Don't try to follow what the Memphis Showboats and the Baltimore Stars have done this season. You'll hurt your neck.
The graph line for both teams goes all over the page. The Showboats won their first three games, including a victory over the Stars on March 9, then lost four in a row. The Stars started 1-3-1, then won two straight.
The Stars' upswing started after a 21-19 loss in Memphis. The Showboats' backslide also started then. All of which means that today's 2:30 p.m. meeting between the Stars and the Showboats at College Park's Byrd Stadium should be a study in streaks.
This one probably will be in the Stars' favor, if you listen to Showboats Coach Pepper Rodgers, whose usual flamboyance has been dulled by the losing streak.
"We're the big underdog," he said. "They're playing with the confidence. They got off to a slow start, but that can happen to anybody. Now they're winning. We got off to a quick start, and now we're losing. They have the momentum; we don't."
When the Showboats beat the Stars, their leading rusher, Leonard Williams, strained ligaments and he is not expected back for at least another week. The Showboats still have Harry Sydney (55 carries, 245 yards) and Tim Spencer (53 carries, 174 yards). But Spencer, one of the leading rushers in the league last season, has since had two operations on a broken ankle.
In the meantime, the Showboats' Walter Lewis, a second-year quarterback out of Alabama, is their leading rusher with 358 yards on 41 carries. He has also completed 73 of 137 passes for 1,220 yards and 14 touchdowns.
But that hasn't been enough to move the ball consistently. Against the Orlando Renegades last week -- the former Washington Federals won their first game all season, 28-17 -- Lewis was benched in the final quarter and backup Mike Kelley led the Showboats to 10 points. Rodgers, who came under fire from owner William Dunavant for the loss, is considering starting Kelley today.
"Nothing's happening," Rodgers said. "We aren't making any plays."
Rodgers, however, isn't blaming it on Lewis, who has accounted for 17 touchdowns.
"The whole offense is on Walter," he said. "Walter's good, but he's not that good."
The Showboats' lack of offense bodes ill against a Stars defense that has allowed the fewest points in the league, 96. That nifty unit has kept the Stars in the season by allowing only 36 points in the last four games.
A plodding offense, meanwhile, is still trying to find itself. The Stars also have a crucial injury in the backfield with running back Kelvin Bryant still troubled by a pulled hamstring. Allen Harvin has become the leading rusher with two straight 100-yard-plus games. He now has 366 yards on 84 carries.
The Stars have been bothered by turnovers and lack of scoring. But they are now outscoring opponents 18 points to 13.7, and have turned over the ball but 14 times, while getting 17. And even when they have lost, the Stars have led opponents in every offensive category.
Coach Jim Mora doesn't have any explanation for the turnabout, other than that the numbers may be catching up.
"We've won a couple," he said. "I thought we were playing pretty good even though we lost a couple . . . We're not doing anything different from what we did five weeks ago. And we'll be doing the same thing seven weeks from now."