05/17/02 Rocky Larson
Well, here we are. Ten weeks into the NIFL season and most teams are starting to hit their stride. 16 of the 24 teams in the NIFL have a .500 record or better. Every division is up for grabs and no team has cleanly separated themselves from the pack. Hold onto your helmets, football fans, the second half of the season should be a slobber-knocker!
On average, the home squads last week were able to put up 41 points per contest as opposed to the away team average of 38. 6 of the 10 games played ended up with happy home-field fans, proving by the narrowest of margins that life is never easy on the road in the National Indoor Football League.
I broke even with my predictions as I settle for a ho-hum 5 for 10. This brings my yearly prediction total to 53-31 for an accuracy of 63.1%.
We’ve got a full dance card this week as all 24 NIFL teams take to the field.
Saturday, May 17th
Evansville Bluecats (0-7) @ Austin Rockers (4-3)
After playing host to the 1-win Tupelo FireAnts last week, Austin now gets to greet the winless Bluecats of Evansville to town. Talk about being born under a lucky star. Against good and bad teams, Austin has been able to keep their scoring machine running. This contest will be no different. Austin outclasses Evansville with a sizeable double-digit win.
Lincoln Capitols (4-4) @ Billings Outlaws (3-5)
Last week Lincoln lost a close contest to cross-state rival Omaha, dropping the Capitols to .500 and putting the Beef safely out in front in the Pacific North Division. Billings, undermanned due to injury, could not keep track with Bismarck and is in desperate need of a win. I believe that Billings isn’t as bad as their 3-5 record and that Lincoln, just maybe, is merely a .500 team. In a coming out party, I’m going with Billings to take this game at home.
Utah Warriors (5-1) @ Bismarck Roughriders (4-3)
This game comes down to one name: Danny Ragsdale. The Warriors quarterback with the golden arm and the shoes to match is making his first trip back to Bismarck, where he led the ‘Riders to the playoffs last season. That was then, this is now, and there is no better game in the Pacific Conference this week than this one. Utah has the most prolific passing attack in the NIFL, bar none. Bismarck, after starting off slow, has come alive as of late and is threatening. In this game, I give the nod on offense to the Warriors and on defense to the Roughriders. But, this is a game where a strong arm and steady hands produce a win more often than goal-line stands and defensive intensity. Bismarck could win this game, but how do you pick against Utah? The Warriors win, but the Roughriders prove that they’re a team to be feared.
Sioux Falls Storm (4-4) @ Wyoming Cavalry (4-4)
After suffering a concussion, and a butt-kicking, last week against the Tri City Diesel, quarterback Matt Strand and the Wyoming Cavalry are facing a crucial point in their season. After Sioux Falls, the Cavalry face opponents with winning records for the rest of the season: Omaha twice, Utah twice and Bismarck once. Ouch. The trip to Casper is the last away game for the Sioux Falls Storm before finishing out the season with 5 home games. I don’t think that Sioux Falls will get a jump on the playoffs a week early, as they steal a road win from Wyoming. The score will be close is Strand plays, a blowout if he doesn’t.
Myrtle Beach Stingrays (2-4) @ Fort Wayne Freedom (3-3)
If Fort Wayne is going to make a move to be a playoff team, now is the time for them to do it. The Freedom are sitting at .500 but still have a shot at a wildcard spot. Mathematically, Fort Wayne could still win their division, but I don’t see Ohio Valley dropping that far, that fast during the remainder of the season. Back to the game at hand: Forth Wayne doesn’t lose often at home, and Myrtle Beach has had a problem earning wins on the road. Let Freedom ring!
Louisiana Bayou Bucks (5-3) @ Tupelo FireAnts (1-6)
The Bucks continue to amaze me. Twice this year they have played the very strong Lake Charles Land Sharks and twice this year the Bucks have come out with a victory. Oh, I picked them to lose both times. But never fear, I won’t be wrong this week and Bucks fans can keep their hate email off of my monitor. Bucks win! Bucks win! Bucks win!
