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Wednesday, June 6, 2007
AFL: Putting it on the line

By Tom Herrera
Special to ESPN.com

The losses by New York and Chicago in Week 14 weren't entirely surprising. Chicago simply isn't a dominant offensive team without Bobby Sippio on the field, while New York still has issues to address with turnovers on offense and coverage in the secondary (82 points!?). The real shocker, however, was the thumping that Colorado took on Monday night at Utah. It was one of the most embarrassing offensive displays of the season by a good team. Colorado's 14 points were a franchise low for points in a game and Damian Harrell had his AFL-record streak of 78 games with a touchdown snapped.

My Week 14 Score: 6 out of 9

Overall Season Score: 84

Jeffrey Burkett had a mediocre week, allowing a new leader to emerge going into Week 15: Brad Gary with 93 points. If you're still in contention, remember to keep your eye on the prize and try not to let complacency slip in. Anybody can come from behind and win it all, as there will undoubtedly be more upsets in the final three weeks. In fact, if you're trailing by a sizeable margin, now's the perfect time to start picking some major underdogs and hope for the best.

Week 15 Picks

Kansas City Brigade (8-5) @ Columbus Destroyers (6-7)

Game Time: Friday, June 8 / 7:00 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Raymond Philyaw (KC), WR Charles Frederick (KC), DB Kenny McEntyre (KC), QB Matt Nagy (CLM), WR Damien Groce (CLM), DB Jerald Brown (CLM)
Pick Em' Prediction: Kansas City Brigade

Kansas City has won four out of its last five games and will try to clinch a playoff berth this week. The Destroyers have lost three in a row, as they've struggled to score points as of late, but are 5-2 at home this season. Anthony Hines has given the Kansas City offense added depth in the passing game and they're now in prime position to make a run at first place in the Central Division. It should be a close affair, but I think Columbus will once again lack the offensive firepower to trump Kansas City's sound defense.

Orlando Predators (7-6) @ New York Dragons (5-8)

Game Time: Saturday, June 9 / 7:00 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Shane Stafford (ORL), WR Ron Johnson (ORL), DL Greg White (ORL), QB Aaron Garcia (NY), WR Kevin Swayne (NY), WR Jason Willis (NY) Pick Em' Prediction: Orlando Predators

Orlando has lost back-to-back close games, including last week at San Jose -- in part due to a bad officiating call in the closing minutes that ruled James Roe's catch a touchdown. Still, all the team needs is one win to clinch a playoff berth. The Dragons had their three-game winning streak broken last week when they allowed Austin to score a franchise-record 82 points. Aaron Garcia should be back in form after being limping around with a sprained ankle injury last week, so points shouldn't be a problem against the Predators' defense, though Greg White (11.5 sacks) will have something to say about that. Orlando has established a more consistent passing game and should take advantage of a Dragons' secondary that seems to have taken a step in the wrong direction.

Philadelphia Soul (6-7) @ Tampa Bay Storm (6-7)

Game Time: Saturday, June 9 / 7:30 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Tony Graziani (PHI), WR Charles Pauley (PHI), DB Eddie Moten (PHI), QB Brett Dietz (TB), WR Terrill Shaw (TB), WR Hank Edwards (TB)
Pick Em' Prediction: Philadelphia Soul

Philadelphia battled last week but couldn't top Dallas for the second time this season. Tampa Bay has won five of its last six games, including last week's victory over New Orleans when they had to withstand the loss of WR T.T. Toliver, the team leader in receiving yards and touchdowns. Toliver has been placed on the "Left Squad" list after the receiver stated he didn't want to play for the team anymore. It was a rather curious decision, considering Tampa Bay is right in the thick of the playoff hunt, but thanks to the great contributions of newcomer WR Hank Edwards, the team didn't seem to miss him all that much. QB Brett Dietz has been fantastic in his first season, but this will be a serious test for Dietz against a Soul team that is desperate for a win to stay in the playoff race. I expect Philadelphia to come away with the narrow victory behind the arm of Tony Graziani and a big interception by Eddie Moten.

Grand Rapids Rampage (4-9) @ Chicago Rush (9-4)

Game Time: Saturday, June 9 / 8:00 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Chad Salisbury (GR), WR Cornelius Bonner (GR), WR Clarence Coleman (GR), QB Matt D'Orazio (CHI), WR Rob Mager (CHI), DB Dennison Robinson (CHI)
Pick Em' Prediction: Chicago Rush

Now that WR Timon Marshall has departed for the NFL -- signing a three-year contract with the Chicago Bears -- it's going to be very difficult for Grand Rapids to find another playmaker to power its offense. Marshall's contributions in the receiving and return game are practically irreplaceable this late in the season. Chicago has lost two out of its last three games and is sputtering offensively without WR Bobby Sippio in the lineup. However, Grand Rapids clearly doesn't have the defensive wherewithal that Los Angeles and Nashville do. Rob Mager should have no trouble picking up his third straight 100-yard receiving game while Chicago's defense puts the clamps down on the Marshall-less Rampage.

