While the Eagles prepare to take the field against the Dolphins at the Linc for their preseason game tonight, know the result of the contest is meaningless. The game across the street on Saturday, however, means the world.
The Philadelphia Soul have a chance to win back-to-back titles and are hosting the Arena Bowl this year. Another trophy for Philly! The city of champions! Here comes the parade!
When the Soul won the Arena Bowl last season, they held a rally inside the courtyard of City Hall. To say there was a smattering of fans would be disrespectful to actual smatterings. Sure, the event was held in the middle of a very hot workday, but there were definitely more players and media than actual fans. The Soul’s semifinal playoff game this year had more than 9,000 fans in attendance with the hope the place fills up for the championship game.
The Eagles, a franchise that hasn’t won a title in nearly 60 years — and say-it-with-me, has never won a Super Bowl — had nearly 70,000 fans pay to see a glorified practice against the Bills last week, with another sellout expected tonight.
That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean this is an Eagles town (note: yes it does) when the Soul are this close to winning another championship. Can another title make Philly a Soul town? (note: absolutely not.)
Let’s compare Philly’s two pro football teams (no, don’t) to decide once and for all (please, no) which is the best in the city. (We’re doing this, aren’t we?) We are DOING this!
Word this week is that LeGarrette Blount might get cut. He’s been poor in the first two games — thanks to horrible blocking from his offensive line and odd play-calling by the coaching staff — and word out of camp this week is that he hasn’t looked great in practice. Plus he might be overweight, and with rookie Corey Clement playing well so far in preseason and a roster full of other young backs to compliment Darren Sproles, there’s talk Blount might be the odd man out.
That, or second-year back Wendell Smallwood might get cut, in hopes the Eagles could perhaps re-sign him to the practice squad.
Meanwhile the 13-1 Soul had the AFL’s leading rusher in Mykell Benson who had 23 touchdowns and 274 yards on 108 attempts. Wait…that’s just 2.5 yards per carry, the third-worst mark in the league.
Advantage: Eagles. Whoever is getting the ball.
Dan Raudabaugh is an Arena legend. He led the league in touchdown passes with 82 this past season, which averages out to 5.9 per game. He also had the best quarterback rating in the league and the highest completion percentage.
What’s that? After another round of contraction there’s only five teams in the AFL this season? Well then none of this matters, does it, because that’s ridiculous. Five teams? We’re celebrating a potential championship and there are only five teams in the league?
Advantage: Wentz. The Eagles offense looked amazing in his one drive to start the preseason, then sputtered a bit in the second game, but he’s the future of the franchise and even though nobody outside of Philly seems to think he’s in line for a good year, he’s pretty much the city’s savior alongside a few dudes who play for the Sixers.
Again…five teams. And yet, the Soul had three players — Darius Reynolds, Shaun Kauleinamoku and Ryan McDaniel — who each caught 20 or more touchdowns this season.
Alshon Jeffery is the Eagles’ best receiver but given his injuries and the team protecting him in the preseason from getting more injuries, he hasn’t had enough time with Wentz. He even admitted to running the wrong route last week. So this week is important for the two of them to get on the same page. The season is almost here. As for the other receivers, it’s all a bit wait-and-see. This could be a great year for Wentz, or another season where he’s dumping balls off to the backs and tight ends a lot.
Clearly the NFL players are more skilled than AFL receivers. But until they prove it in Eagles green… Advantage: Push.
The Soul gave up a league best 42.1 points per game, which is five points less than the next best defense.
The Eagles could have the best defense in the NFC East this season, and bolstered their secondary with the trade for Ronald Darby. The Eagles’ defensive line may prove to be the best in the NFL this season. Plus the best Soul defensive player last season Jake Metz got a tryout with the Eagles but didn’t make the team. He’s in camp with the Bills.
Clint Dolezel has been the coach of the Soul for five seasons and the team’s record is 62-22, plus 6-3 in the playoffs. This year marks the third time Dolezel has taken the Soul to the Arena Bowl, with one win in the previous two tries.
Doug Pederson is 7-9 as a head coach, beating a Dallas team that rested all of its stars the final week of the season to avoid double-digit losses.
Sure Eagles fans should feel beleaguered after all these years of not winning anything, but the fact they keep going back season after season isn’t a decision that deserves credit. It’s self-mutilation.
We got inside the mind of a typical Soul fan during last season’s title run and found that it takes a totally different type of dedication to care about Arena League football. Plus, championships.
Also, most Soul fans are also Eagles fans, so advantage: Soul.
Or this guy…
Let’s hastily rank all the mascots in Philly sports:
- The Phillie Phanatic
- Big Shot (RIP)
- Every other mascot ever
- Hip Hop.
Swoop is fine, but he’s really no better or worse than the Soul Man. And he sure as heck isn’t the Saint Joe’s Hawk. Also, since the Eagles are playing the Dolphins, let’s remember this great moment in mascot history: