The Arena Audit: Week 3
What in the world is wrong with Jacksonville?
If you were to tell me three weeks ago that the Jacksonville Sharks would be 2-1 and the Las Vegas Outlaws would be 0-3, I would not have even batted an eye. The fact that those teams have the opposite records makes me reconsider which way is up.
With 15 weeks remaining in the regular season, there is still plenty of time for Les Moss and the Sharks to figure things out, but the panic button is at least in sight. One game out of the playoff chase and two games behind division leading Orlando, Jacksonville has their work cut out for them. Offensively they are doing fine averaging 52.0 points per game (6th in AFL), posting 316.7 yards per game (2nd), 70 first downs (2nd), and are tied for the league lead in 3rd down conversions, however on the defensive side of the ball things have not been quite as proficient.
Sharks opponents are converting on 59.1% of 3rd down conversions (next to last in AFL), 100% on 4th down (last in AFL), and Jacksonville is dead naked last in defensive scoring surrendering 56.3 points per game, and have only posted three defensive stops in 29 total possessions.
Many pointed to special teams and kicking as the reasons for a pair of one point losses, but Sundays road loss at East Division leader Philadelphia Soul showed that Jacksonville still has some kinks to iron out.
On the other side of the coin is the surprising start for the Las Vegas Outlaws in their first season in the Arena Football League.
After an abysmal start to their franchise’s first game where San Jose hung 42 first half points, in the 10 quarters that followed, the Outlaws seem to be settling into a nice groove outscoring their opponents 159-118 en route to a two game winning streak for rookie head coach Aaron Garcia. A stunning upset of three-time defending Arena Bowl Champion Arizona Rattlers two weeks ago put the league on notice that though they are an expansion team, Las Vegas is getting their act together rather quickly.
Outlaws quarterback J.J. Raterink told the Las Vegas Review Journal that Garcia’s halftime speech in the opener has rallied the troops.
“He reminded us it’s a long game, it’s a long season and all we ask you to do is keep getting better,” Raterink said. “We didn’t panic, we didn’t overreact and looked at it as a process that would take time. We didn’t point any fingers. We understood all that, and knew when it came together it would be kind of special.”
Las Vegas has been lighting up the scoreboard as much as the lights illuminate the strip. 57.3 points per game on offense, and a pair of missed field goals returned for touchdowns have the Outlaws off to an impressive beginning.
Arizona returned to The Q in Cleveland in a rematch of Arena Bowl XXVII, and while the game was much closer than last August’s title game, the result was the same. The Rattlers beat the Gladiators 49-41 behind Nick Davila’s 352 passing yards and seven touchdowns, All-Arena receiver Rod Windsor hauled in four of those scores for while posting 168 receiving yards.
Portland won five games in all of 2014 in their first year, and already in 2015, the Thunder already have posted two wins. Kyle Rowley, leading a young receiving corps to wins against Los Angeles and Spokane, has passed for 13 touchdowns thru three games.
San Jose Sabercats are one of two undefeated teams remaining in the AFL and are riding the number one scoring defense in the league by a whopping margin. San Jose is yielding 32.0 points per game, 12.7 ppg better than 2nd ranked Portland, to give you an idea of how dominant San Jose has been the gap between one and two (12.7 ppg) is larger than the gap between second and 12th (11.6 ppg).