The third National Arena League (NAL) Championship is almost underway as the number one Jacksonville Sharks (14-1) host the number two Carolina Cobras (10-5). The winner of this game will win the 2019 NAL championship, The winner of this game will also win their second NAL Championship since the Sharks won in 2017 and the Cobras won last year in 2018. Last season, the first playoff game between the two was a blowout in the Cobras favor. They won 73-48 to advance to the 2018 NAL Championship. This year, the league and both teams hope for a closer game.
Cobras visit Jacksonville for 2019 NAL Championship
On paper, these two teams are very close to each other, which means that this game should go down to who has the ball last. Both offenses are top-notch in the league as well as the defenses. This 2019 Championship game could be the closest final game that the NAL will have in a very long time.
While it is unclear as to who is the starting quarterback for the Sharks is, there is no doubt that both of their quarterbacks have great talent in arena football. Together, both Jonathan Bane and Mike Fafaul had a combined 283-of-473 (59.83%) for 3,163 yards, 74 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions in the regular season. Charles McCullum, on the other hand, is 232-of-394 (58.88%) for 2,883 yards, 66 touchdowns, and 15 touchdowns.
The Sharks top the Cobras in Scoring Offense (57.5-51.4), Total Offense (244.4-230.8 ypg), Total Offensive Touchdowns (99-89), Rushing Offense (21.3-17.9 ypg), Rushing Touchdowns (25-20), Pass Efficiency (104.2-103.3), Passing Offense (223.1-212.9 ypg), Passing Touchdowns (74-69), Interceptions Thrown (17-18), First Down Rushing (34-26), First Down Passing (169-167), Third Down Conversions (46%-40.3%). Fourth Down Conversions (38.2%-27.3%), Allowed Sacks (11-24).
The Cobras have the Sharks beat in the following Offensive Categories: Average Yards Per Play (6.2-5.8), Yards Per Completion (11.8-11), First Downs (239-237), and Red Zone Offense (84.3%-82%).
The Sharks and Cobras have very similar defenses and are very close on the stats in just about every category. The Sharks defense has the Cobras beat in the number of interceptions (36-28), Interception Return Yards (288-173), Interceptions Returned for a Touchdown (6-3), fumble recoveries (14-13), Opponent Third Down Conversions (26.7%-27.7%), Opponent Fourth Down Conversions (32.7%-39.6%), and Sacks (40-36).
The Cobras defense has the Sharks beat in a lot of categories, which is very interesting because the Sharks have the Cobras beat in the majority of the offensive categories. The high-powered offense will go up against the high-powered defense, and the same thing goes for the Cobras offense versus the Sharks defense.
The Cobras have the Sharks beat in Scoring Defense (31.1-33.9 ppg), Total Defense (181.6-190.1 ypg), Rushing Defense (15.9-19.3 ypg), Defensive Pass Efficiency (95.4-95.9), Pass Defense (165.6-170.9), Fumble Return Average (20.2-4), and Fumbles Returned for a Touchdown (4-2).
Special Teams Matchup
If the game went down to the final kick of the game, whether it was a PAT or Deuce, it is looking like the Sharks would be able to win in that case. The Sharks have the Cobras topped in PAT percentage. Sharks Kicker Brandon Behr is 94-of-107 on PAT’s (87.85%). Cobras Kicker Brandon Rutherford is 39-of-46 on PAT’s (84.78%). Both numbers are really great and are the highest in the league.
Where the Cobras barely get the Sharks is the Field Goal percentages. Behr, this season, is 1-of-6 on Field Goals (16.67%) whereas Rutherford is 1-of-5 (20%). Both percentages are really low, but it is also uncommon to find a kicker in arena football to nail every field goal through the nine foot wide goalpost.
The deuces is where the Sharks change the game. Behr has made a total of 25 this season, counting post-season (23 in the regular season). Rutherford had a shorter season than Behr, but still managed to make six.
Behr averages almost two deuces a game and about seven PAT’s a game, which puts up an average of almost 11 points per game, which makes a major difference between a winner and a loser in arena football.
The Sharks offense has proven that they are the best in the league, as they are statistically better than the Cobras in just about every category. The Cobras defense, to counter that, is statistically the better defense between the two teams. Like mentioned earlier, the top offense going against the top defense will be one worth watching.
On the other side of things, the Cobras offense is still a great group. If they weren’t, then they wouldn’t play in this game. The only issue that the Cobras could have is turnovers. The Sharks defense may allow more yards and a higher percentage on third and fourth down, but the turnovers that the Sharks force is much more significant than the Cobras. Forcing eight more interceptions and receiving one more fumble than the Cobras all season could be the difference in the game between who wins this game.
Of course, we can’t forget about the kickers. Later in the season, the Sharks have been able to score more touchdowns, which means that Behr’s PAT percentage is boosted. If the game is back and fourth and could be determined by who misses the game-winning PAT, there is no telling who is going to miss that game-winner because both kickers have over an 80% PAT average.
More Exciting Pieces to Come
Since the championship game is getting closer, we are bringing more content to NAL fans and indoor football fans. Tomorrow, we will reveal our Top Five Reasons why the Cobras will win the Championship as well as the Top Five Reasons why the Jacksonville Sharks will win the Championship game.
After that, we will release the official 2019 NAL Awards as they are released to the public. Be sure to check out Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and our Indoor Football website to stay updated on what is to come.