NIFL Weekly Report

04/26/02 Rapid City Journal
RAPID CITY -- We're nearing the midway point of the season for the NIFL, and already teams are talking about the playoffs. Having your head in the clouds with 10 weeks of football remaining is a dangerous way to play the game. Perhaps that is why two of the three remaining undefeated teams, Sioux City and Lake Charles, squeaked out wins by less than a touchdown last week. Keep your chinstraps fastened, boys. The hitting has just begun.

Scoring was down slightly this week as teams combined to average just over 69 points per game. Home teams are keeping the pressure on visiting opponents, averaging 41 points per game last week while only giving up 28 points. The winning percentage for the home team this season is just over 66 percent.

Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? In a nutshell, it is when you believe something is going to happen and end up making it happen. Last week, I said I seemed destined to pick three games wrong per week regardless of my stats-wrangling, game-studying, coin-flipping style. Well, I did it again, going 6-3 in accuracy. That brings my total accuracy to 30-15 for the season.

Twenty of the 21 teams in the NIFL take the field this week, with several key matchups on the card.

Thursday's game

* Wyoming Cavalry at Rapid City Red Dogs.

Saturday's games

* Louisiana Rangers (2-1) at Austin Knights (1-3) - The Rangers sit alone atop the NIFL Atlantic East Conference with little flash, fanfare or tongue wagging by the team. The Knights feel they are ready to turn their season around after nearly upsetting the steam-rolling Lake Charles Land Sharks last week. The turnaround won't be this week, Knights fans. Rangers win.

* LaCrosse Night Train (0-4) at Billings Outlaws (5-1) - The Night Train are one of three teams in the NIFL that have yet to win a game. The Outlaws have looked vulnerable at times on their run to a 5-1 record, but they manage to put games away. This game could be a good one if Billings isn't careful. Even then, I don't see any outcome other than an Outlaws' win.

* Lincoln Capitols (3-1) at Bismarck Roughriders (3-2) - The Capitols are coming off of a 61-39 pasting at the hands of the Omaha Beef, while the Roughriders earned a less-than-pretty home win against the Red Dogs, 29-20. Bismarck has yet to find a rhythm with its passing game, relying on a running attack and turnovers to win. Lincoln is a solid, steady team that doesn't make a lot of mistakes but has difficulty stopping the run. I predict the Capitols will jump out early and force the Roughriders to pass. That will spell the end of the game. Capitols improve to 4-1 on the season.

* Houma Bayou Bucks (1-3) at Lake Charles Land Sharks (4-0) - Last week, the expansion Bayou Bucks earned their first win by smacking around the Tupelo FireAnts and winning by 20 points at home. Lake Charles was caught napping and was lucky to get out of Austin with a win. Don't expect a lack of effort from the Land Sharks this week. It's statement time. Land Sharks win big.

* Winston-Salem Energy (2-2) at Mississippi Firedogs (1-2) - These two teams played three weeks ago with the Energy winning by 11. Since then the Energy have split a pair of games while the Firedogs have enjoyed back-to-back bye weeks. I think the Firedogs have used their time wisely and will be a new team for the remainder of the season. Firedogs win at home.

* Sioux Falls Storm (5-1) at Omaha Beef (3-1) - This game features two of the top teams in the NIFL Pacific Conference. Both teams have suffered only one loss on the season. Both teams were depleted with injuries that contributed to those losses. In their victories, both teams have won convincingly. So who is the better team this week? Without knowing the depth and severity of the Storm injuries, I've got to give the edge to the Beef. Expect sunny, storm-free skies in Omaha this weekend.

* River City Renegades (0-4) at Tennessee Thundercats (2-2) - You've got to feel sorry for the Renegades. Of the four games they have lost, they've lost by 2 points, 52 points, 29 points and 55 points. The Thundercats managed to win a game, lose a game,win a game and then lost last week. Hey, let's stick with the pattern. Thundercats win by at least 30.

* OV Greyhounds (3-0) at Tupelo FireAnts (1-2) - To put it bluntly, this game is going to get ugly. Tupelo has the worst scoring offense in the league, bar none. The Greyhounds are balanced and tough - too tough for the FireAnts. This game will be over by halftime and will showcase a Greyhounds victory.

Sunday's game

* Sioux City Bandits (4-0) at Tri City Diesel (2-3) - These two teams have a history of playing each other tough. I expect more of the same in this matchup. The Bandits are sitting at 4-0 and looking at a fairly difficult schedule the rest of the way. The Diesel are looking up at divisional rivals Sioux City, Lincoln and Omaha and simply must start beating these teams. They must, but they won't. Sioux City wins, but wins by single digits.

NIFL Power Poll

The power poll a ranking system voted upon by a host of NIFL fans and experts from around the league. The pollster ranks each team from best to worst, 1st to 21st. A first-place vote is worth 21 points while a last-place vote is worth 1 point. The points are then averaged and each team is ranked according to power.

1, 20 points, Lake Charles Land Sharks - Their close game last week was a fluke. They are the team to beat in the NIFL.

2, (tie) 19 points, Ohio Valley Greyhounds - They're back near the top and are really the only competition the Land Sharks have in the Atlantic Conference.

2, (tie) 19 points, Sioux City Bandits - Are they as good as their 4-0 record suggests? I don't think so.

4, (tie) 17 points, Sioux Falls Storm - Sioux Falls will be hard-pressed to keep up with Billings, which has an easier schedule.

4, (tie) 17 points, Billings Outlaws - Billings is my odds-on favorite to take the Pacific West division title.

4, (tie) 17 points, Omaha Beef - Say, their third-string QB-former-RB is doing pretty darn well. Are the Beef back?

7, 16 points, Lincoln Capitols - There is no better cure for a tough road loss last week than an easy road game this week.

8, 14 points, Louisiana Rangers - They're a top team and have the earned the respect of the rest of the league.

9, 12 points, Tennessee Thundercats - They haven't strung two wins together yet this season. Hard to see the playoffs in their future without a winning streak.

10, (tie) 11 points, Bismarck Roughriders - How a team can be ranked this high with no QB is beyond me.

10, 11 points, Tri City Diesel - They could surprise a few teams that may take them for granted.

12, 10 points, Winston Salem Energy - So could they.

13, 9 points, Rapid City Red Dogs - Here's a summer movie title for you: "The Bad News Bears in Football Follies."

14, 8 points, Mississippi Firedogs - With two weeks off they have no more excuses for poor play.

15, 7 points, Austin Knights - Football is a learning experience, and they're looking to put up some wins in the second half of the season.

16, (tie) 6 points, Tupelo FireAnts - Here's a novel concept: If you put the ball into the end zone, you just might win the game!

16, 6 points, Bayou Bucks - They creamed Tupelo last week yet are tied with them in the poll. There is no justice.

18, (tie) 4 points, Oklahoma Crude - Things are starting to turn for the better in Oklahoma.

18, (tie) 4 points, Wyoming Cavalry - I refuse to think this team is as poor as its record. Too bad they're in one mean division.

20, (tie) 2 points, La Crosse Night Train - The helmet goes on with the face-mask to the front, guys.

20, (tie) 2 points, RiverCity Renegades - River City, the NIFL's answer to shooting fish in a barrel.

Rocky Larson is a season ticket holder for the Rapid City Red Dogs and a supporter of professional sports in the region. He lives in Piedmont with his wife, Jennifer, and their son, Connor

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