Category Archives: Philadelphia Soul

Deep Routes: A Weekly Dive Into the Statistics of the AFL

by Anthony Reinhard

Hi everyone! This will be my first weekly post where I’ll share some forecasts from my AFL Elo model and occasionally make a deep dive into some AFL data that I’ve collected.

Model Refresh

Albany was surprisingly upset last week on the road, but retains the top spot in my rankings. Philadelphia jumps to #2 after clinching a playoff spot. The Soul will try to keep their momentum flowing in the only game this week. They are a 4.5pt favorite over Atlantic City.

As far as the playoffs go, Baltimore is the only team that can clinch a playoff berth this week with an AC loss. A loss by the Blackjacks wouldn’t eliminate them, but my model has their odds dropping to around 1 in 400.

A Tale of Two Expansion Offenses

The Destroyers suffered a painful 38 point loss last Friday at Baltimore. This was the largest margin of victory since ArenaBowl XXX champ Philadelphia ran up a 70-21 win, also in Baltimore, during the 2017 season. Columbus scored twice in the second quarter, but was shutout in the second half. This was the first time a team has been held scoreless in a half this season and the 105th time in league history. The last instance came in Week 11 last year when the Valor failed to put up any second half points against the Soul.

It sadly gets worse for Columbus as they posted the 6th worst offensive performance since box scores became available in 2000. The Destroyers scored just 12 points on their 13 offensive possessions.

On the other side of the coin, Atlantic City had an offensive explosion in their win over Washington. They became the 15th team to post a 7.0 or better after scoring 63 offensive points on 9 drives behind new QB Warren Smith. In Week 3 of this year, Albany hung 50 offensive points on the Soul on only 7 possessions, the only team to exceed 7.0. Albany put their name on the list again two weeks ago.

Smith v. Hippeard

Warren Smith has now logged two successful starts as Blackjacks QB. Original starter Randy Hippeard has officially been “questionable” to play in both games since going down in Week 8 against Philadelphia. It seems to be an open question as to whether he will return and resume his duties as starter, but I thought it would be a good idea to compare where the players shake out by the numbers, both this year and last.

Hippeard played better last year and his larger sample size tends to give me more confidence he can deliver above-average production in the long-term. Smith’s solid play as of late should allow him to hold onto the job for the time being though.

Turnaround for the Blackjack Defense

Last week I tweeted that the Blackjacks would be in serious jeopardy if their defense did not pick up the slack after allowing a touchdown on 23 straight drives. My concerns were initially justified, as Washington scored on their first four drives on Saturday night. AC finally recorded a stop when they picked off an end-of-half Hail Mary from Arvell Nelson.

In the second half, a re-energized defense stopped the Valor on four of six drives to preserve a blowout 70-41 win. After the win, a certain Blackjack DB let me know that my doubt was misplaced.

Is the Commish Right?

That tweet from Northington wasn’t the only heat I caught on twitter last week. After expressing my disappointment to the AFL Tonight podcast team for not addressing a Columbus rumor during an interview with Commissioner Boe, I drew a reply a reply from the man himself. I was pleased with his answer, but I had another burning question from his interview.

Link to podcast —> http://www.arenafan.com/podcasts/randall_boe_interview.mp3

The podcast crew astutely inquired as to whether or not Commissioner Boe was concerned with the drop in scoring this season (about 1:20 to 4:05). The commish replied that the league’s focus moving forward was to shorten the real-time length of the game while still providing a high-octane product. Boe went on to assert that while points are down, points per minute of game time are up. I knew that possessions per game were down significantly so I thought I’d look into it.

My findings show that points per minute are actually down modestly this season. As Boe mentioned, he’s seen a substantial drop in game length. I personally am skeptical that making games shorter will drive engagement. I’m not sure that a two hour event is all that much more attractive than a three hour event in general.

Attendance has dropped again for the fourth straight year. The four non-expansion teams however have posted steady attendance numbers as a whole, so attendance is likely not a major concern moving toward next year.

