BLISS CAN CLINCH FOURTH CONSECUTIVE PLAYOFF APPEARANCE WITH A WIN OVER OMAHA ON SATURDAY (OFFICIAL GAME PREVIEW)
(LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA- Thursday, June 30, 2016)
The Chicago Bliss (1-1) are coming off of the franchises’ largest margin of victory after beating the New England Liberty by a score of 70-7 last Saturday. Meanwhile, the Omaha Heart (1-1) are coming off of a loss to the Atlanta Steam in Week-8 were they were defeated by a final score of 77-0, losing by the largest margin for any team this season, marking the second time in two years that they gave up over 70 points while failing to score against Atlanta.
The fact that Omaha is 0-3 against Chicago all time and has yet score on the Bliss defense, makes this match-up seem even more top-heavy than it appears from this season’s results alone. Omaha is still very much in the playoff scenario as New England is the only team that has been eliminated from the postseason in the East with their 0-3 record. If Omaha can upset Chicago, their playoff chances are good if Atlanta can finish at least 3-1 this season, as Omaha would finish at worst 2-2 and would have the edge over Chicago who would finish at best 2-2, with this head-to-head game putting Omaha on top of Chicago. But with a Chicago win this Saturday, Omaha will be eliminated from the postseason and the Eastern Conference Championship would again feature the Atlanta Steam and Chicago Bliss.
Saturday’s game will be the first outdoor LFL game this season, as the Bliss host their home games at the beautiful outdoor Toyota Park stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois. Many will argue outdoor football games played on grass are better than indoor games played on turf, but we can all agree that LFL football is better than soccer so regardless of the environment, Saturday’s game will be a pleasure for the thousands in attendance.
Will Chicago remain the dominant team in the Midwest or will the Omaha Heart surprise everyone around the LFL world with an upset win? Watch LFL Football Night weekly on CW, MyNetwork TV or Regional Sports Networks (check local listings), also on the LFL’s official YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com Saturdays 9p/8c.
Las Vegas Betting Line
Chicago- 36 points | Over/Under 55 points
It appeared the Omaha Heart would be a competitive team this season following their win over the highly touted New England Liberty coming into the season, but after their blowout loss to Atlanta, most doubt the Heart’s chances of getting a win over Chicago or Dallas. However, hope and confidence still remain for the Heart team that feels they can attain their goals and reach the playoffs for the first time in team history.
There is much room for improvement and some positions will need to be addressed this off-season, but having a Coach with a vision and a team with talent, the Heart have a bright future. Quarterback Lindsey Howell has thrown the ball well in her first two games as a starter and will improve game to game, but it still remains to be seen whether or not she has the skill set or ability to be the franchise quarterback for the Heart. Against Atlanta, Howell completed 9-of-19 passes for 89 yards with no touchdowns and only one interception. Her performance was not the main issue for the Heart’s demise, but she did contribute with a fumble of her own which added to the five total fumbles and four that resulted in turnovers for the Heart.
For any chance to win on Saturday the Omaha defense will need to resemble the that of the 2013 and 2014 defense seen in Omaha. Poor tackling, missed assignments, lack of communication, and poor coverage all led to the ugly performance against Atlanta. With a Chicago team that can throw the ball all over the field, if Omaha does not improve their pass defense the game Saturday night can get out of hand quickly. Against Atlanta, Omaha failed to record a single sack, interception, tackle-for-a-loss, forced fumble, or even a hit on quarterback Dakota Hughes, and the only standout statistic against the passing game was a single broken-up pass by rookie Jamie Lundberg.
Key for Omaha
The key for Omaha is to have a defense that plays nothing like the defense that showed up in Atlanta. Every area of the defense needs to improve tremendously. Without having a stop or forcing a turnover, Omaha does not stand a chance against the Bliss. Someone on this roster needs to step up and make an impact defensively. On offense the key will be to eliminate or at least minimize turnovers to have a chance. If they are unable to sustain drives and find the end zone, this game will result in the same lopsided performance seen in Week-8.
Players to Watch
Bliss fans better get familiar to hearing ‘Barclay to Johnson’ as quarterback Jacinda Barclay and wide-receiver AJ Johnson in two games this season have connected six times for 123 yards with four touchdowns. This is a duo that appears to be the bright spot on this new-look offense, as running-back ChrisDell ‘Ferrari’ Harris is still nursing her sprained knee suffered against Seattle. Never before has the Bliss been a pass first offense, but with Barclay and the speedy receiving targets around her, expect the Bliss to showcase an aerial attack the remainder of this season. With a return of the Ferrari later in the schedule, this could be the most dangerous offense potentially heading into the postseason.
In her two games this season, Barclay is 17-of-37 passing for 260 yards, with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. There is certainly improvement to be made for Barclay regarding her accuracy and decision making, but her ability and arm-strength, coupled with her mobility make her a dominant threat for opposing defenses. She has spread the ball this season having connected with six different receivers- Javell Thompson, Stephanie Murry, Tamar Fennell, ChrisDell Harris, Charbria Survillion, and AJ Johnson and four of the players on the receiving end have caught at least one touchdown pass from Barclay- Harris (1), Survillion (1), Fennell (1), and Johnson (4).
The defense was a little shaky against Seattle, but still has a group of top talent that is capable of putting the brakes on any team in the league. This team forces turnovers and puts the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Veteran Dominique Collins is having an incredible start after intercepting KK Matheny twice and sacking her two times also, along with 13 combined tackles in two games. Free agent acquisition Tamar Fennell also has two interceptions this season and Rookie Kristen Morrison and Kim Perez each have an interception. Morrison is the only rookie on the starting defense and has begun her case for being considered in the ‘Rookie-of-the-Year’ discussion with her recorded 13.5 tackles (11 solo) and 4.5 tackles for a loss. She is a dynamic linebacker and coach Hac expects her to improve greatly game to game.
Key for Chicago
The key for the Bliss is to not play down to Omaha’s level. Chicago has been one of the most dominant teams in the past four seasons and if they don’t overlook their opponents, they should certainly remain dominant. Offensively, it will be important for Barclay to work on some of the small details and improve her reads on the secondary. Defensively, if the Bliss put pressure on Howell and force turnovers, they should be able to control the game and do as they please. It will be important to not overlook this Omaha team that has shown flashes of physicality and weapons on both sides of the ball.
Kelsey Bolstod – Broken Nose – Out
Di’Andra Frye – Concussion – Out