Category Archives: Columbus Destroyers

BattleStations Episode 23: The Main Man

Frank sits down for an interview with Columbus Destroyers COO, Rich Witmeyer.

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

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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%

BattleStations Episode 21: And One To Go

We have our weekly chat with Coach Matt Sauk and discuss the upcoming announcement about Arena Football Expansion


Unfortinately, Episode 20 was missed last week. See below to catch up on it all

Episode 20: It’s Like Rain On Your Wedding Day

We have our weekly conversation with Columbus Destroyers Head Coach Matt Sauk and I rant about the season, bad 90’s songs and Hot Dog Wally.

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

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:

Deep Routes: Playoff Possibilities and WR Efficiency

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. In my second post, I’ll take a look at the playoff picture and show the leaders in targets so far this season.

Model Refresh

Baltimore will be headed to the playoffs after AC was knocked off at home by the Soul last week. The Valor are now a near lock to take the final playoff spot, as they will clinch this week with either a win against Baltimore or an Albany win against Columbus. I have Albany as a 15.5pt favorite and Washington as nearly a six point underdog on the road.

Playoff Matchups

With the playoff teams nearly set and only five total games left in the regular season, I thought I’d break down all four possible matchup combinations, from the least likely to the most likely based on my simulation. I’m going to mostly ignore seeding here, as the first round of the playoffs will be a pair of home & home games.

PHI/AC & ALB/BAL (0.6%)

This is Atlantic City’s only chance to crash the playoff party and they’ll need quite a bit of help. The Blackjacks are on a bye this week, but will need Columbus to pull off a big upset over Albany and Baltimore will have to beat Washington. If both Week 12 games work out for AC, they’ll still have a tough Week 13 slate. Obviously they’ll need a win over Baltimore, but before that they will also need Columbus to pull off a second consecutive upset (this time over the Valor) and Philly to earn another win over the Empire in the two Saturday games.

PHI/ALB & BAL/DC (2.9%)

In order to see a matchup of the league’s top two teams in round one, we’ll need the same Week 12 results as our first combination (Columbus & Baltimore both win). Week 13 would require another Soul upset over Albany and then an Atlantic City loss to Baltimore. Baltimore (8-4) would win the three-team tiebreaker over the Soul and Empire, vaulting them to the top seed and forcing the remaining two to play for the fourth and fifth times this season.

ALB/BAL & PHI/DC (31.2%)

There are a couple ways to end up with this set of matchups. The least likely involves the Soul snatching the top seed as Albany loses out and Washington and Baltimore both split their final two games.

The remaining possibilities here have the Empire as top seed and Washington scraping out the second or third seed. For that to happen, Washington must beat Baltimore this week. Washington will then need another win over Columbus or a Baltimore loss in Week 13, coupled with at least one Albany win in Week 12 or 13.

ALB/DC & PHI/BAL (65.3%)

The most likely combination of our four falls in line with the current standings and will hold just as long as Baltimore and Albany both win one of their last two and Washington loses one of their last two. This combination could be locked in as soon as this week with wins by Baltimore and Albany.

We could also see this setup if Albany drops their final two and either Washington wins out or Baltimore loses out. This would push the Soul to the top seed where they would face the Brigade.

Targets

One of the most useful fantasy football stats is targets. While the AFL does not aggregate these anywhere officially, they do exist in play-by-play logs. Here is what I found when I went digging:

One of the first things that jumped out to me is how Washington is using their receivers. Perhaps those who have watched more Valor games may already be aware of how much they favor Reggie Gray near the goal line. Gray has been in the league for nine years and has over 10,000 yards receiving, but I’m still a little surprised at how often they send it his way around the end zone at just 5’9/175 lbs. McNeil at 6’3 is a big target and leads the league in proportion of targets inside the 10.

Malachi Jones leads the league in catches, targets, and yards through the air, but has only 12 targets inside the 10 yard line on the season. Part of this is that Albany typically scores before they reach the 10 yard line. The Empire average just 4.2 passes inside the 10 per game, compared to AC who lead the league with 7.4 per game.

Jones is a big part of the Empire scoring early. His average touchdown catch this year is nearly 24 yards and he has already piled up 23 catches of 20+ yards. In Joe Hills’ 2016 season where he averaged 10/126/3.6, he hauled in only 28 such passes over 16 games. Jones skills as a deep threat are making him easily the league’s top wideout.