ArenaBowl XXIX Preview: Arizona Rattlers (15-3) vs Philadelphia Soul (15-3)

This is what the Arizona Rattlers and the Philadelphia Soul have been working towards all year.  Both teams ended the season with the top two seeds headed into the playoffs, and both took care of business in the playoffs and now find themselves in ArenaBowl XXIX, which will be this Friday at 4 p.m. PDT, at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

If the Rattlers win, they will have the most ArenaBowl championships in league history, with six.  If Philadelphia wins, they will finally get that victory over the Rattlers in the ArenaBowl, something they fell short of in ArenaBowl XXV (2012) and ArenaBowl XXVI (2013).

The Rattlers went undefeated at home (8-0) for the third time in team history, and the second time in three seasons.  Add to that the playoff wins over the Portland Steel and the Cleveland Gladiators, the Rattlers went 10-0 on the Ak-Chin Indian Community field. What makes that more impressive is that Arizona’s average margin of victory at home was just under 29 points per game.

The Soul were almost as good at home, finishing with a 7-1 record, with their only home loss coming against the Jacksonville Sharks in week two.  Philadelphia got a win over the Tampa Bay Storm to earn the right to avenge their loss over the Sharks in the American Conference Championship.

This championship game features several interesting matchups.  The AFL’s top two quarterbacks will be going head to head. Rattlers’ quarterback Nick Davila led the league in touchdowns, with 111.  The next closest was Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh with 101.  Raudabaugh, however, led the league in average yards per play with 8.8, with Davila trailing just behind with 8.1.

Both teams finished in the top two in scoring offense.  The Rattlers averaged an all-time AFL record 66.8 points per game (PPG), while the Soul was second with 61.4 PPG.

Both teams also can boast having the two of the top defenses.  The Rattlers lead the league in sacks with 29, while the Soul came in second with 22.  Philadelphia edged Arizona in interceptions with 25, while the Rattlers were second in the league with 19. The Rattlers and the Soul were second and third respectively in scoring defense.

Another intriguing matchup will be the matchup between the AFL Offensive Lineman of the Year, Rattlers’ Jordan Mudge, and the VidSwap Defensive Lineman of the Year, Soul’s Jake Metz.  Both have had outstanding years, and may have to face each other in the trenches.

Arizona leads the all-time series matchup-7-1, with two of those wins coming in the ArenaBowl.  That one win by Philadelphia, however, occurred this season, with each team getting a win against each other in 2016.  This championship matchup looks to be much closer than it has been in years past.

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