Orlando VS Chicago
Before the season began a poll was released that picked the predicted order of finish and the team most likely to win the Arena bowl. To no one's surprise Colorado, the defending champs were picked to win it again with their Arena Bowl 19 opponent the Georgia Force coming in second to win it. San Jose, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Orlando, LA, NY, Nashville and KC were the rest picked in order. The season opener for the Colorado Crush was the Chicago Rush. A game won in Colorado by the Crush 65-56. Then Chicago hosted the Crush and lost again 42-49 to make it 0-2 against the Crush. Chicago also played Orlando and got blasted 27-55 during the regular season. The Rush also lost regular season games to these other playoff teams, New York, Dallas, Nashville (1-1), Philadelphia, Arizona and Georgia.
Chicago went into the playoffs as a wildcard team and as fate would have it, they have surprised everyone EXCEPT themselves on their trip to the finals. They beat #4 Nashville 55-47. Then they got to face, for the third time the mighty men from the Rocky Mountains, the #1 Colorado defending Champion Crush. In a dominating style they kicked the strut right out of Colorado in a 63-46 blowout. It would be easy to settle for this outstanding win and be okay with a let down. But they had the San Jose Sabercats still to play. They did host and beat San Jose 54-48 during the regular season.
It is obvious that Chicago is a team on a mission. They went to San Jose and left with a win, 59-56 and a clear path to the Arena Bowl to face the Orlando Predators. The only thing better than beating their regular season foes and evening up the score is to be the last man standing and the Champions. Every team mentioned above that beat Chicago is second guessing themselves and wondering what went wrong. I can tell you, they got RUSHED. Orlando treated Chicago to a nasty day during the regular season and I do believe the Rush will be ready, willing and able in the rematch.
Orlando is a tough team, their coach Jay Gruden has been in eight Arena Bowls. Four as a coach and four as a player. But they have not been in one since 2000. Gruden is in his 15th AFL season and has six (6) rings to show for his time on the turf. As a player he won V, VII, & X. The last was dubbed the Greatest Game in AFL History and Gruden bested one soon to be Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner. In all three he was with the Storm.
He was on staff for Nashville before becoming the head coach for the Predators. He took them to three straight title games, winning XII, losing XIII and winning XIV. He has 160 wins in 228 contests and can tie his former coach Tim Marcum for rings with a win.
Georgia (1-1), New York, Arizona Dallas, Austin (1-1) and Colorado, all playoff teams and all beat Orlando in the regular season at least once. In the playoffs, Orlando sat out the wildcard round then dropped Philadelphia 31-27. Next came #1 Dallas and they made them look like, well, Desperados in the 45-28 pounding. Now they face someone that has nothing to lose and is in fact expected to lose.
That is to say, everyone EXCEPT Chicago expects it. The road to this match up was a surprise. Most thought Colorado or Dallas had the best shot. But this actually sets the stage for what could become the greatest game in Arena Football History. Bet on it! But keep it quite!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, June 11, 2006 at Noon PT/3 p.m. ET
at the Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV
National TV Broadcast NBC
National Radio Broadcast SIRIUS Satellite Radio
National Anthem Darryl Worley
Coin Toss U.S. Army General Van Antwerp
Halftime Entertainment Third Eye Blind concert
Postgame Celebration On-field presentation of the Foster ArenaBowl Trophy by AFL Commissioner David Baker. Post-game concert by Third Eye Blind
Visiting Team Chicago Rush (7-9, 3-0)
Home Team Orlando Predators (10-6, 2-0)
Tickets for ArenaBowl XX are available at www.arenabowl.com and start at just $12 per ticket. This is the second consecutive year Las Vegas has been home to the Arena Football Championship Game. For a complete listing of events and activities surrounding ArenaBowl XX visit www.arenabowl.com for more information.