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Prime position for playoffs

Published May 26, 2004

The Storm is one of five teams vying for three remaining playoff spots as the Arena season enters its final weekend.

So, how is it Tampa Bay (8-7) can clinch with a win while New York (8-7) and Austin (8-7) need help?

By going 4-2 against the teams - Los Angeles (9-6), Orlando (9-6), New York and Austin - it is competing against, the Storm gave itself an advantage in most head-to-head or common-opponent tiebreaking situations.

As a result, a win Sunday at slumping Dallas (6-9) will extend the Storm's league record playoff streak to 14 seasons.

There are nine different scenarios that put Tampa Bay into the playoffs, including one in the event of a Storm loss.

If Tampa Bay wins, the outcomes of the Los Angeles-Orlando, Philadephia-New York, Austin-New Orleans and Columbus-Las Vegas games become irrelevant unless Los Angeles and Orlando tie.

Even if the Storm loses, it can qualify if Austin, New York and Columbus lose, team spokesman Stephen Evans said.

Evans spent a couple of hours sifting through the various scenarios after Tampa Bay's 59-51 victory Sunday vs. New Orleans. He then ran them past the league, which checked them with the Elias Sports Bureau.

The winner of the Orlando-Los Angeles game will earn a berth, and the loser will have a good chance of advancing because it will start a game up on the other three teams. Despite beating Tampa Bay, New York has less of a chance because it did not fare as well against common opponents.

Austin is in the worst shape, needing a win and a Storm loss to qualify.

If Tampa Bay makes the playoffs, it will be as the No. 7 or 8 seed. It likely will play at San Jose, Chicago or Arizona.

The SaberCats and Rush beat the Storm this season in games coach Tim Marcum believes Tampa Bay should have won. The Storm defeated the Rattlers in last season's ArenaBowl.

Tampa Bay, 3-7 six weeks ago, put itself in this position by winning five straight.

"We were not playing bad football," Marcum said. "We were playing dumb football. It was just making the mistakes at the wrong time and costing us games, not making a play in the last minute and losing the game. I felt like we had a pretty good football team."

ON HIS GAME: Quarterback Shane Stafford was named the Arena Football League Writers Association Player of the Week and the league's offensive player of the week for his performance against New Orleans. Stafford completed 22-of-30 for 267 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions while leading Tampa Bay to scores on nine of 10 possessions.

GIVEN HIS DUE: Lineman Nyle Wiren belatedly was awarded a sack, his career-high sixth of the season, as the result of a second-quarter play in which New Orleans quarterback John Fitzgerald was penalized for intentional grounding.

Wiren, who eschewed season-ending surgery to play the past five games with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, bruised his ribs during the game but is expected to play against Dallas.

OFF THE AIR: Sunday's Storm-Desperados game was pulled from NBC's broadcast schedule. The game would seem to have less national appeal because Dallas, a preseason pick to make the playoffs, has lost six consecutive and eight of nine after a 5-1 start.

FAN FAVORITES: Receiver/defensive back T.T. Toliver was named team MVP by the Storm Surge Fan Club. Receiver/linebacker Lawrence Samuels was Ironman, and Wiren received the Ben Thomas Award. Nichole Creadon was named favorite cheerleader.

BEHIND CENTER: Former University of Michigan and Detroit Lions quarterback Scott Dreisbach could start in place of former USF quarterback Glen Gauntt for Dallas.

Dreisbach completed 27-of-38 for 316 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions in a loss to Columbus on Saturday.

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