2007 Arena Football Predictions

2007 Arena Football Predictions

2007 Arena Football Predictions
by Vegas Sports Informer - 02/27/2007

The start of the 2007 Arena Football season is a couple days away and my wallet is itching to fire up some units. Arena Football is not like the NFL where they have preseason games to fall back on and help us with handicapping the season. Most teams in the Arena league have at least one session of training camp where they practice with another team, so we won't get a good feeling about this year's league until the regular season kicks off.

My preseason predictions are based on team's schedules, last year's regular season record, how teams performed in the playoffs, offseason signings of rookies and free agents, and of course my six years of stats and trends.

Here's is my 2007 Arena Football Predictions:

19. Kansas City Brigade
Kansas City finished their first season in the league 3-13. The Brigade should be better offensively with a new QB Raymond Philyaw and both top wide receivers are coming back. The defense again will be the downfall for this season. Last year the defense gave up over 50 points per game.

18. Las Vegas Gladiators
Las Vegas will have new faces on both sides of the ball this year. Too bad these new faces are mostly former NFL players. AFL inexperience will be the big problem, and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Shaun King is their new signal caller so the learning curve will also be a factor. Also, Vegas plays in one of the toughest divisions in the league.

17. Grand Rapids Rampage
Grand Rapids hasn't had a winning record since 2002, and this year will be the same. Questions at QB are still a big concern although wide receivers should be better with former NFL players. If the Rampage can figure out who is going to throw the ball, this team might be able to reach a 6-7 win total.

16. Los Angeles Avengers
Last year LA suffered a disappointing season and didn't make the playoffs, but they have found a quarterback that could be the next star in this league. (QB Sonny Cumbie) If LA wants to improve from last year they most protect their QB. Last year LA gave up a total of 31 sacks (second most in the league). The Avengers should be a better team than in 2006. However, the Western Division is too deep.

15. Arizona Rattlers

Last year the Rattlers started the season slow and ended the season losing four out of their last six games. Arizona is one of the most experienced teams in the league and has one of the most experienced QBs in Sherdrick Bonner. If Arizona could land some Ws on the road, this team could make another run to the playoffs.

14. New Orleans VooDoo
The VooDoo return to action this year after taking a year off due to the affects of Hurricane Katrina. I feel sorry for head coach Mike Neu who has built a team from scratch for the second time in four years. New Orleans will be ready for the start of the season, but playing in a tough Southern Division doesn't help their comeback season.

13. Columbus Destroyers

The Destroyers had a huge upgrade at the QB position with a trade with Georgia for quarterback Matt Nagy. This year Columbus used their checkbook to improve their roster by signing free agents and made some big off-season trades. This team could be a playoff team but not this year.

12. Utah Blaze

Last year this expansion team went 7-9 and made the playoffs, so this year high expectations will be on their shoulders. Their defense has to play better this year if they want another playoff run (gave up 54 ppg). But with a healthy QB Joe Germaine this team could be a force in the Western Division.

11. Nashville Kats

Nashville started the season winning six of their first nine games but then went 2-5 towards the end of the season. They will need consistent play from QB Clint Stoerner if they want to compete in the Central Division and make a playoff run.

10. Tampa Bay Storm

The Storm is the most experienced team in the league and has good veteran leadership. Tampa Bay used a trade to bring back veteran QB John Kaleo who took this Storm team to an ArenaBowl Championship in 2003. The only big concern this team has is in the secondary where they are pretty thin.

9. Philadelphia Soul
A solid offense will carry this team all year. Their big concern will be who is going to replace top pass rusher E.J. Burt who signed with Chicago this year. If they can find someone to pass rush this team could take the next step in the playoffs.

8. Georgia Force
Georgia will start the season with a new QB, but the Force has plenty of weapons on the offensive side and this new QB will have no problems putting up points. The defensive line is probably one of the best in this league this year. This Georgia team could be one of my top five teams but with questions at QB is the reason why I have them at No. 8.

7. Austin Wranglers
Even though Austin went 10-6 last year and made a trip to the playoffs this team is sporting a new head coach (Brian Partlow) and a new QB (Adrian McPherson). With a new head coach and QB, this offensive unit could be the best in the league. I'm looking for a lot of points to light up the scoreboard this year for the Wranglers.

6. New York Dragons
This Dragon team could easily win the Eastern Division. With a healthy QB Aaron Garcia and a better Secondary unit this team will be tough to beat at home and on the road (last year on the road, 5-3).

