Football is a game where you have to have a short memory. If you dwell too much on past mistakes, (a loss, an interception, a dropped pass), or get too comfortable during a win streak, teams can get stuck in a hole they can’t crawl out of.
The Albany Empire looked like they were in too deep after the first 33:32 of their game against the Washington Valor. The Valor had a chance to break the game, and the league, wide open, before back to back fumbles lead to the lead being cut to just six points headed to the fourth.
With the ball on the Empire four yard line, and a one possession lead, the Valor chose not to go for the field goal and go for the touchdown, leading to an interception and giving Tommy Grady and Albany the ball back with 1:04 left.
The Empire would score with 12 seconds left, thanks to an amazing pass from Grady to Quentin Sims on fourth down. An Empire pick would end the game, and give Albany the 56-55 win.
Albany scored 42 points in the second half, the most since July 7, 2018 when the Philadelphia Soul scored 43 points in a 71-57 loss to, strangely enough, the Albany Empire.
Unfortunately for the Valor, they go down in the record books as the team who blew the third largest lead in AFL history, as they lead by 27 points at one point in the game. The largest blown deficit was when the Pittsburgh Power overcame a 31 point deficit to knock of the Orlando Predators in 2012.
With the win, Albany becomes the first team to clinch one of the four AFL playoff spots. The Baltimore Brigade sit two games back in second and are the AFL’s hottest team after two huge wins over Albany and Columbus. The Valor and Soul are currently just a game back, both 4-4, while Atlantic City is just one spot out of the playoffs at 3-5. Columbus sits in last place at 1-7 but with four games left in the regular season, the Destroyers still have an outside chance
Standings (As of June 16, 2019)
Team Record Albany Empire 7-1 Baltimore Brigade 5-3 Washington Valor 4-4 Philadelphia Soul 4-4 ————————————————- Atlantic City Blackjacks 3-5 Columbus Destroyers 1-7
Bold = Clinched Playoff Berth
Week Eight Results: Baltimore 44 Columbus 39 Albany 56 Washington 55 Philadelphia 54 Atlantic City 29
Joe Hills Makes History
In what would’ve been the lead story this weekend in the AFL if it wasn’t for the Empire’s epic come back, Joe Hills made not just AFL history, but football history.
With 3:23 left in the first quarter in Columbus, Hills caught an 11 yard pass from Shane Boyd, giving him his 100th straight game with a touchdown reception.
Hills had already broken the league record when he played for the Tampa Bay Storm, catching a pass in his 79th straight game in 2017 against, oddly enough, the Baltimore Brigade.
To truly appreciate Hills record, the NFL record for most consecutive games with a touchdown reception is 13 by hall of famer Jerry Rice.
Joe Hills doesn’t look to be done this season. He’s tied for third in the AFL with 17 touchdown receptions, and now ranks eighth all time with 276 receiving touchdowns.
League Lookback: The Largest Come Back In AFL History
On April 14, 2012, the Pittsburgh Power took on the Orlando Predators in an early season clash. The Predators were sitting at 0-4, looking for their first win.
And for 38:25 of game time, it looked like they would, as the Preds would pull away for a 48-17 lead.
The Power would go on a 34-3 run, including a touchdown catch by Randy Hymes with 37 seconds left to tied the game at 51.
In overtime, Orlando would get another field goal, but Christian Wise would catch his only pass of the game, a 19 yard reception for the game winning touchdown for the Pittsburgh Power in the largest come from behind win in AFL history.
The loss would give the Predators their first ever 0-5 start in team history. Orlando would finish 4-14, while Pittsburgh would finish 5-13 with two wins over the Predators.
Game of the Week: Baltimore at Washington
I’m going to bookend this week’s Stat Pack with how I started, you have to have a short memory in football.
Washington will need a short memory to rebound this week after such a heartbreaking loss. Baltimore will need a short memory to continue their winning streak.
The key payer this week is the Valor QB Arvell Nelson. Nelson went 23-for-34 with 262 yards and six touchdowns but threw two interceptions in the last two minutes of the game.
He’ll be facing a tough Brigade defense that tallied four sacks last week against Columbus. Darryl-Cato Bishop has made a case for Defensive Player of the Year this season, as the former NC State Wolfpack defender has four sacks, four and a half tackles for loss and has forced two fumbles.
Dezmon Epps will need to be a factor as he had four receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown last week.
