The last time the Washington Federals and Los Angeles played, the Express rushed for 142 yards. The Express hasn't had it so good since.
The Express comes to RFK Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. game Sunday averaging 90 yards on the ground, last in the 12-team USFL. Los Angeles, which was host to the Federals in March, will be hoping to establish itself on the ground early against Washington, which is ranked 10th in rushing defense.
The game is an important one for the Express (7-9), which has a chance to catch first-place Oakland (8-8) in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles can make the playoffs if: 1) it wins its last two games and Oakland loses its last two to Boston (10-6) and Chicago (11-5); 2) both teams tie with 9-9 records on the basis of Los Angeles' stronger schedule; or 3) the two teams and Denver (7-9) tie with 8-10 records using the criteria matching the three teams' records against each other (the Express is 3-1).
Express Coach Hugh Campbell has never missed the playoffs in six years of coaching on the professional level. The last five years at Edmonton of Canadian Football League, Campbell and his teams won an unprecedented five straight Grey Cups.
With a negligible running game, Los Angeles has often gone to a one-back, three-wide receiver offense. Anthony Allen and Jojo Townsell, both signed late in the season, and tight end Ricky Ellis (third in the league with 68 receptions) give the Express one of the league's top group of receivers. In addition, Kris Haines, who had 47 receptions before missing the last three games with a badly sprained ankle, is expected back.
Although Campbell is a little leery about the Federals' improved play in recent weeks, he seemed just as concerned with an intangible factor involving Washington's 11 losses in its last 12 games and 2-14 record. "The law of averages are not in our favor," he said.
Wide receiver Mike Holmes is definitely out for Washington with a thigh bruise and Joey Walters, the league's No. 5 receiver with 63 catches, is listed as "very doubtful" with a hyperextended left knee.