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Atlanta Steam face Omaha Heart on Saturday to open up LFL season

The Atlanta Steam are scheduled to open their 2014 home schedule on Saturday against the Omaha Heart.
The Atlanta Steam are scheduled to open their 2014 home schedule on Saturday against the Omaha Heart.ASMP1/LFL

The Atlanta Steam are scheduled to open their second Legends Football League (LFL) home schedule on Saturday night against the Omaha Heart, the same team they faced on April 13, 2013 in the first home opener in the history of the franchise. The Steam are hungry to repeat last year’s result, a 42-6 thumping of their guests.

Atlanta (0-0) will be playing not only the home opener, but their season opener when they take on Omaha (0-1) at The Arena at Gwinnet Center on Saturday. The Steam are eager to hit someone besides their teammates and, unfortunately for Omaha (0-1), the Heart will be on the receiving end.

The second edition of the Steam includes a number of veterans returning from the inaugural season, but there are also rookies that will play a big role in the outcome of not only this game, but the season as a whole. Not only will rookies handle duties at both the quarterback and running back positions, but the head coach is also in his first season as the top dog.

Dane Robinson took the helms from Ray Norrell, who guided the Steam to a playoff appearance, as the head coach late in 2013 after being on the coaching staff throughout the 2013 season. One of the first player decisions Coach Robinson had to make was naming a starting QB after it was announced that Brittney Morgan would not be returning. He had Jodie Nettles, last year’s No. 2 signal caller, and an 18-year old rookie Dakota Hughes battling for the spot during training camp. Robinson made the decision to go with Hughes early based on the things he saw from her, both in playing ability and poise on and off the field.

Another early roster decision Robinson had to address was concern over internal fighting between teammates. The decision was made that Sweetness Jones would not be brought back; leaving a big role to fill with no idea which ball handler would step-up. Nas Johnson is coming off an injury that ended her season last year, so a second option to share the load was a must. That’s where another rookie, Nish (Dee) Salter, comes in.

Salter has shown speed and strength, as well as determination, and is likely to receive the most touches out of the backfield. Hughes is more of a pocket passer, and should find success with an experienced receiving corps that includes receivers Nettles and Coco Montgomery.

The Atlanta defense is strong, and can be expected to play a very physical game. Robinson models his D off the Baltimore Ravens, so expect safeties Alfye Gore and Sharlene Fuller to make big plays. Montgomery was an All-Fantasy defensive end last season, and will pressure the Heart quarterbacks while Leanne Hardin will be looking to shut down the run from the middle linebacker position.

Omaha has been unable to mount any kind of a consistent offensive attack in their first five franchise games, including a 25-0 shutout loss to Jacksonville to open the season, and there is no reason to believe they will reveal one against a tough defense like Atlanta’s.

Heart QB Ashley Lambrecht was just 1 of 16 passing and was intercepted twice against the Breeze defense, which would suggest Omaha would try to establish a ground attack.

The Omaha defense is not as bad as the one-sided losses would indicate, but they give up a lot of points as a result of short fields their opposition have been given due to the struggling Heart offense. Danielle Hawkins, a.k.a. “The Hawk”, joined the Heart a few weeks ago and has the ability to pressure Hughes all night.

Look for Atlanta to have more possessions as a result of turnovers and stops, and expect them to pull away in the second half from a Omaha team in search of an identity.

The current Las Vegas line has Atlanta favored by 5.5, but the margin should be much wider.