Here at DC, we’re all getting a bit jealous of Rob ‘Mr 100%’ Amor’s prediction rate of the NFC1 South. Most of the fixtures this week are repeats and we will be looking for teams to seek revenge and make amends to mistakes they made a few weeks ago.
Sandwell Steelers vs Leicester Falcons
A fortnight removed from an early contender for Game of the Season, the Steelers host the Falcons once more, looking to continue their fine early form.
If you weren’t aware, the Sandwell took the lead for the first time against Leicester with just 18 seconds remaining in the game as RB Leigh French punched the ball in to the end zone to cap off a game winning drive. For the first time in a long while, the Steelers’ defense looked a little vunerable, conceding 21 early points in the opening quarter as the Falcons made huge gains on the ground, but settled down to only give up a further 16.
Rumours abound that since the two sides last met, the Falcons have persuaded Coventry Jets QB Dom Olney to make the move to Leicester, though we’re hearing he’s playing WR with another former Jets QB in Joe Brammer.
Falcons HC Noel Cassar will have been frustrated with having witnessed the side blow a three score lead two weeks ago, but I don’t expect Sandwell to hand the Falcons such an advantage this time around. Steelers to win.
Nottingham Caesars vs Birmingham Bulls
The Caesars have quietly made their way to 3-0 this season having edged out the Jets twice and shutting out the Bulls in between. This Sunday they host the Bulls again looking to keep up their chase of Sandwell for the conference title.
The win over Coventry two weeks ago was ugly. Plenty of turnovers at 0-6 down and again after they’d finally put points on the board could have been costly. Perhaps the saving grace for Nottingham was that the turnovers happened in areas that gave the Jets a long field to work with and the fact that neither side looked like sustaining drives consistently.
Birmingham meanwhile need to find a spark on offense having been shutout in both losses to start their campaign. RB Marc Bonazebi was kept quiet by the Caesars defense at the end of April, whilst the offense as a whole notched up 12+ three and outs. Talk of Head Coach Mark Pagett dusting off the pads and coming out of retirement to play ‘ball once more may light the fire around the team.
Manchester Titans vs Doncaster Mustangs
The Titans finally get a home game after those well-publicised West Coast Trojan shenanigans, and it’s their first “rematch” of the year, with the reverse fixture of that 0-41 shellacking they handed the Mustangs in their opening game.
Much has already been said about both of these teams. However, unless there’s a big shake up, all signs point to the Titans will running the conference, whilst the Mustangs, especially following their big loss to the Rams at the weekend, will be scrapping it out most likely for a third place finish.
The Mustangs will likely find ways to get into the scoreboard as their cohesion on offence improves, but it’s going to be tough for them to keep pace with a Titans offence that’s looked unstoppable in two games so far this season.
The Mustangs will pick up more wins this year and be competitive, but this isn’t their game for a W.
Newcastle Vikings vs West Coast Trojans
Aside from the Titans, this conference has proven to be rather unpredictable. Newcastle beat Yorkshire, but then lost to Doncaster, who then lost to the Rams in turn. And I predicted all of those badly…
However, throw the Trojans in the mix and it makes it harder still. I won’t go on about how the West Coast team didn’t make the trip to Manchester, that has been done to death on social media. What I will say is that they’re clearly struggling for player numbers despite the well publicised recruitment drive, and reports this week are a number of key players have jumped ship to other Scottish sides.
That won’t fair well on a trip to face a well-drilled, surprising Newcastle team that is clearly intent on mixing this conference up with its strong defence and capable offence.
The first question is whether West Coast have managed to recuperate enough to make the trip with a safe sized roster? If they do, it’s going to require a lot of grit to make it through the fixture against the Vikings, who will be looking to bounce back from their frustrating second half collapse against the Titans last week. Vikings should take this one comfortably.
Oxford Saints vs Sussex Thunder
Having managed to bounce back from the opening game loss to Sussex, the Saints managed to win their next two games. Was it just a case of early season nerves, were they haunted by the ghost of the 2015 Quarter Final loss, or is it something else? I’d be willing to put my money on it being the latter, specifically an adjustment to the offensive play calling by Coach Snake. In the opening game loss, they went to the air for 26 attempts, eleven completions (71 yards), and two interceptions of which one was a pick-six.
