NIFL Weekly Report

05/11/02 Rapid City Journal
Coming into this week's games, only four teams remained in the NIFL that can honestly sport a "0" in their record. On one hand, there are the Ohio Valley Greyhounds (5-0) and the Lake Charles Land Sharks (6-0) sitting atop the NIFL as the only remaining unbeaten teams. On the other hand, there are the Wyoming Cavalry (0-7) and the River City Renegades (0-6), who bear the shame of being the only teams in the league to have not tasted a single victory. Guess which teams aren't bothering with playoff plans?

Scoring was a statistical dead-heat last week. The home teams finally gave up their advantage to the visitors. Traveling squads managed to win five of the nine games while actually scoring slightly fewer points on average than their hosts. Away teams averaged 40 points per contest, while home teams scored an average of 41 points. It doesn't get much closer than that!

My hot streak for picking football games lasted exactly one week. Last week, I suffered my worst accuracy on the season by managing to pick correctly only four of the nine games. That brings my yearly total to 41-22. If you are saving for retirement, buy Enron stock. It has a better chance of offering a return than my picks do.

Twenty teams take the field this week in the NIFL, with only the OV Greyhounds enjoying a bye.

Six of those teams were in action Friday night: La Crosse Night Train (1-5) at Wyoming Cavalry (0-7); Omaha Beef (5-1) at Tri City Diesel (2-5); and Austin Knights (2-4) at Oklahoma Crude (1-5).

Tonight's games

* Lincoln Capitols (4-2) at Sioux Falls Storm (5-2) - This could well be the game of the week. Both teams are within arm's reach of leading their division, both have solid defenses and balanced offenses, and both have the talent and ability to win the Pacific Conference. Both also have some problems. The Capitols have been unable to get a consistent performance from their players while on the road. The Storm have fought numerous injuries at key positions. So who will win? Inconsistency is mental, injuries are physical, and the physical is easier to fix. The Storm keep pace and move to 6-2.

* Bismarck Roughriders (4-2) at Billings Outlaws (6-1) - If there was one game I would travel to see this week, this would be it. The Outlaws are undefeated in four home games and possess a high-scoring, dangerous passing attack. The Roughriders have quietly turned into the hottest team in the league with the recent signings of QB Danny Ragsdale and WR Duane Monlux. This is going to be a war. Bismarck makes a statement with a solid win.

* Rapid City Red Dogs (4-4) at Sioux City Bandits (5-1) - This is a game between two teams that seem to be heading in opposite directions. After an error-prone start, the Red Dogs appear to have solved their turnover problems and have clawed their way to a .500 record. The Bandits have struggled over the past three weeks, barely winning two of those games and losing the most recent one. But trends can be deceiving. Instead, let's go with history. Sioux City is undefeated at home this season. Since they've played the sport, Rapid City has never lost to Sioux City in indoor football. One record has to give. Rapid City wins by less than a touchdown but more than a field goal.

* Winston-Salem Energy (3-3) at Louisiana Bayou Bucks (2-4) - On paper, I would have to say that between the Bucks and the Energy, Winston-Salem has the more talented squad. Of course, the Energy are also winless on the road. Ironically, the Bucks also haven't won a game on the road either. Even so, they've proven to be beatable at home. I think the Energy's road woes are due to change. They charge their way to a win.

* Tupelo Fire Ants (1-4) at River City Renegades (0-6) - Last week, the Fire Ants finally found their offense and rattled off 55 points in a losing effort. The Renegades are one of two teams in the league that averages fewer points scored per game than the Fire Ants do. But let's not dwell on the negatives. The Fire Ants finally turn the corner on their season and enjoy a well-played game and a much-deserved victory.

* Louisiana Rangers (3-2) at Tennessee Thundercats (3-3) - Simply put, the Rangers are the best team in the NIFL that is within one game of a .500 record. They play teams hard but seem to lack the killer instinct to put opponents away. The Thundercats suffered a 59-55 loss to Winston-Salem last week and are in dire need of a win. It won't happen this week. The Rangers win in a close game.

* Lake Charles Land Sharks (6-0) at Mississippi Firedogs (2-3) - Last year, this was one of the hottest rivalries in the NIFL. My, how times have changed. The Land Sharks are a powerhouse team that has yet to display its full potential. That is a scary thought for a 6-0 team. The Firedogs are just a memory of their former selves and have struggled against mediocre teams. That is just what they'll do this week, struggle. The Land Sharks cruise to victory.

NIFL Power Poll

The power poll is 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, first to 21st. A first-place vote is worth 21 points; a last-place vote is worth 1 point. The points are averaged, and each team is ranked according to power.

* 1, 21 points, Ohio Valley Greyhounds - Even with injuries they're the best of the NIFL.

* 2, 20 points, Lake Charles Land Sharks - A convincing win could put the Land Sharks back at the top of the poll. Not until then, though.

* 3, 19 points, Omaha Beef - Any bets on if they'll ever fall lower than third in the poll from here on out? I wouldn't take that bet.

* 4, 18 points, Billings Outlaws - Their game against the Roughriders will be a test. Is this team the top of the Pacific West?

* 5, 17 points, Sioux City Bandits - Which way in the poll is this team going? My guess is down.

* 6, (tie) 15 points, Bismarck Roughriders - They've climbed to No. 6 with a bullet. Don't think the rest of the league isn't worried. They are.

6, 15 points, Lincoln Capitols - Consistency is needed. Without it they'll continue their descent down the poll.

* 8, 14 points, Sioux Falls Storm - Most of their injuries are a thing of the past. Expect the Storm to make a run.

* 9, 13 points, Louisiana Rangers - Their owners had a slobber-knocking fistfight between themselves after losing last week. Who says chivalric behavior in the South is dead?

* 10, 12 points, Rapid City Red Dogs - They look good against teams with losing records, which isn't exactly bragging material.

* 11, 11 points, Tennessee Thundercats - Hello? IPFL? We want our four-team league back.

* 12, 10 points, Winston Salem Energy - They're the best expansion team in the league. Now is the time for them to prove it.

* 13, (tie) 8 points, Mississippi Firedogs - This team is the living embodiment of "hard times."

13, 8 points, Tri City Diesel - If it wasn't for bad luck ...

* 15, (tie) 7 points, Austin Knights - Sources tell me Austin is the best 2-4 team in the league. Guffaw.

15, 7 points, Bayou Bucks - They are a surprisingly solid team.

* 17, 5 points, Tupelo Fire Ants - Their offense showed up just in time to see their defense take a game off.

* 18, 4 points, Oklahoma Crude - If there is one team I'd love to see win a few games, the Crude are it. I'm a softy.

* 19, 3 points, La Crosse Night Train - They won! They won! Hey, even Christmas rolls around once a year.

* 20, (tie) 2 points, Wyoming Cavalry - 0-7? 0-7? Didn't they used to be a team to be feared?

20, 2 points, RiverCity Renegades - Their best chance for a win is this week against Tupelo. Sad.

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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