ArenaBowl Dream Matchup
by Max Powers - 07/18/2008
The 2008 ArenaBowl will feature two of the best teams in the Arena Football League, San Jose and Philadelphia. On July 27 these squads will face off in Bayou Country in New Orleans. The SabreCats will be looking for their fourth championship in the last seven years. They will also be going for back-to-back championships after their dominating ArenaBowl victory in 2007. The ArenaBowl had been plagued by some questionable matchups in recent years when the chalk was not able to emerge from the playoffs, but that will not be the case this season.
Philadelphia will be making its first trip to the ArenaBowl since the team was founded in 2004. This team is full of star power, but most of the stars won't be on the playing field as Bon Jovi is the owner of this teams and the GM is Ron Jaworski, former standout with the Eagles and current Monday Night Football broadcaster. They have the MVP of the league in WR Chris Jackson and two of the top five quarterbacks in the league in Matt D'Orazio and Tony Graziani. You heard that right, as D'Orazio left Chicago in 2008, a place where he won a championship in 2006 to become a backup for Graziani. Only in the AFL would a starting quarterback voluntarily leave for another team to become a backup. But his gambled paid off as Graziani got injured midway through the season and D'Orazio has been under center ever since, leading his team to victories in two playoff games. Bon Jovi has acted a lot like Dan Snyder and tried to buy a championship ever since the team was formed and this is the first year that his frivolous spending finally paid dividends.
The current line has the Philadelphia Soul as a three-point favorite during the bye week. The Soul have a lot of first teamers on the all-AFL list and thus are a public favorite. Yes you heard that correct, the AFL must think they are the NFL and need a bye week in order to hype the game. This was a mistake since most people have lost interest in the sport and the ArenaBowl is scheduled just one week before the first exhibition game of the NFL season. Vegas has also shown little interest as only a handful of books have even posted a line on the game this week, with most waiting until the middle of next week before they will start to take action.
That is one of the problems with the AFL, when it tries to become similar to the NFL. It is a completely different game and former NFL players have had trouble finding success in the AFL. Last year Shaun King was terrible with the Las Vegas Gladiators (now Cleveland) and Quincy Carter could not record a victory with Kansas City in 2008. The AFL is a pass-happy league and a quarterback must have great chemistry with his wideouts, as most routes are run based on the defenders. Similarly, very few AFL players have been able to achieve success in the NFL with a few exceptions. Many of the AFL quarterbacks have accepted their role and now are approaching double digits in tenure.
The AFL must also deal with their game becoming too sloppy. This became evident during the playoffs when teams got out to a big lead and the fourth quarter was full of on-side kicks and numerous touchdowns. The AFL is a lot like tennis and a team that fails to score a touchdown is similar to being broken in serve. This creates huge scoring in the fourth quarter and frustrates handicappers trying to get the edge with their totals. A perfect example of this is the San Jose SabreCats last two playoff games. The Cats had been playing well below the total in both of these games but combined to score 55 and 60 points in the fourth quarter and, thus, both games went over the posted totals. This is something the AFL must guard against, as viewers do not like this style of game management. The suits are hoping for a close competitive game where onside kicks will not become the norm in the fourth quarter.
On paper this game appears that it will go right down to the wire, as the SabreCats have the experience, but the Soul have the better talent. Who will win out? Doc's Sports has the answer and this will surely top off what has been a remarkable 2008 Arena Football season.