8:00 PM EST Consol Energy Center
TV: NFL Network
Need to get the hatred flowing as a Pittsburgh sports fan? How about inviting a team from Philadelphia into your house.
The cross-state rival Philadelphia Soul come to town for the Pittsburgh Power's 2012 home opener. Both teams opened their seasons with a road victory. Pittsburgh had to deal with the labor dispute and replacement players in a 40-26 win against Orlando, while Philadelphia had to overcome turnovers and penalties to edge the New Orleans Voodoo 63-62
Philadelphia has bragging all offseason about handling their business this year by using the slogan "We Got This." They brought in a lot of all-arena caliber talent across the board and while that makes them formidable, that doesn't make them unbeatable.
Pittsburgh has already lost a key member of their offseason moves. Due to the labor struggles, quarterback Kyle Rowley is not expected to play for the Power this year, leaving the Power with unproven Andrico Hines or recently re-signed local star Bill Stull to man the quarterback position.
Given how strongly the success of your quarterback translates to winning in this league, it is vital that the Power get one of them to step up and take care of business.
Those going to the game tonight will want to arrive early as there will be an indoor fireworks show that's being promoted as "the largest in Pittsburgh history." Hopefully the fireworks on the field will overshadow the ones off the field.
Philly goes with Dan Raudabaugh at quarterback this year. Power fans will remember him throwing 433 yards and 10 TD's for Dallas in a 76-75 shootout loss to Pittsburgh last year. He has a lot of talent and accuracy and should provide a tough test for the Power secondary in their first full game together.
Both the Power and Soul boast a lot of superstar talent at the wide receiver position. Philly's Tiger Jones was the leading receiver in the AFL last year and picked up right where he left off with 10 catches for 132 yards and 3 TD's last week against New Orleans. Donovan Morgan also added 86 yards and 2 TD's last week. Jeff Hughley stood out as the best player in the AFL last week with 4 catches for 92 yards and 2 TD's while also exploding for 265 yards and a score on 10 kickoff returns.
Pittsburgh's Mike "The Joystick" Washington had 9 catches for 166 yards and 4 TD's in the season opener against Orlando. Some may try to put an asterisk next to that because of all the replacement players, but we've seen a lot of games like that out of Washington in his time here with the Power. We're still waiting for a full appearance from Lonnell DeWalt and P.J. Berry, the reigning AFL Ironman of the Year. Both players should have a huge impact on the Power this season.
One key matchup to look at will be the kicking position. Soul kicker Phil Marfuggi was a perfect 9 for 9 on his extra points last week. Pittsburgh will counter with AFL rookie Collin Wagner who will make his arena debut tonight. How well he adapts to the inside game will go a long way towards determing this outcome. Wagner played college ball at Penn State. Nittany Lion fans will likely remember his four field goal effort in awful kicking conditions to lead PSU to a 19-17 win over LSU in the 2009 Capital One Bowl.
Keys to the game.
- Show some discipline. 12 penalties for 90 yards is simply unacceptable in the AFL.
- Hold on to the football. The offense is explosive, but putting the ball on the ground twice is a quick way to lose the game.
- Tighten up defensively. The offense is definitely one of the strongest in the league, but if you can't stop the other team you're leaving a lot to chance.
- Get everybody on the same page quickly. They may have gotten a victory in Orlando, but this will be the first full game as a team.
- Keep the crowd involved. The pregame fireworks show should have the crowd amped up. Take advantage of that by scoring early and often.
- Take advantage of opportunities. New Orleans failed to capitalize on the mistakes the Soul made and it cost them big time. Philly is beatable, but you have to pounce on their mistakes.