If the Spokane Shock keep winning, they could face an interesting decision as the Arena Football League regular season winds down.
Spokane (11-2) has won the West Division, clinching at least one home playoff game, and it is closing in on the best overall record in the National Conference and AFL. The latter would mean hosting rights throughout the playoffs.
If Spokane wins its next two games, at Iowa on Friday and home versus Chicago on July 23, there would be essentially nothing but pride at stake for the regular-season finale at Jacksonville. If that scenario plays out, Spokane would have to decide between carrying on business as usual or resting players to heal up for a playoff run.
Head coach Rob Keefe has already made his decision, but he’s allowing for some wiggle room. One key factor is that the Shock’s last three games are on NFL Network, which means players will be watched by potential future employers.
“I think it’s my responsibility to get the players seen,” Keefe said. “I’m going to put the best on the field every week. Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Do you want to lose before the playoffs?’ No, I think you want to win at everything you do all the time. We’ll make decisions if we’re up by a certain amount, we might pull some guys, but my thought is we keep this ship moving.”
Spokane leads Tampa Bay (10-3) by one game for the best record in the AFL. If the teams finish tied, the first tiebreaker (head to head) doesn’t apply. The next tiebreaker is winning percentage against common opponents. Spokane is 10-1 with counters versus Chicago and Jacksonville remaining; Tampa Bay is 7-3 with dates left against Jacksonville and Orlando.
Spokane, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville have clinched playoff spots. Tulsa, Milwaukee and Arizona are in good shape. That would leave three 6-7 teams, Orlando, Oklahoma City and Alabama, fighting for the last American Conference spot.
Keefe is looking forward to some NFL Network exposure.
“It’s something these guys deserve,” Keefe said, “and I can’t wait to sit in some of these production meetings and let the nation know exactly who we are.”
On the road again
Having already completed a “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” trip to Milwaukee and enduring a tornado warning in Oklahoma City, the Shock added another road adventure over the weekend.
The Shock, after defeating the Cleveland Gladiators 62-56 on Saturday, arrived at the airport Sunday only to discover their reservations were on a Monday flight. They returned to the hotel and relaxed. Some players went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, others iced injuries in bathtubs.
The team didn’t return to Spokane until late Monday evening. They watched film and had a brief conditioning session Tuesday. They’ll practice lightly today before leaving Thursday for Iowa.
“What are you going to do, sit around and cry about it?” Keefe said. “Health is the main issue at this point for every team. It’s more honing in, getting healthy and focusing on what Iowa does.”
Spokane was forced to bus from Minneapolis to Milwaukee because of a canceled flight last month. A tornado warning was issued during the Oklahoma City game, but didn’t impact the game.
Tickets will go on sale Thursday, July 22, for Spokane’s first-round playoff game on Friday, Aug. 6. Tickets can be purchased at TicketsWest outlets, by calling 1-800-325-SEAT or visiting www.ticketswest.com. … Huey Whittaker and Travis Williams received weekly awards from the AFL. Whittaker, with 11 catches for 153 yards and five touchdowns, shared the playmaker of the week award with Alabama’s CJ Johnson. Williams was the defensive player of the week after his interception and touchdown return sealed Spokane’s overtime win. … Receiver Markee White has a chance to return this week from a shoulder injury he suffered in mid May.
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