Arena Football League Preview: Arena Bowl XXXI

by Corey Mansfield, BBM Managing Editor
Arena Bowl XXXI, July 28, 2018, Baltimore, MD

Throw out the records...they don't matter. Two teams separated by 46 miles. One game. One Champion.  Are you ready?

The Baltimore Brigade and Washington Valor have both earned the right to be in this game. The Brigade dominated the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Soul winning both playoff games and winning the aggregate scoring 110-86. The Valor on-the-other-hand pulled off arguably the biggest upset in AFL history, stunning the top-seeded Albany Empire in Albany 47-40 to advance with an aggregate score of 113-107.

These teams will be meeting for the fifth time this season with Baltimore winning three of those four games. However, the Valor defeated the Brigade in the last game of the regular season 42-35.

Washington is 2-1 in it's last three games, with their only loss coming in Game 1 of their series with Albany in Overtime. The Valor have found their stride of late with Arvell Nelson at quarterback. Nelson has scored 20 total touchdowns (16 passing and 4 rushing) in the last three games. Reggie Gray and Josh Reese have provided a deep threat for the Valor while Doug McNeil has been a force in the redzone including three touchdowns against Albany last week. McNeil started the season with Albany before heading to Baltimore and eventually ending up in Washington.

The Valor are looking to pull off another major upset (photo credit: Corey Mansfield)
Early on in the season Baltimore appeared to be favorite to win the Arena Bowl. However, they struggled at the end of the season losing their final three games and limped into the playoffs.  Across the board the Brigade are the most balanced team in the league. Randy Hippeard spreads the ball around to all his receivers and can create nightmares for opposing secondaries. Last season, Hippeard fell short of winning the Arena Bowl with Tampa Bay, so there has to be a chip on his shoulder to win it this time around.

Can the Brigade bring a championship to the Charm City? (photo credit: Corey Mansfield)
Deciding Factor: Turnovers. This is going to very close game and if either team turns the ball over it could be devastating. Arvell Nelson has been turnover prone at points this season but has cleaned it up over the last few weeks. Baltimore on the other hand takes care of the ball extremely well but during their three game losing streak at the end of the season turned the ball over twice...both of which were costly in losses.

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