Category Archives: Baltimore Brigade

AFL Playoffs, Round 2 Preview and Predictions

By: David Taylor

Round 1 of the playoffs proved to be two convincing victories for Philadelphia and Albany. There is not a lot of drama this weekend as the two teams will likely be advancing to the Arena Bowl due to the margins of victory in round 1. The only real drama will be who to play in the DraftKings fantasy football league. Expect there to be some resting of key players this weekend. 

Holy blowout, Batman! Albany came out and completely took care of business last weekend. With a 35-point cushion, the Empire will likely be moving on. Look for late game substitutions for the Empire. It will be interesting to see if Albany alters its play calling to run more time off the clock each possession, or if it will be business as usual. 

Game Prediction: Albany 44, Baltimore 36

Aggregate Prediction: Albany advances to ArenaBowl 32

Check out last week’s box score, courtesy of AFLdigital.com:

In a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better,” Philadelphia decided to best Albany in the aggregate scoring department, winning by 36 points to Albany’s 35. Last week’s preview proved to be semi-prophetic: Nelson was picked off multiple times (3) by James Romain, and the way Philadelphia defended the Valor QB was the deciding factor in the game. 

Game 2 Prediction: Washington gets a measure of redemption, just not enough. 44-40 Valor.

Aggregate Prediction: Philadelphia is heading to the ArenaBowl.

Here are the staff picks for this week. Please welcome new staffer Zach Keilman!

Advertisements

AFL 2019 Playoffs Preview and Predictions

By: David Taylor

It’s playoff time! The final four teams have punched their postseason tickets and seeding is complete. The first weekend’s games feature Albany vs. Baltimore and Washington vs. Philadelphia. The opening round of the playoffs is key because it is a two part matchup based on aggregate scoring. The series will be a two-game, home and home event. Highest scoring total at the end of the two games moves on to Arena Bowl 32. Here is a preview:

Being only one of two teams to defeat Albany, Baltimore comes into this game with a lot of confidence. The 4th seeded Brigade is looking to stun Albany again this weekend. The Empire is cruising into the playoffs following consecutive blowout wins. The winner of game one has a decided advantage in game two, so expect both teams to pull out all the stops in order to get points on the board. 

Baltimore wins if: the Brigade wins the turnover battle and QB Shayne Boyd gets the ball out on time. An onside kick recovery or kickoff return for a TD would not hurt either. 

Albany wins if: the Empire don’t overthink things. In the two losses this season, oddly timed onside kick attempts that failed got the Empire out of rhythm. Protecting QB Tommy Grady will also be vital to victory. 

Prediction: Albany wins at home, 44-41. 

Regular season stats and rankings:


“The third time’s the charm.” That is what Philadelphia is hoping for heading into this playoff series. The Soul were beaten twice previously this season by the Valor. In both games, the Soul struggled to find an answer for Arvell Nelson. Nelson is an MVP candidate, but is also prone to interceptions. He leads the league in interceptions thrown, and is first in attempts per interception ratio at 3.6% (among playoff teams). The play of Arvell Nelson will ultimately determine the winner of this playoff series. 

Philadelphia wins if: James Romain (or Dwayne Hollis) intercepts more than one pass. Philadelphia will also need to play mistake free football and get a high accuracy game from QB Dan Raudabaugh. There can be no turnovers on downs. 

Washington wins if: Arvell Nelson avoids mistakes and scores with his legs as well as his arms. This series will be the highest scoring of the two, so Nelson needs to find the end zone on the ground more than once. 

Prediction: Philly wins a thriller, 63-61.

Regular season stats and rankings:


Before we get to the staff picks, Please congratulate Richard Martin on his regular season championship! Richard finished first in our league with a 67% success rate. But the playoffs will decide the overall champion, so stay tuned! 

Here are the Round 1 Playoff Staff Picks:

Deep Routes: Washington’s One Man Army

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.

Model Refresh

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.

Playoff Matchups

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%

BattleStations Episode 22: We’ll Fix It In Post

We have a season ending chat with Columbus Destroyers Head Coach Matt Sauk and discuss the AFL Post-season with Bee Jay and David from AFLFanzone.com

BattleStations: a Columbus Destroyers podcast in conjunction with AFL Fan Zone. 
Follow Frank Walker on Twitter at @BStationPod and at https://battlestations.pinecast.co

Deep Routes: Albany’s Bomb Squad

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.

