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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:
Southern Division (Orlando)
Wild Card (Georgia)
Wild Card (Austin)
Eastern Division (Dallas)
Wild Card (New York)
Wild Card (Philadelphia)
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)