The Columbus Lions are in a bad place.
Having lost their last three games, Columbus (3-5) has fallen to sixth place in the seven-team Professional Indoor Football League standings, and the Lions are in the position of almost having to win all four of its remaining games to make the playoffs.
The Lions will try to stop their slide tonight in Richmond, Va., when they take on the Richmond Raiders (5-3) at the Richmond Coliseum. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"We still control our destiny based on our scheduling, but we need to win out," Lions coach Jason Gibson said. "We might be able to lose one more game, but I'd rather not take that chance. It doesn't matter that we're not in the playoffs right now. It matters at the end of the year. We have to win games and to win games, we have to score points."
The Lions are actually fourth in the league in scoring offense, averaging 49 points per game, but they're dead last in total offense, generating only 242 total yards per contest. That means the Columbus defense has been spending a lot of time on the field, resulting in last-place performances in total defense (296.2 ypg) and scoring defense (53.9 ppg).
"I'm just looking for some consistency from our offense," Gibson said. "I know we're on our fourth quarterback, but we're so out of sync that it's hard to believe that we've been practicing since January. We have some of the best receivers and we can't even get the ball to them. Our offense doesn't even have an identity."
Columbus is coming off a 70-43 home loss to the Alabama Hammers last weekend in a game that saw the Lions turn the ball over four more times and allow Hammers quarterback Russell Hill to throw for 347 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Actually, I thought we played well enough defensively to win," Gibson said. "But we're so horrific offensively right now that we can't stay on the field for a prolonged period of time and that's killing us. Alabama had the ball for 13 minutes in the fourth quarter. It's not our defense that's hurting us right now. It's our offense. We're always trailing. If we ever get the lead, I think our defense can do the job."
Gibson knows his team will have its work cut out for it when it takes on the Raiders tonight. Richmond is 10-1 at home over the last two seasons and a 68-66 double-overtime loss at Louisiana last week stopped a streak of five wins in six games for the Raiders.
"We've got to be physical," Gibson said.
"It's going to be tough. Richmond is a team that's gotten better every week. Some teams get better as the season goes along, some stay the same and some get worse. We've gotten worse, but Richmond has gotten better."
Despite having a hill to climb over the final third of the season, Gibson isn't ready to count his team out just yet.
"Louisiana started the season 0-3 and a lot of people left them for dead," Gibson said. "Look at them now.
"It's why you play all 12 games in a season. You have to play the whole season out and let the chips fall where they may."
Notes: Fans can listen to the game through a link on the Lions' web site. Just click on the "Listen Live" link on the right-hand side of the home page. Coverage will start at 6:55 p.m. Columbus won the only previous meeting this season, 48-42, at the Columbus Civic Center on April 20. The Lions rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull out the win, Columbus' last victory before its current three-game slide. Richmond fullback Mike Jones leads the PIFL in rushing yards (249) and his 78 points on 13 touchdowns ranks fifth in scoring. The Lions' Anthony Shutt continues to lead the league with seven interceptions, two more than any other player. After tonight's game, Columbus returns home to host the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks on June 2. Kickoff time at the Columbus Civic Center is scheduled for 4 p.m.
WHO: Columbus Lions (3-5) vs. Richmond Raiders (5-3)
WHERE: Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Va.
WHEN: Tonight, 7 p.m.