Written by Cliff Grizzly and Matthew Slinn
Images by Jonny Law
Keys to Victory
Queen City Corsairs (4-6) @ Mexico City Aztecs (6-4)
Like the former champions that they are, the Corsairs just refuse to give up on this difficult season. Last week’s tight win over the Lone Star Glory keeps them with hope of a playoff berth – can pure hope guide them to victory in Mexico this weekend? Alone, that may not be enough, but couple with a solid rushing attack and much better defense on the ground, there could be a chance to go .500. First and foremost, Jett Zero needs to have another prominent game, much like he did last weekend. We all know Queen City has a potent passing attack, and the Aztecs have struggled against the pass, but on the road, teams can’t rely on a predictable offense. Get Jett Zero another 100 yards and it will only strengthen the air raids. Conversely, the rush defence also needs to drastically improve. The Corsairs defence gave up nearly 200 yards on the ground last week and find themselves last in the SFL in that category. Phoenix Jones is hardly a home-run hitting RB but he can exploit you if given the chance. Stuff Jones and increase the pressure on the bronze bomber. The Daggs connection can only do so much.
Teams that make the playoffs know how to pull it out of the bag in tight games, even if they aren’t playing well. Mexico City showed why they are favourites to make the post-season last weekend, with a narrow 24-23 victory at Tulsa. The second half comeback was a Matt Willson special, re-igniting the fabled telepathic connection with Richard Montague, giving the veteran 2 receiving touchdowns and the Aztecs the victory. Being at home this weekend, we wouldn’t expect the Aztecs to be in a similar position, especially against a team with a losing record – but this is still the Queen City Corsairs. The Aztecs will need to shut down Deezer Powell and Chris Curtis and get thaat young defensive line to harrass AJ Caswell all game. One thing is for sure – the secondary is going to be busy. Offensively, it seems like Mexico City found their groove a while ago, leaning on their big-play tight end whilst using the wide receivers and running back as supplemental pieces. While I do think it is wise to continue to abuse Daggs’ hands, get the running game involved early and often. Queen City has a leaky rush defence, so exploit this to the fullest.
Florida Storm (6-4) @ Charleston Predators (4-6)
After a slow 0-3 start to Season 15, it seems like the Storm has really settled into their old ways. Ron Cockren looked like his old self last week and had a player of the game performance. That should be scary for the rest of the league. Florida needs to ride that momentum into Week 11 and continue climbing the ranks going into the playoffs. The offense seems to really be clicking as a whole, and should be able to have another good day at the office against Charleston. Look to get JW Doyle a few extra carries this week, as Charleston is towards the bottom of the league in rush defense. Doyle may not break off any long touchdowns, but he is liable to gain sufficient yards up the middle. Continue to rely on a heavy passing attack. It’s unlikely that the Predators can keep Cline and the other star receivers locked down consistently.
Charleston has to be prepared for a highly effective passing game this week. Ron Cockren is coming into this week after a great performance, so they need to expect to see a high dose of pass attempts. Florida loves to distribute the ball to several different players. Last week, 5 different guys had multiple receptions, so don’t focus solely on one man. In games where Florida has struggled, Cockren has forced some passes that were questionable. Send some extra pass rushers and hope to get to Cockren before he can pick the defense apart.
Tulsa Desperados (3-7) @ Lone Star Glory (5-5)
I can’t help but feeling that Tulsa are the best 3-7 team I have seen in the SFL for a long time. The Depserados are so dangerous, with an aggressive defence and a pure gunslinger at quarterback, every team in the league has to be wary. And then, they have weeks where they just don’t show up – they play like they are still sat, relaxing on the plane. Last week was not one of those times, although it was still an inconsistent game of two halves for Tulsa, resulting in a record which pretty much counts them out of the playoff reckoning. It is a shame, but the Gabriel Manning experiment doesn’t seem to have paid off. Personally, I would like them to use Sonzo Robinson more – especially in Week 11. The Lone Star Glory have one of the best rush defences in the SFL, so test Robinson against them. Justify his mammoth contract through carries. There is very little to play for now other than pride, so take a risk and lean away from Manning for a week. Defensively, just keep being aggressive. There isn’t too much more to say on that front.
The Glory have a slight issue this week – nothing is more dangerous than playing a team with not much to play for, especially when every game is crucial for yourselves. Lone Star will need an accurate and disciplined performance against Tulsa to prevail, but expect those players to be nervy. To help quell those nerves, Lone Star need to get ahead early. Stuff Tulsa with defensive aggression, especially around their big name target, and force a mistake prone Nickens into an errant throw. When in possession, utilize the rising talent of fullback, Cameron Collier, and force drives to last longer than the opposition find comfortable. The tandem of McBride and Collier are perfect for slowly trucking the ball up and down the field, so keep pounding at that defensive door. Lone Star’s tactic should be to strangle the life out of the Desperados – let’s see if this young team has the mettle.
