Joe Curtiss truly believes his team can qualify for the postseason.
"I think we definitely have a legitimate shot," said the head coach of the Billings Outlaws.
But it's all predicated on one simple fact: That the Billings Outlaws cannot afford another loss.
The Outlaws (3-5) host the Lincoln Capitols (4-4) tonight at 7 at MetraPark Arena. It is the next-to-last home game for the Outlaws.
Billings is coming off a 68-55 loss to Bismarck. Lincoln, harboring playoff thoughts of its own, has lost two straight, including a 40-34 loss to Omaha last week where the Capitols dominated every statistical category but the score.
Curtiss bases his belief that things will drastically change in the final eight weeks of the regular season as intradivision games dominate the schedule. The Outlaws are only two games behind second-place Rapid City in the loss column for the Pacific West standings.
"If we win out, good things will happen," Curtiss explained.
The Outlaws will be bolstered the return of running back-kick returner Yohance Humphery, defensive back Jermaine Washington and defensive end Andy Petek.
Humphery, who had missed three games with a separated shoulder, is among the team's leading rushers and pass-catchers. He also leads the Outlaws in kickoff return yardage.
"Yo will allow us to control the football," said Curtiss. "Plus, he's a playmaker."
Petek and Washington will try to help a Billings defense that is surrendering an average of 60 points a game.
"We don't play real good team defense. We play great individual defense," Curtiss said. "We've got to play together. When we play together, we play well.
"We've got to settle in and do our jobs. We've got to trust each other. We've had too many guys pressing, trying to do to much. Each person has to do their job and trust the other guy will do his job."
The Outlaws will have to slow up Lincoln running back John Hall. Hall has rushed for 527 yards and 13 touchdown for the Capitols. He had 134 yards rushing against Omaha.
"He's a quick, hard running back," Curtiss said of Hall. "We're going to have to slow him down.
"They're a very good running team — probably the best running team in the league."
Lincoln quarterback Justin Coleman is 75 of 148 passing for the season. He has been intercepted 10 times and thrown 11 touchdown passes. Nine of those scoring passes have been to Jason Mitchell, who has a team-best 40 receptions.
The Capitols' defense is limiting opponents to an average of just 30 points per game. Lincoln shut out Sioux City, 20-0, on May 3, only the second shut out in National Indoor Football League history.
Lincoln defensive back Ty Goode already has five interceptions this year.
That's one area where Curtiss wants to see improvement. The Outlaws are among league leaders in turnovers.
"That's one thing that's haunted us all season," said the head coach. "We've got to force turnovers, which we haven't done the past couple of games, and we need to hold on to the ball."
Keith Woods will replace Chase Raynock on the offensive line for Billings. Woods played for the Outlaws in 2001. Raynock signed a training camp contract with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League earlier this week. Billings also signed receiver Ron Harper, who played for Bismarck early in the season.
Curtiss added that Junior Adams, a former receiver for Montana State, will also be in attendance. Adams is considering signing with the Outlaws.
The Outlaws will play three straight road games following Saturday.
Billings plays its final regular-season home game on June 14 against Rapid City.