Tag Archives: Atlantic City Blackjacks

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%

AFL Week 11 Preview and Picks

The week one matchup saw Philadelphia defeat Atlantic City, 48-41. Photo: David Taylor

by: David Taylor

Week 11 only has one game, but it may just be the most important game of the season. Philadelphia travels to Atlantic City to take on the Blackjacks. The contest will determine the fate of Atlantic City, and willl heavily influence what Baltimore and Washington need to do the following weekend. 

Two of the hottest teams in the AFL square off in this weekend’s only matchup. With a win, Atlantic City keeps its slim playoff hopes alive. A loss will effectively end the season for the Blackjacks. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is playing for one of the top two seeds in the playoffs. 

Atlantic City has put up 131 points in its last two games (65.5 ppg) with backup quarterback Warren Smith, Jr. at the helm. Smith is 46-62 for 538 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two starts. Atlantic City is simply a different team with Smith at quarterback. Last week, the defense came up big as well, forcing 3 interceptions and recording one sack in the game. For the Blackjacks to win, the defense will have to step up and stop a Soul offense that was unstoppable against the best team in the league last weekend. 

Philadelphia has won three in a row and four out of five. The Soul have clinched a playoff spot but is hungry for more. Philadelphia still has an outside shot at the number one seed, as referenced here. The biggest change for the Soul over the last several weeks has been on defense. Over the last three weeks, Philadelphia has forced seven turnovers and eight turnovers on downs. The offense is also more consistent. Last weekend, Philadelphia scored on every offensive possession except the first one. The key to victory for the Soul will be to get some pressure on Warren Smith, Jr. In last week’s game against Albany, Philadelphia got a crucial third-quarter sack that changed the entire game. This game will likely be very high scoring, meaning that whichever defense can come up with a big play will win. 

Players to Watch:

QB Warren Smith, Jr., Atlantic City -Smith has set the league on fire in his two starts, so a big game from from him is what Atlantic will need to get the win.

DB James Romain, Philadelphia Soul– Romain is easily the defensive player of the year for the AFL. Romain leads the league with interceptions at 7. If Romain can step in front of a couple of Smith’s passes, it will be a long day for Atlantic City.

Color Wars:

Some other interesting things to consider: Atlantic City is 3-1 at home this season while Philadelphia is 2-2 on the road. Philadelphia has worn white on white over its last three games and is 3-0. Atlantic City typically wears all black at home and is 3-0 at home when they do so. As superstitious as athletes are, expect a monochrome matchup this weekend. 

Prediction: Blackjacks 64, Soul 61

Here are the staff picks: 

Stat Pack Attack: Dealer Dominate in Atlantic City

By Richard Martin

If you’ve been watching Arena Football for awhile, you understand that there have been plenty of high scoring games in the league’s history. Last week, I talked about the highest scoring game in AFL history, the bounty for video still holds strong by the way, and the Albany Empire and Atlantic City Blackjacks combined for 124 points.

This week, the Blackjacks continued their strong offensive output, dropping 70 points in the nation’s capital in a strong 70-21 win over the Washington Valor.

The last time an Arena Football team scored at least 60 points in back to back weeks was in 2017, when the Philadelphia Soul defeated the Cleveland Gladiators 69-67 on May 6 and then beat the Baltimore Brigade 61-56 on May 13.

The main reason for the fireworks in Atlantic City can be attributed to a Quarterback change. Randy Hippeard, a star AFL QB, had not quite performed up to his potential this season, with 1602 yards, 29 touchdowns and five interceptions so far. While this sounds, and still is, very impressive, Hippeard tossed 61 touchdowns last season in Baltimore.

Insert Warren Smith. Smith was on the Washington Valor’s roster for the past two seasons after playing for the Spokane Shock in 2015. He was mostly used as a backup, but still had a combined 15 touchdowns and 677 yards in two seasons.

After a rough week eight relief effort against Philadelphia, going 16-for-31 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, Smith has impressed the past two weeks going a combined 46-for-62, with 538 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception.

