The Spokane Shock will line up against the Arizona Rattlers tonight in Phoenix as heavy underdogs.
Most observers, including Las Vegas oddsmakers who list Arizona as a two-touchdown favorite, expect the three-time defending Arena Football League champions to have an easy time in the first round of the National Conference playoffs.
“What we believe is all that matters,” Jack linebacker Kevin McCullough said. “No one gave us a chance to beat them the last time. We believe we can beat anybody on any given night.”
Third-seeded Spokane (7-11) knocked off the visiting Rattlers 52-45 last month. A repeat performance will probably depend on the defensive line’s ability to generate pressure on Arizona quarterback Nick Davila. The Shock sacked Davila four times in Spokane and forced four turnovers.
“He’s the guy that makes the offense go,” Mac linebacker Derrick Summers said. “When you affect Davila, you affect their whole team.”
Davila, who quarterbacked Spokane to an arenafootball2 title in 2009, ended a string off so-so games with five touchdowns and no interceptions in last week’s 67-39 rout of Portland.
“I’m sure they’ll hit us quick with a lot of 30s (three-step drops), runs and screens,” coach Andy Olson said. “They generally do that at home anyway. The only way you beat Arizona is by hitting Nick. Our goal is to slow down those receivers and let the pass rush go to work.”
The second-seeded Rattlers (14-4) rank third in scoring defense (45.9) and tied for second in turnovers forced (43). Defensive backs Jeremy Kellem, who has 14 interceptions, and Arkeith Brown started all 18 games and Marquis Floyd has made 17 starts.
Veteran Mac linebacker Tyre Glasper has a team-high 11.5 sacks, followed by rookie lineman Michael McAdoo’s 11.
Olson stressed that rookie quarterback Arvell Nelson and a young group of receivers need to keep their composure for four quarters against Arizona’s veteran defense.
“They’re a good team but everybody in this league is beatable,” offensive lineman Patrick Afif said. “If we play four quarters in all three aspects, offense, defense and special teams, we can beat anybody.”
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