CLEVELAND GLADIATORS (5-9) at TAMPA BAY STORM (10-4)
Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL
Kickoff: Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: N/A, Total: N/A
The Storm will be hoping to advance to their first ArenaBowl since 2010 by defeating the Gladiators on Monday.
Tampa Bay last played in the ArenaBowl in 2010, when the Strom lost 69-57 to the Spokane Shock. The Storm also haven’t won an ArenaBowl since 2003. A victory over the Gladiators on Monday would give them a chance to end that streak, and they should be feeling very confident in their ability to pick up a victory here. Tampa Bay is going up against a Cleveland team that was miserable in the regular season, going just 5-9 on the year. The teams also met as recently as Jul. 22, when the Storm beat the Gladiators 57-27 as 6.5-point home favorites. That victory for Tampa Bay helped the team improve to 3-1 SU against Cleveland on the season, but the Gladiators did cover in two of those contests. This game will obviously have a bit more intensity, though. Despite the disappointing season for the Gladiators, both teams are still just one win away from playing in the ArenaBowl. You can expect both of them to play like it as well.
At 5-9, it’d be fair to say that the Gladiators aren’t deserving of playing in the postseason. Fortunately for them, the opinions of others don’t really matter. Cleveland is one win away from playing in the ArenaBowl, and the team is two wins away from winning a championship. If the Gladiators are going to have any chance of beating the Storm on Monday then QB Arvell Nelson is going to need to have a big game. Nelson really struggled in his most recent start against Tampa Bay, throwing for only 142 yards with one touchdowns and two interceptions. That type of performance would doom his team in this one, but he should be feeling confident entering this game. In his last start of the regular season, Nelson threw for six touchdowns and only one pick against Washington. If he comes through with a performance like that then the team just might pull off an upset here.
The Storm are one win away from getting back to the ArenaBowl, and they’re playing a team that they just beat by 30 a few weeks ago. That game was in Tampa Bay, where this one will be played as well. QB Randy Hippeard was excellent in that win, throwing for 234 yards with five touchdowns and only one pick. Hippeard has thrown for five or more touchdowns in all but one game this season, and he will be a key to this game on Monday. If he is rolling the way he has all year then the Storm will probably blow the Gladiators out. On defense, Tampa Bay will give Cleveland a ton of different looks. They’ll want to do whatever they can to confuse Arvell Nelson, which is something they did in the last meeting between these teams. The Storm picked him off twice in that game, and it’d be big if they can force multiple turnovers here.