The Race to Host ArenaBowl XXXII

Albany has not only been the best team since the start of the year, they’ve had huge lead in attendance and have clinched home field should they advance to the ArenaBowl. The next two spots have been locked in as well (to PHI and WAS, respectively), while AC has an 88% chance to host Baltimore in the unlikely event that the two meet in the ArenaBowl.

Odds of hosting ArenaBowl XXXIII:
Albany – 71.2%
Philly – 18.7%
DC – 9.8%
AC – 1 in 500
Baltimore – 1 in 3500

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2019 AFL Playoff Scenarios, Version 2.0

Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Photo by D. Taylor

by: David Taylor

After week 10, there are as many questions as there are answers for the 2019 Arena Football League Playoffs. Teams faltered. One team punched its ticket to the postseason, and a dark horse is rising in Atlantic City. According to the official AFL tiebreaker procedures, here is an updated look at the AFL playoff picture: 

Albany Empire: (8-2) 

Playoffs: Clinched. After being upset in Philadelphia over the weekend, Albany still is in control of its own destiny. The Empire is only one win away from clinching the number one seed in the playoffs. Albany has a bye week this weekend, giving head coach Rob Keefe an extra week to prepare for the 1-9 Columbus Destroyers. 

Upcoming Games:
7/14 @ Columbus Destroyers
7/20 vs. Philadelphia Soul

Philadelphia Soul (6-4)

Playoffs: Clinched. The Soul rose to the challenge over the weekend, defeating Albany convincingly at the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia suddenly has an outside shot at the number one seed in the playoffs. The Soul needs to win out and need for Albany to lose to Columbus to clinch the number one seed. 

Upcoming Games:
7/6 @ Atlantic City
7/20 @ Albany

Baltimore Brigade (6-4) 

Playoffs: Baltimore is so very close to the playoffs. An Atlantic City loss this weekend will put the Brigade in. However, Baltimore loses the tiebreaker to Atlantic in head-to-head, and loses the strength of schedule tiebreaker to Washington, so if the Brigade, Valor, and Blackjacks all end up with 6-6 records, Baltimore will be the odd team out.  With games against both Washington and Atlantic City coming up, Baltimore could end up as high as the two seed, or could find themselves out of the playoffs.

Upcoming Games: 
7/13 vs. Washington
7/21@ Atlantic City

Washington Valor (5-5)

Playoffs: Washington still needs just one win to get into the postseason. The loss to Atlantic City was an eye-opening one, as Arvell Nelson was picked off multiple times. The loss also gives Atlantic City the head to head advantage based on total points scored, but Washington holds the strength of schedule tiebreaker at the moment. Valor oponents are a combined 57-43, while Atlantic City opponents are 51-48. Adding in the records of opponents over the next two weeks, however, makes things very interesting. Washington and Atlantic City’s opponents (including the record of teams in the next two unplayed games) is identical, 64-56. 

Upcoming Games: 
7/13 @Baltimore
7/20 vs. Columbus

Atlantic City (4-6)

Playoffs: The Blackjacks put up huge numbers over the weekend, defeating Washington 70-41. Atlantic City can get into the playoffs in a few ways: One, win out. Finishing 6-6 and having Baltimore also finish 6-6 will get AC into the playoffs, due to Atlantic City owning the head to head tiebreaker advantage.  Two, Finish 5-7 and have Washington also finish 5-7, which will depend on how some other games go, but Atlantic City could get in based on an identical win loss record of opposing teams in the strength of schedule category. This would put the tiebreaker down to point differential in head to head games, which would give Atlantic City an edge over Washington. Three, win out, and have Washington finish 5-7. Atlantic City plays Philadelphia in the only scheduled game over the weekend, meaning all eyes will be on the Blackjacks this weekend. 

Upcoming Games:
7/6 vs. Philadelphia
7/21 vs. Baltimore

Columbus (1-9)

Columbus is eliminated, but can still affect the playoffs in a significant manner. However, the Destroyers put up only 12 points last weekend, which won’t beat anyone. Columbus has a bye week this weekend. The season finale vs. Washington is the game with the highest stakes. 

