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The Dragons have a chance to stay in this game if they play the gambling and aggressive defense that got them to the playoffs. If they're sloppy and play with a lack of discipline (something they've done at time this year), they will be in big trouble. Dallas runs a very sophisticated timing offense and it takes a very sound defense with solid schemes to stay with it. This game features two legendary QBs -- New York's Aaron Garcia and Dallas' Clint Dolezel. Both call their own plays, are great at reading defenses and finding the right matchups and they will exploit defensive mistakes.
2. Win the turnover ball: Even with Garcia, the Dragons are not an overly explosive offense and struggle if forced into a high-scoring game. Dallas is a very disciplined team that usually takes care of the football and is excellent at exploiting opponents' mistakes and converting turnovers into big plays. The Dragons need to score on almost every possession and they can't possibly stay with Dallas if they give possessions away. They need to slow this game down and play smart, methodical offense.
3. Pass rush pressure and man to man coverage: New York needs to play a near-perfect defensive game to stay competitive. The Dragons have a good pass rush and a very aggressive secondary that will take chances and jump routes. Dolezel runs a precise, timing offense. If he is forced to hold on to the ball because his receivers are covered and cannot get separation, it could lead to some coverage sacks and throwing mistakes. Dolezel is a guy who can get very frustrated if his offense is not in sync.
2. Make good decisions in the passing game: Dolezel is one of the smartest QBs in AFL history and he's like a coach on the field. He practically draws plays up in the dirt and is a master at finding a defensive weakness or exploiting a matchup and because of his ability to adjust in the huddle, he is tough to game plan against. New York has a very aggressive defense and will take some chances in order to create turnovers and big plays, but Dolezel has a good chance to catch the Dragons in those situations and turn it into big offensive plays.
3. Don't get caught up with the garbage: Dallas is usually very discipline on both sides of the ball, even though it plays with a lot of emotions and even a little bit of a swagger. However, the Desperados had 15 penalties last week at Chicago and looked a little sloppy. New York can be really chippy on defense and has been accused of being a dirty team with cheap shots and late hits. The Dragons might try to draw Dallas into that style of play in an attempt to that it out of its rhythm. If the Desperados stay focused, they will be fine.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm called The War Room.