The Arena Football League is back after a year long hiatus, and after a great first night of action, the league returns with a four-pack of games on Saturday night to dig into.
Arizona Rattlers (+3) vs. Cleveland Gladiators
Arizona Notes: On one glance, losing out on QB Joe Germaine in the offseason was bad news for the Rattlers. However, grabbing Nick Davila, who went 38-3 in the af2 over the L/3 seasons as a starting quarterback in the af2, isn't stepping back too much even though the name isn't as recognizable to AFL fans. Even though neither WRs JJ McKelvey nor Cleannord Santil are going to suit it up, there is still plenty of Arena League quality talent coming back to the desert. The offensive line should be amongst the best in the league with Troy Reddick and Kyle Young, and the defensive front is going to be solid with DLs Ron Jones and Darrell Shropshire as well. Look for WRs Tod Devoe and Trandon Harvey to have big games against an inexperienced Cleveland secondary.
Cleveland Notes: QB John Dutton takes over the reins in Cleveland off of a season in which he threw 17 picks, his fourth straight season in which he chucked at least 14 duds to the other team. In a league where taking care of the football is paramount, that's a terrible statistic. The combination of Ben Nelson, Brent Holmes, and Chris Johnson makes up for a veteran set of wide receivers, but neither of the lines really have any substantial arena league experience to fall back on. The defensive backs also haven't seen a lot of time on the turf at this level either.
The Final Word: Arizona is simply the better team in this game. Both head coaches, Kevin Guy (AZ) and Steve Thonn (CLE) know what they're doing in this league, but Guy has assembled the better set of assistant coaches, including Arena Football Hall of Famer Danny White, who led this Arizona squad to two Arena Bowl titles in his tenure. But as long as Davila doesn't catch a case of the AFL fever, he should be good enough to lead his Rattlers to a road upset in a game which could feature a ton of scoring.
Prediction: Arizona 79 – Cleveland 68
Entire AFL Week 1 Card
Arizona +3 @ Colorado
Oklahoma City +4 vs. Jacksonville