Coming off the league wide bye week, the Cleveland Gladiators should have one goal: win out and get back home. The Gladiators hold the final first round home field playoff spot with being the four seed. Cleveland will have played six games in a row on the road once the regular season ends, it would be really nice to get back to the Q especially because it would take an upset for Cleveland to be home in the second round and the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to host Arena Bowl XXIX.
One could argue the Arena Football League threw the Glads a bone of sorts. The Philadelphia Soul are easily the closest team to Cleveland and with the Gladiators being placed in the National Conference this season, the West side of the league, the AFL kept the rivalry of Cleveland and Philadelphia strong having them play four times. It does not seem like a coincidence that their final game versus each other comes off a bye week and it’s not much travel before Cleveland goes out west to end the season facing the Los Angeles KISS and then the Arizona Rattlers and also that their team bye week is the last week of the regular season.
So, a home game in the first round would allow the Glads two true full weeks off and an edge that would be huge in helping them have the energy to win a couple playoff games on the road.
Cleveland’s defense has been strong as has the Soul’s but the Gladiators offense has been catching up since the middle of season, where the Soul have seemed tough on both sides of the ball all season. A really balanced game with a good amount of points should be expected.
No team’s defense is better than Cleveland’s at forcing a turnover on downs. The Jacksonville Sharks can tell you though that no matter how fast you get first downs it can all blow up on one bad snap. The Soul’s secondary will likely be the deciding factor, if they do their job it just feels like Philly will win the game.
Even with the major improvement of Cleveland’s quarterback Arvell Nelson, who, in his last five starts, has been responsible for 36 touchdowns and only two turnovers.
Nelson is also throwing for an average of 285 yards in those same games. One of those games was their last match up with the Rattlers, stat wise Nelson had a solid game in Week 10 at the Q, but he and the team did not finish the fourth quarter in strong fashion leaving one to think that in a pressure environment especially on the road, Cleveland could look good early but drop off when crunch time comes.
Who To Watch For:
Cleveland: Devin Wilson
Yeah, kind of a wild card pick but then again not really. Wilson leads the Glads in receiving touchdowns in the last couple of games with five, and facing a Philly defense giving up the second least amount of yards in the air and just one of three teams giving up 85 touchdowns or less, mixed with the pressure of Cleveland knowing they control their own destiny for the first round all means this team has motivation to finish strong but don’t appear to be good enough to beat the elite teams unless everyone is playing well, everyone is needed to win.
Philadelphia: Dwayne Hollis
Hollis has seven interceptions on the season and three of those came against Cleveland. Hollis pulled in two in the season opener at the Q and even took one back for a pick-six. Yes, Chris Dieker was the quarterback in that game (who is now the back up for the Soul), but the logic to compare is still fair to a point. The Soul’s defensive has gotten better all season long and Nelson is not a true passer so a good pass rush will bring similar results. it will just take a focused effort from the linemen to stay home as plays appear to break down.