Arena Football League Tampa Bay Storm

Tampa Bay Storm Will Win ArenaBowl XXX Because…

In 2016, the Tampa Bay Storm were arguably the worst team in the Arena Football League. They didn’t win a single road game, and they finished 2-14. Tampa Bay was the worst in passing offense, worst in total offense, and third worst in scoring defense.

They couldn’t settle on a quarterback, and head coach Lawrence Samuels eventually got the boot because of it.

That year, the Storm only made the playoffs because every team did.

This year, changes came both with the team and the league. The AFL lost four teams, then gained an expansion team to bring the final field to five. Tampa Bay hired head coach Ron James, signed players like Randy HippeardJoe Hills, and Alvin Ray Jackson to help solidify a contending roster, and brought back a winning culture to bring the cornerstone franchise back to glory.

It worked.

Key Players

Kendrick Ings was just named Playmaker of the Year, Hills was named Wide Receiver of the Year, and Hippeard is an MVP candidate after putting up one of the best seasons of his career (66.4 percent completions, 3,506 yards, 82 TD). These three will be part of the combination that will bring the Storm their record sixth title and first since 2003.

With the above-named trio and like LaMark Brown, Tampa Bay created the most dynamic, consistent offense in the league. While the Soul have their own threats in Darius Renyolds and Shaun Kauleinamoku, they’re prone to have down stretches in games, especially in the first quarter.

Offense

Again, this is where the Storm can shine. Look at the first meeting against Philadelphia, their closest meeting of the season where they had a chance to win. If Hippeard can fire on at least as many cylinders as he did that night, with a healthy complement of targets, the chances will be there.

The offensive line can keep the pressure off Hippeard, giving him time to find the open man. The Soul’s secondary, while formidable, can struggle to play 60 minutes at times. If Hills can muscle his way open, Ings can use his speed to get open, and Brown can find space in the middle, scoring will be a breeze.

Defense

Alvin Ray Jackson needs to continue to step up, and the defensive line will help him. Dan Raudabaugh is easily flustered in the beginning of games. He misses receivers, he overthrows, and takes a series or two to find a rhythm some weeks. Despite how the last two meetings went, the pressure is on the home team to bring a second straight title.

Could that get into Raudabaugh’s head? If so, he’ll struggle, and Cortez Stubbs could elevate his stock with a big play or two early in the game. At least one stop in the first four drives could set an early tone and allow Tampa Bay to relax offensively.

The X-Factor

As good as Ings is on offense, he gives the Storm a tremendous advantage on special teams. He led the league with four kick return touchdowns this year, and one from him at any point in the game will allow for an extra potential possession and force Philadelphia to bleed clock with a lead, which they’re not 100 percent capable of.

Few thought that Tampa Bay could pull off worst to first given 2016, but one year makes a big difference, and the Storm are 60 minutes away from history.

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