Arena Football League: Week 3 Preview

by Corey Mansfield

2018 Arena Football League Guide

Albany Empire (0-1) @ Baltimore Brigade (1-1), April 28, 2018, 3pm, Royal Farms Arena
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The Empire haven't played in two weeks, so the team should ready to get back on the field and face the Baltimore Brigade. During that two week span, Albany made a major addition by adding All-Arena receiver Joe Hills. Hills led the AFL in receptions (129), yards (1353), and touchdowns (36) last season with the Tampa Bay Storm. This is significant for another reason as it reunites Hills with QB Tommy Grady.  The two were teammates with Jacksonville in 2015-2016 and combined for 100 touchdowns over that span. 

Tommy Grady could have a huge game for the Empire on Saturday (photo credit: Mike Pelletier
The Empire kept it close with Philadelphia for three quarters in the season opener, but two key interceptions hurt Albany down the stretch. Grady has had two weeks to prepare and become more comfortable with his receivers. Add that, with the addition of Hills, and it's shaping up for Grady to have a huge game. 

The Empire also must put emphasis on running the football with fullback Wes Mauia. Mauia had a nice 37-yard run for Albany in the first game (that one rush leads the league in rushing) of the season. While fullbacks aren't utilized as much in the arena game, I think Mauia's running ability can make Baltimore defensive backs concerned enough to become susceptible to the play action pass.

The Brigade are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Philadelphia 54-49 last week - after the Soul's Dwayne Hollis broke up a last second pass from Baltimore QB Randy Hippeard to WR Milton Williams in the end zone. The Brigade had the lead for the majority of the game before the Soul scored with 12 seconds left. 

One of the key plays in the game may have been when receiver Brandon Collins was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter for unsportsmanlike conduct. Prior to his ejection, Collins had caught two deep touchdowns (and was wide open on both touchdowns) and seemed to be Hippeard's new favorite target. Collins could pose potential problems for the Empire secondary if he breaks free. 

Baltimore's offensive line will need to do a better job blocking up front against the Empire. Last week they allowed two sacks to the Soul. Hippeard is an elite arena league quarterback and, if he's given time, he can make huge plays. 

Defensively, the Brigade will also need to step up in the red zone. They have allowed nine red zone touchdowns so far this season.  

Deciding Factor: Can the Brigade defend the Empire receivers?

Week 3, Who wins?

Albany Empire
Baltimore Brigade

Washington Valor (0-1) @ Philadelphia Soul (2-0), April 28, 2018, 7pm, Wells Fargo Center
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The beat goes on for the Philadelphia Soul, who have started the season 2-0 with wins against Baltimore and Albany. The Soul have the most explosive offense in the league. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh leads the league with 12 touchdowns while receivers Darius Reynolds (5) and Darius Prince (4) are number one and two in the league in receiving touchdowns. Reynolds has emerged as the "red zone guy", while Prince is the "deep ball guy." Throw in Shaun Kauleinamoku and you have one of the most dangerous trio of receivers in the league.

Dan Raudabaugh has been almost perfect for the Soul this season (photo credit: Mike Pelletier
The biggest contribution to the Soul's success may be their offensive line that has allowed zero sacks through the first two games of the season.  Philadelphia's offensive line is giving Raudabaugh time to pick apart defensive secondaries. 

The Washington offense can be just as explosive with 2016 league MVP Nick Davila at the helm. Davila threw for six touchdowns to four different receivers in the season opener against Baltimore. The Valor should have no problems putting up points against the Soul. 

The Valor defense will need to bring pressure on Raudabaugh and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. They can not allow him to get into a groove or otherwise, it will be a long day.

Deciding Factor: Can the Valor get pressure on Dan Raudabaugh?

Week 3, Who wins?

Washington Valor
Philadelphia Soul

Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl LII Champs

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