Chicago Wildcats (4-6) @ Atlanta Swarm (5-5)
Chicago has, seemingly, tanked as the season has gone on. After a solid 4-1 record, the Wildcats have since lost 5 straight games. ET King has got to improve his play going into Atlanta. He’s thrown 11 interceptions and only 3 round touchdowns during their 5 game skid. They cannot afford to keep turning the ball over if they want a chance to win. Robert Johnson also needs to perform better, but he can’t do it alone. The whole offensive unit has got to step their game up. If Chicago wants to slow down Atlanta’s offense, they will have to play great in coverage. Boo Chisolm, Siege Falco, and newcomer Kendra Hall make up one of the league’s best receiving units. Bryant Dynasty is a gunslinger who loves to get them the ball down the field. A few extra sacks of the quarterback and forced turnovers will be key to victory.
Atlanta has only lost one home game in Season 15, and should be expecting to continue growing upon this statistic this week. Chicago’s offense has been performing very poorly as of late, and do not seem to be improving. If Robert Johnson is held to minimal gains, the Swarm shouldn’t find much difficulty on defense. Offensively, take advantage of that high-powered air attack. It sounds brutal, but when a team is down and out, don’t take your foot off the gas. Use Chisolm and Falco to stretch the field. This will open up the ground game. Atlanta should expect to score early, then wind down the clock with Hollewood carrying the rock.
Carolina Skyhawks (4-6) @ Vancouver Legion (5-5)
Carolina’s quarterback had his biggest game of the season last week, passing for over 400 yards. Running back Logan Jack also had his biggest game of the season when he rushed for over 160 yards. Yet, Carolina managed to lose. This points to a major flaw: the defense. If the Skyhawks want to win this week, they will have to play better defensively. They allowed Warren Murray to carve them up, and Vancouver surely will be looking to do the same. Expect a high dose of Robert Redford. Offensively, not much needs to change from last week. 37 points is usually a winning number.
Watch last week’s tape from the Carolina vs Houston game. Get Robert Redford a lot of carries and expect to have great success on the ground. Carolina will, surely, be attempting to tighten up their rush defense, but will it be enough to slow down Redford? That has yet to be seen, but look to exploit a struggling defense. The Skyhawks have an explosive offense. Sully Richardson had over 60 passing attempts last week, so you know what their offense plans on doing. Don’t forget about Logan Jack though. When he gets hot, he can cause some serious issues for a defense.
Sioux Falls Sparrows (8-2) @ Arizona Scorpions (4-6)
Sioux Falls is definitely one of the top teams inSseason 15. Relying on a very dangerous running game, they have torched defenses all year long. Why stop now? The Sparrows need to pound the defense with that lethal combo of ball carriers in Hart and Wells and force Arizona to stop them. Wear them down, break their spirits, and go onto Week 12 sitting pretty at 9-2. The Scorpions will bring a balanced attack, but not like anything Sioux Falls hasn’t seen already this season.
It’s the same thing every week for teams facing Sioux Falls: if you want to win, you have to stop the run. The main key to victory this week will be avoiding broken tackles. Hart has proven that he’s capable of breaking multiple tackles every time he touches the ball. This can’t be the case this week. On offense, protect the ball and do your best to maintain possession. The Sparrows time-draining offensive style will make a game come and go in a hurry. Arizona needs to control the pace of the game and keep their offense on the field as much as possible.
Jacksonville Kings (6-4) @ Fort Worth Toros (4-6)
What a tough couple of weeks it’s been for the Kings. They can’t allow the last couple of weeks to affect their morale any longer, or else their chances of being champions in Season 15 will quickly dwindle. Jacksonville knows why they’ve lost the last two weeks…poor pass defense. Given, they have played two top-tier quarterbacks, but they need to tighten up their coverage against Fort Worth. Fort Worth typically doesn’t pass for more than 250 yards per game, but expect them to boost those numbers after witnessing Jacksonville’s last two defeats. Fort Worth’s defense is second best in the league against the pass, so rely on Jared Willis to get the job done this week and earn the victory.
A win this week would be huge for the Toros. They have a great chance after witnessing the Kings fall apart against the pass the past two weeks. Xander Gold needs to have his best performance of the season. He needs to play smart and avoid turnovers. The o-line will also need to tighten up and keep that defensive line out of the backfield. Jacksonville has a well balanced offense. Keep playing tough defense in coverage and make that offense one dimensional.
