By Anthony Reinhard
“Deep Routes” is a weekly series that will look in-depth at AFL stats and present weekly updates to my AFL model.
That’s a wrap for the 2019 Regular Season! Albany went wire-to-wire as the league’s top team and will be the top seed in the playoffs. Albany will open the playoffs with 9.6 rating, meaning I would expect them to be a 9.6 pt favorite against the average AFL team on a neutral field. This is Albany’s highest mark of the year. The last other team to post a higher rating was the Philadelphia Soul after their 3-0 start last season. Albany still has a long climb to reach the all-time best mark of 17.8, set by the Arizona Rattlers in 2014 on their way to a third consecutive ArenaBowl title.
On the flip side, Columbus was the league’s worst team all season. Their -11.6 is above the original Destroyers low water mark of -13.3 in 2005, but is still the worst finish since Tampa Bay’s -14.2 when they finished 2-14 in the 2016 season. The 2007 Las Vegas Gladiators own the worst rating in AFL history. They came in at -15.8 after finishing 2-14. The team moved to Cleveland the following season.
The way my model is set up now, AC and Columbus will both be rated better than the expansion teams that will be announced at the ArenaBowl, although Columbus may only be a point and a half better. I may create a more robust way to adjust pre-season ratings during the off-season, so that could change.
The playoffs will begin this Saturday in Albany. The Empire will have a 72.4% chance to win the first leg on their home turf against the Brigade. My model is giving Albany a 68.9% chance to win the aggregate score and advance to the Arena Bowl. I have Albany as a 9.6 pt favorite this week and a 5 pt favorite next week.
In the 2/3 matchup Washington will host Philly in what should be a competitive matchup. As of now, my ratings favor both home teams, but I give Philly a bigger edge during the second meeting. My simulation is giving the Soul a 50.4% chance to advance. Washington will be a 1 pt favorite this week and I presently have the Soul as a 3.6 pt favorite next week.
Arvell Nelson’s Back…
It must be sore! Nelson accounted for 73 of his team’s 74 touchdowns in the regular season after throwing for six and running for two more against Columbus last Saturday. Nelsons Rushing/Passing TD share is the highest of any player since the 2000 season. The only Valor offensive TD that he did not account for was a 10-yard touchdown run by Reggie Gray in Week 3.
Tommy Grady has cracked the top 15 three times in his career (2012, 2014, and 2018), but got plenty of help from Mykel Benson’s nine rushing scores this time around. Nelson’s workload alone should make him a strong contender for MVP, but Albany’s offensive performance give Grady a good chance as well.
Albany’s Offense Dominates Again
For the third time in 2019, Albany’s offense was not stopped by the opposing defense. Albany scored on every drive against the Soul in Week 13, except their final possession of the first half where the half came to an end on Philly’s one yard line. Since possessions that are ended by a half do not result in a turnover or score, they are not counted in my Offensive Points Per Drive (Off PPD) metric. That gave Albany an unprecedented third game with an Off PPD of 7+ this season, which has now happened just 16 times since 2000.
Albany’s offense finishes the season with an Off PPD of 5.35, the 11th best since 2000. The Destroyers end the season as the 10th worst offense on record and Atlantic City’s defense checks in at 12th worst. Atlantic City’s 16.7 possessions a game was the slowest pace ever, but as I’ve mentioned before, the league has instituted several rule changes designed to reduce game length which will in turn prevent teams from having more possessions.
The Race to Host ArenaBowl XXXII
Three cites remain as eligible to host the ArenaBowl. Philly will be unable to host, but should they advance and meet Baltimore the game would be in Atlantic City.
Odds of hosting ArenaBowl XXXII:
Albany – 68.9%
AC – 15.7%
DC – 15.4%