Warren Smith has brought some excitement into the AC, but more importantly, he’s gotten the Blackjacks back into playoff contention. With just two games left, the Blackjacks could shock the league and make a deep run in their first season.

Soul Train Comin’ Through

The Philadelphia Soul have been a stalwart in the Arena Football League for the past 10 seasons. With their 54-43 win over the first place Empire, the Soul clinched the playoffs for the eighth straight season, and now have an outside shot at first place.

Washington needs just one win to clinch a playoff bid, while Atlantic City and Baltimore are battling for the last spot. You can read more in David Taylor’s Playoff Scenarios.

Standings (As of June 29, 2019)

Team                                     Record   
Albany Empire                        8-2                 
Philadelphia Soul                  6-4
Baltimore Brigade                   6-4
Washington Valor                    5-5
————————————————-
Atlantic City BlackJacks          4-6
Z – Columbus Destroyers        1-9

Clinched Playoff Berth
Z = Eliminated from Playoff Contention

Week 10 Results:
Baltimore 50 Columbus 12
Philadelphia 54 Albany 43
Atlantic City 70 Washington 41

Can’t Sink This Battleship

It’s been a rough season for the Columbus Destroyers, especially for their offense.

The Destroyers rank last in the AFL in touchdowns, points, and have scored just 32 points per game, currently 15th worst all time in Arena Football League history.

Quarterback play has struggled as well, with Columbus ranking last in passing yards , passing touchdowns and have thrown the most picks, 16, and have been sacked the most, 25 times.

This week was another tough week for the Destroyers offense, as they would trail 21-12 at halftime in Baltimore. The offense wouldn’t score again, falling to the Brigade 50-12.

The funny thing is, Columbus finished with more yards of offense than Baltimore, with 200 compared to just 145 for the Brigade. However, the swarming Baltimore defense forced six turnovers, returning a fumble and an interception for a touchdown, and a safety. The Brigade also had four sacks and on special teams, Joe Powell returned a kickoff 57 yards to the house.

The 12 points scored by Columbus is the 8th least amount of points scored by an away team in AFL history.

The Brigade defense now leads the AFL in forced and recovered fumbles, sacks and tackles for loss. They also rank second in interceptions. The Brigade still have some work to get into the playoffs, but this defense could help them make a run to the ArenaBowl.

League Lookback: The Lone Shutout in AFL History

Teams have done worse on offense than the Destroyers did this week.

The Denver Dynamite beat the Detroit Drive 15-14 in 1989. The Sacramento Attack lost 51-3 to the Charlotte Rage in 1992. Recently, in 2014, the New Orleans VooDoo lost 54-13 to the Jacksonville Sharks.

But only one team has been shut out in the entire history of the Arena Football League.

On June 13, 1992, the San Antonio Force fell to the Orlando Predators 50-0 in Orlando, Florida. In an 2012 article by Richard Oliver on mysanantonio.com, David Caldwell, the first ever draft pick in San Antonio history, said that the Force had a “full-contact, two-hour practice a day before the game…got dressed, got on the plane and our legs were dead.

The team apparently left for Orlando at 4 am local time the day of the game, were stuck in Atlanta for a layover, and made it to the arena in time for a pregame meal. By the way, this was also an expansion team against a Predators squad that would go 9-1 and make the ArenaBowl.

The Predators would take a 33-0 lead at halftime and never look back.

The closest a team has been to being shut out in the modern area of Arena Football was in 2007 when the New York Dragons scored a touchdown with 11:38 left in the game to avoid a shut out in a 60-7 loss to the Dallas Desperados in Week One.

We’ll probably never see another shut out in AFL history, but it is interesting to look back at the lone shut out and how the game has changed.

Game of the Week: Philadelphia at Atlantic City

The Arena Football League must be going out of town for Independence Day, as there is just one game this week.

Philadelphia is set as they clinched their playoff spot with a huge win over Albany. Atlantic City has found themselves back in the playoff race with just two games left.

Dan Raudabaugh has gotten back in his groove, and Warren Smith has become an interesting story late in the season.

With the two cities just 61 miles away from each other, playoff spots on the line, and two phenomenal quarterbacks, the fireworks show could continue Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall.

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

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: