Marcelo Metzelar, Contributing Writer
For the 32nd time, the Arena Football League will host its championship game, Arena Bowl 32. AFL’s unique playoff format sees the Albany Empire face off against the Philadelphia Soul. Albany gets in by defeating the Baltimore Brigade by an aggregate score of 123-47. Philadelphia bested the Washington Valor 117-74. Arena Bowl 32 will have the top ranked Empire hosting the third ranked South on Sunday, August 11, at 8:00 pm.
Albany boasts a 10-2 regular season record vs Philadelphia’s 7-5 record. Both teams swept their playoff games. So, which team has the edge?
Matchup: Soul Offense vs Empire Defense
The Soul’s offense has scored 523 points for an average of 43.6 points per game. Albany has allowed 474 points for an average of 39.5 points per game. This pits the league’s third best scoring offense to the second best scoring defense. When it comes to yardage, Philadelphia ranks third to Albany’s fifth ranked defense. This suggests that Albany has a bend but don’t break mentality. Philadelphia also has the third best time of possession vs Albany’s fifth ranked time of possession. Bending but not breaking while the opponent sustains possession is a big advantage for Philadelphia because this will lead to Albany having less time and fewer opportunities to do something with the ball. Advantage: Philadelphia.
Matchup: Empire Offense vs Soul Defense
Albany has the top ranked scoring offense with 51.7 points per game. Philadelphia allows 44.2 points per game which good enough for third in the league. Albany also has the top ranked offense in yardage, while Philadelphia total defense ranks last in the league. Combined with the time of possession difference, Albany’s quick strike offense will be in footrace mode, which plays right into Albany’s hands. Advantage: Albany
Matchup: Special Teams
Both teams have a negligible margins of kick return yardage and field goals. Though Philadelphia went 2-4 on their field goals and Albany is 0-2. Sure, they both missed two field goals for the year, but if the game comes down to a field goal, Philadelphia has a leg up. Albany has a more tangible advantage on PATs. Albany is 80-83 with a 0.964 success rate while Philadelphia went 49-63 for a 0.778 success rate. This tells a greater story. Since football is a game of inches, and these single points can make a difference between being down one score or two scores, extra points can prove to be Philadelphia’s demise. Advantage: Albany.
Philadelphia is trying to be only the fifth team in Arena Football history to win four Arena Bowls. Albany will have their league-best 9000+ fans per game coming out in full force to celebrate their potential championship. Both teams are in the top half of the league in penalties committed, which will give us a very well played game. Albany also has a two game to one advantage over Philadelphia in the regular season, Philadelphia knows they can win, but so does Albany. Where Albany can pull away is with their turnover margin. Albany has a +11 in the turnover ratio, while Philadelphia’s +3. Combine the fan support and momentum swing that turnovers can bring, one can conclude: Advantage: Albany
Arena football is unpredictable. Who expected the Washington Valor to win Arena Bowl 31 after a two-win regular season? Even look at the IFL when the undefeated Arizona Rattlers lost to Sioux Falls. However, percentages work on “more often than not.” And if I were a gambling man, I’d bet on Albany.