After enjoying a Week 5 bye, it’s suddenly go-time for the Aviators, whose season hangs in the balance on the outcomes of this weekend’s slate of games. The Aviators have been lucky to avoid the road trip double header thus far into the season, but this time there’s no avoiding the away game slog.
Kicking things off will be the battle of Rookie of the Year favorites, as the Aviators will hike up the coast to Portland where they’ll take on a Nitro team coming off an ugly loss to the Cascades, allowing them their first win of the season. Leandro Marx has been the story for Portland so far, sporting impressive plus minus and goal scoring totals all while looking like a total badass. He might have some numbers that jump off the stat sheet, but what he lacks is the heart, hustle, and nearly grotesque length boasted by fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Everest Shapiro. The undeniable backdrop of this game is how each of these players will further their respective Rookie of the Year campaigns, as both Shapiro and Marx are surely looking to use this matchup as an opportunity to announce themselves as the front-runner. In terms of the game’s actual outcome, it will likely come down to the Aviator’s ability to contain both Marx and Daniel Lee, Portland’s versatile O-line handler. Against the Summit, it was clear that Lee was capable of making plays that aren’t typically expected of O-line handlers, ruling the skies on deeps and getting some insane blocks. Being able to limit his impact is the best way for the Aviators to give themselves a chance.
The Aviators will then face the task of besting the Cascades for a second time, except now they will be the ones coming off a Saturday night game in an early Sunday matchup. Though the Aviators got the best of the Cascades in Week 4, the margin for error was slim as they were only able to sneak past Seattle by one point. If the Aviators are able to overcome the adversity that comes with the second day of the double header road trip, they don’t need to do much outside of their abilities to come out on top.
This road trip has huge implications on what type of season this will become for this Aviator’s squad. Going 2-0 is obviously the hope, but if they’re able to survive the weekend with a 1-1 record I would still consider that a win. If they’re unable to find a win in Portland or Seattle, I think it’s time to sound the alarm, but we can talk about that if the time ever comes. Two things I’ll be looking for this weekend that I think will have a profound impact on the Aviator’s success: D-line conversion %. If you’re familiar with my latest Aviator’s stat check in, you’ll know that they sit at 19th in the league in this metric at 33.33%. This number needs to improve significantly if the Aviators want to widen the gap between them and their opponents, as there will certainly be turns gifted to them from these two division rivals if last week’s game is any indication. The second thing I’m looking for is to let the big man eat. And by big man, I mean tall, slenderman-esque Everest Shapiro, who has been under-utilized on the O-line. Giving him a chance to go up and get some discs and maximizing his potential will certainly spell positive outcomes for the Aviators in Week 6.