Playoff Primer – Nashville Kats

The Nashville Kats finished the 2024 season with a 3-4 record, but their lackluster results should not count against them ahead of the ArenaBowl. Heading into the playoffs, the Kats boast one of the most potent offenses in the AFL.

A Deeper Look

While a 3-4 record would leave most scratching their heads about a team’s chances for a championship, the Kats are not your run-of-the-mill below .500 team.

After starting the season with 1-2, the Kats finished the final four games of the regular season with admirable efforts against elite teams, winning two of their last four games of the season and close losses to the Albany Firebirds and the Orlando Predators.

In their final game of the season, the Kats defeated the then-undefeated Billings Outlaws and look to carry that momentum into the playoffs.

While injuries have kept the team from performing at their peak, the additions of quarterback Randy Hippeard and wide receivers Kendrick Ings and Milton Williams have transformed the Kats offense from one often injured at both positions to one loaded with talent.

Hippeard, a former AFL MVP and champion, will start for the Kats and looks to direct a competitive offensive, which also features wide receivers Marquise Irvin, Charlie McClain, and Braxton Haley.

Each of these receivers has a nose for the end zone: Ings has 2 touchdowns in two games, McClain has 7 touchdowns in five games, Irvin has 8 touchdowns in six games, Williams has 7 touchdowns in four games, and Haley has 11 touchdowns in seven games.

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Hippeard joined the team with a great pedigree and without much face time with the team. In his first game of the season, he passed for 6 touchdowns. It remains to be seen whether his chemistry with his receivers was a flash-in-the-pan performance or a sustainable effort for the playoffs.

Moreover, while the Kats have had no trouble scoring despite injuries to their quarterbacks Ramone Atkins and Dalton Oliver or wide receiver Marquise Irvin, who, despite missing three games, leads the team receptions, the defense has had trouble stopping opposing offenses from scoring the football all season long.

Of course, the defense has looked dominant, particularly around Linemen Reggie Howard and Ezekiel Rose, and the team has welcomed Lineman Justin Thomas, who is a force that can help the Kats win football games.

However, despite the stout defensive line and an equally strong secondary that features Jay Woods, Trae Meadows, and Derrick Jones, the team has not been able to finish games with minor momentum swings in their favor.

Road to Victory

The greatest challenge for the Kats has come from the front of special teams. While Kendrick Ings has been a great addition to the team for kick returns, the Kats have ended up with poor field positions on the defensive side of the ball that have required herculean efforts for any three-and-outs, turnovers, or stops in the red zone.

Without great field position for the defense, mounting pressure will be on the offense to continue scoring at its incredible pace, which is perhaps not sustainable for any team, given how formidable each defense in the playoffs can be.

In addition to poor field positions for the defense, kicking has been an issue for the Kats. While scoring points on field goals is a learning curve for kickers coming into the AFL, heading into the playoffs, kickers must execute for their team at the risk of losing to teams who do execute on field goals, extra point attempts, and deuces.

Through seven games, Pat Clarke has converted two of four field goal attempts, 27 of 38 points after touchdown attempts, and only two deuce attempts. These numbers must improve in the playoffs if the Kats hope to contend against teams that have already begun relying on their kicker.


While the Kats are not the favorites to win the ArenaBowl this year, the team has made roster moves to contend despite major injury setbacks. If the Kats can continue to ride the talent of their offense and shore up mistakes made on special teams, then the defense’s talent is deep enough to push the pendulum in their favor.

A strong special teams effort is all the Kats need to truly contend this year. If the team can make small changes on that front, anything is possible.

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