Tag Archives: Albany Empire

ArenaBowl 32 Preview and Predictions

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: 

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!

AFL Playoffs: Round 1 Recap

The road to the Arena Bowl has begun! Photo courtesy of Arenafootball.com

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.


James Romain returns one of his three interceptions.
Photo: arena_football_photos on instagram

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.

Tommy Grady was spectacular all season. His dominance continued in round one of the playoffs. Photo by: D. Taylor

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!

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:

AFL Week 13 Preview and Picks

By: David Taylor

It is the final weekend of the regular season! This will be the last weekend all six AFL teams take the field. It has been an exciting regular season, and this final weekend will keep that excitement high, as the final playoff seedings will be determined. The AFL released all the possible scenarios for the playoffs. Here is a link to that.  Now, here is a look at what is happening in this week’s games:

For Philadelphia, the stakes for this game are simple: Win and secure the two seed. Lose, and end up as the potentially the three seed. Philly would obviously prefer the two, and is red hot right now.  Albany finds itself with a chance to do some fine tuning for the playoff run, which could result in some players not playing the entire game. That is a bit of a nightmare from a fantasy standpoint, as many of the Empire players are huge contributors to many DraftKings lineups out there.

Player to Watch: WR Darius Prince, Philadelphia Soul. Prince has caught at least six passes in each of the last four games, scoring seven touchdowns. Philadelphia is 4-0 in those games. The Soul is playing its best football at just the right time, and Prince is a huge part of that. 

Prediction: Philly rolls into the playoffs on a five game winning streak. Soul 54, Empire 48

Washington has a chance to also be the number 2 seed in the playoffs, and they are facing a 1-10 Columbus team that lost its quarterback for the season. Grant Russell was injured early in the Albany game last weekend. Bad news for one team is usually good news for the other, and that is the case here for Washington. The Valor played very well last weekend against rival Baltimore, and will likely win this matchup against Columbus with relative ease, unless the backup QB is some kind of a ringer.

Player to Watch: WR Josh Reese, Washington Valor. Reese hauled in two touchdown passes and topped 100 yards last weekend. Quarterback Arvell Nelson spread the ball around a lot, but Reese was Nelson’s big play target. Expect another big game this weekend. 

Prediction: Valor 43, Destroyers 31

Injuries and suspensions have tainted the anticipation level of this matchup. Atlantic City will likely be starting third string quarterback EJ Nemeth this week. Add that to WR Joe Hills being suspended, and there is definitely some star power missing. This also makes this matchup difficult to predict. Still, a win for Baltimore puts them in the running for the three seed. 

Player to Watch: WR Brandon Collins, Baltimore Brigade. Collins became the first player in Brigade history to top 2,000 career receiving yards in last weekend’s matchup against Washington. With Hills suspended, look for Collins to receive the lion’s share of passes this weekend. 

Prediction: Brigade 42, Blackjacks 35

Here are the staff picks for this week: 

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