Saturday, May 12, 2012
Pittsburgh Power @ San Antonio Talons Preview
The Pittsburgh Power (2-6) have dug themselves a deep hole in their quest for an AFL championship and a winning streak is imperative if they still hold out hopes of achieving that dream.
Their first attempt at a reversal of fortune takes them to San Antonio tonight as they take on the San Antonio Talons (5-3)
Pittsburgh is still searching for answers after a 55-52 loss to the Georgia Force last week, a game in which kicker Raymond "Trey" Kramer missed three extra points, and had a fourth blocked. Kramer was reassigned this week and the Power have their 4th kicker of the year, Seth Burkholder. Burkholder played for the Canton Cougars last year of the UIFL.
In addition to inconsistency at kicker, Pittsburgh has struggled at the quarterback position, although Bryan Randall will be making his third straight start for the Power and may be proving himself as the long term answer for the team.
On the other side of the ball, the San Antonio Talons boast one of the greatest AFL players of all time under center in starting quarterback Aaron Garcia. Garcia had perhaps the finest statistical season of his career, completing 71.5% of his passes last year for 4933 yards, 116 TD's and 17 Interceptions. He also lead the Jacksonville Sharks to their first title, while also earning the first ring of his distinguished 18 year career as well as the title of Russell Athletic Offensive Player of the Year.
Garcia's numbers are down this year, but he still ranks amongst the best in the game. He's completed 65.5% of his passes for 2268 yards (6th), 52 TD's, (3rd) and 11 interceptions. The return of WR Jomo Wilson a few games ago has boosted his numbers greatly.
Wilson has played in just three games this year, but he's caught 28 receptions, 397 yards, and 9 TD's to have a huge impact on all three contests. Wilson and Garcia played together last year in Jacksonville and have great chemistry with each other.
Former Power wideout Jason Willis currently leads the team with 47 receptions, 516 yards and 11 TD's, but he's a boom-or-bust type of player. He'll either have a huge game or be invisible. The Talons will be without top receiving option Robert Quiroga, who is on injured reserve.
Pittsburgh saw the return of Oderick Turner to the lineup last week against Georgia. The former Pitt product had 7 catches for 107 yards and 2 TD's. He showed great athleticism and strength and could be a strong player for Pittsburgh down the stretch.
Randy Hymes has also been strong for Pittsburgh this year. His 8 catches for 119 yards and 2 TD's lead the Power in receiving last week. His biggest problem this year has been deflecting some passes directly to opposing defenders for interceptions. If his hands are solid in this game, it'll be a huge boost for Pittsburgh.
Although the Talons rank dead last in rushing offense, they have a strong runner in Tank Cook who had 99 carries for 294 yards and 30 TD's last year with the San Jose SaberCats. He feasted on the Power defense in their matchup against Pittsburgh last year, and we could see his first major breakout of the year against a power defense that ranks last against the run in the AFL.
Defensively, the Power secondary has been playing well. Newcomer Davion Mitchell brought a lot of intensity to the defense last week. He lead the team in tackles and had a pass blocked. Chris LeFlore remains amongst the best in the AFL with 6 interceptions, although his streak of games with a pick was snapped last week. Ricky Gary will be active for his first game of action this week.
Pittsburgh has to get their special teams untracked. They had zero answers for C.J. Johnson last week in kickoff coverage, and they aren't doing P.J. Berry in their blocking schemes. This was a major area of interest for coach Chris Siegfried.
Both teams are tied for 16th in the AFL with a minus-12 turnover margin, so they'll both make their share of mistakes. Looking at the matchups, I like the Power's edge in the receiving corps, I give San Antonio a major edge at quarterback, plus they have the homefield advantage.
The team that turns it over the least will win this game. Sadly, I don't think that will be the team wearing black and gold.