This Week’s Games
June 20, 2019 Baltimore Brigade (5-3) @ Washington Valor (4-4) — 7:00 PM
June 22, 2019 Atlantic City BlackJacks (3-5) @ Albany Empire (7-1) — 3:30 PM Philadelphia Soul (4-4) @ Columbus Destroyers (1-7) — 7:00 PM
Week 7 was brutal from a picks standpoint. Hopefully week 8 will be a little more kind. Here is what is happening this week:
(3-4) Atlantic City Blackjacks vs. Philadelphia Soul (3-4)
Neither Atlantic City nor Philadelphia expected to be coming into this matchup at 3-4, but that is how week 7 turned out for them. Atlantic City lost to Columbus, giving the Destoyers their first win of the season. Philadelphia lost to Washington, losing the head to head tiebreaker against the Valor. This weekend’s game will likely determine which of these two teams makes the playoffs. Neither team can afford to drop to two games under .500, so this one will be a slugfest.
Player to Watch: WR Lamark Brown, Atlantic City. Brown was the Draft Kings Fantasy Football Player of the Week for his 12 reception, 150 yard, and 5 touchdown game against Columbus. Look for Brown to exploit the Philadelphia secondary this week, as injuries along the defensive line have placed an extra burden on the Soul defensive backs.
Prediction: Soul 47, Blackjacks 44
(6-1) Albany Empire vs. Washington Valor (4-3)
The Empire fell! Albany lost 42-41 over the weekend to Baltimore. The Empire was assessed a celebration penalty prior to the game-tying extra point, which led to a rare miss by kicker Adrian Trevino. Meanwhile, Washington got a statement victory against Philadelphia over the weekend. A Valor win over the Empire would put the teams just one game apart in the standings. Suddenly, Albany is no longer looking like the team that will run away from the rest of the league. The winner of this game will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Player to Watch: Quarterback Arvell Nelson, Washington Valor. Nelson is the leading fantasy football player in the AFL this season. He looks better and better each week and will be extra motivated this week as the Valor and Empire rivalry is the best one on the league right now.
Prediction: Empire 48, Valor 44
(4-3) Baltimore Brigade vs. Columbus Destroyers (1-6)
Baltimore just beat the best team in the league. Now, they face the worst team in the league. Baltimore has been remarkably steady this year, alternating wins and losses. This is the week for the Brigade to end up in the L column again. Columbus, on the other had, finally found their way into the win column last week. The Destroyers will more than likely have to win out to make the playoffs, so look for a sense of urgency for Columbus.
Player to Watch: WR Keyattus Cook, Columbus Destroyers. Cook was activated from injured reserve just prior to last week’s game and made an instant impact, catching 3 passes for 59 yards and 2 touchdowns.
While that was shocking, the biggest storyline may have happened on Friday when the Columbus Destroyers won their first game of the season, a 54-50 win over the Atlantic City Blackjacks.
Fun fact, the game winning touchdown was scored by Kenny Cook who graduated from Gardner-Webb University. While this is also the school I graduated from, Sko Dawgs, but almost a week to the day of the Destroyers first win in 11 years, Harold Wells, a former GWU Runnin’ Bulldog himself and the Destroyers all time leader in rushing touchdowns, was inducted into the Big South Hall of Fame.
The Destroyers may not win the ArenaBowl their first year back, the team is able to hold their heads up high and know they gave the city of Columbus a huge boost.
Week Seven Results:
Columbus 54 Atlantic City 50 Baltimore 42 Albany 41 Washington 48 Philadelphia 41
Arvell for MVP?
As everyone knows, MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. For years, I’ve held the belief that the MVP award should go to the player that, is the most valuable to their team. The player that, if you took them off the roster completely, the team would change completely in the wrong direction.
This year, that player has to be Arvell Nelson of the Washington Valor. Nelson has been on fire this season, throwing for 1814 yards and 32 touchdowns. And while those numbers don’t compare to guys like Tommy Grady or Dan Raudabaugh, Nelson has been able to get it done with his legs, leading the AFL with 144 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Valor may not be the best team in the league, but Nelson has proved that he is the most valuable player to his team.
Fabian Is For Real
Fabian Guerra has been a force to be reckoned with in the special teams department. He showed off his skills against Atlantic City early this week, taking the opening kickoff 57 yards to the end zone, his third kickoff return touchdown of the season.
Guerra also has 488 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, along with a rushing touchdown.
Guerra may gave been an afterthought to some after the shutdown of the AAF, but he is making his case for rookie of the year
League Lookback: Columbus Destroyers last win
In a new section, we’re going to throw it back to some old school Arena Football League games. This week, we’re going to look back at the Columbus Destroyers last win before Friday, a 43-41 win over the New York Dragons.
