SALT LAKE CITY — Pop a Kit Kat because this is going to be a treat. Utah returns to EnergySolutions Arena after a lopsided loss in San Jose last week — setting up without a doubt the most important game of the season.
The defending National Conference champs, the Arizona Rattlers, invade Salt Lake on Saturday at 7 p.m. with massive playoff stakes at risk.
Eight teams qualify for the AFL postseason, four from each conference. The four teams are comprised of the two division champions and two wild card spots based on best overall record. The seeding is determined by overall record, with the top two seeds in each conference reserved for the division champions — earning home playoff games against the third and fourth seeds.
After splitting the season series with the SaberCats, the Blaze (6-3) are tied with the Rattlers (6-3) for the second spot in the West Division. This is the first of two matchups between the rivals. The second game is scheduled for July 6 in Arizona. The loser of the series has a likely possibility of elimination from postseason consideration.
For the Blaze to avenge the embarrassing 72-37 defeat in Salt Lake last season to the Rattlers, stopping quarterback Nick Davila is the main point of emphasis. The reigning AFL MVP has tossed for 2,648 yards and 57 touchdowns in nine appearances.
"The Arizona Rattlers possess one of the best offenses in the AFL," Blaze coach Ron James said in a released statement. "Their quarterback and wide receiver corps have been exceptional all season. We need to find a way to limit their production this week in order to be successful."
The Rattlers have the ability to bite in many ways with the third-ranked passing offense and the fourth-ranked rushing attack in the league.
Odie Armstrong paces the ground game with 10 rushing touchdowns thus far. Maurice Purify is the top threat in the air with 71 receptions for 1,112 yards and 26 scores. Kerry Reed and Glen Fox have combined for 86 catches for 1,151 yards and 25 TDs.
"We have been working hard all week on getting our pass rush back in gear," James said. "This is the type of game in which we need to pressure the quarterback and make it difficult for the Arizona offense to be efficient."
Blaze on the air
Rattlers (6-3) at Blaze (6-3)
Today, 7 p.m.
Radio: 1280 AM