Upcoming Games:
7/14 vs. Albany
7/20 @ Washington

With only two games to go for each team, so much is still up for grabs. That is just one of the things that makes the AFL so special. Each game is must-watch television for Arena fans, so make sure to tune in on ESPN 3!

AFL Week 10 Preview and Picks!

By: David Taylor

Week 10 is here and things are heating up! The playoff teams could be set after this weekend, making making each game a must-win for one or both of the teams involved. Here is what is happening this week:

Albany comes into this contest on the heels of their highest scoring output this season. The Empire edged out Atlantic City 63-61. The Soul are also coming off of a big win, making this matchup even more interesting. If Philadelphia wins, the Soul clinch a playoff spot. If Albany wins, the Empire clinch the top seed in the playoffs. Much is at stake. In the previous matchup, Albany defeated Philadelphia at home, 57-48. In that matchup, WR Lonnie Outlaw recorded three touchdown receptions. Look for the Soul to target him again this weekend. 

Player to Watch: WR BJ Bunn, Philadelphia Soul. Bunn has stepped in nicely for the injured Aaron Wascha. Bunn’s reception totals have increased in each of the past three weeks, and he topped 100 yards receiving in the win against Columbus. 

Prediction: Albany wins in a shootout, 63-56. 

Well hello to Mr. Warren Smith, Jr.! Smith stepped in for an injured Randy Hippeard last week and lit up the Empire defense. Smith went 24-34 with 329 yards and 7 touchdowns. If he can match that output this weekend, Atlantic City will defeat Washington. Speaking of Washington, the Valor need just one more win to clinch a playoff spot. With the log jam in the middle for spots 2-4, Washington can ill afford to lose to Atlantic City. Playoff seeding is also on the line, and the Valor are eager to sew up that second place spot. It will be a close game, especially since a loss will effectively end the playoff chances for Atlantic City. Expect a high energy game with so much on the line. 

Player to Watch: QB Warren Smith, Jr. Atlantic City Blackjacks. Smith is the key to victory for Atlantic City. His incredible numbers last week make Atlantic City extremely unpredictable and dangerous for the rest of the season.  After leading Atlantic City to its highest point total of the season last weekend, against the best team in the league no less, it would be criminal to not let Smith start again this week.

Prediction: Atlantic City turns the tables on Washington. Blackjacks 56, Valor 55. 

Columbus has been eliminated from the playoffs, so the Destroyers get to play the role of spoiler for the rest of the season. Columbus plays Baltimore and Washington in two of the last three weeks. Wins over both of them would almost certainly impact the playoffs. A win for Baltimore sets up a nice playoff run for the Brigade. If Baltimore wins out, the Brigade will likely be the 2 seed in the playoffs. Needless to say, Baltimore is not looking past Columbus this weekend. 

Player to Watch: WR Brandon Collins, Baltimore Brigade. Everyone is well aware of the touchdown streak for Joe Hills, but Collins is the leading receiver for the Brigade. Collins leads the team in yards per catch and in total yards. He trails Hills only in touchdowns. 

Prediction: Columbus destroys the playoff party for Baltimore. Destroyers 44, Brigade 38. 

Here are the staff picks for this week: 

BattleStations Episode 18: One Game Seasons

Frank talks to Coach Sauk and previews the game against the Soul with AFLFanZone.com‘s David Taylor

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

Stat Pack Attack Week 8: The Empire Strikes Back

by David Taylor

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

AFL Week Eight Preview and Picks!

Week 7 was brutal from a picks standpoint. Hopefully week 8 will be a little more kind. Here is what is happening this week:

Philadelphia Soul Team Identity - Primary Logo

(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.

Prediction: Columbus 42, Brigade 41

Here are our staff picks for this week:

Stat Pack Attack: The Drought is Over!

It happened. It finally happened.

The Albany Empire lost a game.

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