The playoff picture is still cloudy in the AFL’s National Conference and the Spokane Shock would like to keep it that way for another week.
To do so, third-ranked Spokane (12-4) needs a win over visiting San Antonio (9-7) tonight at 7 at the Arena. Spokane is pursuing the third seed – division winners are guaranteed the top two seeds – and a probable first-round home game.
No. 7 San Antonio is tied with Chicago in the Central Division, but the Rush hold the tiebreaker. Both teams will be underdogs in their last two regular-season games – San Jose entertains Philadelphia (11-5) next week while Chicago is at San Jose (12-4), the team battling Spokane for the three seed.
If San Antonio beats Spokane, it would take a giant step toward the division title and a first-round home game. If the Talons lose out, Spokane has an excellent shot at the third seed and a home playoff game versus Chicago, which isn’t expected to be allowed to host because of arena issues.
“We’re really young, but we know what’s at stake,” Shock quarterback Erik Meyer said. “We have to take it one game at a time and the first one is San Antonio, but if we end up playing Arizona first (in the playoffs) we’ll be ready.”
The Talons lost quarterback Nick Hill to a leg injury and dropped to 4-5 after losing to Spokane in late May. After shuffling Xavier Lee and Nick Fanuzzi for two games, the Talons inserted Rohan Davey.
The Talons are 4-1 with Davey, who has 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Defense remains San Antonio’s strength. Joe Sykes leads the AFL with 13 sacks and the team’s 33 sacks rank third. San Antonio is tops in the league in red-zone defense, second in interceptions (27) and fifth in scoring defense (48.7).
“Very physical up front and at defensive back,” said Shock coach Andy Olson, whose team scored on nine of 10 possessions in the first meeting.
Spokane is second in scoring (66.2 ppg) but has had back-to-back two-turnover games. Adron Tennell had 15 catches for 110 yards and four TDs versus Arizona, but just 14 receptions for 108 yards and three scores in the last three games.
“We just need to find our rhythm again,” Olson said. “Tennell is beat up, but at the same time every time he’s in motion we get zone (defense and) there’s two guys covering him. When the other guys are in motion, we get more man. I have to do a better job making sure that he scores in the red zone.”