Georgia Force (11-2) @ Austin Wranglers (4-9)

Game Time: Saturday, June 9 / 8:30 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Chris Greisen (GEO), WR Troy Bergeron (GEO), DL Jermaine Smith (GEO), QB Lang Campbell (AUS), WR Derrick Lewis (AUS), WR Otis Amey (AUS)
Pick Em' Prediction: Georgia Force

After dropping a close game in Los Angeles, the Force has gone back to dominating opponents in back-to-back wins. Austin scored a franchise-record 82 points against New York last week. WR Derrick Lewis is having a monster season and it looks like head coach Brian Partlow finally has found the right recipe for offensive success with his Wranglers squad, but it's going to be much harder to keep up with the Georgia juggernaut. Even with the divisional title in the bag, Georgia should rack up some easy scores on the Wranglers' secondary while DL Jermaine Smith keeps QB Lang Campbell in check.

New Orleans VooDoo (4-9) @ Dallas Desperados (12-1)

Game Time: Saturday, June 9 / 8:30 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Steve Bellisari (NO), WR Tyronne Jones (NO), Wendall Williams (NO), QB Clint Dolezel (DAL), WR/DB Will Pettis (DAL), DL Colston Weatherington
Pick Em' Prediction: Dallas Desperados

It's been six losses in a row for the VooDoo. With the playoffs out of reach, it's tough to avoid simply going through the motions. The Desperados have clinched the divisional title but they're still playing for homefield advantage, so they're not going to loosen their reins over the last few weeks of the season. WR/DB Will Pettis should have another big game while DL Colston Weatherington keeps QB Steve Bellisari on the run, as Dallas remains undefeated at home.

San Jose SaberCats (10-3) @ Utah Blaze (7-7)

Game Time: Saturday, June 9 / 9:00 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Mark Grieb (SJ), WR James Roe (SJ), DB Clevan Thomas (SJ), QB Joe Germaine (UTA), WR Siaha Burley (UTA), WR Tom Pace (UTA)
Pick Em' Prediction: Utah Blaze

Utah can clinch a playoff berth with a win this week plus a Nashville loss. In last week's primetime blowout win over Colorado, not only was Utah fired up on offense, but its defense finally showed signs of life. Defensive backs Jacoby Shepherd and Dahnel Singfield had big contributions in Utah's secondary. They'll need to step up again in order to beat San Jose, winners of seven straight games. San Jose won the last meeting between these two teams by a score of 69-48 on April 28. San Jose has turned into a very well-rounded team, but I'm going to take a shot here. I think Utah's offense goes on a scoring spree and keeps the momentum going at home for another win.

Nashville Kats (5-8) @ Las Vegas Gladiators (2-11)

Game Time: Sunday, June 10 / 6:00 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Jeff Smoker (NAS), WR Kenny Higgins (NAS), DB Ahmad Hawkins (NAS), QB Nick Rolovich (LV), WR Thabiti Davis (LV), WR Travis LaTendresse (LV)
Pick Em' Prediction: Nashville Kats

Nashville is coming off the bye and Las Vegas managed only 20 points in a home loss to Arizona last week. The Kats still have a slim chance at making the playoffs, but they'll need to win their last three games in order to have a shot. Nashville should have an easy time pounding the ball on the ground with FB Dan Alexander while DB Ahmad Hawkins (12 interceptions) locks down any receiving threats the Gladiators have to offer.

Los Angeles Avengers (7-6) @ Arizona Rattlers (4-10)

Game Time: Monday, June 11 / 10:00 p.m. ET
Key Players: QB Sonny Cumbie (LA), WR LaShaun Ward (LA), DL Silas Demary (LA), QB Sherdrick Bonner (ARI), WR Jeremiah Pope (ARI), WR Atnaf Harris (ARI)
Pick Em' Prediction: Los Angeles Avengers

Los Angeles can clinch a playoff spot with a win this week plus a Nashville loss. The Avengers are coming off a big win over Chicago last week, the second time in three weeks that they've scored an upset. Los Angeles beat Arizona in their last matchup by a score of 64-45 on April 6. It wouldn't surprise me if Arizona pulled out a win with a flurry of late scores led by QB Sherdrick Bonner, but Los Angeles has a lot more on the line. I'm expecting big receiving games from LaShaun Ward and Rob Turner -- and ample defensive pressure from DL Silas Demary -- on the way to an Avengers' victory.

Points Tiebreaker: 64-51 Los Angeles

Bye Week

Colorado Crush (8-6)

Colorado had a brutal offensive showing in Week 14; only managing 14 points in a loss at Utah. They Crush have slipped into third place in the Central Division standings and will have to face two tough home games against Chicago and Dallas in their remaining two weeks.

Tom Herrera is a sports video logger and a fantasy sports analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com. E-mail him with your questions and comments at THerrera@talentedmrroto.com.