It was a very fun, and interesting week of Arena Football to take place. Both games were close, and we almost saw a huge upset. In the end, we were reminded of just how crucial it is to take care of the football, as both games saw fumbles take place in the last minute of the game that impacted the outcome.
The Washington Valor were two yards away from scoring, which would have put them in a position to tie the game with a two-point conversion, but quarterback Erik Meyer fumbled the snap, and the Tampa Bay Storm recovered, sealing the comeback attempt.
For the Baltimore Brigade, they nearly orchestrated the biggest upset of the season, and give their franchise a true signature win outside of their ‘first one’. Leading against the Philadelphia Soul on the road for most of the game, after a missed extra point gave the Brigade a one-point lead in the final minute, they just had to find a way to run the clock out.
Shane Carden, who is quickly emerging as one of the better talents in the league, fumbled a snap in the same way Meyer did, except the Soul would pick up the ball and return it back for a touchdown.
Another win for Philadelphia.
How does this impact the MVP watch? The five remain the same, but after some of the performances this past week, the gaps are closing, which should make it even more interesting the rest of the way and sets up some juggling around on a weekly basis for the rest of the season.
1 Randy Hippeard, Tampa Bay Storm
After surviving in the Nation’s Capital, Hippeard remains at the top of the list, but it is hard to argue against the gap narrowing. The Storm’s quarterback still holds onto every offensive statistical category for the position but doesn’t have as big a lead as he once did.
Stats alone doesn’t determine one’s ‘value’, but the kind leg up he had on everyone made his case as the early season MVP. Hippeard threw for another five touchdowns this past week, and he has dropped his already league-leading INT% to just 1.1.
He is still completing over 70% of his passes and is pushing the 40-total touchdown mark. Tampa Bay gets the Valor again, this time on the road. Hippeard remains the top player in the AFL right now, but others are breathing down his neck.
2 Dan Raudabaugh, Philadelphia Soul
Here comes Raudabaugh. The reigning MVP has been picking up steam for weeks, and now has thrown for eight touchdowns in consecutive weeks, pulling him within reach of overtaking Hippeard’s spot at the top of the list.
Raudabuagh has nearly caught up in touchdown passes, now just one behind Hippeard and he remain efficient. After this past week, 20.5% of Raudabaugh’s passes have ended up as touchdowns, tops in the league.
He also added a slightly new wrinkle in his game, rushing for 24 yards against the Brigade.
Another good showing against the Cleveland Gladiators, and it will be almost impossible to keep Raudabaugh off the top of the rankings.
3 Arvell Nelson, Cleveland Gladiators
These next two are almost interchangeable at this point, as there is still some space between the top two, and the rest. For however big a spark Nelson has given the Gladiators’ offense, they still aren’t finishing out the games and are tied for the worst record in the league.
In Nelson and the Gladiators’ defense, of those four losses, three game against the Soul and Storm, the two best teams in the league.
Even after a bye week, Nelson still leads the AFL in rushing yards and has posted six touchdowns on the ground as well. He doesn’t throw for nearly as many yards as the other top quarterbacks, only 228 per game, but his dual-threat ability is second to none in the league.
4 Shane Carden, Baltimore Brigade
One play erased a career game for Carden, and the Brigade. Less than a minute away from leading his team, and himself up the rankings, Carden fumbled a snap that was run back by the Soul for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Up to that play, Carden had 291 yards through the air and seven total touchdowns (5 pass, 2 rush). The interceptions still need to come down, he leads the league with six, but everyone is starting to see the potential Carden possesses.
Of all the quarterbacks in the AFL, Carden enjoyed the most success at the college level, at the biggest stage. The talent there, it was just a matter of adjusting to the arena game.
That looks to be the case. What’s been even more impressive is how well Carden and the Brigade offense has been playing despite losing Reggie Gray to a season-ending injury.
Once either Carden or Nelson gets that big signature win, they can truly start competing for one of the top-two spots on this list. Until then, they will fight it out for the next two spots.
5 Joe Hill, Tampa Bay Storm
Another day at the field, another multiple touchdown performances for Joe Hills, who still leads the AFL in receptions and touchdowns. LaMark Brown has more yards now than Hills, but when Hippeard needed a big play against the Valor, #81 was his go-to guy.
That’s a very impressive showing of strength and speed to get the edge.
If Hippeard were to get bounced from the top spot, this will probably be reconsidered, until then Hills rounds out the same top five as a week ago.
Honorable Mention – Darius Reynolds, Philadelphia Soul
Reynolds has been the biggest benefactor of the last two Raudabaugh’s performances. In his previous two games, Reynolds has caught 13 passes, for 225 yards and 7 touchdowns. Three weeks ago, Ryan McDaniel caught every one of Raudabaugh’s touchdown passes, since then it has all been Reynolds.
That’s how strong the receiving core is for the Soul, anyone of three different players has the ability to step up and have a huge game.