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Orlando Predators (1-0) at Cobras (1-1) 

  Time: Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. (EST), TNN's pre-game show starts at 8:00 
Location: The ESA 
Radio: Cobras Radio Network  
Internet: none

Introduction | Injury Report | Scouting the Predators | Cobras' Keys to Victory | Prediction
   Are the Cobras ready for prime time?  We’ll soon find out.
   A week after securing their first win in franchise history, the Cobras return home to face the Orlando Predators, with the game televised live on national TV by TNN.  This game is the first of two in a row that the Cobras will play in front of a national audience; next week’s clash in Tampa has been moved up to TNN as well.
   Though they won last week, the Cobras still had their sloppy moments, and those are hardly likely to disappear overnight, especially if big-game jitters get in the way.  And, though the Cobras are returning home, their level of crowd support is questionable... the combination of the weeknight date and the late start will likely hold down attendance.
   Both teams are something of mysteries to each other.  Orlando does not know what to expect from the expansion Cobras.  And the Predators, with significant offseason personnel changes, have played only one game so far after having a bye in week 2.  
Injury Report 
Out (IR*) – OL/DL Johnnie Hicks, FB/LB Toran James, OL/DL Scott Miller, WR/LB Manny Pina  
Questionable – DS Tommy Johnson (calf), WR/LB Kevin Lee (hamstring) 
Probable – QB Jim Arellanes (ankle) 
Out (IR) – OL/DL Rich McKenzie (wrist) 
* Note: Unlike the NFL, the AFL’s injured reserve is not season-long.  A player placed on IR need only miss the next two games, then can be re-activated. 
Scouting the Predators... 
  • In their first game of the season, Orlando only put up 38 points, but used a dominating defense to hold New Jersey to 21.  QB Connell Maynor, replacing the departed Browning Nagle, was only 9 of 22 for 121 yards.  Orlando had a bye last week.
  • Orlando lost WR/DB Barry Wagner, the Michael Jordan of the AFL, in the offseason to San Jose through free agency.  They also traded away former NFL QB Nagle to Buffalo.  Stepping into the shoes of the departed stars are Maynor and Joe Douglas, Cliff Dell and Brett Cooper.
  • Maynor and WR/LB James Bowden will both be coming home when they play in Raleigh Thursday.  The two played collegiately at North Carolina A&T.
  • Orlando is the only team in the league to average more yards per game rushing than the Cobras.  The Predators average 52.0 yards per game while the Cobras average 50.5.  Orlando and Carolina are also 1-2 in rush defense, with the Predators allowing 3.0 yards per game and the Cobras 3.5.
  • The Predators will be playing without their best lineman, Rich McKenzie, who injured his wrist in Orlando’s first game.
  • Orlando gave up 212 yards and a touchdown to New Jersey kick returners two weeks ago.
  • OS Jack Jackson and OL/DL Jerry Sharp both formerly played for the Predators.  Sharp was traded to Nashville in 1997 for the rights to current Orlando coach Jay Gruden, then selected by the Cobras in the expansion draft.  Jackson was the Cobras’ number one expansion draft pick.

    The Cobras' Keys to Victory:  
      Good game from Jackson 
      Jack Jackson must take advantage of Orlando’s poor kick coverage, giving the Cobras field position if not points.  He must also win the battle against Predators’ DS Kenny McEntyre, who has recorded 14 interceptions – five returned for scores – in the 22 games he has been with Orlando.  If MCEntyre bottles Jackson up, the Cobras’ other receivers need to step up, as WR/DB Dexter Dawson did last week. 

      Victorious trench warfare 
      With two air attacks that have struggled at times, the game could come down to a ground battle, as strange as that may seem in the AFL.  If the Cobras have to resort to pounding the ball, they have to take advantage of McKenzie’s absence on the defensive line. 

      A smooth transition to Loots, if needed 
      QB Jim Arellanes is listed as probable with an ankle injury.  If he re-aggravates it, Jeff Loots, acquired in a trade from Albany, may step in – from the Cobras’ press release, it isn’t clear whether he has been placed on the active roster.  Since the Cobras’ traded for Loots, I’ve received several e-mails from Albany fans that said many Firebirds fans thought he should be starting over Mike Pawlawski and that we got a very good deal. 

      Pressure Maynor 
      The Predators’ offensive line play was shaky against New Jersey, where they gave up two sacks.  With McKenzie missing, the Cobras should try to put pressure on Maynor and force him into another 9 of 22-type performance. 

      Don’t get cocky 
      I don’t think Coach Kay would allow his players to rest on their laurels, but just in case, my personal message to the Cobras’ players: “Yes, you won your first game, but it was against another expansion team, and it was hardly pretty.  You’re facing the ArenaBowl runner-up.  Winning is not impossible, but it won’t be easy.”

    Predators 42 - Cobras 38  

    Register your prediction in the CobraZone Forum!  Look on the General Discussion board under the thread Orlando Predictions.