The Pittsburgh Power (2-1) will go for their third win in a row as the New Orleans VooDoo (1-2) come to town. Both teams are coming off wins and hope to keep building momentum early in the 2014 season. Winning streaks are a bit of a rarity around Pittsburgh with this being their first two-game streak since 2011.
The Power set a franchise record for winning margin in their 70-17 shellacking of the San Antonio Talons. They come into the matchup ranked 5th in the AFL at 57 points per game. Tommy Grady has done a great job protecting the ball the last two games and will try to continue his great play against a VooDoo defense that is giving up 51.3 points per game.
With Prechae Rodriguez out last week against the Talons, Aaron LeSue made the most of the opportunity and hauled in 12 catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns and was one of three finalists for the Week 4 MVP award voted on by AFL fans. Tommy Taggart also had a strong game running the ball with three rushing touchdowns and should be a strong factor in this game both running the ball and blocking for Grady.
New Orleans enters the game as the 10th ranked scoring offense in the league (48.3 PPG). Quarterback Kurt Rocco returned from injury to help spark the VooDoo offense as they handed Orlando their first loss of the season last week. Rocco’s favorite target was one of the other Week 4 MVP finalists L.J. Castile who was chosen as the winner this week. Castile has 27 catches for 361 yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season. Rocco will also look for Larry Beavers (19 catches , 266 yards, four touchdowns) and perhaps try to get newly assigned receiver Dwayne Eley, Jr. into the mix early.
Defensively the Power have been doing a great job forcing turnovers, having forced at least three in the past two games. Virgil Gray has intercepted a pass in every Power game so far and has been a force in the secondary alongside Sergio Gilliam. So far this season, the Power rank second in scoring defense at 42.3 points per game and hope to keep the VooDoo from scoring a lot of points. Keep an eye on mack linebacker James Bryant who has been causing a lot of pass rush issues for opposing quarterbacks.
The VooDoo rank eighth in the AFL with 51.3 points per game and will rely on some veteran defenders to keep the Power offense from lighting up the scoreboard. Former Power jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson has two interceptions this year, including a crucial interception to help his team’s cause late in the game last week.
Cameron McGlenn and Eddie Moten are also dangerous in the secondary and both have a pair of interceptions each thus far. The VooDoo have a solid defensive line capable of generating a lot of pressure with Michael Janac (6.5 sacks last year), Marlon Favorite, and Xavier Brown (2 sacks in 2014).
VooDoo kicker Taylor Russolino was placed on injured reserve so New Orleans will go with Stefan Demos in the kicking game this week. Demos has connected on 87% of his career PAT’s and played for one game with Orlando earlier this season.
Here’s a few questions that need answered heading into this game. Will Prechae Rodriguez suit up for the Power? He brings a whole new dimension to this offense and would be missed if he is unable to go. James Shaw did a good job replacing him last week but make no mistake, Rodriguez is an AFL superstar.
Can the Power keep capitalizing on turnovers? They’ve pounced on opponents early the last few games which is definitely a recipe for victory in the AFL. New Orleans isn’t the highest scoring team in the league so if you can put some distance between yourselves early in the game it could be difficult for them to match you score for score.
Can Tommy Grady keep protecting the ball? Two straight games without a turnover is a very encouraging sign for the Power signal caller and they will need him to repeat this strong level of play against the VooDoo.
Photo courtesy of San Antonio Talons Facebook Page