AFL Playoff Preview: Nashville Kats vs. Orlando Predators

The road to the ArenaBowl kicks off in Orlando with the Predators hosting the Nashville Kats. Friday, July 5, will be the first AFL playoff game in five years, and the possibilities are endless.

The Previous Matchup

These two teams met back in Week 5 of the regular season, albeit with different versions of themselves. For one, the Kats’ quarterback situation was much different.

At the time, Ramone Atkins was taking the snaps, and the Preds were just able to stop him from driving.

Since then, the Kats have pulled Randy Hippeard out of retirement, who has proven he can still perform at an incredibly high level.

The game was a high-scoring affair. In fact this was the most points Orlando gave up in a win all season. Additionally, it was the most points the Kats gave up all season, going 69-62 in favor of Orlando.

Drew Powell got the ball to his receivers with hardly any contest, completing 70% of his passes with almost 200 yards and 5 TD passes. He had no issues on the ground, either.

Going down in the backfield only once, he was routinely able to slip tackles and pick up 40 yards on the ground.

Multiple receivers tore up the Kats’ DBs, but nobody more than Caleb Walls. If he gets the same matchup as before, he will do it all over again, but the Kats’ staff is smarter than that.

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Momentum or Lack Thereof

Both teams are coming off a period of rest, but the Kats have been all but absent for the past month. The last game of Nashville’s season was played in Week 7, nearly a month ago. This raises the question of whether the Kats have had time to get rusty or are just well-rested.

In that last game, they pulled off a major upset against the Billings Outlaws, ending their undefeated season. In that game, the offense flourished under Randy Hippeard’s command, and the defense successfully halted the train that is Hunter Swoboda.

If the Kats were able to put together that performance with rather low offensive chemistry, they could really show that they have used their extended time off effectively.

The Predators, on the other hand, have already proven that they can vigorously rebound from extended rest.

Earlier in the season, they had back-to-back bye weeks before their second matchup against the Firebirds. They ended up winning that game and holding Albany to only 49 points. For the coming matchup, the Orlando defense is going to benefit from the previous bye week, coming out agile and well-rested.

Trench Warfare

Most of the game is going to be decided by the guys in the front. When high-profile offenses clash, it is the linemen that have the biggest sway in the game. The Kats’ defensive line is going to be tough for the Predators to fend off.

They have a knack for getting to the quarterback quickly and getting off sacks, routinely holding back offenses from scoring as much as they usually do. The Predator defensive line has been good, but not great, all season. They have all of the same abilities that the Kats have, if not more. They have not reached a point where the whole line is firing on all cylinders.

Typically, it has been one man being excellent in any given game with the rest playing average ball. EJ Burt says himself that there is no cure for a good pass rush, so if two or even three of the defensive linemen are on their game, it will be slim pickings for the Kats.

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