Baltimore Vultures (7-3) @ London Knights (2-8)
It was very close, and probably a slight surprise to some, but Baltimore just couldn’t quite hang with the juggernaut that is Sioux Falls last week. The defensive battle, in the end, came down to the running game, and we all know that Sioux Falls are experts at beating out a victory on the ground. Moving on to Week 11 and the Vultures have the ‘trappiest’ of trap games they could hope for. Yes, London are 2-8, and yes, they have inexperienced coaches on both sides of the ball – but they are still dangerous. Baltimore need to make sure they take care of business, and early. Get up big at half-time and coast the rest of the game – you don’t want to be dragged into a dogfight with London. Just ask early-season Louisiana. The Knights achilles heel is pass defence. Give Wigmore the ball, allow him to survey the field and hit his receivers often. Ivory Ervin and Mac Chima seem to love having double-digit catch games, so play to their strengths. Keep T-Roy involved if it stays tight, but have some fun through the air. Just make sure you avoid probably pro bowler, Jack Russell.
I don’t know about you, but like a lot of the community it seems, I still feel like the Knights could beat any team in this league on any given weekend. They have a young roster of players, two young, talented coordinators and that combination excites me. Add that to the fact that pride is the only thing left to play for, and the Knights are primed for a big upset. So, how do you tackle Baltimore? If it was me, I would go pure aggression on both sides of the ball. Don’t always settle for the short, simple route – go for the bomb. If the ball is in the air, don’t bat it down – make that pick. If it’s 4tth and short in the red zone, leave the field goal kicker on the sidelines and cross that marker. Bravery and a lion’s heart will win the day for the Knights vs Baltimore – it’s all about belief.
Portland Fleet (2-8) @ Louisiana Revolution (8-2)
Portland had a huge victory last weekend, simultaneously earning more of my respect and kicking this writer out of the survivor pool. Personal feelings aside (don’t worry, I blame Charleston) the Fleet played a hell of a defensive game, coming through on offense when it mattered. It’s a shame, then, that they have to travel to the Louisiana Revolution, who will be playing with venom after the shock loss to Fort Worth last week. So, how do the Fleet condemn Louisiana to two home losses on the trot? Keep the ball. Matt South needs to play frustratingly safe. Jon Truezmann needs to have a similar game to what he had last week – but better. Every member of that roster needs tot have the game of their lives. Weston needs to shine. Champion and Mel Davis need to hit Reggie Streeter before he can cross the gain line. Do all that, and Portland may have a slim chance.
This is very difficult to write. We all know very well what Louisiana can do and we all know that last week was a mere blip in an otherwise stellar season. To tell the truth, I have nothing constructive to say. Forget last week, play like the Revolution that we all know and love, and go out and win the game. Playoff seedings still matter. The job is not yet done.
St. Louis Gladiators (5-5) @ Houston Hyenas (5-5)
Houston has won their past two games basically by just relying on the run. This plays well into the Gladiators hands, as they have been one of the better teams at stuffing the run. Houston is coming off of two back-to-back games where they dominated on the ground, and will probably be hoping to find similar success again. This can not happen if the Gladiators hope to move on to a winning record. The Hyenas haven’t been stellar on defense this season, so no need to change up too much on offense. Rely on your rookie quarterback to play well and make smart throws. Quick routes to the outside and getting rid of the ball quickly will be key. If St. Louis plays smart and motivated football they can come away with a big win.
St. Louis will be bringing one of the toughest rush defenses in the league to Houston, but don’t be afraid to press their hand. With that said, Kentez Johnson should get some extra pass attempts. The Hyenas shouldn’t expect to find as much success on the ground, so get D.R. Sim and company busier this week on the outside. The Gladiators don’t have the most high-powered offense, but they have proven they can make plays. Shut down the rookie quarterback and get pressure in the backfield. Take pride in beating a team with an identical record.
Denver Nightwings (9-1) @ Las Vegas Fury (4-6)
Coming into Week 11, Denver has reached to perennial top spot on the league rankings. This team is playing like a true powerhouse, and will look to continue their dominance against the Fury. Las Vegas is giving up an average of over 100 yards on the ground per game, so look to once again utilize McChesney’s abilities carrying the ball. Keep Rhett Sawyer out of the backfield by running and taking advantage of some play action pass attempts as the game progresses. Typically, the Fury pass the ball a lot more than they run it. Don’t expect them to change this system too much. Keep their receivers held to short-yard gains and add some extra defenders in the defensive backfield.
This week is going to be a huge test for the Fury. With that said, beating Denver would make a statement to the league that Las Vegas isn’t going to just lie down for anybody. The Nightwings run game will have to be rendered ineffective if Las Vegas hopes to win. Wrap up McChesney before he can get a head of steam built up. Offensively, Ramen’s going to have to play smart and avoid turnovers. Having the “nothing to lose” mindset may not hurt to have also. Take some chances down the field if it feels like momentum is on Denver’s side. Las Vegas needs to play fearlessly, but not recklessly, in order to shut down the league’s top team.