Model Refresh

We’re now in the final week of the regular season and much of the playoff picture has been revealed. All four spots have been clinched and the final week will only settle seeding.

Playoff Matchups

Albany locked up the top seed last week with a win and will host their playoff game on July 27th. The following weekend they will play at the fourth seed (Baltimore or Washington).

The second seed will go to either the Soul or Valor depending on this weekend’s results. A loss by the Soul and a win by Washington would give the Valor the two seed and an option as to which weekend they would travel to Philadelphia. A win for Philly OR a loss by Washington would keep Philly as the two seed.

Though the Valor could grab the second seed, they could also fall to the fourth seed. A Washington loss and a Baltimore win would drop Washington to fourth place, which would land them in Albany in Week 14. If Washington wins OR Baltimore loses this week in AC, Baltimore will be the one to take on the Empire.

Albany’s Deep Threats

My post last week touched on how often Albany has been able to complete deep passes to Malachi Jones. That trend continued in Columbus on Sunday when Jones hauled in three more deep touchdowns early in the game as the Empire routed Columbus 49-18. With 11:23 left on the clock in the second quarter, Albany had run nine plays and Tommy Grady had connected on four of seven passes for 152 yards and four touchdowns. Grady’s four early touchdowns of 33, 40, 32, and 37 were joined by a 45 yard strike to Sims in late in the third quarter.

In digging through box scores on ArenaFan (available starting in 2000), I found only nine other games where a team connected on five or more passing TDs of 30+ yards. At just 18 minutes and 37 seconds into the game, Albany was the fastest to put four 30+ yard touchdowns on the board. The Orlando Predators actually completed the feat twice on back-to-back weeks during the 2014 season.

Throughout the year, the duo of Malachi Jones and Quentin Sims have had no trouble burning opposing defenses for deep touchdowns. With one week remaining, Jones & Sims have caught 28 touchdowns of 20 yards or more, already the best on record when accounting for length of season.

The Race to Host ArenaBowl XXXII

Albany maintains the best odds of hosting the Arena Bowl. There is a 40% chance that Albany will host Philly in what would be a rematch of their matchup this week. Baltimore still has a chance to host in the event that they nab the third seed and fourth seeded Washington upsets Albany, identical to last season.

Odds of hosting ArenaBowl XXXII:

Albany – 69.2%
Philly – 17.6%
DC – 12.0%
Baltimore – 1.2%

Battle of the Beltway Part 3

by Bee Jay Glosson

With the playoffs on the line, the battle for the beltway against the Brigade carried more weight than normal in the week 12 matchup in Baltimore. The last time the two squared off we saw a chippy back and forth game and this week would not be any different.

The scoring would start immediately as the Valor would score on a Nelson to Mcneil 8 yd pass. The proverbial little brother would not let the attention go off of them as the Brigade would go on a 9 play drive and score on a 1 yd run by QB Shane Boyd to tie the game at 7. Answering immediately on a 45 yard pass from Nelson to Dangerfield the Valor would take back the lead but, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, miss the extra point to only make the lead 13 to 7.

The Brigade would score on a return of the ensuing kickoff and then tack on another TD with a strike from Boyd to Collins to take a 20-13 lead. Arvell Nelson would add to his league leading rushing TD total with a 6 yd run but again a missed extra point only allowed them to get within 1. After a botched onside kick the Brigade would take over on a short field and would extend that lead back to 7 after a missed extra point of their own. That lead would hold up til halftime as poor clock management would keep the Valor from adding anymore to their first half total.

The third quarter would be all Valor as they would score on a Nelson run and another Nelson pass to McNeil that would give them the lead going into the fourth quarter 33-26.

Then the real fireworks would start. Joe Hills would continue his streak of 103 straight games with a TD reception as he goes up and over the wall to pull in a Boyd pass in the back of the endzone.

As he jumped back over the wall though he would kick a Valor player and get a flag. The flag wasn’t the real story as this situation set off a pushing, shoving and eventual punching match between Brigade and Valor players that would lead to 3 ejections. Joe Hills and Maurice Morgan for the Brigade and Jadar Johnson for the Valor would all get an early shower and end of their night on the field.

The two teams would trade 45 yd pass TDs with Josh Reese for the Valor and Brandon Collins for the Brigade tying the game up at 40 apiece. Josh Reese however was not done as he would add another pass TD from Nelson to give the Valor the final lead of the game 47-40 and the defense would keep the Brigade off the board securing the win on the night for the Valor.

