HOSTS SAN FRANCISCO SATURDAY ON NBC;
CHICAGO VISITS LOS ANGELES SUNDAY ON UPN
STAMFORD, CONN. - After a grueling 10 weeks of regular season football left only four teams standings, the Orlando Rage, Los Angeles Xtreme, Chicago Enforcers and the San Francisco Demons will start all over again in a two-week war where the winner will walk away with $1 million.
The XFL playoffs open this weekend with the semifinal round pitting the Rage against the Demons and the Xtreme against the Enforcers, with the winners advancing to next Saturday's XFL championship, "The Million Dollar Game."ä
The playoffs open Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. ET (live on NBC) when the Eastern Division champion Rage, 8-2 and an unblemished 5-0 at home during the regular season, host the Demons (5-5) at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
The Rage are looking to continue their roll through the XFL behind back-up QB Brian Kuklick, with regular starter Jeff Brohm sidelined for the season with a shoulder injury. The teams met once this season, with the Rage dropping the Demons, 26-14, in Orlando in Week Two.
Sunday the playoffs move to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the high-flying Western Division champion Xtreme (7-3) hosts the XFL's hottest team, the Enforcers (5-5), at 7:00 p.m. ET (live on UPN).
Los Angeles won the division last week with a 24-0 blowout of San Francisco, but will be weary of a streaking Enforcers team which has won four straight, and is looking to continue an incredible turn-around after starting the season 0-4. Los Angeles defeated Chicago in a wild, double-overtime thriller, 39-32, back in Week Two.
The winning teams will earn the chance to play for the XFL's million-dollar prize on Saturday, April 21, at 8:00 p.m. on NBC. "The Million Dollar Game" will be held at the site of the highest-seeded team based on regular-season records.
In addition, the XFL unveils its new extra-point options this weekend. Following a touchdown, teams may elect to run or pass for a one-point conversion from the one-yard line, a two-pointer from the five-yard line or a three-pointer from the 10-yard line. A defensive team returning a turnover into the end zone will earn the attempted point total.
XFL SEMIFINAL #1 SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS AT ORLANDO RAGE SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2001 8:00 p.m. ET AT THE FLORIDA CITRUS BOWL ON NBC
KELLER'S BREAKDOWN: XFL VP/FOOTBALL OPERATIONS MIKE KELLER SETS THE MATCHUPS
KELLER'S KEYS TO VICTORY:
ORLANDO RAGE: 8-2, Eastern Champion Orlando has excelled this season because of balance on defense as well as on offense. Galen Hall and Will McClay started with the basics in the draft by building around the offensive and defensive lines, added a smart and talented QB and filled in the gaps. The Rage has feasted in 2001 by establishing their running game with the threat of big passing plays. A consistent performance by Brian Kuklick is critical for the success of the Rage. The Orlando defense has bent but rarely broken this season.
S.F. DEMONS: 5-5, Western second seed Jim Skipper's lunch bucket boys have made this season a success by equal measures of determination, luck and a never-quit attitude. Mike Pawlawski has been the heart and soul of a Demons team that has just found a way to win. They will have to capitalize, as they have all season, by moving the stakes and continuing to score when they get the opportunity. San Francisco's chances will come down to big plays by their special teams, creating and capitalizing on turnovers and getting in Brian Kuklick's face early and often.
ORLANDO OFFENSE VS. SAN FRANCISCO DEFENSE
Orlando Offense: Brian Kuklick must eliminate the mistakes and turnovers that have started to create some doubt in the minds of the Rage team. The best battle of the day may be in the trenches where the best OL in the XFL will try to dominate perhaps the most underrated DL in the league. If the running game goes, Kuklick will find opportunities to exploit the SF defensive backs. Orlando will try to get the upper hand early on the Demons defense and take the pressure of f their quarterback. If they accomplish that task, the Rage will roll.
San Francisco Defense: Not a big name in the bunch, the Demon defense will quietly take away an opponents primary weapons and force them to play their game. SF must shut down the ground game of Orlando then set their sights on forcing Kuklick to throw the ball into coverage. The Demons pursue well and have been opportunistic. They must give Pawlawski the ball for short drives and some quick scores. San Fransisco cannot come out with a lackadaisical attitude as they did against Las Angeles to finish the regular season. If they do.their season will really be finished.
ORLANDO DEFENSE VS. SAN FRANCISCO OFFENSE
Orlando Defense: The Rage are strongest when teams have to go the distance on them. Speed and talent in the defensive backfield and at linebacker shores up regular mismatches between opponents and the Rage defensive line. Given time, Mike Pawlawski will eat up a defense with precise passing. On his back he cannot be a threat. The Rage have succeeded with ball control and keeping the ball away from opponents. Orlando's best bet on defense will be to disguise defenses, cause an early turnover and then let their DB's take over in a passing dual.
San Francisaco Offense: The Demon offense sputtered last week against LA. Nothing seemed to work. Mike Pawlawski must get time to throw and the creative minds of the Demon offensive staff must find a way to find mismatches downfield. It may come down to a special teams score or turnovers to put the Demons into short drives. They will be hard pressed to stand up to the Rage if they have to go the long route.
