<span style="">The New Orleans VooDoo will host the Grand Rapids Rampage on Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. in a regular season finale that will catapult the home team into the playoffs for the first time since 2004 with a win. A victory in the Graveyard, where New Orleans boasts a 6-1 record this season, also very well could put them in position to host a home playoff game next weekend.
"If we win, we're in (the playoffs)," VooDoo Head Coach Mike Neu said. "It's as simple as that. We have a second chance at the same scenarios as we had last week. We have a chance to control our destiny, and we're at home. That's all we're concerned about right now."
New Orleans will be hungry to rebound from a 51-49 loss to the Orlando Predators on Friday, June 13, that went down to the wire. A win would give them a 9-7 regular season mark, guaranteed entry into the playoffs and a four-game improvement over 2007. Grand Rapids comes into the contest with a 5-10 record. A win against the VooDoo would clinch their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2003.
"We control what's in front of us," Neu said. "The opportunity is sitting right in front of us and we've got to take advantage of it."
Saturday night's match-up will be compelling on both sides of the ball for each club as New Orleans' hard nosed defense will be going up against the Rampage's high flying offense. This will mark Grand Rapids' first trip to the New Orleans Arena, as the VooDoo defeated the Rampage 49-47 in northern Michigan on April 23, 2005.
VooDoo QB Danny Wimprine and the VooDoo offense are seeking to achieve the consistency and rhythm that they had in the middle of the season and which they know will be necessary to advance in a postseason. Wimprine in his first season as the club's starter has completed 309-of-511 passes for 3,731 yards with 77 touchdown throws and only nine interceptions. Wimprine's top targets at wideout are James Jordan and Javarus Dudley. Jordan has 105 grabs for 1,195 yards and 30 touchdowns in what has been a career year. Dudley has 69 catches for 961 yards with 16 scores, to serve as a solid complement.
The VooDoo will head into the game with the third ranked scoring defense in the league, surrendering only 49.9 points per game. They have forced a club record 37 turnovers, the second highest total in the AFL and recorded a league-high 25 interceptions. Last week at Orlando, DL Michale Spicer recorded 1.5 sacks, upping his team–leading total to 6.5, tied for the sixth-highest number in the league. DB Lin-J Shell recorded his fifth interception to help put the VooDoo back in the game in the first half. He leads the AFL with a club record 112.5 stops.
Grand Rapids has put themselves into position to clinch a playoff big with a 5-10 record. Five of their losses have been by eight points or less, as first-year head coach Steve Thonn has directed the fourth ranked scoring offense in the AFL. Grand Rapids is led on offense by first-year starter James McPherson, who has completed 68.3 percent of his passes, which stands as the second-highest figure in the league. His favorite target is WR Kenny Higgins who is ranked fourth in the AFL with 1,489 receiving yards and fourth with 230 points overall, including 31 touchdown grabs.
The New Orleans VooDoo face numerous playoff scenarios this week. Four teams-New Orleans (8-7), Orlando (9-7), New York (8-7) and Cleveland (8-7)-are battling for three remaining playoff spots in the hotly contested National Conference. Philadelphia (12-3), Dallas (12-3) and Georgia (10-5) have clinched playoff spots. If the VooDoo makes the playoff, they would play next week in a wild-card game.
With a VooDoo win:
-New Orleans would host New York if the Dragons win.
-New Orleans would host Cleveland if the Gladiators win and the Dragons lose.
-New Orleans would travel to Orlando if the Gladiators and Dragons lose.
With a loss:
-New Orleans would make the playoffs if Cleveland loses and would then travel to either Philadelphia or Dallas. If Cleveland wins, the VooDoo are eliminated from the playoff race.