Keys to the Game: Lions vs. Predators Preview
The Columbus Lions (6-2) will take on the Orlando Predators (4-4) in the first round of the 2021 NAL Playoffs. This marks the fourth straight year that the Lions have made the playoffs while this will be the Predators first ever appearance.
1. Stop the Run
The Predators have been on a hot streak since making a change at quarterback with Pat O’Brien taking over, but what sets the Predator offense apart is the running game. They have one three out of their last four and in those four games the Predators are averaging 47.75 yards per game. The Columbus Lions have only given up 40 or more rushing yards twice this season and they lost both games. If the Lions can shut down Desmond Maxwell and the Predators’ ground attack, that will put the ball in Pat O’Brien’s hands and force the quarterback to carry the load on offense and deal with the dominant Lions pass defense that has intercepted 12 passes this year.
2. Desmond Reece and Sam Dobbs
With Romond Deloatch out for the second week in a row, the Lions offense will be looking to fill the void and while Lonnie Outlaw and Antwane Grant have been excellent throughout the season, the entire offense cannot be reliant on them. In last week’s win over the Flight, Dobbs and Reece were both featured more in the offense due to Deloatch’s absence. The two receivers combined for five receptions for 66 yards and one touchdown. The Predators have one of the worst pass defenses in the NAL and this could present more opportunities for Reece and Dobbs to get involved and have an impact during the first round.
3. Limit Turnovers
The Columbus Lions have had almost no issues turning the football over this year, with Mason Espinosa going six-straight games without an interception to close the season. In fact, the Lions have only given the ball away nine times this year, the fewest in the league, compared to 27 takeaways, the most in the NAL. The Lions have been excellent at protecting the ball while the Predators have been one of the most opportunistic defenses, with four defensive touchdowns in 16 takeaways. Few things shift momentum completely like a defensive touchdown, especially in the playoffs.
4. Contain D.J. Meyers
Unlike the Lions offense, which utilizes a number of receivers and spreads the ball around, the Predators passing attack runs primarily through one man, D.J. Meyers. Due to the suspensions of Dezmond Epps and Rob Jones, the latter which was subsequently released, in the middle of the season, D.J. Meyers has become the number-one target in the Predators offense. Through eight games, Meyers is fourth in the league in catches (55), yards (630) and he is third in the NAL in touchdowns (16). He doubles the next closest receiver on the Predators in yards and touchdowns and has 25 more receptions than the second most on the team. Since O’Brien took over at quarterback, Meyers has been his favorite target with 34 receptions, 404 yards and five touchdowns in four games. Meyers is the key to the Predators passing offense and if the Lions can contain him, they will force O’Brien to rely more on his second and third options.
5. The Home Crowd
While the Columbus Lions have made the playoffs in every year since joining the NAL, this will be the first time that they have ever hosted a playoff game. They are the only team to make it to all four NAL postseasons but finally in 2021 they will get a playoff game at home. With that significance, combined with the Columbus Civic Center lifting attendance restrictions, the crowd at Saturday’s game could be a big factor. The Lions have been excellent at home during the regular season, winning three out of four home games, and now the home crowd could be the largest of the season and could have an impact on the visiting Predators
Kickoff for round one of the playoffs is set for 7 p.m EST on August 7 and tickets are on sale here. The game can be watched live with CTV Beam, at https://www.nationalarenaleague.com/home or on the NAL’s official Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSzSD8STXiEVPVtUDO9juhA.
ABOUT THE COLUMBUS LIONS
The Columbus Lions are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2007, the Columbus Lions are starting their 15th season in 2021. The Lions are a 3x league champion and 13 playoff appearances in their rich history. The Lions play their home games at Hughston Field in the Columbus Civic Center. Lions Season Ticket Memberships are on sale now call (706) 322-3336 or visit columbuslions.com. Follow the Lions on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lionsfootball/, twitter @columbuslions and instagram.com/Columbuslions.
ABOUT NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE
The National Arena League was founded in 2016 and hosted its inaugural season in 2017 as the premier league in arena football. The National Arena League will kick off its fifth season in 2021. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at email@example.com For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.