Tennessee RiverHawks (3-3) @ Ohio Valley Greyhounds (7-0)
Don’t let the records fool you, this is going to be a good game. In my opinion, Ohio Valley isn’t playing up to their full potential yet. Even with their perfect record, they are beatable. But only by themselves. The RiverHawks are having an up and down season and need this game in order to keep a post-season dream alive. I don’t see the Greyhounds lying down this week. Not at home. OV wins, but it isn’t a cake walk.
La Crosse Night Train (3-5) @ Rapid City Red Dogs (5-3)
If games only lasted 2 quarters, the Night Train would be a team to be feared. But, to date, La Crosse hasn’t been able to put together 4 quarters of solid football. Rapid City stole, and there is no better term to describe it, a 2nd-half victory from the Night Train last week in La Crosse and the Red Dogs are riding high after most (if not all) of their off-the-field problems have been solved with the promise of new ownership. They Dogs are on top of the world! The last time they felt this way, the Lincoln Capitols wiped the turf with them. That won’t happen this week. Rapid City improves to 6-3 and keeps the playoffs in their sites.
Oklahoma Crude (0-7) @ Lake Charles Land Sharks (5-2)
Nothing will make the Land Sharks feel better after a loss than hosting the anemic Crude. On a positive note, Oklahoma remains perfect as they roll to a record of 0-8.
Lexington Horsemen (5-1) @ Beaumont Drillers (5-2)
The NIFL Game of the Week is between two Atlantic Conference power-houses and could have playoff tiebreaker implications after the dust settles. Lexington tends to score 12 more points per game than Beaumont (Lexington PF 52, Beaumont PF 40) while giving up 4 less points per game (Lexington PA 33, Beaumont PA 37). Beaumont is strong at home, but Lexington has won their 2 played road games so far this season. I like the Horsemen in this game by 6.
Show Me Believers (2-5) @ Sioux City Bandits (4-4)
At one time, not so long ago, the Bandits were a team to be feared. That is the difference between a 4-2 team and a 4-4 team. Fortunately for Sioux City fans, the Sioux City Auditorium is still a force to be reckoned with. With help from the best 9th man building in the league, Sioux City gets back on the winning track over a struggling Show Me team.
Sunday, May 18th
Tri City Diesel (3-5) @ Omaha Beef (5-2)
The Diesel are flying high after their 80-43 dismantling of the Wyoming Cavalry last week. Omaha squeezed out a win over the Lincoln Capitols, but just don’t seem to be a dominating team this season. It doesn’t matter. The Diesel quickly come back to earth as the Beef serve up some pain with a side of humility. Take the Beef.
Every week, a group of NIFL experts ranging from media personalities to rabid fans put together the NIFL Power Poll. Back for its third year, our pollsters rank each NIFL team from top to bottom. The poll results are then averaged and each team is ranked according to power.
||Ohio Valley Greyhounds
||An excellent test on the road vs. Bismarck.
||Shooting up the poll. Downing Beaumont would be huge.
||Lake Charles Land Sharks
||Suddenly looking like a team that can be beat.
||Rapid City Red Dogs
||New ownership, new look, new attitude.
||Hard to beat, but not hard to run with. Step it up!
||Fort Wayne Freedom
||Are they the best of the ‘tweener teams?
||Could make a run at the playoffs.
||Hottest team in the Pacific Conference.
||Sioux Falls Storm
||Home sweet home.
||Their end of season is in sight. Can they turn around?
||A hurt Strand means a long 2nd half of the season.
||Houma Bayou Bucks
||Still in the hunt.
||Sioux City Bandits
||Which way is this team heading?
||They’re scoring and could sneak into the top tier.
||Hard charging, but can they catch Omaha?
||Show Me Believers
||I still think they’re better than their record.
||Will they play another home game this season?
||Lacrosse Night Train
||Their defense needs to step up. QB is not the problem.
||A huge win over Wyoming, but the pollsters aren’t impressed.
||Myrtle Beach Stingrays
||Tough schedule will keep the ‘Rays from shining.
||Rebuilding isn’t a bad idea.
||Tough season so far.
||Can this team ever get a break?
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