In the next game, they only attempted eleven passes, achieved one completion (6 yards), and no interceptions, and then their most recent outing had them only make seven attempts, again only one completion (17 yards), but three interceptions. Going back to the “ground and pound”, which characterised Oxford for years, is bringing them greater success and I’d expect the coaching staff to continue to lean heavily on their stable of powerful running backs whilst the QBs focus on handing off to the left or right.
Playing under the Saturday Night Lights in Brighton, Sussex let South Wales Warriors think they were in with a chance as the Thunder fell behind in the second quarter. However, the Warriors’ defense couldn’t contain Ben Chukwu-Onu who managed to score the two TDs required to give Sussex the win and keep them undefeated in 2017. The Thunder defense put the effort in to make up for the early mistake and ended the game with four interceptions.
Both of these teams have fantastic media departments, churning out highlights and keeping their respective social media accounts rich with content. On the field, however, the difference is slightly more obvious and that should be reflected in the score line on Sunday, Sussex to win but by a smaller margin than last time.
Ouse Valley Eagles vs Solent Thrashers
The Thrashers’ performance has fluctuated a fair amount this season. Having been on both sides of a shut out, they’ll need to keep that form as they travel up to Milton Keynes for the second of their three fixtures against OVE this year. Having suffered their first ever loss to the Eagles, the Thrashers will be eager to put things back to rights and clip the wings of the Eagles. To do that, they’ll need to take greater care of the football as the first match saw fumbles and picks galore. Although they were able to rally in the second half, it’s never good to be chasing the game and having to go for it on fourth down.
The Eagles were doing well by capitalising on the mistakes of their opponents in the run up to the game against Oxford, but even though they were able to pick the ball out of the air on three occasions and recover two fumbles, they weren’t able to convert these in to a victory. A strong first half that petered out after the break as they literally went backwards, a total of -17 yards in the second half. OVE should be disappointed they couldn’t do more on offense and should have taken the week between games to fix the errors that could leave them languish in mid table.
Kent Exiles Vs London Olympians
Having played each other two weeks ago, the game finished with all of the excitement of a 14-14 tie. The Exiles have a roster that’s absolutely packed with talent. They’ll feel somewhat aggrieved that they aren’t at the top of the table, especially as they convincingly beat current conference leaders, Cambridgeshire Cats, in week 1. Since then, they find themselves battling for the number 2 spot with a 2-1-1 record. With their offensive line firing on all cylinders, they’ll be looking to make a statement of intent against the travelling Olympians this weekend.
The Olympians continue to struggle in a conference that I had them pipped to dominate. With a series of uninspiring results, the Olympians find themselves just ahead of the Gladiators. Conceding nearly 20 points a game, I expect Neil Edwards to be calling for more from some of his experienced players who have butted heads with the best of Britball over the past few seasons. It’s worth noting, that this Olympians team is flush with raw talent; with rookies starting across the board on offense, I expect them to start finding their feet as the season goes on; there is an ability to push the best in this conference, but right now, these young guys are still learning the basics of the game.
Once again, I’m going to have to bet against my beloved Olympians. I’ve heard some great things about several rookies on their roster, but this season looks like it’s going to be the Olympians extended preseason for their 2018 campaign. The Exiles have too much talent and experience. Exiles Win.
Colchester Gladiators Vs Cambridgeshire Cats
When these two teams met a month ago, the Cats came away with a convincing 20-6 victory. That was Colchester’s last game after going 0-2 for the season. In those two games they gave up 54 points and scored 26. We know that the Gladiators can put up points, as in Week 1One, put up 20 on The Olympians. Like any team sat at 0-2, the Gladiators will feel they’re much better but it’s really down to them to show us. When speaking with Gladiator’s chairman, David Crane, he made it clear that they ‘had no expectations to be rooted at the foot of the division going into the season and still don’t now’.
Cambridge are sitting pretty at the top of the SFC1 East. Following their dreadful first half performance against the Exiles in Week One, Cambridge have come on leaps and bounds. Looking like a genuine playoff contender, they head to Colchester to extend their lead in the conference. Having played four back to back home games to kick off the season, they’ll be well rested going into a fixture they are expected to win. The big question, is can they make a statement to the rest of the conference and those eyes from SFC1 Central!
If Colchester can cut out the mistakes, they might be able to sneak an upset. With that in mind though, the Cambridge Cats get the kiss of death in this one: I’m going to pick them to win. They seem to toy with my emotions each week, and I expect this week to be nothing different. Cats Win.