FIRST TIME THEY MET
FEBRUARY 10: SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS AT ORLANDO RAGE
ORLANDO, FLA. - After spotting the San Francisco Demons a touchdown, the Orlando Rage roared back to score twice in a 41-second span late in the first quarter, then built the lead to 26-7 en route to a 26-14 win at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
The Rage relied on what would become their trademark balanced attack in the win, scoring on a long pass from Jeff Brohm to Mario Bailey, twice on the ground and once on defense. Demons QB Mike Pawlawski threw 52 passes on the day, completing 36 for 294 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
ORLANDO RAGE TEAM NOTES
ORLANDO RAGE PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT
QUESTIONABLE: DT Mark Campbell (Knee), S Hassan Shamsid-Deen (Shoulder), C Cal Dixon (Quad), OL Sean Love (Back). PROBABLE: TE Terrance Huston (Cervical), DE James Roberson (Back), RB Brian Shay (Knee).
SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS TEAM NOTES
SAN FRANCISCO DEMONS PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT
DOUBTFUL: QB Mike Pawlawski (Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: RB Juan Johnson (Knee). PROBABLE: LB Jon Haskins (Knee), DE Jermaine Miles (Ankle), C Michael Kiselak (Toe),
LB James Williams (Achilles and Groin), S Toby Wright (Achilles).
XFL SEMIFINAL #2 CHICAGO ENFORCERS AT LOS ANGELES XTREME SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2001 7:00 p.m. ET AT THE L.A. COLISEUM ON UPN
KELLER'S BREAKDOWN: XFL VP/FOOTBALL OPERATIONS MIKE KELLER SETS THE MATCHUPS
KELLER'S KEYS TO VICTORY
L.A. XTREME: 7-3, Western Champion The Xtreme are coming into the playoffs with a full head of steam. They should be full of confidence and ready take on all comers. Coach Al Luginbill has found a nice balance in his offense. The emergence of Saladin McCullough has come at just the right time to take some of the pressure off Tommy Maddox. The receivers are the best combination in the XFL and their special teams can be explosive. If the Xtreme is to win they must keep their composure should the Enforcers explode for a big play on them.
CHICAGO ENFORCERS: 5-5, East second They came out of nowhere but this team never quit and that will be their strongest attribute. Coach Ron Meyer did a terrific job at keeping this team together. As Kevin McDougal brought a steadying influence to the offense the defense simply crushed teams in their stretch drive for the playoffs. All of that being said, the future of Chicago rests with the health of John Avery's hamstrings. A healthy Avery can create the imbalance needed to shake up the Xtreme. Don't take anything away from Leshon Johnson, but Chicago needs a productive Avery.
LOS ANGELES OFFENSE VS. CHICAGO DEFENSE
LA Offense: Way too many weapons. The most productive QB in the league, an emerging running game, a solid offensive line and the best set of receivers in the league create a formidable offensive machine. Playing their best as the weather got better they will be hard to beat at home. Maddox is the master at moving the stakes, McCullough has given him the balance that has made him even more dangerous. If LA gets on a roll, they can put some big numbers on the board.
Chicago Defense: Steadily improving throughout the year, this unit is playing a fairly dominant style of football coming into the playoffs. The D-Line has done a decent job of stuffing the run setting up a feast for the Chicago backers and pass coverage. Early in the season the backs gave up big plays, but have settled down into a reliable coverage group. They will be tested by Maddox but have the skills and determination to take the best LA has to offer and make a game of it. The blitz of the Chicago LB'ers will key the success of the enforcers.they must get to Tommy Maddox.
LOS ANGELES DEFENSE VS. CHICAGO OFFENSE
LA Defense: The LA defense has been stifling as of late. Shutting down Orlando then San Francisco at home has given them the kind of confidence to excel in the playoffs. Solid in the defensive line they create pressure and opportunities for the secondary. They must be the ones to stop John Avery and LeShon Johnson or Kevin McDougal will 'Big Play' the secondary to death.
Chicago Offense: Big Play pretty sums up the Enforcer offense. John Avery has shown the ability to "take it to the house" any time he touches the ball. Kevin McDougal has given Ron Meyer and the offense a steady, reliable and productive signal caller who can burn a defense with his arm or his legs. If Avery is limited, so will be the Chicago offense. Johnson has been productive but he just does not put the pressure on a defense the Avery does. If Chicago bombs the Xtreme early this game will be very interesting. The Enforcers have overcome incredible hurdles to get this chance.they may become, truly, a force this weekend.
TIME THEY MET
FEBRUARY 10: CHICAGO ENFORCERS AT LOS ANGELES XTREME
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - Trailing 25-13 late in the game, the Xtreme scored twice in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, before winning a 39-32 thriller over the Chicago Enforcers in the second round of overtime at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
LOS ANGELES XTREME TEAM NOTES:
LOS ANGELES XTREME PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT:
OUT: WR Larry Ryans (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: WR Damon Gibson (Toe), RB Saladin McCullough (Hamstring), WR Darnell McDonald (Calf). PROBABLE: CB Terry Billups (Hamstring), G Chris Brymer (Knee), S Tinker Keck (Bicep), RB Ken Oxendine (Achilles), C Jose Portilla (Knee), S Jeff Russell (Shoulder).
CHICAGO ENFORCERS TEAM NOTES:
CHICAGO ENFORCERS PRELIMINARY INJURY REPORT
DOUBTFUL: DE Jason Chorak (Ankle), DE Casey Dailey (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: RB John Avery (Hamstring). PROBABLE: CB Ray Austin (Shoulder), LB Jamie Baisley (Calf), DB Dorian Brew (Ankle), DB Quincy Coleman (Bicep and Shoulder), WR Fred Coleman (Pectoral and Ankle), S Kerry Cooks (Ankle), DE Larry Fitzpatrick (Ankle), G Paul Janus (Hand), G Rob Murphy (Knee), OT Christopher Perez (Ankle), T Tony Ramirez (Knee), TE Willy Tate (Hamstring).