Arena Football League Preview: Playoffs Week 1

by Corey Mansfield

Forget the regular season, it's over with. It's playoff time! A new season where legends will be made and one team will crowned champions. Each one of these teams has a 25% of winning the Arena Bowl. Who wants it more? Who's going to lay it all on the line become world champs?

The Soul start their quest for a 3-peat (photo credit: Corey Mansfield)

Albany Empire (8-4) at Washington Valor (2-10), July 14, 2018, 7pm,  Capital One Arena, Washington, DC

The Albany Empire are coming off their biggest win in their young history, a 71-57 over two-time defending champions the Philadelphia Soul, while Washington is coming off a stunning 42-35 win over the Baltimore Brigade.

The Empire dominated the season series between these two teams winning all four games the played.

The Albany high-powered offense has been firing on all cylinders against the Valor this season. The duo of Joe Hills and Malachi Jones has accounted for 62 receiving touchdowns this season, with 19 of those coming agains the Valor. If the Valor have any hope winning then they'll need to slow down Hills and Jones.

Defensively, the Empire have dominated the Valor all season. Albany is winning the turnover over battle 9-4 and has out-sacked the Valor 10-2 on the season. Joe Sykes has been beast against the Valor accounting for fives of those sacks.

While the season series has been pretty lopsided in the favor of the Empire, the Valor did jump out to an early 14-0 in their last meeting in Week 12. However, an Arvell Nelson fumble turned the tide of the game and Albany eventually pulled away for the win.

Deciding Factors:
Washington - Arvell Nelson has given the Valor offense a huge spark but he needs to cut down on the turnovers if they hope to upset the Empire.

Albany - The Empire need to show up and allow this to be a "trap game." Yes, they are #1 seed but they can't get complacent. Go out there and take care of business.

Baltimore Brigade (7-5) at Philadelphia Soul (7-5), July 15, 2018, 6pm, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

These are two evenly matched teams who who split their season series. Both are coming off huge losses a week ago and hope to get back on track this week.

Philadelphia is starting to look like the two-time defending AFL champion and are getting healthy. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh returned two weeks ago from an injury and has thrown 14 touchdowns in two games. It was also announced earlier today that Shaun Kauleinamoku was activated off injured reserve. When the the Soul are healthy they are arguably the best offense in the league. However, we haven't seen a healthy Soul team in a long time. Is there a better group of receivers in the league than Darius Prince, Darius Reynolds, and Aaron Wascha?

Baltimore's offense is also pretty good too. Randy Hippeard is the reigning league MVP and there is no one better in the league at spreading the ball around to this receivers. The Brigade's biggest weakness may be their defensive line which has only accounted for 3 sacks on the season. Their inability to get after the quarterback has "hung their secondary out to dry."

Deciding Factors:
Philadelphia - Spread the ball around to your big three receivers and wear down the Baltimore secondary. Then take your shots down the field. This should be a great matchup between some the best receivers in the league and one of the best secondaries in the league.

Baltimore - The Brigade defensive front has to get after Dan Raudabaugh and not allow him to pick their defense apart. If he has time in the pocket then it's going to be long day for the Brigade.

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