WEEK 8 GAME PREVIEW - EMPIRE VS BRIGADE
Riding a four-game win streak, the Albany Empire matchup against the first place Baltimore Brigade at home on Saturday, June 2 at 7:00 p.m. at the Times Union Center. The Empire will look to win their fifth consecutive game as they face a surging first place Baltimore team who leads Albany in the standings by one game. The game will be broadcast live on Facebook.com/AFLWatch and on Alt 105.7 fm.
“The motto every day for this team is to finish each week 1-0,” said Rob Keefe, Head Coach of the Albany Empire. “Baltimore has been consistent all year long, but they will be facing a different Empire team than they saw back in Week 3. Our crowd has been incredible so far this season and we need them to continue to be our ninth man to show Baltimore why no opponent wants to play against us in the Times Union Center.”
The two teams met back in Week 3 following a bye week for the Empire. It was the second game of Albany’s inaugural season and was a back and forth affair the entire game. Empire quarterback Tommy Grady tossed six touchdowns in the effort, but Albany ultimately came up short losing 52-49 in the Royal Farms Arena. Since that loss in Baltimore, the Empire have won every game and have begun to gel, making them one of the toughest teams in the league.
The first matchup to look out for is between Baltimore quarterback Randy Hippeard and the Empire backfield. The Empire defense leads the league in nearly every defensive stat category while Hippeard leads a Brigade offense that tops the league in scoring. In the first meeting, Hippeard threw for seven touchdowns as Albany’s backfield just could not stop the veteran quarterback. Hippeard currently leads the league in passing yards and pass attempts, so look for him to air it out and continue to take shots down the field. Hippeard spreads the ball around to all his targets, having four receivers on the team with at least 20 catches on the season.
The key to victory in this matchup is for the Empire to mix up coverages and try to confuse Hippeard prior to the snap. Jack linebacker Terence Moore will be busy in this one as he blankets the middle of the field and calls the shots for the Empire backfield. Moore has an interception in two consecutive weeks, including one that he ran back for a touchdown against the Valor. The backfield is good enough to contain the Brigade receivers on each snap, however Baltimore has enough weapons to get the ball to if others are covered. Moore has created both of his interceptions this season by disguising his coverage and being in a spot that was unexpected. Look for Moore to continue to anticipate where Hippeard will go with the ball and beat him to the spot to break up a pass or possibly force a turnover.
The next matchup to look out for is between the Empire defensive line against the Brigade offensive line. Though Hippeard likes to get the ball out quickly, he is content to sit in the pocket and wait for a play to develop down field. In the Week 3 matchup in Baltimore, Albany recorded two sacks on Hippeard, but kept the quarterback under duress all game long. The Brigade offensive front has been a weakness all year long, surrendering 12 sacks already this season. Albany’s defensive front leads the league in sacks with nine and expect to add a few more this weekend against Baltimore. Led by Joe Sykes who has a league high six sacks to his name, this defensive line is relentless and seemingly always in the face of the opposing quarterback. If the Empire backfield can maintain their coverages, expect the defensive line to hit home multiple times in this one. Hippeard will be pressured all game long so look for quick routes from Baltimore receivers to get the ball out of his hands early and give the ball to his playmakers. With this in mind, Albany will be content to be less aggressive and sit back to attempt to bat down Hippeard’s short throws. If Albany can force Baltimore into long third and fourth down situations, that will increase the chances of getting a sack or even forcing a turnover.
The last matchup to look out for is between Tommy Grady and the Brigade defensive backfield. The Baltimore defensive front doesn’t produce many sacks so that will leave Grady with plenty of time in the pocket to locate his targets. In the first matchup between the two teams, Grady torched the Brigade by throwing for 253 yards and six touchdowns. Look for much of the same as Grady takes his time to scan the field and find the open man. Expect the Empire to mix in a lot of plays deep down the field for big scoring plays. So far on the season, Grady tops the league in passing touchdowns with 34. Don’t be surprised to see the Empire gunslinger pass the 40-touchdown mark once this game is all said and done with.
The key to victory in this matchup is for Grady to continue to feed the ball to his top targets; Joe Hills and Malachi Jones. On the season, the two receivers have combined for 23 receiving touchdowns and have been unstoppable as they are the top two wideouts in the league in the category. Despite losing the Week 3 matchup, Hills and Jones combined for a whopping 19 catches for 217 yards and five touchdowns on the night. Don’t expect Grady to shy away from his top targets as the two could mimic those numbers in the rematch. Expect to hear “Grady to Hills” often in this matchup as the two connect in the end zone multiple times and increase Hills’ active streak of consecutive games with a receiving touchdown to 87. The Brigade will have their hands full trying to shutdown Albany’s dynamic duo which could open holes for the Empire’s third leading receiver, Collin Taylor. On the season, Taylor a quiet 22 catches for 246 yards and five touchdowns, putting him in the top ten in the league in each category. Last week against the Valor, Taylor hauled in six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. Look for another volume week for Taylor as he continues to reel in short passes from Grady and help the Empire move the ball down the field.
Tickets for the remaining Empire home games are still available at TheAlbanyEmpire.com. Ticket packages include: pro-rated season tickets, family four packs, group and corporate outing experiences, birthday party packages, Bud Light Party Zone tickets, Pioneer Bank Field Zone tickets, Pepsi Family Zone tickets and single game tickets. For additional information, please call 518-533-2200.
Albany Empire 2018 Inaugural Season Presented By CDPHP.