5. Orlando Predators

This Predators team, to me, seems like they are in the playoffs every year. They are the most consistent team in the league year in and year out. On the offensive side of the ball they will be improved, but of course the Predators are well known for their defense. Because of their tough defense this Orlando team should be able to win their division.

4. Colorado Crush

The reason why I have Colorado at No. 4 is because they really didn't make any moves during the off season to improve the team. Another big concern is that Colorado had to replace both offensive and defensive coordinators this season. But don't get me wrong here, this team will compete for the American Conference crown.

3. Chicago Rush
The defending ArenaBowl champ is here!! The Rush return almost everyone from their championship team last year. Not only does almost everyone return from last year but they've added the league's top pass rusher in free agent E.J. Burt from Philadelphia. If this team can stay healthy, the Chicago Rush will make a good effort on trying to repeat.

2. Dallas Desperados
Last year the Desperados finished with the best record in the regular season (13-3), but lost to Orlando at home in the playoffs. This season, the Desperados are looking to repeat as division champs and make some noise in the playoffs. I feel like they can, and this Dallas team could represent the National Conference in New Orleans (ArenaBowl).

1. San Jose SaberCats
The SaberCats are one of the league's top offensive units. They can easily throw up 60 points. Their defense is going to be a little shaky at first but this high power offense will carry the team all year long. If San Jose can score at will, this team should be able to represent the American Conference in New Orleans.

2007 Arena Football Predictions:

National Conference
Southern Division (Orlando)
Wild Card (Georgia)
Wild Card (Austin)

Eastern Division (Dallas)
Wild Card (New York)
Wild Card (Philadelphia)

American Conference
Central Division (Chicago)
Wild Card (Colorado)
Wild Card (Nashville)

Western Division (San Jose)
Wild Card (Utah)
Wild Card (Arizona)

National Conference Championship (Dallas over Orlando)
American Conference Championship (San Jose over Chicago)
Arena Bowl XXI (Dallas over San Jose)

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Re: 2007 Arena Football Predictions

American Conference 

Central Division



Chicago Rush

Last Season 11-9, 10-8-2 ATS



The defending ArenaBowl champion Rush return nearly everyone from their championship team of a year ago. Chicago finished with a 7-9 regular season record but hit their stride in the playoffs, knocking off Nashville, San Jose and Colorado on the road before defeating Orlando in ArenaBowl XX. The mid-season addition of WR Bobby Sippio proved to be the spark the Rush offense needed down the stretch. Sippio totaled 38 catches for 654 yards and 17 TDs in five regular season games with the Rush (33 catches for 452 yards and 10 TDs in four playoff games), while D’Orazio passed for 3,546 yards and 63 TDs against only five INTs during the regular season. The offense also returns receivers DeJuan Alfonzo, Woody Dantzler and Etu Molden, while the offensive-defensive line will feature veterans John Moyer and Curtis Eason, along with free agent DL E.J. Burt (Philadelphia). Defensively, DB Jeremy Unertl (77 tackles, 8 INTs) and Dennison Robinson (5 INTs) will anchor the secondary. The coaching staff is also excited about a handful of rookies, who they expect to make an immediate impact, including former NFL WRs Ahmad Merritt and Kevin Kasper, along with OL Marques Sullivan.



Colorado Crush

Last Season 11-6, 8-8-1 ATS



The off-season was pretty quite on the player front in Colorado. The Crush lost OL/DL Hugh Hunter and K Clay Rush to free agency, but added backup QB Jose Davis and K Jason Ball. The biggest change for head coach Mike Dailey will be replacing offensive coordinator Brian Partlow and defensive coordinator Lee Johnson, who both left for Austin (Partlow was named head coach of the Wranglers). New quarterback coach Chris Boden will take over the play-calling duties in ’07 and will have a ton of weapons at his disposal. QB John Dutton and WR Damian Harrell both return, along with WRs Willis Marshall and Andy McCullough. Defensively, Rashad Floyd (136.5 tackles, 10 INTs), Ahmad Hawkins (66.5 tackles, 4 INTs) and Delvin Hughley (68.5 tackles, 2 INTs) will patrol the secondary, while DL Dustin Barno (6.0 sacks) and FB/LB Anthony Dunn (4.0 sacks) will pressure opposing quarterbacks. Since Dailey’s arrival in Colorado in ‘04, the Crush have won more regular season games than any other team in the AFL and were the only team to repeat as division champions last season. With most of the team still intact, expect the Crush to compete for another division title in ’07.



