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IFL Week 18 Game Schedule, Previews, and Predictions: Billy Back Named As Offensive Coordinator For The Massachusetts Pirates

As IFL teams prepare for the final week of the IFL regular season, the playoff picture has come into focus. The Arizona Rattlers, Bay Area Panthers, Tucson Sugar Skulls, and Northern Arizona Wranglers have all qualified for the playoffs in the Western Division. The Frisco Fighters, Massachusetts Pirates, Quad City Steamwheelers, and Sioux Falls Storm have secured their playoff positions in the Eastern Division.

In Week 18, IFL teams must evaluate their playoff situation to give their team the best chance to make a run to the IFL National Championship game. To get to that game, teams must be as healthy as possible and have positive momentum. Home-field advantage is essential for IFL teams, and several teams will need to win this week to make sure they start their playoff run at home.

The Massachusetts Pirates are a team that has approached Week 18 aggressively to give themselves the best chance to be successful. Earlier this week, the Pirates announced the former Frisco Fighter head Billy Back had joined the crew as their new offensive coordinator. The announcement was surprising when you realize that Back left the Fighters just a few weeks ago after leading them to a 12-2 start in the 2023 season.

When Frisco announced Back’s exit, they did not clarify why that had occurred. Now that Back will be leading the offense for the Fighter’s Eastern Division rival, it is clear that he did not move on under favorable circumstances. The Pirates have been a team that has struggled to win games on the road, but they have been dominant at home. This week the Pirates will need to win a road game in Sioux Falls to secure a home playoff game, will Back be able to lead the Pirates to road game success?

Reminder: All IFL games are streamed for free on YouTube on the IFL Network.

Game #1

Visiting Team: Frisco Fighters (12-2, 1st in Eastern Division)

Home Team: Iowa Barnstormers (3-11, 6th in Eastern Division)

Location: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa

Date and Time: Saturday, July 15th at 8:05 pm EDT

Draft Kings Betting Line: Frisco Fighters -13.5, O/U 92.5 points

The Fighters come into this game as the number one team in the Eastern Division and in preparation for a home game in the first round of the playoffs. While the Fighters will want to keep their momentum from the regular season, it will be essential to ensure that quarterback TJ Edwards is healthy after this game. Frisco has one of the league’s top offensive and defensive units, but their success will depend on how they manage their personnel in a game that will not affect their playoff future.

The Iowa Barnstormers have battled injury issues the entire season. After being a playoff team in 2022, Iowa is trying to get one more win to end its season. A win against the Fighters would give them a huge momentum boost as they enter the offseason.

Game Prediction: Frisco Fighters 62, Iowa Barnstormers 40

Game #2

Visiting Team: Massachusetts Pirates (9-5, 2nd in the Eastern Division)

Home Team: Sioux Falls Storm (8-6, 4th in the Eastern Division)

Location: The Denny Samford PREMIER Center, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Date and Time: Saturday, July 15th at 8:05 pm EDT

Draft Kings Betting Line: Massachusetts Pirates -1, O/U 97.5 points

The Massachusetts Pirates secured their playoff spot a couple of weeks ago, but since then, they have fallen on hard times. After back-to-back road game failures in Arizona, the Pirates face another road game. If they can get a road win against the Storm, the Pirates will be playing at home to start the playoffs, but if they lose and Quad City wins, they will visit Quad City. Massachusetts has attempted to turn its momentum back in its favor by acquiring Billy Back as its new offensive coordinator.

The Sioux Falls Storm have made the IFL playoff by beating non-playoff teams. Sioux Falls does have a home win against Quad City, but if they want to make a run in the playoffs, it will need to start with a home game. If quarterback Lorenzo Brown Jr. and the Storm can find a way to upset the Pirates at home, and Quad City loses in Tulsa, they will have a home playoff game. With a win this week, the Storm can avoid needing to win on the road against a high-quality opponent.

Game Prediction: Massachusetts Pirates 56, Sioux Falls Storm 50

Game #3

Visiting Team: Quad City Steamwheelers (9-5, 3rd in the Eastern Division)

Home Team: Tulsa Oilers (1-13, 7th in the Eastern Division)

Location: The BOK Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Date and Time: Saturday, July 15th at 8:05 pm EDT

Draft Kings Betting Line: Quad City Steamwheelers -7, O/U 94.5 points

The Quad City Steamwheelers have set themselves up for a playoff run in 2023 to mirror their run to the 2022 IFL National Championship game. In 2022, the Steamwheelers had to upset Massachusetts and Frisco on the road to Vegas. If the Steamwheelers can get a road win in Tulsa and the Pirates lose, they can start their playoff run with a home game. Quarterback EJ Hilliard and Quad City have hit some rough spots during the season, so getting themselves firing on all cylinders heading into the playoffs is essential.

