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Cobras (1-2) at Tampa Bay Storm (0-3) 

Time: Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. (EST), TNN's pre-game show starts at 8:00 
Location: The Ice Palace, Tampa 
Radio: Cobras Radio Network  
Internet: WDAE 1250 AM (RealAudio)

Introduction | Injury Report | Scouting the Storm | Cobras' Keys to Victory | Prediction 
   On Thursday, for the first time in team history, the Cobras will go into a game with a better record than their opponent.  The Cobras will be facing, for the first time, a truly desperate team.  The Tampa Bay Storm lost both their preseason games, and their 0-3 three start to the season is the worst in the history of one of the AFL's greatest franchises.  Add in the fact that the Storm's 67-34 loss to Albany last week was the largest in team history, and one sees that Tampa is bleeding, and bleeding bad.  And, as the saying goes, an injured animal is a dangerous one.  The Storm have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
   Fortunately (or unfortunately - depending on how you look at it), the Cobras' pride is injured too.  A 56-28 drubbing on national TV will do that to you.
   So when the Cobras and the Storm face off Thursday, again in front of a nation-wide TV audience, it will be a contest of two angry teams desperately in need of a win to stay competitive in the Southern Division.  A win this week will even the Cobras’ record going into next week’s contest with Florida, a team they led by 21 at one point during their first meeting.  A loss, and they'll limp into their second straight away game at 1-3.  Thursday could conceivably set the tone for the entire season.

Injury Report 
Out – OL/DL Johnnie Hicks (IR*), FB/LB Toran James (IR, hand), OL/DL Scott Miller (IR), WR/LB Manny Pina (IR), WR/LB Kevin Lee (hamstring) 
Questionable – DS Tommy Johnson (calf) 
Probable – WR/DB Dexter Dawson (back) 
Out - WR/DB Wayne Walker (IR, hamstring), OS Harvey Middleton (IR, collarbone) 
Doubtful  – WR/DB Melvin Cunnigham (foot) 
Probable -- OL/DL Darion Conner (toe) 

* 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 Storm... 

  • Despite their current slide, the Storm/Pittsburgh Gladiators have made 13 straight playoff appearances has advanced to the ArenaBowl seven times.  They were 11-4 last year.
  • Seven-year veteran John Kaleo, acquired from New England through a trade, will start at quarterback, replacing former Florida State star Thad Busby, who started Tampa Bay’s first three games.  Kaleo was 10 of 19 for 159 yards, two TDs and no interceptions in finishing the Storm’s game against Albany last week.
  • Cobras’ line coach Ron Selesky was an assistant coach and director of player personal in Tampa for two years.  Also, FB/LB coach Lee Johnson played on the Storm’s 1993 ArenaBowl championship team.
  • In addition to four AFL championships with Tampa Bay, Storm head coach Tim Marcum won another four ArenaBowl titles in Detroit.  Marcum also has 117 victories, the most in AFL history.
  • The Storm’s primary kicker, Matt Huerkamp, was injured in the team's first regular season game.  Tampa Bay is now on their third additional kicker in three games.
  • The Storm’s leading rusher, Andre Bowden, has rushed for 30 yards and two touchdowns.  Leading receiver Charles Wilson has caught 16 passes for 207 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Second leading receiver Harvey Middleton will miss Thursday's game with a collarbone injury.
  • Tampa Bay has already lost by more than 10 points twice this season, 67-34 to Albany and 41-26 to New England.  The Storm is averaging just 30 points per game this season.

    The Cobras' Keys to Victory:  
      Pick a QB and go with him 
      Arellanes or Garay?  Or Loots?  Coach Kay needs to make a decision and move on, because a team with a quarterback controversy is not a winning team.  Arellanes was slightly injured last week, and rarely had good protection.  But Garay was able to deal with the same pass rush and throw two touchdown passes.  The good news is that the Storm has only four sacks in three games. 

      Keep pounding the ball 
      The Cobras’ commitment to the ground game paid off in the second half of last week’s game, when Marrio Grier scored once and set up several other scores. 

      Turn the crowd against the Storm 
      With a new quarterback calling the signals for Tampa Bay, any poor play at that position is bound to result in a chorus of boos, which will further divert the Storm’s attention from the game.  A sack, interception or safety could get the ball rolling. 

      Speaking of safeties... 
      ...two in one game?  That kind of thing needs to stop. 

      Cobra, redeem thyself 
      OK, this isn't really a “key to victory,” but it would be nice if the Cobras showed the national TV audience that they aren't quite as bad as they looked last week.  And as long as we're off topic, the Cobras need to bring back some guidelines for the ESA from the Ice Palace, which actually acknowledges the AFL team that plays in it by incorporating a football in its logo.  Would it be that hard to string up some Cobras banners at the ESA along with the “Go ‘Canes” and “Go Pack” signs? 

    Cobras 45 - Storm 42  

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