FACT: Last season, including the playoffs, only twice did a team score at least 70 points.
FACT: Last season, including the playoffs, teams scored 60+ points only 31 times (including only three games where both teams crossed that threshold).
The 2017 season showed that fewer teams playing each other more often means a more defensive season with lower scoring. With only four teams in 2018, that’s now further intensified.
When defense is the order of the league, there’s only one position that can break through and counter that: quarterback. Thanks to the Washington Valor signing Nick Davila away from a coaching position with the IFL’s Arizona Rattlers, they’ve become the favorites to score more than enough to potentially take the title.
Yes, the Valor initially shored up the position by signing Warren Smith, Jr. from the National Arena League’s Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (being the first ever league MVP will garner interest from other teams), but this was a big break that’s rather unexpected.
Also, not settling at just the pivot, the Valor ensured there’s receivers to throw to. Washington were lucky enough to have “Big Play” Reggie Gray assigned to their squad and recently also signed Davila’s former favorite receiver in Rod Windsor.
With a healthy Toliver, that’s 22 combined years of league experience to a corps that features five receivers with two years experience or less. With either the championship veteran or the dual-threat throwing to them, there’s potential to have an offense as dynamic as Philadelphia or Albany, the two teams they’ll be fighting with for the top seed in the playoffs.
Defensively, the team is just as young, but there are key starters returning from last year. Namely, James Gordon, Jake Payne, and Reggie Wilson (although also on the PUP list). With Gordon moving from linebacker up to the defensive line, the Valor can generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, leading to many more much-needed sacks. Given the fact that there’s only two returning starters in the secondary (Dominic Addison and Michael Knight), the less pressure for making interceptions, the better.
Yes, the Soul have kept more than their core of players from their championship team and Albany have made some big splash signings. However, if Washington can put themselves in position to host the second leg of their semifinal, they could find themselves in ArenaBowl XXXI, and you can’t bet against the Latin Laser when he’s playing for titles.