The first-year Tulsa Oilers have struggled to a one-win season in 2023 but have been competitive at home. Each week they have given themselves a chance to pick up wins against some of the best IFL teams but always find a way to come up short. This week they have the chance to be a spoiler and make Quad City take a much more difficult path through the playoffs.

Game Prediction: Quad City Steamwheelers 54, Tulsa Oilers 51

Game #4

Visiting Team: Vegas Knight Hawks (5-9, 7th in the Western Division)

Home Team: San Diego Strike Force (5-9, 5th in the Western Division)

Location: Pechanga Arena, San Diego, California

Date and Time: Saturday, July 15th at 9:05 pm EDT

Draft Kings Betting Line: San Diego Strike Force -4.5, O/U 95.5 points

The Vegas Knight Hawks are a team that needs to live up to the potential of the talent on their roster. Quarterback DaQuan Neal and wide receiver Quentin Randolph have been very successful this season. Unfortunately, the Knight Hawks supporting cast has been inconsistent, and Vegas will end the season playing for pride in San Diego.

The San Diego Strike Force is a team that historically has been a bottom feeder in the IFL. In 2023, they acquired successful IFL quarterback Nate Davis, and they have shown significant growth on offense. San Diego has had chances this season to break through, but they need more consistency to beat IFL teams consistently. Getting a win at home to end this season may give them the momentum to build on their current roster during the offseason.

Game Prediction: San Diego Strike Force 48, Vegas Knight Hawks 45

Game #5

Visiting Team: Green Bay Blizzard (7-7, 5th in the Eastern Division)

Home Team: Tucson Sugar Skulls (8-6, 3rd in the Western Division)

Location: Tucson Convention Center, Tucson Arena, Tucson, Arizona

Date and Time: Saturday, July 15th at 9:05 pm EDT

Draft Kings Betting Line: Tucson Sugar Skulls -5.5, O/U 90.5 points

The Green Bay Blizzard’s playoff hopes faced a do-or-die situation in Week 17 when they traveled to Quad City. Unfortunately, Green Bay was not able to get the win, but they still have a chance to have a winning record in 2023. Quarterback Max Meylor and the Blizzard offense will need to play their best football in Tucson if they hope to get to eight wins this season.

The Tucson Sugar Skulls secured their playoff spot last week, but now they need to win to avoid being the four seed in the Western Division. Tucson will have to decide whether they will strive to get a win to end the season or choose to protect their quarterback Ramone Atkins for the first round of the playoffs.

Game Prediction: Tucson Sugar Skulls 42, Green Bay Blizzard 38

Game #6 – Game of the Week

Visiting Team: Northern Arizona Wranglers (7-7, 4th in the Western Division)

Home Team: Arizona Rattlers (10-4, 1st in the Western Division)

Location: Footprint Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Date and Time: Saturday, July 15th at 9:05 pm EDT

Draft Kings Betting Line: Arizona Rattlers -10.5, O/U 99.5 points

The Northern Arizona Wranglers went on a historic run during the 2022 playoffs and rode that momentum to an IFL National Championship in their second year as a team. The Bay Area Panthers then gutted their roster, but they have been able to play great defensive football to return to the playoffs. Northern Arizona is a team that needs to capitalize on the momentum of making the playoffs and picking up a big road win in Arizona heading into the postseason.

The Arizona Rattlers are among the best teams in the IFL when quarterback Drew Powell leads their offense. The Rattlers have been a dramatically different team when Powell was injured. It would make sense for the Rattlers to rest Powell this week, but if they lose to the Wranglers, they may get flashbacks to being upset by Northern Arizona in the 2022 playoffs. If they do not win this week, they must travel to the Bay Area Panthers to win the Western Division.

Game Prediction: Arizona Rattlers 60, Northern Arizona Wranglers 48

Game #7

Visiting Team: Bay Area Panthers (9-5, 2nd in the Western Division)

Home Team: Duke City Gladiators (5-9, 6th in the Western Division)

Location: Rio Rancho Events Center, Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Date and Time: Sunday, July 16th at 5:05 pm EDT

Draft Kings Betting Line: Bay Area Panthers -7.5, O/U 103.5 points

Home-field advantage is a big part of the Bay Area Panther’s success during the 2023 season. Coming into the season, the Panthers had built what they felt was an elite indoor football team that would lead them to the IFL National Championship game. If the Panthers can get a road win in New Mexico, they have a chance to have the road to the championship game run through the Bay Area. The Panther’s ownership is looking for a new city to call home, so a championship could make them more attractive to a new city.

The Duke City Gladiators decided early in the season to send quarterback Nate Davis to San Diego. Since Duke City made that decision, the Gladiators have struggled to win. To end the season with a home win and playing changing the Panther’s road in the playoffs could give them some level of satisfaction to end the season.

Game Prediction: Bay Area Panthers 52, Duke City Gladiators 45

Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7

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