Grand Rapids Rampage

Last Season 5-11, 7-9 ATS



The Rampage struggled to a 5-11 finish in ’06, but did show some promise with an impressive home win over San Jose early in the season. But, times have been tough lately. Since winning the ArenaBowl title in 2001, Grand Rapids has managed just one winning season (8-6 in ’02) a combined for a 26-52 (.333) overall record over the last five seasons. In order for the Rampage to take the next step and compete for a division title in the Central, they’ll need to get better play from their quarterback. Last season, QB Chad Salisbury passed for 3,215 yards with 58 TDs and 13 INTs. Salisbury enters ’07 as the starter but will be pushed by backups Matt Radlinski and Matt Sauk. Last year’s top receiver – Anthony Hines – left via free agency, but the Rampage are excited about a pair of former NFL receivers (Troy Edwards and Scotty Anderson) who should jump right into the starting lineup. All-Ironman WR/DB Timon Marshall (102 catches for 1,324 yards and 19 TDs) and veteran Jerome Riley both return to give the receiving corps some experience, while veteran Winfield Garnett (4.0 sacks in ’06), free agent Chuckie Nwokorie and FB/LB Chris Ryan pace the big men up front. The free agent secondary duo of Jonathan Ordway (Tampa Bay) and Reggie Doster (Philadelphia) give the Rampage some experience in the defensive backfield.



Kansas City Brigade

Last Season 3-13, 8-8 ATS



The start of the ’07 season marks the Brigade’s second season in the AFL. As an expansion team last year, Kansas City finished with a 3-13 record with victories over Columbus, Los Angeles and Nashville. Second-year head coach Kevin Porter re-tooled his roster in the off-season and will take a total of 23 new players to training camp, including nine new linemen. The Brigade will have an interesting quarterback derby during camp with any of the three potentials – Michael Bishop, Raymond Philyaw and Jonathan Quinn (the Brigade released Chris Sanders on Tuesday) – getting the nod for the season opener vs. Chicago. Philyaw has the upper hand but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bishop or Quinn get a shot either. Philyaw, who was coming off major shoulder surgery last season, saw limited action and passed for 424 yards with seven TDs and an INT. Last seasons top two receiving threats – Jerel Myers (122 catches for 1,245 yards and 16 TDs) and James Jordan (69 receptions for 697 yards and 14 TDs) – both return, along with a handful of rookie hopefuls. Defensively, last season’s top pass rusher, Cyron Brown (4.5 sacks), returns along with DB Denario Smalls (3 INTs), DB Kenny McEntyre and free agent DB DaShane Dennis (New York).



Nashville Kats

Last Season 8-9, 6-10-1 ATS


Last year was a tale of two seasons for the Kats. Nashville opened the year winning six of their first nine games but went 2-5 down the stretch and lost to Chicago in the first round of the playoffs. QB Clint Stoerner passed for 3,134 yards with 54 TDs and 12 INTs in his first year as the Kats starter, but was too inconsistent over the second half of the season. With leading receiver T.T. Toliver gone, the Kats will have to find a new go-to guy in ’07. Second-year WR Alonzo Nix emerged as a solid receiver last year, but the Kats will have to find a few more playmakers on offense. Look for free agent WR Jason Shelley (Dallas), who was teammates with Stoerner in Dallas, to see a lot of action this season. The Kats are also hoping Stoerner will feel more comfortable in the offense this season with the addition of new coordinator Lary Kuharich. Kuharich spent last season as offensive coordinator with the Arizona Rattlers and the ’05 season with the New York Dragons, where he worked with two of the League’s best in Sherdrick Bonner (Arizona) and Aaron Garcia (New York). The strength of the Kats will come on the defensive side of the ball. Veteran DB Monty Montgomery (79.5 tackles, 9 INTs) will anchor the secondary along with free agent DB Thal Woods (Utah), while FB/LB Rupert Grant and free agent Hugh Hunter (Colorado) will provide the push up front.



Prediction

1) Colorado

2) Chicago

3) Nashville

4) Grand Rapids

5) Kansas City





Western Division



Arizona Rattlers

Last Season 9-9, 10-8 ATS



The Rattlers struggled at the beginning and the end of last season, but showed promise during the middle, winning seven of nine games.  Offensively, Arizona returns their top two playmakers in veterans QB Sherdrick Bonner and WR/DB Randy Gatewood.  Last year Bonner passed for 3,991 yards with 83 TDs and 16 INTs, while Gatewood led all receivers with 89 receptions for 1,175 yards and 35 scores. Eleven-year veteran FB/LB Bo Kelly (six TDs in ’06) also returns, as does WR/LB Curtis Fagan and WR/LB Cosmo DeMatteo, who combined for 17 receiving TDs last season.  The Rattlers are an aging team and need some of their younger players to step up and contribute.  One of the young guys that the Rattlers coaches are excited about is free agent WR Atnaf Harris (San Jose), who should fill in for departed WR Damien Groce (free agent to Columbus). Defensively, Arizona will have to find a replacement for DB Clarence Lawson (free agent to Utah), but returns linemen Wendall Gaines (5.5 sacks in ’06) and Kelvin Ingram, along with DBs Joseph Todd (53.0 tackles; 2 INTs) and Erin Damond (40.0 tackles and 2 INTs).





