AAF Week 3 Schedule and Picks
It’s Week 3 in the Alliance!After two weeks, we have two teams with offenses that haven’t taken much time to warm up, as well as a couple of defenses that seem up to snuff as well. But that could all be undone by poor performances this week, and with only eight more games to go in this short inaugural season, this could be the first opportunity to truly understand what the league is going to be.
Some questions we have entering this weekend’s action:
- Will the Arizona Hotshots and Orlando Apollos continue to be able to sling the ball all over the field without abandon?
- Will the Apollos score more than 35 points again?
- Is the Birmingham Iron defense legit, or was it just poor opponents through the first two weeks?
- Can the rushing offenses across the league start to catch up to the passing offense, or will the league remain a passing league?
With that said, let’s take a quick look at the Week 3 action, which features a return to conference games, including rematches of Week 1 for the teams out west:
Arizona Hotshots (2-0) at Salt Lake Stallions (0-2)
Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00pm EST (B/R Live), Rice–Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
As mentioned above, the Western Conference has its teams repeating the opening weekend, with only the home team changing, so we’ve already seen this matchup. During Week 1, the Hotshots beat the Salt Lake Stallions 38-22 in Arizona in a game that they never trailed, with quarterback John Wolford throwing for 275 yards and four touchdowns. The Stallions, on the other hand, struggled on offense but still managed to score more points than four other teams scored during the opening weekend.
Maybe it’s good for the Stallions to complete their series against the Hotshots early in the season. They are still trying to figure out their quarterback situation; Week 1 starter Josh Woodrum was mostly ineffective before injuring his hamstring against the Hotshots, and Week 2 starter Austin Allen struggled last Saturday against the Iron. The Hotshots are the prohibitive favorite to win the West at this point in the season, so getting over the Arizona hump then focusing on everyone else for the last seven weeks might be beneficial for the Stallions.
This is the home debut for the Stallions in Salt Lake, so I would expect a healthy crowd in Salt Lake despite cold temperatures. I don’t know if this will be the case in games played later in the day if it remains cold as we get further into the season, but hopefully the fans can help the Stallions overcome the Hotshots in this one. Either way, we’ll be at the game (though in the warm confines of the press box) to see how Salt Lake welcomes professional football to Utah.
Memphis Express (0-2) at Orlando Apollos (2-0)
Saturday, February 23, 2019, 8:00pm EST (NFL Network), Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, Florida
The Orlando Apollos enter the game as #2 in total offense (nine yards behind the Hotshots), but the #1 passing offense after a near-400 yard game from reigning Offensive Player of the Week Garrett Gilbert last week against the San Antonio Commanders. They still haven’t quite figured out the running game; they are sixth in rushing offense at the moment, but when you have a quarterback that is averaging nearly 300 yards a game this early in the season, do you really need to?
The Memphis Express recovered nicely from their opening week shutout, leading for the first half last week against the Hotshots before succumbing at the end. They are led on offense by the league leading Zac Stacy at running back, who has rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown in the first two weeks. However, their defense has been a let down despite the presence of NFL Hall of Famer “Iron” Mike Singletary on the sidelines. The defense can’t continue to give up the second-most yards and expect to be successful long term.
Birmingham Iron (2-0) at Atlanta Legends (0-2)
Sunday, February 24, 2019, 4:00pm EST (CBS Sports Network), Georgia State Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
The Iron boast the league’s best defense, both in yards allowed and points surrendered. After shutting out the Express in Week 1, they held the Stallions to nine points last week. The Atlanta Legends, on the other hand, boast an offense (and defense) of a team that is currently 0-2, including a 40-6 loss to the Apollos during Week 1, the largest loss in the league’s young history.
Starting out 0-3 in the Eastern Conference, especially with the potential of two 3-0 teams ahead of them, could doom Atlanta to the bottom of the standings for the entirety of their inaugural season. However, I like their chances this week against the Iron better than the Express against the Apollos, but that doesn’t mean I think they will win this one. (Prediction is at the bottom of the article).
San Antonio Commanders (1-1) at San Diego Fleet (1-1)
Sunday, February 24, 2019, 8:00pm EST (NFL Network), SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA
The final game of the weekend is another Western Conference rematch, this time with the San Diego Fleet hosting the commanders. When these teams met in Week 1, the Commanders were able to capitalize on some Fleet turnovers to come out on top in a 15-6 victory in the first AAF game ever. The Commanders join the Apollos, Hotshots, and Iron as having only one quarterback start both games, and Logan Woodside has been mostly effective so far this season.
The Fleet, like seemingly half the teams in the league, have struggled to find consistent play from the quarterback position. But they do have the co-leader in rushing in Ja’Quan Gardner, who has matched Zac Stacy with 159 yards on the young season, and added two touchdowns for good measure (the only two touchdowns the Fleet have scored this season).
Enjoy all the games this weekend! We’ll be back with game recaps as the action concludes around the league.
My winners for the week: Salt Lake Stallions, Orlando Apollos, Birmingham Iron, and San Diego Fleet