Wild Card Recap

Empire Conference

Forge outgun Express, 38-31

With Terrelle Pryor sticking at quarterback for the Omaha Express, the third-seeded team’s offense had one of their best and most balanced efforts in weeks, but the Pittsburgh Forge were able to ride Jon Jennings’ arm to the victory in the opening round of the playoffs.

Despite being the lower seed, the 10-6 Pittsburgh Forge were favorites over the 8-8 Omaha Express. Jennings and the Forge’s ability to score in bunches through a dynamic passing game was the reason and that held up in the game. Jennings completed 27 of 38 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns. Combined the team totaled 111 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns.

Omaha was much more competitive than expected was Pryor threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 114 yards and another score. Rex Burkhead also got into the endzone in the game.

Pittsburgh scored first, on just their first drive of the game, but Omaha’s defense was able to hold them to back-to-back short drives before tying the game with a Burkhead touchdown run. Then, after forcing Pittsburgh to settle for a 31-yard field goal, Pryor gave the Express the lead with a touchdown run. Devontae Booker put the Forge in the league with an 18-yard tuchdown run, but the Express were able to tie the game at halftime when Brett Maher booted one in from 25 yards.

Pittsburgh was able to create some distance in the third quarter when Jennings through touchdown passes to Nate Washington and Bryan Burnham on consecutive drives. However, the Express refused to give in. Pryor found Tanner McEvoy in the endzone late in the third quarter. Then a 22-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Johnson completed and 80-yard drive for the Express with less than six minutes remaining in the game.

But Jennings was not finished and he was not looking for a first round exit against a team without a winning record. With 92 seconds left, Jennings completed his third touchdown pass, hitting Burnham in the endzone again for 12 yards to give Pittsburgh the final points in their victory.

Burnham finished with eight catches for 142 yards and two scores in the game.

Firebirds roll over Dragons, 31-10

The Boston Dragons were happy to be in the playoffs. The Atlanta Firebirds are on a mission to win a championship. That dynamic between the two first round opponents showed.

Boston is well ahead of schedule and made the playoffs as the fifth seed, but they were no match for Atlanta as the Firebirds dominated them from start to finish for a 31-10 victory.

Matt Barkley threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns, hitting both Cameron Meredith and Nick O’Leary for touchdowns. Don Jackson also had a one-yard touchdown run and Brandon Boykin has a 31-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.

It did take Atlanta a bit of time to build their lead, but their defense never allowed Boston to get into the game. Atlanta was up 10-0 before the Dragons scored over 25 minutes into the game. The Firebirds then scored twice before halftime to take a 24-7 lead into the intermission. Jackson opened the game with a rushing touchdown while Barkley hit a pass to Meredith and Boykin had the 31-yard scoop and score later in the second quarter.

Boston rookie quarterback Cooper Rush completed a pass to Coby Fleener in the second quarter and Fleener broke free and went 48 yards for the touchdowns to get the Dragons on the board, but they would only manage three more points in the game when Josh Lambo connected from 43 yards out.

Late in the fourth quarter Barkley added another touchdown to pad the lead.

Metropolitan Conference

Marshalls shock Orcas as sixth-seed pull upset, 37-27

For the second half of the season the San Antonio Marshalls have been one of the most inconsistent and unpredictable teams in the league. Meanwhile, the Seattle Orcas were solid as a rock and had one of the most unstoppable players in league history coming out of their backfield as they saw Isaiah Crowell rush for 3,000 yards.

But the Marshalls also had the higher ceiling and they reached it as they were able to upset the Orcas, a team regarded as a major title contender.

The one big flaw of the Orcas was that by being a team that relied on a running back, they were not built to come back in games and throughout the season, the losses they suffered were against high-powered passing offended. That proved true again as Bo Levi Mitchell passed for 445 yards and three touchdowns to life the Marshalls to a victory 37-27.

Mitchell, on just the second play of the game, completed an 84 yard touchdown pass to Ricky Collins Jr. to put San Antonio ahead.

Isaiah Crowell was able to dominate in the game and scored on the Orcas next drive on his way to finishing the game with 227 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. But Ryan Griffin just could not keep up with the Mitchell-led passing attack. Griffin failed to even complete half his passes and finished with only 137 yards and one touchdown pass. Disappointingly, the typically strong Orcas defense really struggled.

Mitchell was able to pass to whoever he wanted with success. Collins finished the game with 99 yrds and two touchdowns on two catches while Kendrick Ings had five catches for 135 yards and a score. Jeff Janis led the team with seven catches for 90 yards and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones had six catches for 84 yards in the game. Both Chris Carson and D’Onta Foreman also had rushing touchdowns in the game.

