The slate is wiped clean and the reason athletes perform at their highest level has finally arrived. In the Arena Football League, the entire regular season is a job interview of sorts to make it to the playoffs. The Philadelphia Soul passed the right tests to take the third seed in the playoffs this season and will face off against the Washington Valor. This first game of two will take place on Sunday at 3:30pm from the Capital One Arena. As always, the game will be available to watch on NBCSP+ and ESPN3. If you are on a road trip or prefer the radio, you can listen along on 97.5FM The Fanatic.
Making it into the playoffs means that you have an opportunity to win the ultimate prize of your league. The Philadelphia Soul are in pursuit of their fourth ArenaBowl championship, but the Washington Valor has been a roadblock this season. Through all-time meetings between the two teams, the Soul has the advantage with a 6-3 record, but the Valor is 2-0 in 2019. Washington quarterback, Arvell Nelson, is the most efficient offensive player in the AFL this season. The Valor’s last 57 touchdowns have come from some combination of a Nelson touchdown pass or touchdown run. Washington has scored 74 total touchdowns this year. The lone touchdown that didn’t have Nelson’s fingerprints on it was a rushing touchdown from Reggie Gray back in week 3 against the Atlantic City Blackjacks.
For all of his success in scoring, Arvell Nelson also leads the league in interceptions and ranks last in completion percentage. If the Philadelphia Soul can get a jump on creating pressure with the defensive line, it isn’t unlikely that Nelson could be forced into making mistakes. A pass rush is critical because it would create more opportunities for the Soul defensive secondary to defend passes or even intercept Nelson when he goes deep downfield. This is evident as James Romain and Dwayne Hollis both recorded an interception against Nelson in the week 7 matchup.
On the offensive side of the ball for the Philadelphia Soul, Darius Prince is going to have to continue to impress against the Washington Valor. The Valor has yet to hold Prince under a hundred receiving yards this season, which speaks to the consistency and chemistry between him and Soul quarterback, Dan Raudabaugh. Prince has played six career games against Washington, averaging 99 yards a game alongside 14 total touchdowns. Prince also has caught a touchdown pass in every regular-season game this season.
The Capital One Arena seems to be a place that the Philadelphia Soul enjoy playing at when you look at their record of 4-1 while on the road against the Washington Valor. Earlier this season, Soul defensive back, Dwayne Hollis, stated that he is “motivated” when he plays on the road. Coming off of a loss in Albany against the Albany Empire, Philadelphia is ready to get back to the grind and carve out a path to another championship. Losing that game 72-27 was demoralizing, but if there is anything that I can sense about this Soul team, they’re dangerous after a loss. Perhaps that was needed going into the playoffs on Sunday.