fox Highwind in the red zone. Angus MaClaine will make mistakes under pressure, so that d-line needs to play aggressive.

London

After last week’s home victory over Carolina, London have a chance to make it a 3-game home sweep. Who would have thought that possible two weeks ago? The Knights seem to have figured something out that has been eluding them all season and it comes on the defensive end. The young linebacking group has really picked up its play in recent weeks, as players like Jeff Gagne continue to progress. This second level D will be crucial in stymieing Houston’s offense which is likely to try and use Warren Murray a bunch early on. Obviously we all know about Jack Russell, but the rest of the corners and safeties need to also step up. Leroy Brown and HOF’er DR. Sim are both excellent receivers. This Knights D will be tested.

Louisiana Revolution (7-1) @ Jacksonville Kings (6-2)

Louisiana

It was the same old story for Louisiana last week and we learned nothing from them that we didn’t already know. Now, that sounds like a negative thing but it is far from it. We all know Reggie Streeter is going to run the ball with ferocity. We all know that the Revolution coaches use him to their full advantage. We all know that other teams will be forced to pass early to try and catch up on the scoreboard, which plays right into the hands of the sharp-toothed secondary. The main thing is – we all know it’s nearly impossible to stop upon this season’s evidence. Now, this week sees Louisiana taking on potentially their toughest opponent yet. The Kings are in sparkling form and are at home. If, and it’s a big if, Jacksonville pull ahead, Pichler is going to have to take a more prominent role in the offensive effort. He has the ability and the right mental strength, so it would make for a very interesting scenario. J2K could be more Key to Victory than we may anticipate.

Jacksonville

This is the perfect chance for Jacksonville to cement their legitimacy at the top of the standings for yet another season. There is a lot at stake, but there is also a fair amount in the Kings’ favour this weekend. They are at home. They are currently one of the form teams in the SFL and they are facing a squad that some say hasn’t really been tested yet. Key for Jacksonville will be to get ahead by a score or two early on. They can afford to run with a balanced attack as Jared Willis has been excellent this season and we all know what Christian Christiansen can do on his day. To achieve this, Aelx Bond and the Jacksonville second level defenders need to contain Reggie Streeter. If they can do that, Hunter Norwood, Taquan Hale and that excellent D-Line can get at Jonny Pichler. Offensive production will be crucial – but it all starts with that defence.

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