The San Jose SaberCats are set to make a push for their fourth ArenaBowl Championship on Saturday, as they'll be taking on the Arizona Rattlers in the first round of the AFL Playoffs. San Jose is the third seed in the National Conference, boasting a 12-6 record, but they're up against the West Division champions, who finished with one more win this season than they did.
Arizona played and lost in the ArenaBowl a season ago, while the SaberCats missed the playoffs for just the third time in franchise history, so if there's any confidence to be had, it's on the Rattlers' side. That is, unless you take into account the fact that the SaberCats managed to sweep the regular season series against the Rattlers, taking a 71-70 overtime win in the season opener at the HP Pavilion in San Jose and then a 77-70 win in Phoenix back in Week 9.
There's a strong rivalry between these two teams, including two ArenaBowl matchups, which were both won by the SaberCats. And on top of that, the SaberCats boast a 4-1 playoff record against Arizona.
As to the actual matchup at hand, it's a pretty simple matter for Arizona: stop Mark Grieb. Well - it's simple in stating the fact. Grieb is potentially the best quarterback to play Arena Football, and even in his 13th season, he hasn't slowed down much at all. Arizona will need to step up the pressure and get to him sooner rather than later. If that No. 2 scoring defense can't force some turnovers and get things working, then the SaberCats will run away with this one.
For San Jose, this game will also hinge on good defense. These are two teams who don't make many mistakes and can put the points on the board one way or another. San Jose needs to limit the offensive mistakes against that opportunistic defense, and work on stalling drive while working on defense themselves. It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Rattlers make.
One has to feel that the team that's lost the two games this year by a total of eight points might have the advantage, as it's on the winner to figure out how the loser will adapt, if at all. It's hard to beat the same team three times in football, and this one should be incredibly exciting. The game will be live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area at 7:00 p.m. pacific.