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                                Carolina                   New Jersey 
Cobras vs. Red Dogs
by Brian Distelberg, CobraZone

 (2-10) (3-9)
Time: 7:30 p.m. 
Location: The ESA 
TV: none  
Radio: Cobras Radio Network  
Internet: Red Dogs
Roxy Line: Red Dogs by 3

Introduction | Who Has The Edge? | Register Your Pick 
INTRODUCTION
   For the first time in a long time, the Cobras will enter a game with a shorter losing streak than their opponent.  And with a win, Carolina can actually move out of last place in the AFL.
   The New Jersey Red Dogs are in the midst of a chaotic season that started with a trade for six-time Ironman of the Year Barry Wagner, who departed soon afterward for San Jose, declared a free agent under the league's new collective bargaining agreement.  From there, it's just gone down hill for the Red Dogs, who went 9-5 in 1997, their first season, and won a playoff game in 1998, leaving them still the only expansion team from the past five seasons to win in the postseason.
   New Jersey lost five of their first six games this year, and has lost four in a row after racking up back-to-back victories.  Head coach Frank Mattiace was fired two weeks ago; under new leader Kevin Guy, the Red Dogs have let a lead over New England slip away twice in consecutive games.  Plagued by in-fighting among players and dwindling crowds, there is no guarantee that the Garden State will have an AFL franchise next season, especially after the example of the Portland Forest Dragons showed how a struggling team could remake itself in a new location.
   And though New Jersey sits just one slot out of the playoffs, the Cobras probably have an emotional advantage after getting their first home win ever and nearly defeating the playoff-bound Arizona Rattlers.  With a win and some help, in the form of L.A. and Houston losses, the Cobras could move to 14th place.  Unfortunately for the Cobras, Avenger and ThunderBear losses mean Buffalo and Grand Rapids wins, further distancing the bottom of the playoff pack from the Cobras.
   WHO HAS THE EDGE?
 
  When the Cobras have the ball...  
  Rushing - So much for consistency.  On a night where many of the typically weakest facets of the Cobras played strongly, the ground game, reliable all season, disappeared in Arizona.  Carolina hasn't abandoned the run, but can it still count on it? Advantage: Even  
  Passing - Fred McNair continues to grow more comfortable with the Cobras offense, and with Dexter Dawson and Cornelius White as his go-to guys.  While the line protection is still uneven, McNair still hangs onto the ball too long on some occasions.  New Jersey comes into the game with one of the league's best pass defenses, led by Kevin Gaines, and a head coach who was a former defensive back. Advantage: Even
 
  When the Red Dogs have the ball...  
Rushing - New Jersey is not a threat on the ground from a yardage standpoint.  However, Kevin Clemens has rushed for a pair of touchdowns and quarterback Tommy Maddox has scrambled for five.  The Cobras line should be able to stop the Red Dogs ground assault, but must also eradicate the mental errors that have hurt Carolina all season.  The Cobras were successful in putting pressure on Sherdrick Bonner last week.  Advantage: Carolina        _
  Passing - Rookie signal-caller Tommy Maddox, a former NFL first round draft pick and six-year veteran in 'the show,' leads a potent Red Dog attack.  Receiving duties are spread between Michael Lewis, David Saunders and Dimitrious Stanley.  The Cobras, however, finally gelled on defense last week, as the return of Reggie Carthon seemed to boost the secondary.  Advantage: Even  
  Also...  
  Special Teams - Mistakes on special teams cost the Cobras again last week.  I'm surprised Coach Kay didn't warn his return men about the strange net in America West Arena, considering he coached their for four seasons.  The Cobras need to be diligent on kick returns, as Lewis has two run backs for scores this season.  Fortunately, kicker Derek Schorejs is only 50% from under 50 yards and one for nine from beyond.  He has hit a 54-yarder.  Advantage: Even  
Coaching - Kay has the Cobras playing focused and determined, as proved by their refusal to lay down early in the desert.  Guy has yet to win in his first head coaching stint, and his team has given up early leads in the past two games. Advantage: Carolina  
Intangibles - The Cobras are no longer under pressure to get their first home win, and are playing for pride and for the fans.  New Jersey needs a win to stay in the playoff hunt, but that motivation hasn't prevented four straight losses.  If the Cobras play hard, the fans will support them, which should boost their game.  Advantage: Carolina  
  Prediction: Carolina 52 - New Jersey 49  
 
Register your prediction in the CobraZone Forum!  Look on the General Discussion board under the thread Friday's Game.