Last Updated: 2018-07-28
Thankfully the Arena Football League season comes to an end tonight, as the Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade meet in Arena Bowl XXXI in Baltimore, although neither team will really have much of a home field advantage. Both teams are owned by Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which also owns and operates the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
The AFL has been a beast when it comes to handicapping, as evidenced that Washington, a team that won just twice during the regular season, knocked off top-ranked Albany in the playoffs to advance here. Baltimore is favored by 11.5 and the total is 97.5.
The Valor lost their first seven games of the season before getting their first win and their second win came four weeks later when they knocked off this same Baltimore team. Three of the four games between the two during the regular season were decided by a touchdown or less, while the Brigade thumped Washington 72-42 in the other. The Valor had three turnovers and 10 penalties in that game, which was 31-21 at halftime before the Valor imploded in the second half.
Arvell Nelson did a decent job for Washington since taking over midway through the season at quarterback and can make some plays, which the Valor will need to stay in this one against a better team. He threw 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions in six games and was also the second-leading rusher in the league with 127 yards and he added six TDs on the ground. In the two playoff games, he threw 11 TDs and was picked once.
Baltimore quarterback Randy Hippeard threw for 61 touchdowns on the season and five interceptions, while adding five rushing TDS himself and he threw 13 TDs and one interception in the playoffs.
The Brigade are better defensively and even though they score more points than the Valor, Washington gains more yards and those numbers are a little better after Nelson took over at quarterback.
Baltimore is the better team and were 7-5 on the season, which sounds a lot better than 2-10 Washington, but the Valor are playing their best football season of the season right now, beginning with the upset of Baltimore to end the regular season when home field advantage was still on the line. Will go ahead and take the points in this one, although it will be a small play, as Nelson gives the Valor backdoor cover potential and as long as they keep it relatively close in the early going, won’t really be out of it at the end.
END JULY 28 PICKS
A bit of a struggle this season in the AFL, as we certainly did better in our short venture into the Indoor Football League and may stick to that league in future seasons, as there are more teams, meaning more games and the same teams aren’t playing each other every other week.
But for Friday, we have a case of the same teams meeting for the second straight week, as we’ve arrived at the unique animal known as the Arena Football League playoffs. The Philadelphia Soul travel to Baltimore to face the Brigade and Baltimore is favored by 4 with a total of 99. The Brigade can lose by 11 points and still advance to the Arena Bowl on the basis of last week’s 57-45 victory in Philadelphia, while the Soul can also advance with a 13-point or greater victory.
Baltimore jumped out to a 27-0 lead last week, using an interception and a kickoff that hit the crossbar as two key plays to build the lead and the Soul charged back in the fourth quarter with the last two touchdowns of the game to at least make this one a contest where both teams have to play and the Brigade can’t sit on the ball and try to work on the clock from the opening kickoff. It will be interesting down the stretch to see how the two teams play depending on the score.
There were 49 points scored in the fourth quarter of last week’s game, as the Soul were forced to attempt several onsides kicks, a couple of which they recovered and one that the Brigade covered on the Philadelphia 10. While you might look at that and think the under is the way to go here, it could be more of the same in the fourth quarter, with the Soul having to attempt onsides kicks even if they have the lead in the game due to the 12-point loss to begin things. If Philadelphia wins by 12 the teams will go to overtime.
It’s unlikely the Soul will be held to a single touchdown in the first half tonight as they were last week, but also might be asking for too much to expect another huge fourth quarter in terms of scoring, especially if the Brigade are leading or are trailing by a couple of points. The Soul did show some life last week coming back to make the final score a lot closer, so it’s hard to count them out.
I made this one 53-48 for Baltimore but it’s hard to lay the points, knowing a 10-point loss is just as good for the Brigade as a victory in terms of advancing, so will go ahead and take the over, knowing the Soul will be trying to force the issue and play a faster paced game right from the start.
-END OF JULY 20 PICKS-
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