The extra curricular activity would not end on the field as sources reported that security kept the teams apart in the tunnels and then the police were called to the parking lot to break up a fight between multiple parties according to a police scanner app identified the two football teams and others. Until we hear from the league later this week we wont know the circumstances of suspensions or other penalties that may result from all of this.

The Valor now sit in the 3 seed position with one game to go with the possibility of ending up in the 4 seed or the 2 seed depending on the outcome of the final week of the season. With only Albany securing the 1 seed the other 3 seed positions are still open between the Soul, Brigade and the Valor.

Seed position is not the only thing up for grabs in the final week of the regular season as the AFL MVP race is coming to a head.

Arvell Nelson leads the league in total TD’s (65), total yards (2937), total rushing yards (199) and total rushing TD’s (17). Tommy Grady is just behind him with 64 TDs, all of those coming through the air.

While Nelson has thrown 4 more INT’s than Grady, his ability to score on the ground sets him apart from Grady. My MVP vote would go to Nelson as all but 3 Valor TD’s on the year have gone through Nelson making him the teams true MVP.

Next week is the final regular season home game for the Valor as they face off against the Columbus Destroyers at 3:30 pm on Saturday July 20th. With so many things on the line in the final week, it should be one of the most entertaining times in this already action packed year. As always, be loud, be proud and Go Valor.

Week 12 Preview and Picks

Week 12 is here and there are two matchups to preview. Albany travels to Columbus to take on the Destroyers, looking for the number one seed. Washington travels to Baltimore to try and clinch the final playoff spot. There’s still plenty to play for this weekend. 

Albany is coming off of a rare loss in this matchup against Columbus. The Empire have had an extra week to prepare for the Destroyers, and are focused on one goal: The number one seed. Albany is as explosive as ever offensively but suffered many injuries to the secondary in the loss to Philadelphia two weeks ago. The severity of those injuries may have some impact on this game.

Columbus was embarrassed the last time they took the field. Quarterback Grant Russell was intercepted four times and sacked twice. Overall, the Destroyers turned the ball over six times.  Columbus also surrendered two defensive touchdowns and one special teams touchdown in the loss to Baltimore. It was a rock-bottom moment. 

Player to Watch: Wide Receiver Malachi Jones, Albany Empire. Setting the AFL ablaze this season, Jones leads the league in receptions, yards, and yards per game. He is second in the league in receiving touchdowns, trailing teammate Quentin Sims by three scores (24 to 21). Jones is also fantasy gold, according to Draft Kings. 

Prediction: Empire, and it’s not even close. Albany 52, Columbus 26.

Seeding and a playoff spot are on the line in this matchup. Washington needs one win to clinch the final spot, and a win over Baltimore benefits the Valor’s seeding hopes. The teams have played twice so far this season, with each team winning once. The teams are only one game apart in the standings, so a tie is a likely outcome. The winner of this matchup will hold the tiebreaker advantage. 

Washington lost a close game last weekend to Atlantic City, opening up a playoffs version of Pandora’s box. Valor quarterback Arvell Nelson has struggled lately, throwing three interceptions in the loss to Atlantic City. Nelson is a bit of a statistical mystery this year. He leads the league in completions and pass attempts, but is last in completion percentage. Nelson is second in touchdown passes but is also second in interceptions. For the Valor to make the playoffs and repeat as champions, Nelson must find some consistency. 

Baltimore is breathing a collective sigh of relief after Atlantic City was defeated by Philadelphia last week. The Blackjack loss propelled the Brigade into the playoffs. Baltimore can still climb as high as the number 2 seed in the playoffs, so don’t expect the Brigade to take any games off heading into postseason play.  Having the higher seeding in the first round could be critical for the Brigade to advance to the Arena Bowl. 

Player to Watch: Defensive Back Josh Victorian, Baltimore. Victorian intercepted two passes in the matchup vs. Columbus two weeks ago. Victorian returned one of those two for a touchdown. With Valor QB Arvell Nelson struggling over the last few weeks, Victorian could have a big day in the secondary. Baltimore is second in the league with 13 interceptions. As mentioned earlier, Nelson is second in the league in interceptions thrown. 

Prediction: Baltimore wins a wild one, 56-52. 

Here are the staff picks for this week: