By: David Taylor
It’s here! After a twelve-game regular season and a two-round aggregate, the matchup is set for ArenaBowl 32. The Albany Empire will host the Philadelphia Soul on August 11, 2019, at 8 pm on ESPN 2. Both teams cruised through the aggregate round, although Philadelphia got much more of a challenge from Washington than Albany did from Baltimore. Here is what to expect from this championship showdown.
The Empire and the Soul are undoubtedly the two best teams in the AFL right now. Philadelphia struggled early in the season, costing the Soul the #2 seed in the playoffs. However, over the last seven games, Philadelphia is 6-1. The only loss came to Albany in the final game of the regular season. Albany is also 6-1 over the previous seven games, with the Empire’s only loss coming to Philadelphia in week 10. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Albany Empire Players to Watch:
- QB Tommy Grady- AFL MVP
- WR Malachi Jones- Wide Receiver of the Year. Offensive Player of the Year
- DL Joe Sykes- Defensive Lineman of the Year
- K Adrian Trevino- Kicker of the Year
- OL Ryan Cave- Offensive Lineman of the Year
- FB Mikey Benson- AFL First Team
- WR Quentin Sims- AFL First Team
- OL Jordan Mudge- AFL First Team
Look at all those honors! Albany has had an exceptional season. The Empire can score at any given moment through multiple players. Albany’s prolific offense is nearly impossible to stop.
Albany wins if: the Empire protect Tommy Grady and commit no turnovers. In the loss to Philadelphia, Albany was sacked twice and Grady was picked off once. If Albany keeps the pocket clean and avoids the sticky fingers of James Romain and the Philadelphia secondary, the Empire will be bringing the ArenaBowl title home for the first time in twenty years.
Philadelphia Soul Players to Watch:
- WR Darius Prince- AFL First Team
- OL Neal Tivis- AFL First Team
- DB James Romain- Defensive Back of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year
Less lauded than Albany, Philadelphia still boasts loads of talent on offense and defense. Head coach Clint Dolezel was recently announced as the AFL coach of the year as well. Dolezel will be coaching in his third ArenaBowl as the Soul head coach. He is 2-0 in the previous outings. This experience could be what Philadelphia needs to pull off the upset this weekend.
Philadelphia wins if: The Soul will pull of the upset if a couple of things happen. One: James Romain picks off a minimum of two passes. Two: Someone on offense besides Darius Prince steps up. Wide Receiver Lonnie Outlaw has had great success against Albany this season. In three games against Albany, Outlaw recorded five receiving touchdowns. Getting Aaron Wascha back, as well as putting Darius Reynolds on offense again has made the Soul offense much more potent. Philly wins if one of these receivers rises to the occasion.
The Pick: Albany Empire 58, Philadelphia Soul 53
Here are our final staff picks of the season:
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!
By: David Taylor
After two blow-out playoff games, it appears that the matchup Arena Bowl 32 is set. The Philadelphia Soul and the Albany Empire will more than likely be squaring off. Philadelphia will be looking for its third Arena Bowl championship, while Albany will be looking for its first-ever Arena Bowl championship as the Empire. (Albany previously won a title as the Firebirds in 1999.) Previously in the year, Philadelphia and Albany played three times with Albany winning two out of three. The last time these two teams played, Albany destroyed Philadelphia by a score of 72 to 27. Once the game got out of hand, it was clear that Philadelphia was no longer playing to win, which may explain the lopsided score.
Albany and Philadelphia still have to get through the second round of the aggregate scoring series for the playoffs, but both teams will be heading into next weekend with a +30 point margin. This margin means that Albany and Philadelphia will have to lose by more than 30 points next weekend to not advance to Arena Bowl 32. Albany seems to feel pretty good about its chances since ticket sales for the Arena Bowl have already been announced on the Empire’s social media sites. Arena Bowl 32 will be held at the higher seed, which will be Albany if the Empire can hold onto a 35 point cushion. Albany defeated Baltimore 61 to 26. Philadelphia defeated Washington 69 to 33. Next week, Albany and Philadelphia will look to finish off Baltimore and Washington.
The Soul surprised a lot of people by putting Darius Reynolds back on offense this week. The Reynolds move proved to be extremely useful as Reynolds scored three touchdowns in his return to the WR position. Defensive back James Romain shined as well, as he intercepted three passes, including the last desperation heave of the game to put an exclamation point on the victory for Philadelphia. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh was equally impressive. The Soul signal-caller finished 17-23 for 284 yards and six touchdowns. Two early passes were dropped as well, meaning Raudabagh could have had even better numbers. He played at an MVP level in this game.
Albany dominated Baltimore from basically start to finish. The only exception was a kick off return for a touchdown by Joe Powell at the beginning of the game. Unfortunately for Baltimore, this is one of the few things that went right in the first half. Albany Empire quarterback Tommy Grady was sensational in the game, spreading the ball around everywhere. Grady’s favorite target was Quentin Sims. Sims caught five touchdown passes to lead the Empire to victory. This victory, coupled with a disastrous loss for Washington, likely settled the MVP debate for this season. The other leading contender to Tommy Grady for MVP was Arvell Nelson, quarterback of the Washington Valor. Nelson struggled mightily against the Soul, turning over the ball four times. The Most Valuable Player for the league this year will more than likely be Tommy Grady.
Albany and Philadelphia are playing their best football of the season right now. If these are the two teams that will participate in Arena Bowl 32, fans are in for a treat. August 11 is coming soon, and a new champion will be crowned!