The NFC1 North takes a week off this week, but there’s plenty of action across Division One with six games taking place. Can the Hornets make it back-to-back wins in their debut season in the second tier?
Coventry Jets vs Leicester Falcons
Finally…we get to see last season’s runaway NFC2 Champions Leicester Falcons in action in the revamped Division One. Much has been made by
the highest quality of meme pages other publications of the number of Coventry Jets players that have made the move over to Leicester in recent years. This week is no different, with former Jets defensive captain Josh Kelly the latest to have flown from the hangar…
The Jets were taken apart in all three phases against Sandwell in the 71-0 defeat, and quite frankly, the only way is up for them. Leicester, on the other hand, are a bit of an unknown. Stu Franklin has transferred out to London Blitz, with Troy Lee the presumed starter for their season opener. Former Jets and Derby Braves (BUCS) QB Joe Brammer is lining up at WR and caught a score in the impressive 49-21 pre-season win over Oxford Saints.
Two defeats to open the campaign for Coventry, I’m siding with the away team this weekend. Head Coach Noel Cassar takes charge of his first regular season game, and he’ll get the perfect start to 2017.
Birmingham Bulls vs Nottingham Caesars
I was far too quick to write off the Bulls last week, as despite the 32-0 defeat, they put in a decent performance. Holding an explosive Sandwell offense to just 7 points in the first half (a 78 yard touchdown to WR Josh Lawrence on the first play of the game), the defensive side of the ball had a strong showing until offensive mistakes gave Sandwell short field position as they pulled away in the second half. Peter Bennett and Tyrone Johnston put in a shift in the absence of star RB Marc Bonazebi, but the offense struggled somewhat to move the ball against the Steelers’ defense. Bulls DB Oscar Terry will be up against his former team this weekend after joining the Bulls from the Caesars’ Junior side over the winter.
Incredibly, this will be the first of three consecutive games between the two sides owing to scheduling availability. Whilst the Bulls have had only a week to prepare, the Caesars have had three weeks to prepare since their season opening win over Coventry. They’ll need a better ground game performance this time out, however. Nottingham managed only 64 yards against the Jets, and the front seven were the standout players from the Bulls against Sandwell. That said, if they’re as productive through the air (252 yards) as they were against Coventry, Nottingham might again lean on QBs Dan Johnson and Aljosa Sarcevic.
This fixture last year rightly won the DC Game of the Year award. I don’t think I’ll ever witness as crazy an ending to a game, with lead changes galore in the final few minutes before a Robert Hardwick walk-off pick six secured the win for Nottingham. I think this will be another close game, with the Caesars sneaking it, but I would not be surprised at all if the Bulls took home the win, especially if Bonazebi is back in the backfield.
South Wales Warriors vs Sussex Thunder
After taking the tough decision to drop down a division, I don’t think anyone in the South Wales Warriors camp foresaw this as the start to the season. Two home losses that have been characterised by poor on field discipline and an inability to capitalise on opportunities has put the welsh side in a hole that they’ll struggle to get themselves out of. Players will need to execute if they hope to stand any chance as they host front runners this weekend.
Sussex have had a lightning start to the season. Coming in to their third away game on the bounce they’ll be looking to add another scalp after dominating the Saints and Thrashers. An impressive two touchdown performance from rookie Chris Evans, whose first ever catch was for a 51 yard TD, speaks volumes about the talent the Thunder coaches have developed in their players.
After my frankly unforgivable decision to not get behind the obvious front-runners, I’m now boarding the bandwagon with egg on my face and trying to wipe it off surreptitiously. Thunder to continue their dominant performance and win this with ease.
Solent Thrashers vs Ouse Valley Eagles
Last week I hyped up the Solent Thrashers for bringing in a coach with a long history in the sport. Unfortunately in the first game the offense wasn’t able to execute. Their defense also looked over matched, as receivers broke coverage and runners charged through tackles. A steep learning curve indeed for many of the rookies on the Thrasher side. Both sides of the ball will need to step up their game if they don’t want another goose egg on their record.
The Eagles felt lucky to have come away from their trip to South Wales with a victory. Any game that comes down to the wire like that will leave you shook, but they’ve had a week off to make the required adjustments and come back stronger for it.
It’s hard to choose between these teams; OVE may have won in Wales but it wasn’t a convincing win, and the Thrashers got beat up at home by the Thunder. I’m going to have to trust that the week off to prepare will have the Eagles able to carry home the W after this match up.
London Olympians vs Kent Exiles
These two teams come into the fixture having not the best time out when they saw the field last. The Olympians took a real beating at the hands of the Cats; and I know that they had their backup QB in, but he didn’t concede the points, 32 unanswered points. Which brings the total to 52 conceded after only 2 games. They’ll see Aaron Griffiths back in action against his former club this weekend. His presence should help the inexperienced Offensive Line keep focus against a solid Exiles D Line. Head Coach Neil Edwards said ‘we intend to play hard, and cut out the mistakes from our last Game, and hopefully get our 1st Home Win of the Season’
The Exiles will probably be working on their punt game this week at practice. Giving up 2 TDs on special teams, costing them both the win and the number 1 spot in the conference, you might see their punter hoofing the ball out of bounds to avoid any further upset! Up against a solid Hornets Defence, the Exiles struggled to gain momentum in week 3; an inability to turn red zone trips into scores and a few mistakes saw them pick up a loss where they would have felt they had the ability to come away with more.
With both teams coming off of a loss where they felt they should have won, I think this game will go down to the wire. With players from both sides bashing their keyboards at each other for the past few weeks, I’m not sure any love will be lost in this matchup. Ultimately, whichever team can get their run going quickest will take this, and as much as it pains me to bet against the Olympians, I think the Exiles defensive line will hold strong in the trenches.
Cambridgeshire Cats vs London Hornets
The Cats and the Hornets battled it out in 3 close games last year. The Hornets took the 2 regular season games but the Cats came up trumps when it mattered, putting an end to the London sides unbeaten season. Speaking to Hornets QB Jose Kadala he understands that their mistakes cost them a trip to the finals and ‘playing against the Cats is always a hard fight in the trenches and we know the game won’t be decided until the last play’. Snatching a win from the hotly tipped Exiles was impressive, but as they hadn’t actually scrimmaged, we might have only seen the rust being shaken off. The mood in North London is that there’s a lot more to come from the offense.
The Cats on the other hand, had a pretty woeful opening day matchup with the Exiles. Since dropping 28 points in the first half, they have held their opposition to 2 scores across 10 quarters of football. Seeming to have found a bit of form in the fortress of Coldham Common, the Cats will be feeling good going into this one. Approaching the end of a brutal 4 home game stretch to start the season, the Cats will enter week 5 knowing exactly what to expect from their conference rivals in 2017. They’ve put together a couple of nice results and will look to continue their fine form.
The Cats must be feeling it though after 3 hard games in as many weeks. While I’ve wrongly bet against the Cats once already this season, it’s not going to put me off doing it again. I think that the Hornets are just getting started and will be too much to handle for the Cats. Obviously the Cats can cause an upset, so bring on the memes!