Phoenix, Ariz. –Saturday’s match-up between the Arizona Rattlers (9-2) and the Orlando Predators (7-5) will feature two division leaders. While Arizona holds a comfortable five game lead in the West, Orlando is clinging to just a single game lead in the South. Both teams are coming off big wins, with Arizona pushing its win streak to five, and Orlando knocking off the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Soul. The game will be nationally televised on the CBS Sports Network at 5:00 PDT. Here is a closer look at Saturday’s game.
The Rattlers inched a little closer last week to clinching their fifth straight division title, and making the playoffs for the seventh straight year. That magic number is down to three. The Rattlers won last week which brought the number down by won, however, both of their division opponents also won. Any combination of Rattlers’ wins and Outlaws’ losses that equal three will clinch the division for Arizona. (LA KISS must also lose one more game this season, or the Rattlers win one more game.)
Offensively, Arizona and Orlando seem to match up pretty well, at least on paper. The Rattlers rank 3rd overall in scoring offense, while the Predators rank 4th. On defense is where the two teams . Arizona is 4th in total offense, while Orlando is dead last. Mack linebacker Tyre Glasper has made huge strides in his level of play, and is a big reason why the Rattlers have been successful this season. Glasper sacked Portland quarterback Alex Carder twice last week, giving him 8 sacks on the season, a career high, with a third of the season left to go.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
The Arizona Rattlers have accumulated eight turnovers in the last three games; seven of them resulted in an eventual Rattlers’ touchdown. The single turnover that did not result in a score was a Jeremy Kellem pick that closed out the half against the Tampa Bay Storm. With a league leading +18 turnover margin, Arizona will look to continue this trend in Saturday’s game.
Speaking of Turnovers…
All three starting defensive backs, (Jeremy Kellem, Marquis Floyd, and Arkeith Brown) rank in the top 10 in the AFL this season in interceptions. No other team has three players in the top 10. Kellem by himself has the same amount of interceptions as the entire Orlando organization, and leads the league overall with 10. He is also second in the league in pass breakups (PBU’s) with 24.
Special Teams in Cruz Control
The Rattlers special teams received an injection of excitement in week 2 with the addition of Iron-man AJ Cruz. The league has already started to take notice of his dangerous return abilities (already returning five kickoffs for touchdowns in eight games). However, the return game is not the only place Cruz is excelling on special teams, compiling 10 tackles on the kickoff, and one recovery off the net. Cruz is someone to watch for, whether Arizona is receiving, or kicking off.
Thanks to the dual threat quarterback Bernard Morris, Orlando leads the league this season in rushing, with an average of 46.2 yards per game. Morris leads the team, gaining 5.2 yards per attempt. The Rattlers have a strong rush defense, ranking 3rd in the league, but they will be tested Saturday night.
Arizona has been very good on the ground as well. Fullback Mykel Benson already has 12 rushing touchdowns this season, and is three touchdowns shy of what the Rattlers had all of last season. Look for the ground game to have a huge impact Saturday.
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