The last time we saw the Orlando Predators and the Pittsburgh Power play each other, labor issues between the Arena Football League and the players' union cast a dark shadow over the game. This time, though, all we have to concern ourselves with is football.
Some guys wearing Power uniforms beat some guys wearing Predators uniforms by a score of 40-26 in Week 1 on NET10 Arena Football Friday. Since both teams returned to full strength, however, neither the Power (1-3) or the Preds (0-4) have been able to get into the win column.
Adam Markowitz of ArenaFan.com speculates that the dark shadow of the labor issues actually still hangs over both franchises--a speculation that certainly makes sense, since both of these teams continue to struggle after that fateful night in March, despite having quite a few prominent arena football players on each roster.
So why watch a game between two of the three worst offenses in the league?
One reason would be to watch a game between two of the four best defenses in the league. It should also be a quick game--these are two of three least-penalized teams in the league. Another reason would be to watch the play of any number of exciting players on each squad. Another would be to remember that it's a long season in the AFL, and each of these teams is only two games out of first place in their respective divisions with 14 games to go.
It should also be interesting to watch these two teams--two teams that are bound together, at least for the short term, by the events of March 9--on the same field again, trying to shake off the stigma and the turmoil and the frustration of how each of their seasons has started.
This is a re-do. A second chance to play a game that was supposed to have been played a month ago. And don't we all wish we could get a second chance from time to time?
There is a psychological hurdle that can be overcome by both teams by simply playing this one out. Even the team that comes up short on the scoreboard in this one can feel some degree of weight being lifted off their shoulders as they get done what was left unfinished in Week 1.
Who to Watch
Pittsburgh FB Tyre Young is the second-leading rusher in the league, picking up a touch more than 21 yards per game on the ground. If you've ever seen him play, you'll understand why. Tackling this 6-foot-0, 300-pounder is like trying to tackle a truck. Against Orlando's middle-of-the-road run defense, Young could find some running room on Saturday night.
On the other side of the ball, check out Power DB Bryan Williams. His two fumble recoveries on the year are tied for best in the AFL, and his seven passes defended puts him at No. 5 in the league in that category. With 24.5 tackles on the year, he's also in the Top 20 in the AFL in planting opponents.
I also plan to keep an eye on Pittsburgh QB Andrico Hines. He has struggled this season, as you might expect from a guy who was to be the team's second-stringer. One lasting consequence of March 9 fallout is that the Power unexpectedly lost their starting quarterback, Kyle Rowley, for the season, shoving Hines into a position that he doesn't appear to have been quite ready for. Can you imagine what that must be like?
Oh wait. I'm an Indianapolis Colts fan. I know exactly what that's like.
So I'll be watching Hines because I want him to succeed, even though Orlando sports the league's No. 3 pass defense. I have no burning emotions one way or the other surrounding the Power, but I want to see Hines play a good game and turn the volume down on some of his critics.
Likewise, I want the same thing for Orlando QB Collin Drafts, who has been having a rough time of things for the past couple of games. He'll have his work cut out for him against the league's No. 1 pass defense, but if he can put together a solid game, he'll turn down some of the heat of his critics.
When Orlando is on defense, watch for DB Travis Coleman. Pittsburgh's minus-7 turnover margin is second-worst in the league, and Coleman already has two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in three games. He has returned one of those picks for a touchdown, so in what is shaping up as a defensive battle, Coleman could provide the scale-tipping turnover.
The series between these two teams is tied, 1-1, after Pittsburgh's Week 1 victory and Orlando's 62-54 win at home last season.
Kickoff for this game is set for 7:30 p.m. ET, and the game can be seen on Ustream.
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