Week 12 Rundown: Heat check

by Cameron Irvine

With three weeks left in the regular season, Week 12 is just downright juicy. There's plenty to get into and we're jumping right into the deep end with the matchups most relevant to the playoff picture:

  • Carolina visits Canton to kick off Week 12 Friday night at 8 pm ET. The Skyhawks are 5-4 and haven't played in two weeks since their miraculous final seconds win over Florida. Canton is hot, winning three of their last four games. In those four wins, the Classics held all three opponents to 13 points or less. Canton is 5-0 at Fatherhood Festival Field, tied for the best home record in the league with Alamo City and Fort Worth. But Canton hasn't beaten a single team over .500, 0-2 against such teams. Their last two games are against teams with winning records - Carolina and D.C. before the Week 14 bye. Bet the under: Carolina hasn't scored or given up 30 points or more since August 27 and Canton hasn't given up 30+ since August 20.
  • Houston heads to Vancouver in the Friday late block at 10:30 pm ET. Both teams are 4-5 but the situation is much more dire for the Headhunters. None of Houston's opponents have a winning record and all the opportunities to improve its strength of victory (Alamo City, Fort Worth, Seattle) have all resulted in close losses, while Vancouver still has Seattle on their schedule and an opportunity to dramatically increase its SOV. This game should be the opposite of Carolina/Canton. Houston is 4th in total yards (411.4) while Vancouver ranks 3rd (416.78). It's Houston's third consecutive trip to Canada in the series, split 4-4. Home teams are 8-0 in the matchup and both teams have 96 franchise wins entering the matchup, tied for 9th in SFL history.
  • Florida visits D.C. Saturday at 6:45 pm ET and I for one can't wait to watch these two strong teams get busy. Florida is 8-2 and in the playoffs averaging 10.5 yards per pass attempt (1st) giving up just 325.0 yards per game (3rd), possessing the ball an average of 22:43 (2nd), while giving up just 4.07 yards per carry (2nd). D.C.'s defense has its own potential to be vicious: three times this season the Dragons didn't give up a touchdown, giving up 21.7 PPG (4th) - take out the two Baltimore losses (the Vultures just have their number) and the Dragons PPG allowed plummets to 18.1. Quarterback Shabazz Psynergy has only thrown an interception in two of his nine games this season. While Cockren throws deep more effectively than any other QB in the league, D.C. is second in yards per pass attempt allowed - 7.14.
  • In the same block, Los Angeles is making their first real push for the playoffs since they last made it in Season 17. At 4-5, they'll welcome San Diego (5-5) Saturday at 6:30 pm ET. The Battle for California will write its fourth chapter - the Mavericks lead the series 2-1, winners of the last two. It's a good matchup for the Lycans: LA has seven turnovers, fewest in the league - quarterback Sully Richardson hasn't thrown an interception since September 2. San Diego has scored 69 of its 320 points off turnovers. No one gets run on more than LA - 39 times a game - but San Diego prefers to pass - its 311 attempts rank 6th in the SFL. These two pass offenses are top three in the league and which one can stay the cleanest probably wins this crucial matchup.
  • Earth to the Central Division: your time is now. Indianapolis, the division's leader is 4-6 and on a bye. They wait to see who wins this weekend. Sioux Falls (3-6) battles Tulsa (3-6) Sunday at 9:15 pm ET and the first time these two met this season, it was the Sparrows jumping out to a 21-0 first quarter advantage and Tulsa quarterback Jay Cue throwing six picks - it was a total disaster for Tulsa to put it bluntly. While Tulsa can't throw picks, they can't just sit back and let Sioux Falls carve them up again in the pass game either. The Sparrows are the league's top pass offense (292.3 YPG) and Tulsa is 21st in yards per pass attempt (9.2). SXF QB Julian Tyree went 19/24 for 304 yards (12.7 YPA) September 17. Minnesota (3-6) tries to stop its slump at Las Vegas (4-5) Friday at 10:15 pm ET. Vegas ranks first in total defense (309.0 YPG). The Legend haven't scored over 30 since August 19 and has 30 points totheir name in the last three weeks.
  • Portland has a chance to knock Alamo City and Fort Worth from their pedestal in the same season. This week is the Toros - Saturday 9:15 pm ET - visiting Portland. If the Fleet win, they'll all but clinch a playoff spot, unless they were to lose out or get in some kind of head-to-head with Houston or San Diego at the cut-off line. Easier said than done: Fort Worth is first in yards per pass attempt (6.87), yards per carry (3.78) and rushing yards allowed (97.8). They get a lead and shut opponents down. We saw what Portland looked like a couple Monday's ago when trailing Arizona: not good. The Fleet have to pounce first and not allow Fort Worth to dictate game pace. Fort Worth is outscoring its opponents 73-23 in the first quarter - only Seattle got the better of them in the first frame.
  • Strength on strength, weakness on weakness Monday night. Baltimore's defense is bottom 10 in yards per play allowed and 16th in red zone defense. Atlanta ranks dead last in first downs and total offense. Maybe they can get something going? Baltimore's offense ranks first ironically in both those categories, but the Swarm defense has been strong in the red zone and against the run in recent weeks. The Vultures are trying to wrap up the Atlantic and would have a chance if Carolina and D.C. lose earlier in the week. 
  • Keep an eye on the 6-loss teams in action this week, trying to improve on their slivers of hope left. Queen City (3-6) hosts Jacksonville Friday night, 8:15 pm ET; Motor City (4-6) visits Charleston (4-5) Saturday 9:00 pm ET - the Predators really need to take care of business, wrapping up this season with Carolina and D.C. remaining. 
  • Lastly, Arizona (6-3) hosts Denver Sunday night, 9:00 pm ET. The Nightwings (3-7) failed to capitalize on early season momentum and have dropped four straight. Arizona's won the last three meetings over Denver.