While the Destroyers won just three games all season, this one was huge as the Dragons made it to the second round of the playoffs that season, falling to eventual ArenaBowl champs Philadelphia 49-48.
This game was a QB shootout, as Aaron Garcia would go 30-for-40 for 295 yards and six touchdowns for New York. Current Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy would go 19-for-32 for 269 yards and four touchdowns.
CJ Johnson would be named Offensive Player of the Game with nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns
The Dragons would take a 35-30 lead into the half, but a rushing score by Nagy and then a 40 yard reception by Calvin Russell would give the Destroyers a 43-35 lead.
Garcia would lead a last second touchdown drive, but the two point conversion would fail, and Columbus would hold on to knock off New York, 43-41.
Game of the Week: Albany at Washington
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
At the halfway part of the season, the Albany Empire were 6-0. Tommy Grady and Malachi Jones were rolling.
Last week, Grady was still on top of his game, going 17-of-24 for 284 yards and six touchdowns. Unfortunately, Grady also threw two interceptions, but luckily only one of them lead to points.
While Grady and Jones did hook up for a late touchdown, the extra point was missed by Adrian Trevino. This was the fifth missed extra point by the Empire this season and Albany hasn’t made a single field goal this year.
This could be a trap game for Albany, as the Valor have given them trouble all year long, with the Empire pulling out nine and 10 point wins with late scores.
If the Empire can reload and move on from the loss, then they should stay the top dog in the AFL. But if they drop a second straight game, look for the Valor or another team to try to claim the yard.
This Week’s Games
June 15, 2019 Baltimore Brigade (4-3) @ Columbus Destroyers (1-6) — 3:30 PM Albany Empire (6-1) @ Washington Valor (4-3) — 7:00 PM
June 16, 2019 Atlantic City BlackJacks (3-4) @ Philadelphia Soul (3-4) — 4:00 PM
Stuck in the Middle With You is the theme song for the majority of the AFL as week 7 approaches. As five teams battle for four playoff spots, getting the fourth win of the year and an advantage in the end of year tiebreakers will be critical. Here is a look at what is coming up this week:
(3-3) Atlantic City Blackjacks vs. Columbus Destroyers (0-6)
Atlantic City has beaten two teams this season: Baltimore and Columbus. The Blackjacks have an opportunity to pick up another win against Columbus this weekend, as the Destroyers are still looking for that ever elusive first win. On defense, Columbus has been pretty good this season, holding undefeated Albany to under 40 points in week one, and Washing to under 30 in week 5. The problems for Columbus have been on offense. The Destroyers have scored 40 points only once all season and have been held to below 30 twice. For Atlantic City, the key to victory is ball security. The Blackjacks have won the turnover battle in two of three victories and lost it in three defeats.
PlayerstoWatch: Kendrick Ings and Fabian Guerra. Both Ings and Guerra have returned at least one kick for a touchdown this season. It will be interesting to see if the return game can tip the scales one way or another.
Prediction: Blackjacks 41, Destroyers 36
(3-3) Washington Valor vs. Philadelphia Soul (3-3)
This is the key matchup of the weekend, as the head-to-head tiebreaker is up for grabs. Washington defeated Philadelphia 53-46 in a previous encounter this season. This means that Philly must pick up a win, or the Soul could find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. Philly wins by winning the turnover battle. Otherwise, there will be too much Arvell Nelson for the Soul to contain. The Valor quarterback is lighting up the league this season, leading in both rushing and passing yards.
PlayertoWatch: Arvell Nelson, quarterback, Washington Valor. Nelson’s ability to improvise with his legs has made him a challenge to defend this season. It has also made him a fantasy football must-play.
Prediction: Valor 43, Soul 42
(3-3) Baltimore Brigade vs. Albany Empire (6-0)
On paper, this is Baltimore’s scheduled weekend to win, since the Brigade continue to alternate wins and losses this season. Unfortunately for Baltimore, games are not played on paper. This week Baltimore travels to face the undefeated Albany Empire. Albany has shown little weaknesses all season, but some sloppy play in last week’s game showed up late in the third and fourth quarter. Has complacency begun to creep in? Is this the weekend the Empire falls? Doubtful. Albany has scored over 50 points in the last four straight games. The aforementioned sloppy play occurred with a nearly 30 point lead, so there was plenty of room for error.
PlayertoWatch: Malachi Jones, wide receiver, Albany Empire. Enjoy watching him while he is in the league. Jones is such a big play threat that he is garnering the attention of NFL teams.
Prediction: Empire 51, Brigade 36
Here is how the games will go, according to our experts: