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af2 Forecast: One Hot July

June 28, 2004 - arenafootball2 (af2) News Release

In what seems like the blink of an eye, the 2004 af2 regular season is down to just 55 games. Before you begin to wonder where the first 145 games went, know this: Not one single team has clinched a playoff berth.

That's right. With only five weeks remaining in the regular season, there are still six division titles and 12 playoff spots up for grabs. In fact, 23 of the league's 25 teams are still mathematically eligible for the postseason. Never before in the history of af2 has a season progressed to this point without at least one or more teams locking up a playoff spot or with this high a percentage of teams still alive for the postseason.

To get a first-hand glimpse of the parity this season, look no further than the division races. It seems several might come down to the final week of the season.

Birmingham's one-point decision over Rio Grande Valley coupled with Florida's second straight loss on Saturday night helped the Steeldogs maintain a two-game edge in the South Division standings, but this is one race that is heating up down the stretch. Columbus, who upset powerhouse Oklahoma City this weekend, is only three games back thanks to a remarkable second-half run. The Wardogs started the season 1-5, but have gone 5-1 since then, including a 44-42 win over Birmingham on June 5.

Things are just as tight in the Northeast Division. Thanks to wins by Albany and Manchester plus Cape Fear's big victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night, the Northeast Division remains a four-team race for at least another week. At 9-3, the Pioneers still hold the division lead over the Wildcats, but the surging 'Cats have won five straight games to close the gap to just one game.

Just three games separates first from third in the Mid-South Division, where the surprising Memphis Xplorers have used a three-game win streak to improve to two games over the .500 mark. With the win over the Vipers on Saturday night which moved them one game back of them for the division lead, the Xplorers have guaranteed themselves the best record in team history and are in prime position to snag their first-ever playoff spot.

It's no surprise to see the Quad City Steamwheelers atop the Midwest Division standings, but it is a surprise to see what's happening below them. Last year the Steamwheelers ran away with the division title, winning by seven games. This year they are clinging to a one-game lead with the remaining three teams in the division still within striking distance. Peoria is riding a two-game win streak and sits three back with four to go, including this Friday's matchup with the Steamwheeelers. Not bad for a team that only won two of its first seven games. And don't forget the Louisville at Quad City matchup in the season's final weekend, which may decide the division.

Things continue to be wild in the Southwest Division, where the 2003 ArenaCup champion Tulsa Talons hold only a half game lead over the expansion Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz and a one-game edge over the Wichita Stealth. With three games left on the schedule among this trio, it looks like it'll be Week 18 before the dust settles.

Out West the Bakersfield Blitz have used a two-game win streak to open a game and a half lead over Hawaii, but San Diego's second half surge has them just two and a half games off the pace. Like Columbus, the Riptide started the season 1-5. Since then they have gone 4-1 to re-enter the playoff picture. This race figures to tighten up even more before it is settled, as Bakersfield, Hawaii and San Diego will play each other at least one more time before it's over.

Along with the tight division races, there are (outside of current division leaders) 17 teams in the running for six Wild Card spots. Just like in 2003, three Wild Cards come from each conference. In the American Conference, Cape Fear (8-3), Florida (7-5) and Memphis (7-5) currently hold the three Wild Card entries, but Columbus (one game back), Manchester (two games back), Bossier-Shreveport (two games back), Albany (two games back) and Macon (four games back) are all still in the running.

Over in the National Conference, Oklahoma City (8-4), Wichita (7-4) and Louisville (7-5) currently have the Wild Card slots, but Hawaii (half game back), San Diego (one game back), Peoria (one game back), Green Bay (two games back), Rio Grande Valley (three games back) and Laredo (four and a half games back) are all still mathematically alive.

The Fifth Anniversary season has come down to the final five weeks with everything still up for grabs. It's going to be one hot July.

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