A quick breakdown of the Week 11 schedule in the Arena Football League:
Friday, May 11
Grand Rapids (3-6) at Columbus (5-4)
The Rampage are playing competitive football right now because they have two good playmakers -- QB Chad Salisbury and WR/KR Timon Marshall -- and they can score a lot of points in a short time. Columbus is tough to beat at home and is playing very well right now in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. Still, they are not an overly explosive team. QB Matt Nagy is playing with better consistency and does a nice job of spreading the ball around, but the Destroyers' margin for error is not huge. The key to this game may be the ability of Columbus to neutralize Marshall in both receiving the ball and returning kicks. The Destroyers, who have won four in a row at home, may not be able to match the Rampage offensively, so their ability to make a couple of key defensive stops is critical.
New Orleans (4-5) at Orlando (5-4)
The VooDoo are coming off a much-needed bye week, while the Predators continue to struggle to put scoring drives together. Georgia stopped Orlando six times last week and in this league, that's either really good defense or bad offense! In addition, the Predators turned the ball over twice and their inability to convert on third and fourth downs has become a critical flaw. The Predators are even struggling on defense and are giving up more points than they have in a long time. New Orleans is as good as QB Andy Kelly plays, but he is an immobile QB and a sitting duck in the pocket if Orlando can get to him. Both defenses have pass-rushers, and pass protection will likely determine the winner.
Colorado (6-4) at Nashville (4-6)
Nashville continues to play a lot of young guys and one week they look good, and the next, they make youthful mistakes. Still, they play hard and run the ball more and better than any other team in the AFL, an area that is troublesome for Colorado. The Crush have a bona fide superstar in WR Damian Harrell who can take a game over, but QB John Dutton and the supporting cast is up and down. They do a nice job in the secondary of changing up their coverages, which could lead to some confusion for Kats QB Jeff Smoker, and Crush DB Rashad Floyd is a difference maker. Nashville plays fairly conservatively on offense and will try to keep the ball out of Harrell's hands by running the football and controlling the clock. Colorado has not shown a great ability to stop the run, which is bad news going against a team that has rushed the ball an amazing 116 times in 10 games with 31 of those attempts resulting in TDs.
Saturday, May 12
Utah (5-4) at Kansas City (5-4)
The story with Utah continues to be the same: score a lot of points and move the ball almost at will on offense, but struggle to make key stops defensively. Kansas City, led by veteran QB Raymond Philyaw and an underrated defense, is not a flashy team, but they continue to play solid and consistent football. Utah is dead last in scoring defense (they've surrendered 90 TDs in nine games) and Philyaw is crafty enough to pick the Blaze defense apart if he has time to throw. Utah QB Joe Germaine is having a magical year, but in the last two weeks he has been sacked several times and hit on numerous other occasions. Right now, if they don't play almost perfect on offense, the Blaze are in trouble. This game will likely come down to underrated Kansas City making a couple of key defensive stops and pressuring Germaine enough to create a key turnover or two.
Austin (3-6) at Arizona (2-8)
The Wranglers continue to tease on offense, looking good at times, but also making critical mistakes and turnovers. QB Adrian McPherson was consistently inconsistent and has been waived by the organization because of that up-and-down play. Arizona has a good offense, led by veteran QB Sherdrick Bonner, but their defense seems to let them down every week and this once very efficient team rarely capitalizes on their opponents' mistakes. McPherson will now be replaced by unproven Lang Campbell, and even against a shoddy defense like Arizona's, it will be difficult for Austin to put up a lot of points. However, San Jose scored on all eight of its offensive possessions last week versus Arizona, so maybe Campbell will have some success. Still, Bonner can put up a lot of points, and in this game, he can get by with his 18th-ranked defense.
Tampa Bay (3-6) at Los Angeles (5-4)
The Storm continue to play hard and with a lot of pride even though they don't have elite personnel. They are getting decent production from inexperienced QB Brett Dietz and their defense seems to come up with some key plays when they need them. The Avengers are a solid team with no glaring weaknesses, but they just don't seem to put a complete game together every week. The problem for the Storm is their inability to put up a lot of points and they are last in the league in scoring with only 55 TDs. That puts a lot of pressure on their defense to make plays, but the Avengers do have several young defensive guys who are getting valuable experience. The Avengers scored on nine of their 10 offensive possessions last week and they are much more explosive than the Storm. The only chance Tampa Bay has in this game is to avoid turnovers, play conservatively and avoid a high-scoring shootout, but that's a tall order coupled with a cross-country road trip.
Las Vegas (1-9) at San Jose (6-3)
The Gladiators are the least-talented team in the AFL and they lack playmakers on both sides of the ball, which stops them from being competitive. San Jose is almost an elite team with a lot of veteran playmakers, and you get the feeling that they are ready to go on a roll in the second half of the season. This is a tough matchup for Las Vegas because their biggest weakness is arguably the biggest strength of San Jose. The Gladiators are last in pass defense while San Jose is ranked fourth in pass offense. The SaberCats can spread the field with simply too many offensive weapons for Las Vegas to handle. You don't expect a 1-9 team to play on the road with a lot of emotion, especially versus a veteran team that rarely loses at home. San Jose scored on all eight of its offensive possessions last week and will show more of the same versus the undermanned Gladiators defense.
Monday, May 14
New York (2-7) at Philadelphia (4-5)
Even with QB Aaron Garcia back from an injury, the Dragons are still a flawed team without a lot of depth and big plays on defense. Philadelphia is reeling, with five straight losses, and injuries and inconsistent QB play continue to haunt them. Quite simply, they are turning the ball over too much to beat the good teams in this league. Will the Soul stick with QB Justin Wood or will they make another move before they get Tony Graziani back from injury? As good as Garcia can be, he threw a couple of critical late interceptions last week. Despite all their problems, the Soul still have a good secondary that can make plays. Their defense will be the difference in this game -- and will keep them in the playoff race.
Note: An in-depth breakdown of the Monday night game between Chicago (8-1) and Dallas (9-1) (ESPN2, ESPN360, 8:30 p.m. ET) will run Friday.