Conference title week in the Arena Football League starts in Phoenix, when the Cleveland Gladiators take on the usual darlings of the National Conference, the Arizona Rattlers. Cleveland won the American Conference two years ago, but were moved to the National this season to even-up the league. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network tomorrow at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Cleveland Coach Steve Thonn has never beaten the Rattlers as the Gladiators head coach and is just 1-13 vs the Rattlers all-time. The lone win came when Thonn was coaching the Grand Rapids Rampage. That team only won six games in the regular season but still made it to the playoffs and won their first round match up vs the Rattlers 48-41. The date? June 30, 2008, in a season where the Rampage won a game during the regular season by a score of 92-52.
Could that be something for the Glads to believe in? Do they just need time to get warm? Hey, at least it’s something to be positive about if you are a Cleveland fan, and don’t forget the city of Cleveland has won 13 straight playoff games (Glads one, Cavs three and Monsters nine) all owned by Dan Gilbert. Stay positive 216.
For Arizona this is nothing new, and after losing last season in the National Conference title game, the Rattlers are highly motivated to return to the Arena Bowl. Coach Kevin Guy is 6-0 when facing Cleveland. The Rattlers’ numbers usually look dominant and they certainly were just three weeks ago against Cleveland, winning by 48 in Talking Stick Resort Arena. However, in Week 10 in Cleveland the Gladiators were down just eight, 56-48 with 1:56 left to go in the game. So maybe Cleveland can put up a fight. Most believe this could be a win of over 20 points for Arizona. The Massey Ratings sim for this game says the Rattlers move on to Arena Bowl XXIX 70-53.
Should the Rattlers win, they will host AB 29, what would be the Rattlers 10th Arena Bowl appearance (five titles), but the game would be played at Glendale’s Gila River Arena due to the Phoenix Mercury already being scheduled to play at Talking Stick. This year’s Arena Bowl can be seen Friday, August 26th at 7 p.m. ET. Cleveland could host the game, but only if the Jacksonville Sharks upset the 1 seed Philadelphia Soul on Sunday (ESPN2 6 p.m. ET) in the American Conference Championship game. Cleveland beat the Sharks in both meetings by one point and both teams finished the regular season at 7-9.