National Conference Championship
Cleveland Gladiators at Philadelphia Soul (-6½, 115½, Station Casinos) (TV: ESPN, 1 pmET/10amPT, RADIO: SIRIUS Radio Channel 127): The Soul expected to be here while the Gladiators in Las Vegas at this time last year could only dream about it. But somehow Cleveland (11-7), like state buddy Columbus last year, found a way to win in the playoffs and make it this far.
Philadelphia (14-3) cruised through the regular season with two solid QBs (Grazinai and DOrazio) and a plethora of talented receivers, the most well-known being Chris Jackson named the AFLs Player of the Year by writers this week who is closing in on some postseason receiving records. The Wachovia Center will be rocking and the line (6½) seems fairly low in relationship to what these two teams did in the regular season.
In that regular season, these two teams me twice with the Gladiators upsetting the Soul in Cleveland on May 2, 67-55, and the Soul eking out a 1-point win (62-61) in the City of Brotherly Love on June 4. Those two games were both covers for the Gladiators.
With so much at stake and owner Jon Bon Jovi itching for a title for his Soul, Im tossing out those two regular season meetings and laying the 6½ with Philly and Jackson and hoping the upstart Gladiators dont upset their applecart on Saturday. SOUL -6½.
American Conference Championship
Grand Rapids Rampage at San Jose SaberCats (-6½, 119½), (TV: ESPN, 3:30pmET/12:30pmPT, RADIO: SIRIUS Radio Channel 127): Looking at the numbers in this matchup would lead one to believe theres no way the defending AFL-champ SaberCats (12-5) could ever lose to Grand Rapids (8-10). First, theres the Rampages losing record. Then theres the 1-9 lifetime series mark vs. SJ. And you also have the fact that GR has never won a game (0-10) on the West Coast (Pacific Ocean bordering teams) in the 10-year history of the franchise! So is today the day that all comes to an end? And for bettors, will the 6½ be enough to cover?
The Cats bring a seven-game winning streak into the game but the Rampage have won five straight of their own, including four in a row on the road. SJ is dominant in the HP Pavilion, winning 75 of 91 games under coach Darren Arbet and racking up an impressive 12-4 mark in the postseason at home.
In the regular season, the SaberCats topped the Rampage, 66-58 in SJ but a fumble by GR QB Adrian McPherson with 52 seconds to go as he was running into the end zone cost the Rampage a shot (with the two-point conversion) at that first West coast win.
For me, the most important factor in this game is the availability of SJ WR James Roe who was injured in the third quarter of last weeks game against Colorado. Not knowing the status of Roe and assuming he wont be 100% makes the lean toward the visiting Rampage who might just upset SJ in this one. Also, with GR clicking on all cylinders its scored on 34 of its last 37 possessions with McPherson throwing just one pick to 14 TDs in the playoffs, points will be scored as GR will set a fast pace and SJ will have to keep up with it. The two scored 114 in their regular season meeting and topping 120 is certainly not out of the question here. RAMPAGE + 6½, OVER 119½.