PLAYOFF GAME ONE PREVIEW - EMPIRE VS BRIGADE
Returning home for the first time in nearly a month, the Empire made a statement in the team’s tenth win of the season, handling the Philadelphia Soul, 72-27 in the regular season finale. Albany dominated from start to finish and ended the game with the largest margin of victory in Empire history and the most points scored by one team in a game in 2019. The Empire remain home this weekend for the first game of a home-and-home playoff series against the Baltimore Brigade. This weekend’s game, presented by SEFCU, will be at 7 p.m. in the Times Union Center on Saturday, July 27 and broadcast live on MY4 Albany, ESPN 3, and Q105.7 FM.
The first matchup to lookout for is the Empire’s defensive backfield versus the Brigade’s wide receiving unit. The Brigade defeated the Empire in the only matchup between the two teams this season as two of Baltimore’s receivers put up big numbers against Albany’s secondary. Former Empire receiver, Joe Hills, posted a big game, bringing in 13 catches for 137 yards and four receiving touchdowns. The vet finished the 2019 regular season keeping his consecutive games with a receiving touchdown intact, now at 103 in a row. Brandon Collins also had a nice day in the Brigade’s Week seven victory, with seven catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns. Though he was not heavily involved in the one meeting between the teams, Milton Williams has had himself a nice season as well, racking up 665 yards and 11 touchdowns on 59 catches. Hills, Collins, and Williams are all viable options for the Brigade and will be busy over the course of the next two games. Baltimore has shown to be capable of going punch for punch with the Empire on offense, so it will be crucial for Albany to force a turnover or two to swing momentum.
The key to an Empire victory in this matchup is to force turnovers. That may go without saying considering you always want to be forcing turnovers, but the Brigade have proved that they can keep pace with the Empire’s high-powered offense. On the other hand, they have also shown that they can struggle to score at times, posting a score of 50 or more points just twice this season - Albany has surpassed the 50 mark eight times. If the Baltimore offense is clicking, then fans can expect a back and forth shootout as quarterback Shane Boyd locates his receivers all game long. If the Empire are able to force a couple turnovers and keep Baltimore out of sync, then Albany simply has too much firepower and should pull away in this matchup.
The next matchup to come into play is between the Empire’s receiving unit against the Brigade’s defensive backs. Similar to the Brigade, Albany has multiple options on offense for Tommy Grady to spread the ball around to. Albany’s receivers have posted some incredible numbers this season, boasting the League’s top two leaders in touchdown receptions with Quentin Sims (29) and Malachi Jones (25). Jones also tops the League in receiving yards with 1,440. Not only does he have 481 more yards than the next closest receiver, Jones is the only receiver to top the 1,000-yard mark on the season. As if Sims and Jones were not enough for opposing defenses, the Empire also have DJ Stephens, Collin Taylor, and AJ Coney, all of whom are coming off of big games from a week ago. The Empire offense is simply too potent and is a threat to score on every single play. If Baltimore is not up for the challenge, don’t be surprised to see the Empire light up the scoreboard for the third consecutive week.
The key to a victory in this matchup is to get ahead early and keep the foot on the gas. Baltimore has an experience defensive backfield that finished tied for first in the League with 16 interceptions on the season. Also, the Brigade defense has allowed the fewest points and compiled the most sacks in 2019, proving to be balanced and tough to move the ball against. Conversely, the Empire have scored more points than any other team in the League and have only been sacked twice. The backfield, led by Joe Powell who has seven interceptions, was able to pick off Grady twice in the Week 10 victory over Albany. The Brigade limited the Empire to a mere 41 points in the game, spoiling Albany’s ‘Code Orange’ night. If Baltimore’s secondary is able to force turnovers on Grady, then it is possible that the Brigade offense can keep pace on the scoreboard. It is crucial that Albany not only gets ahead early, but keeps the foot on the gas to pile on points since the team to advance to the ArenaBowl is based off of the series’ aggregate score.
The final matchup and key to victory for the Empire is for the defense to force fourth down situations and turnovers on downs. On the season, the Brigade rank dead last in fourth down conversions while having the third-most attempts. On 29 fourth down attempts, Baltimore has only converted on 10 of them, turning the ball over on downs often. If the Empire are unable to force interceptions or fumbles, the defense must remain stout on fourth downs as the Brigade struggle to pick up the necessary yardage. More likely than not, Baltimore will turn the ball back over to Albany if faced with a fourth down situation. Even if the Brigade are down near the end zone, the Empire’s red zone defense has been solid all year, not making any scoring efforts easy for opposing offenses.
Tickets for the July 27 playoff game are on sale now by calling 518-533-2200, by going to TheAlbanyEmpire.com, or by stopping by the Empire office located in the Times Union Center. A limited number of great seats are still available! Want to bring your organization to a game, fundraise, or perform on the field? Group experiences are now on sale. Call 518-533-2200 for additional information.
Albany Empire 2019 Season Presented By CDPHP.
About Albany Empire
Season memberships for the 2019 season are on sale now. For tickets, contact the Albany Empire sales department at (518) 533-2200 or by going to TheAlbanyEmpire.com. Follow the team on Facebook at facebook.com/TheAlbanyEmpire and Twitter at twitter.com/Albany_Empire.
About the Arena Football Leagu
The Arena Football League enters its 32nd season in 2019. Since its inception in 1987, the AFL showcases a fast-paced, exciting game to millions of fans in a myriad of markets. With the addition of two new teams in Atlantic City, N.J., and Columbus, O.H., the League totals six teams for 2019: Albany, Atlantic City, Baltimore, Columbus, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Each team will play 12 regular-season games in 2019. One can find the League can on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the handle @OfficialAFL.
About Times Union Center
Albany’s Times Union Center, formerly Pepsi Arena, continues to have great success. Renamed in January 2007, the Times Union Center is “Upstate New York’s Premier Sports and Entertainment Facility. Owned by Albany County and operated by SMG, the world’s largest private management firm for public assembly facilities, the Times Union Center has an adaptable seating capacity between 6,000 and 17,500. Since Frank Sinatra christened the building on January 30, 1990, more than seven million patrons have walked through the turnstiles. As a multi-purpose facility, the Times Union Center has hosted a variety of events, including concerts, family shows and sporting events, averaging 165 events each year.
Established in 1984, CDPHP is a physician-founded, member-focused and community-based not-for-profit health plan that offers high-quality affordable health insurance plans to members in 26 counties throughout New York. CDPHP is also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Schenectady, New York, Transfinder is a national leader in intelligent transportation systems, providing transportation management systems and services to school districts, municipalities and adult care facilities. Transfinder, an Inc. magazine “fastest-growing company” for the past eleven straight years, has offices in Austin, Texas, and Shanghai, China. The software company develops and supports routing and scheduling solutions for optimal transportation logistics. http://transfinder.com