Las Vegas Gladiators

Last Season 5-11, 6-9-1 ATS



The Gladiators will have a new look on both sides of the ball in ’07.  Along with first-year head coach Danton Barto, Las Vegas will welcome a new quarterback (Shaun King) and a new go-to receiver (Peter Warrick) this season. Although King and Warrick are rookies by AFL standards, both come to Las Vegas from the NFL with a ton of talent and even more expectations. King spent seven seasons in the NFL, including two as a starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he earned a 14-8 record as a starter.  A former second round pick, he seems very suited for the AFL game. He’s an accurate passer and set the NCAA record for passing efficiency while at Tulane University in 1998.  As a whole, the Gladiators will be a very inexperienced team by AFL standards.  Las Vegas currently has 27 rookies or first-year players on their training camp roster. Free agent WR/LB Darrin Chiaverini (Austin) is the club’s most experienced player with just three years in the League.  It may take a few games for the new Gladiators to get used to the indoor game, but Vegas has a roster full of former NFL talent and should be more competitive in ’07.



Los Angeles Avengers

Last Season 5-11, 6-10 ATS



Although the Avengers suffered through a disappointing season in ’06, they may have found a quarterback in the process. Rookie Sonny Cumbie was a pleasant surprise under center last year, passing for 3,241 yards with 59 TDs against just 10 INTs, and should be even better this season. Los Angeles will have to replace WRs Tony Locke and Greg Hopkins, but returns playmaking WR/DB Kevin Ingram (111 catches for 1,354 yards and 32 TDs on offense and 47.0 tackles and 5 INTs on defense) and FB/LB Lonnie Ford (168 yards and 10 TDs).  Head coach Ed Hodgkiss is also excited about the return of WRs Antoine Burns and Rob Turner, along with former NFL receiver Chris Doering. Defensively, former AFL Lineman of the Year Silas Demary returns to anchor the defensive front, while DB Damen Wheeler (70.0 tackles, 3 INTs) guides the secondary.



San Jose SaberCats

Last Season 11-7, 10-6-1 ATS



The SaberCats are going with youth and size in ‘07. The training camp roster consists of 17 rookies and eight players with just one year of AFL experience. The core of last year's Western Division championship team returns, including record-setting QB Mark Grieb, who tossed a League record 4,841 passing yards last year. Grieb's top receivers James Roe (113 catches for 1,310 yards and 31 TDs) and 2006 Rookie of the Year Ben Nelson (94 receptions for 1,405 yards and 26 TDs) also return to anchor an offensive unit that topped the League in total offense (316.6 ypg) and finished second in the AFL in touchdowns  (127) and scoring offense (56.1 ppg).  The kicking duties will be delegated to newcomer A.J. Haglund, who was named the New Balance af2 Kicker of the Year last season as a member of the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz. Haglund converted 93.5 percent (116-124) of his PATs and led af2 in scoring with 146 points.  Defensively, the secondary combo of DBs Clevan Thomas and Omarr Smith both return, but San Jose will have to replace their top two pass rushers from last season (Joe Jacobs and Karl Bates).



Utah Blaze

Last Season 7-10, 5-12 ATS



The expansion Blaze had a solid first season in Utah in ’06 after finishing with a 7-9 regular season record and earning a playoff berth. But, expectations will be even higher in ’07 with a healthy QB Joe Germaine under center, the return of playmaking WR Siaha Burley (136 catches for 1,934 yards and 44 TDs), and the addition of free agent Aaron Boone (66 receptions for 748 yards and 19 TDs) from Kansas City. Possibly the most influencial off-season addition for the Blaze was hiring former Las Vegas head coach Ron James as line coach.  James will tutor a unit which includes free agents Bruce Blue, Chris Janek and Steve Konopka.  Defensively, the Blaze will have a new look in the secondary with free agent Clarence Lawson (Arizona) starting opposite of second-year DB Kevin Moffett, although the coaching staff has been impressed with rookie DB Brandon Everage.





Prediction

1) San Jose

2) Utah

3) Arizona

4) Los Angeles

5) Las Vegas

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