Preview: AFI Gameweek 7

The views and opinions expressed in this article in no way reflect those held by American Football Ireland. The below article is intended to be entertaining and promote around American Football Ireland games.

Another Sunday, another gameday on the horizon as the focus of players and coaches around the league shift back to domestic football after a brief shift of attention towards last night’s Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft. While the futures of certain NFL clubs and draft prospects changed forever after Thursday night/Friday morning’s extravaganza, the immediate situations for clubs in Ireland striving for playoff appearances or fighting for survival in their divisions will be affected by the 3 games taking place this Sunday across the island. “What games?”, we hear you ask. Let’s start off with the most enticing one…

AFI Premier Division

#5 Belfast Trojans (0-2) @ #2 Dublin Rebels (3-0) — De La Salle RFC, Glenamuck, 2pm
This is not your typical “undefeated vs winless” matchup. Opponents in Shamrock Bowl 30 and praised for a long time as 2 of Ireland’s best American football clubs, the Rebels and Trojans will both be out to prove to the rest of the division that they are the real deal. Belfast have certainly had a slow start to the season, conceding an uncharacteristic 35 points per game over their first 2 matchups, and did not impress offensively in their most recent game when they visited the Panthers in a 42-13 loss. One thing thing that must be kept in the back of everyone’s mind when reading these previews is that you should never count “Big T” out. McKelvey and Co. have had slow starts in previous years that ended with them hoisting the Shamrock Bowl above their heads. While that is not necessarily a prediction for this season, and while the push may not begin in this game, a playoff appearance is still on the cards for Belfast.

It’s hard to see them coming away with a result in this one, though. The Rebels are on fire right now, coasting through games with an average margin of victory of nearly 32 points. QB Ty Henry is at 6 passing TDs and 2 INTs on the year, on top of running in 2 TDs himself, and has truly revitalised on offense that struggled in their previous season in 2019. The Rebels defense has been as impressive, racking up 11 takeaways on defense so far in just 3 games. A true force at the moment and a contender for Shamrock Bowl honours, the Rebels look set to move to 4-0 (and potentially to the #1 seed) in this one.

#4 Craigavon Cowboys (2-1) @ #8 Dublin Rhinos (0-4) — Castleknock College, 2pm
After recovering from a difficult 44-8 loss to #1 UCD before the Easter break, Craigavon travel to Castleknock for the return fixture of their 35-6 season opening win over the Rhinos. There’s not too much that can really be said about this one as it seems to be the most set-in-stone result of the weekend. The Rhinos improved on defense vs Panthers in their recent matchup compared to their first 2 performances, and have totaled 11 sacks in 3 games, which is near the top of the division in that metric. Unfortunately for the Rhinos they have not been able to get their offense going, with QB Ethan Foster’s opening day TD to Adam Jenkins being the only score they’ve put up thus far. Considering Craigavon will be out for blood after giving up 44 points in their last game, and that this matchup earlier in the season was fairly one-sided, it’s likely Craigavon add another win to their season this Sunday.

AFI Division 2

#4 Antrim Jets (1-1) @ #3 NI Razorbacks (1-1) — Newforge Playing Grounds, 2pm
We finish off this week’s review with the lone game in Division 2. The Jets took this one at home last time out and now travel to Newforge looking to sweep the series. The Razorbacks come off a COVID outbreak that set their game with the #1 Mavericks back to May 8th, so may come into this one a little rusty. They do have that home-field advantage, and knowing how close they came last time out will certainly encourage the Razorbacks to be a bit more aggressive in this one. 

Razorbacks QB Mark Thompson will be looking for a better day this Sunday than these teams’ previous meeting, throwing for only 1 TD with 4 INTs (including one for a pick 6). They will look to DE Corey Adair (who had multiple sacks in their last outing) to get after Jets QB Scot McLean, who thrown or rushed for every Jets touchdown this season (2TD:1INT, 1 rush TD). This one may come down to McLean’s performance Sunday and whether he can lead his team to capitalise on any mistakes the Razorbacks give up in this one.

Quickfire Predictions
Trojans 14 – 27 Rebels
Cowboys 28 – 6 Rhinos
Jets 20 – 16 Razorbacks

Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram stories for a chance to give your thoughts on this weekend’s stupendous offering by voting on winners’ polls and leaving us your predictions for Sunday’s action!