In the first round of the 2016 AFL Playoffs, the Arizona Rattlers will host the Portland Steel in the matchup of the number-1 and number-4 seeds, respectively, in the National Conference. The teams will face off on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 10 p.m. ET at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Arizona (13-3) enters the playoffs with several things tilted in their favor. The Rattlers tied with the Orlando Predators for the best record in the AFL. They are the only team in the league that is undefeated at home this season. Arizona is the only team to be undefeated in games within their own conference.
They also scored the most points in the league (1,068; 66.8 per game) while giving up the second-fewest (766; 47.9 per game). Arizona quarterback Nick Davila led the league in completion percentage (69.6%) and touchdown passes (110), was second in QB rating (125.2), and third in passing yards (4,198). Wide receiver Rod Windsor was second in the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,667), and receiving touchdowns (48).
Maurice Purify was also top-seven in touchdown catches, finishing with 30. Receiver and special teams contributor Anthony Amos returned four kickoffs for a touchdown, second-most in the league. Defensively, 11 players in the league had at least four sacks. Four of those players are Rattlers.
Portland’s situation is significantly more dire. The Steel (3-13) used wins in two of their final three games to finish 3-13, one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Storm for the worst record in the league. They scored the second-fewest points in the league (670; 41.9 per game) while giving up the second-most (926; 57.9 per game), and were one of two teams to go the entire season without winning a game on the road.
Quarterback Shane Austin and wide receiver Tom Gilson became offensive standouts, though Austin had the worst TD-to-interception ratio in the league and Wilson had just 14 touchdowns despite having the fourth-most receptions in the league.
In the three games between the two teams this season, Arizona won all three by scores of 80-26 on April 1, 68-21 on April 30, and 76-49 on June 11. This playoff pairing doesn’t seem to predict anything different.
The winner of this first round game will play the winner of the other National Conference first round game between the Cleveland Gladiators and Los Angeles KISS next weekend in the National Conference Championship game.