By Keith Antigiovanni
The 2011 Arena Football regular season is complete after 19 weeks as eight teams will compete for the honor of becoming Arena Bowl champions.
The marquee Western conference game will feature the top seeded Arizona Rattlers against the defending Arena Bowl champ Spokane. Since 2010 Spokane dominated the series (5-1) including a first round playoff game in 2010 until Arizona's win in week 16 a few weeks ago. The Rattlers were a dynasty in the 1990's and 2000's when they made 5 Arena Bowls and won 2 under former coach Danny White. White is now the GM and Kevin Guy is now Arizona's coach.
Dallas Vigilantes and Chicago Rush will face each other in the second Western playoff game. The Vigilantes have bounced back from a poor 2010 season and have picked up where the Dallas Desperados (2002-2008) had left off as a perennial playoff team while the Rush look to return to the Arena Bowl for the first time since they won it in 2006 (Arena Bowl XX). These teams were division rivals this year and this game will add to the rivalry.
Jacksonville is again the number one seed in the East after they won the South with a 14-4 record but they hope not to repeat the disappointment of 2010 when they went 12-4, won the South and lost in the first round. Their opponent will be division rival Orlando. Orlando was also a dynasty in the 1990's and 2000's with 7 Arena Bowl appearances and 2 Arena Bowl titles.
Jacksonville has put together a record of 26-6 since the Arena League returned two years ago but will they become the new Dallas Desperados or will they get over the playoff hump?
Cleveland enters the playoffs as a division champion for the first time in club history since 1997 but that was three cities ago. They will play another Southern team, the Georgia Force. The Force re-joined the league after a two year hiatus. The Force came close to a title in 2005 when they were defeated by John Elway's Colorado Crush and then were upset in the conference title game in 2007 after being heavy favorites to return to the Arena Bowl.