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It’s a geographical battle in the Arena Football League as the schedule heads into week 10 of their regular season slate. The Washington Valor is on the road as they make the short trip to face the Baltimore Brigade Friday night. Washington picked up their first win of the season by upending Philadelphia 49-48 on the road Sunday. Baltimore knocked off Albany 59-56 on the road Saturday for their fifth win in their last six games. The Brigade won both earlier matchups this season, prevailing 61-56 at home in their season opener April 13 and 42-41 on the road on May 19.
Washington Valor Seek Back to Back Wins
Washington broke through with their first win of the season as they upset Philadelphia on the road. The Valor, which improved to 1-7 on the season with the victory, now will look to defeat the Brigade after dropping a pair of close games earlier this season. Washington showed some grit, rallying from a two-touchdown deficit to take the lead with under two minutes to play. After giving up a score to make it a one-point game with 52 seconds to play, Roderick Henderson blocked the ensuing extra point to maintain the narrow edge. The Valor fumbled the ball on their next possession, giving the Soul a chance, but Fred Obi came up with a pick at the Washington four-yard line, his second pick of the game to seal the victory with 37 seconds to play.
The Valor has the league’s worst scoring offense (41.1 points per game) and scoring defense (52.1 points per game) so there is work to be done. Arvell Nelson is currently the team’s starting quarterback: he is 42 of 71 for 559 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also leads the team with 34 rushing yards and two scores. Warren Smith (48 of 79, 468 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT), Nick Davila (33 of 53, 353 yards, 10 TD) and Shane Austin (35 of 61, 351 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT) have also seen action. Reggie Gray leads the team with 46 receptions for 527 yards and 12 scores. Josh Reese (39 grabs, 437 yards, eight TD), Rod Windsor (27 catches, 279 yards, 7 TD) and Chris Duvalt (17 receptions, 162 yards, 4 TD) are other valuable receivers. Windsor is currently injured and out of the lineup but is extremely dangerous when healthy. Patrick Clarke has hit 39 of 44 extra points and has not attempted a field goal this season.
Baltimore Brigade Try to Hold On to First Place
Baltimore snapped Albany’s five-game win streak and earned their fifth win in six games with a last-second triumph. The Brigade improved to 6-2 on the season and own a one-game advantage over Albany in the standings. Baltimore, in a game full of big plays and momentum swings, came up with the critical play late to earn the win. After Albany tied the game at 56 with 1:17 to play, the Empire tried for an onside kick. Baltimore linebacker LaMark Brown recovered the ball on the Empire 11 yard line: the offense picked up a first down and kicked the decisive 17-yard field goal by Mark Lewis with five seconds to play.
The Brigade is first in the league in scoring offense (50.1 points per game) and third in scoring defense as they allow 46.6 points per contest. Randy Hippeard is the man under center for Baltimore: he’s completed 187 of 260 passes for 1,913 yards with 42 touchdown passes and four interceptions. He’s second on the team with 17 carries for 49 yards and three scores. Rory Nixon is the leading ground gainer with 23 carries for 55 yards and four touchdowns. In the aerial assault, Brandon Thompkins leads the team with 58 grabs for 541 yards and nine scores. Brandon Collins (37 receptions, 375 yards, eight scores), Quentin Sims (31 catches, 349 yards, 11 TD) and Milton Williams (30 grabs, 373 yards, eight TD) provide additional threats in the passing game. Lewis has converted 51 of 55 extra point attempts and all four of his field goals this season.
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One thing we’ve seen is that these two teams have played close games this season with the two contests decided by a total of six points. Baltimore has momentum with five wins in their last six and they know they have first place in their grasp right now. The Valor is coming off their first win of the season but they’ve played musical quarterback this year. That’s a tough thing to try and deal with because you need continuity under center. Hippeard has been the man for the Brigade all season long and he should deliver Washington a third loss in as many meetings this season.
Pick: Baltimore Brigade