We are at the midpoint of the season and what we thought we knew we kind of did know. The Soul are tough. Winning a title helps and this team kept their core, but they did lose Jake Metz to the NFL and the Buffalo Bills, but when that kind of thing happens, it only confirms how good the Soul are at producing talent.
The Tampa Bay Storm are right there with the Soul, except for a controversial replay review in Week 2 and the Storm’s only loss of the season in a 52-56 game vs that very same Soul team.
So there is a good argument to say the Storm are actually the best team. Their 6-1 start is the best in team history since the 2001 season. That ended with the Storm losing five their last eight games, including a 37 point playoff loss to Indiana in the first round. From watching both of the top teams in person vs the Gladiators, the edge still belongs to the Soul.
Over and over again on the same drive, Dan Raudabaugh would launch the ball deep on a vert call, and Cleveland, a team that is known to develop good defensive backs, was unable to stop being burnt deep.
Now comes the tough part of evaluating the rest of the league. Even if one were to add up their wins on the season (5), their total is still one short of the Storm’s win total. So who is the next team that could give the Soul or Storm a fight? Defense wins championships, but in arena football, an offense that scores 60 plus usually will prevail no matter what they have on the other side of the ball.
Cleveland leads the league in scoring by a couple touchdowns (plus the extra points) with 430 points on the season and they are 99 points better than the Brigade and 156 points better than the Valor. The Glads also lead the league in third down conversion percentage and are second on fourth down only to the Soul by less than two percent.
Cleveland also has the top rusher in the league, Arvell Nelson (166) and top receiver, Quentin Sims (867). The Glads also had the leading kick returner Brandon Thompkins until he was traded to the Brigade.
That leads nicely into the Baltimore Brigade, a team that seemed truly lost in the opening game of the season, having to switch quarterbacks in the middle of the game in favor of Shane Carden, who has averaged 267.5 passing yards per game as a starter and has thrown at least five touchdowns in each game, while only throwing one or no inceptions in four of those six starts.
The addition of Thompkins is huge and helps make up for the loss of Reggie Gray. With the late start of getting this franchise off the ground, the path to a good season really could be on the defensive side of the ball where would they might be gaining an edge on the competition. Head Coach Omarr Smith is a defensive expert who had 35 interceptions of his own during his playing days. Leading the way for this team up front, Khreem Smith has had a sack in every game he has played this season and leads the league in sacks with seven.
So that leaves the Washington Valor. The momentum that came with having a top notch arena seems to have faded. Having only one win on the season, firing your defensive coordinator in his first season, and being the only team Cleveland has been able to beat this season are all bad things.
Some numbers suggest even the Valor are getting better. Washington ranks first in Massey Ratings system on defense, plus defesive back Tracy Belton is one of only two players in the league to force three interceptions and return one for a score.