Week 17 Preview: Arizona Rattlers (12-3) vs Cleveland Gladiators (7-8)

The Arizona Rattlers (12-3) are entering the final game of the 2016 AFL regular season Sunday night against conference rival the Cleveland Gladiators (7-8), in what could be a preview to the Conference Finals matchup.

Even though the number one seed is still in flux, the first two rounds of the playoffs became a bit clearer for the Ratters after the league announced some rule changes Tuesday night. The teams will now stay in-conference; meaning that the Rattlers will play the Portland Steel (2-12) in the first round, and the winner will play either the Cleveland Gladiators or the LA KISS (7-7) in the second round.

The Rattlers offense, defense and special teams put together a balanced victory Monday night against the Orlando Predators by a score of 62-45.  Despite getting defeated by 17-points, the Predators managed to narrowly hold on to the tie breaker, having won the previous matchup by 18 earlier in the season.

Quarterback Nick Davila had one of his most efficient games of his career, completing 26 of 28 passes from the field with 289 yards, 7 touchdowns, and no sacks. This performance won him the Under Armor Offensive Player of the Week. Teammate Maurice Purify was also acknowledged this week for his athletic 30-yard catch where he dragged three defenders across the goal line; this play alone won him Cutters Catch of the week.

The Cleveland Gladiators are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the LA KISS on Saturday night. Cleveland started the game out hot; however a scoreless third quarter put them in a deep hole.  The Gladiators had a big fourth, scoring 33 points, but it was not enough to secure the victory, as they would fall two points short.  Arvell Nelson and Quentin Sims both had huge nights despite the loss. Nelson showed why he is a top dual threat quarterback in the AFL rushing for 20 yards and two touchdowns, while also throwing for 333 yards and six touchdowns. Sims proved to be his favorite target of the night reeling in 12 catches for 198 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The season finale will be played on Sunday, July 24th, at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.  The game is at 6:00 p.m. PDT, and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.  The matchup can also be streamed on ESPN3.com or the WatchESPN app on a tablet, smartphone, or streaming device.

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