AFL Playoff Preview: It’s Anybody’s Game

Let’s take a look at all six playoff teams and how each could win it all.

In every playoffs there are favorites and underdogs. But in professional sports, everybody has a shot. In the Arena Football League, where teams can score from literally anywhere on the field, it’s even more true.

As the playoffs begin this weekend, we’ll make the case for each of the six remaining teams winning ArenaBowl XXXIII. 

1. ​Billings Outlaws

Billings is the easiest case to make and has the momentum heading into the postseason. They’re the top seed, have only lost once, just defeated Albany, and have the highest points per game in the league. Plus, every game they play will be a home game until the ArenaBowl.

The Outlaws were the best team in the league this season, so nobody will be surprised if they end up winning it all.

2. Albany Firebirds

Yes, the Firebirds finished the season with a pair of losses, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They lost by eight points in a shootout with the Predators and then fell to Billings by one point in a crazy finish that erased their double-digit lead on the final drive.

Before that, they were 7-0 and looked like the favorites to win the ArenaBowl. They’re still a potent team, with a points per game that’s just a fraction behind Billings.

Their final game against the Outlaws (on the road) gave them plenty of confidence that they could beat them if necessary. Those close losses dropped them down to the #2 seed, but it wouldn’t take much for them to regain their form once the playoffs start. 

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3. Salina Liberty

The Liberty have a strong 6-2 record (with a three-game winning streak), proving they know how to win. But they truly stand out in an area that isn’t always a big focus in the Arena Football League: Defense.

Salina is allowing just over 25 points per game, easily the lowest in the league. No matter how good their opponent is, if they can’t score against the Liberty, they won’t win.

If they can manage a few critical stops in each game, there’s no reason Salina can’t win the ArenaBowl. The old phrase “defense wins championships” doesn’t always come to mind in the Arena Football League, but it could be the key to a title for Salina. 

4. Orlando Predators

Are the Predators a second-tier team or the most underrated one in the playoffs? On one hand, they don’t lead the league in points for or against, and they’ve only won five games.

On the other, they’ve won five straight after an 0-2 start and have the league’s longest current winning streak.

They’re solid on offense and defense, and they even handed Albany their first loss. The team has a storied history in the Arena Football League, and they have no reason to fear any opponent.

The Predators might not be a top seed, but there’s no reason they can’t continue their winning streak all the way to ArenaBowl XXXIII.

5. Southwest Kansas Storm

The Storm don’t go into the playoffs as favorites, but they actually had a winning record before a couple of high-scoring, close losses to end the season. In fact, the Storm have been in a lot of close games: Four of their five losses were by a total of 10 points.

A bounce here or there, and Southwest Kansas would have a very different record. Finally, they split a couple of three-point outcomes with their first playoff opponent, Salina.

If they can keep games close in the playoffs, they could easily come out on top and punch their ticket to the ArenaBowl.

6. Nashville Kats

The Kats have a losing record and won just three games in an abbreviated schedule. So where’s the optimism? First, they’ve scored more points than they’ve given up, which is something the Storm can’t say.

Second, their first playoff opponent (Orlando) is a team that beat them by just seven points in the regular season. In the Arena Football League, with its four-point plays after touchdowns, that’s a very close margin.

They also lost close games to Albany, so it wouldn’t take much to turn things around in the playoffs. Oh, one more thing: Billings lost just one game all season. It wasn’t to the Firebirds, the Liberty, or the Predators.

The only team to defeat the Outlaws this year was the Nashville Kats. There are no automatic wins in the Arena Football League, and if they can get the best of Billings, no team can rest easy against Nashville. 

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