San Antonio scored on their first four drives of the game as they built up a 27-13 lead. In the second half, they were able to add another 10 points to their total and the Orcas just could not score in enough time to come back in the game.

New Orleans is a nightmare for Raptors, advance 36-16

With Aaron Murray healthy the New Orleans Nightmare have suffered only one loss this season and that trend of major success continued into the playoffs and they rolled over the Utah Raptors 36-16 as they looked like one of the best teams in the league with a healthy squad.

New Orleans built a 17-0 lead before Utah scored even a field goal. The Raptors trailed 20-6 at the bead. Utah didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter against an inspired Nightmare defense either. By that point, the game was long finished.

Murray finished with 282 yards passing and three touchdowns with one interception, out-running Mike Reilly, who had 122 yards on less than 50-percent passing with only one touchdowns. The Nightmare also dominated on the ground with Steven Ridley ripping the Raptors defense to shreds with 173 yards and a score. The Raptors totaled only 149 yards rushing and Reilly was their lead rusher with 80 yards.

Weekly Awards

Offensive Player of the Week
WR Rueben Randle, New Orleans Nightmare
8 Rec, 175 Rec Yards (21.9 YPC), 2 Rec TDs

Defensive Player of the Week
LB Aldon Smith, Atlanta Firebirds
5 Tackles, 3 Sacks

Special Teams Player of the Week
P Brad Wing, New Orleans Nightmare
4 Punts, 199 Punt Yards (49.8 YPP), 2 In20, 58 Long

Divisional Round Preview

Empire Conference

6. Pittsburgh Forge @ 1. New York Marauders

The Atlantic Division rivalry will meet in the playoffs for the rubber match of their split regular season series. The Forge dominated the Marauders in the first week of the season, but the Marauders are a much different team than they were back then. That also showed in the rematch when they looked like the far superior team. The Marauders benefited greatly from the bye week with Vad Lee getting an extra week to get back healthy from an injury and with him throwing to Stefon Diggs, Brandon Coleman and Will Tye, they could have a lot of success against a secondary that is among the worst in the league. But will it be enough against the dominant passing attack the Forge have? It doesn’t seem to matter how good an opponents defense is, Jon Jennings can throw against anybody.

Pick: New York Marauders

4. Atlanta Firebirds @ 2. Orlando Rockets

Will third time be the charm for Atlanta? Orlando has dominated this series and just two weeks ago they dominated the Firebirds in Atlanta. Now, this game is in Orlando. Atlanta is almost obsessing about how to stop the Rockets. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Orlando is just a steady group that takes every game one at a time and stays the course no matter their opponent. Atlanta could make the right adjustments to get a win, or they could over-think it and deviate from what has brought they success all year long. This should be closer than it was two weeks ago, but until the Firebirds beat the Rockets, it’s hard to pick them in this series.

Pick: Orlando Rockets

Metropolitan Conference

6. San Antonio Marshalls @ 1. Michigan Stags

Once again, San Antonio is going to go against a sturdy team led by their defense and a running game. But this time, their opponent has a quarterback who is more than capable of leading a comeback. Michigan really isn’t an overly exciting team, but they are so great and get the job done. Teams don’t just go 15-1 without being great. They are well coached, well managed and their defensive line is among the best in the league. If they can get to Bo Levi Mitchell, the Marshalls might not have a chance. At least with Mitchell, though, they always have a chance. He jut needs the time to stand there.

Pick: Michigan Stags

4. New Orleans Nightmare @ 2. Dallas Six-Shooters

Robert Griffin III looked really good in Week 16, good enough to stick as the team’s starter. But was that just one good game or was that a sign of good things to come? This matchup is tremendous because Dallas quietly just wins a lot of games with a great defense, but New Orleans has lost only one game with Aaron Murray healthy as their starter and with Steven Ridley able to go off too, they are one of the most complete teams in the league.

Pick: New Orleans Nightmare

Draft Order

1. Oakland Odyssey (Expansion)
2. Miami Mustangs (Expansion)
3. Virginia Admirals (Expansion)
4. Oklahoma Roughnecks (Expansion)
5. Minnesota Freeze (1-15)
6. San Diego Diablos (3-13)
7. Mississippi Cottonmouths (4-12)
8. Los Angeles Stars (4-12)
9. Columbus Explorers (4-12)
10. Iowa Threshers (5-11)
11. Washington Wave (5-11)
12. Louisville Cougars (6-10)
13. Memphis Bombers (6-10)
14. Houston Wranglers (7-9)
15. St. Louis Stallions (7-9)
16. Carolina Generals (7-9)
17. Philadelphia Bulldogs (8-8)
18. Birmingham Predators (8-8)
19. Omaha Express (8-8)
20. Boston Dragons (10-6)
21. Utah Raptors (10-6)
22. Seattle Orcas (11-5)