What Can We Expect from New Playoff Format?
PHILADELPHIA, PA - For the 2018 season, the Arena Football League announced a new playoff format unlike any in league history. The AFL Playoffs now feature a two-game, home-and-home series in the opening round instead of the old-school, single elimination concept. While response to the concept has certainly been mixed amongst fans, it's worth understanding how exactly this will work, and examining some potential impacts on the game itself.
First, here are the basics: to advance, a team must either win both games, OR win the point differential over the two games. Here's an example:
GAME 1: SOUL 50 BRIGADE 48
GAME 2: SOUL 45 BRIGADE 46
TOTAL: SOUL 95 BRIGADE 94
In this scenario, the Soul would advance thanks to the +1 point differential.
The first game of the series will take place this Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, with kickoff slated for 6pm. Game 2 in Baltimore would follow just five days later on July 20th. This schedule was determined after Baltimore finished the regular season above the Soul in the final standings and chose to play the second game at home.
With those two basic, yet essential points now understood, let's look at a few things that may seem trivial now, but depending on how things play out could result in plenty of second-guessing from fans on both sides.
First up is the schedule itself. As mentioned, Baltimore had the choice of which game to play at home. To most, they made the obvious choice. You want to play the second, potentially decisive game at home in front of your own fans, right? But could there be another school of thought that says play at home first, in hopes of building an insurmountable lead thanks to that same home-field advantage? While it wasn't his choice, Soul Head Coach Clint Dolezel is happy with the situation.
"The new format definitely changes the energy of the game," said Dolezel. "We believe our fans give us the best advantage in the League, so we're excited to take the adrenaline we'll already have from it being the Playoffs and add them to the mix. It should be fun on Sunday."
Apply that theory to this scenario specifically and you see the makings of a potential "what if" for Brigade fans. Baltimore was plus-60 at home in terms of point differential during the regular season. That's a dominant number and tops in the league. However, when the team went on the road, they were minus-17. This compares to the Soul's relatively even performance of +16 at home and +19 on the road. Should Baltimore have taken the risk of losing the first game in Philadelphia by a wide margin, making their own home-field advantage irrelevant?
What about the game play itself? How will the teams and coaches manage these games? We could see an all-out aerial assault in an effort to rack up points, a cat-and-mouse game of "keep away", or anything in between. Do you attempt to steal a possession early with a surprise onside kick, or pin the offense deep in their own territory? These are the types of questions that typically arise at the very end of games, but instead will be asked from start to finish.
One thing fans do know is that every minute, every play, and every point over the course of two games matters. In a sport where onside kicks are the norm and teams can score from anywhere on the field, fans are in for a wild ride these next two weeks. It's Playoff time!
Playoff packs and Family Four Packs for the July 15th game are on sale now at www.PhiladelphiaSoul.com. Single game tickets are also available at www.WellsFargoCenterPhilly.com. The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network and 97.5 The Fanatic.
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Arena Football League Stories from July 12, 2018
- Washington plays host to Albany in first game of home-and-home series - Albany Empire
- AFL Playoffs Begins this Weekend - AFL
- What Can We Expect from New Playoff Format? - Philadelphia Soul
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