AAF Week 4 Schedule and Picks
It’s Week 4 in the Alliance!
Thus far, we have two undefeated teams, as well as two winless teams, with those four teams competing in the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference, we have already concluded one set of season series, with the teams splitting the games thus far.
The league remains dominated by the passing game, with some teams seemingly abandoning the run altogether to throw the ball nearly 50 times. The week-to-week scoring average has remained pretty consistent, however, with the league still averaging about 20 points a game overall.
Some questions we have entering this weekend’s action:
- Will the Atlanta Legends or Memphis Express be able to find their first wins of the season? (If not, they play each other next week, so one will eventually get their first win).
- Were victories by the Salt Lake Stallions and San Diego Fleet a product of playing familiar opponents – they had rematches against their Week 1 opponents last week – or a sign of improvement on the young season?
- Can the Birmingham Iron defense keep shutting down scoring – they’ve surrendered 10 points less per game than any other team (7.0 per game) – and will Trent Richardson finally break a run longer than 10 yards?
- Will the Orlando Apollos and Iron continue their undefeated seasons, entering their Week 5 matchup as the only undefeated teams in the league?
- Will attendance numbers continue to stagnate, or will we see some improvement on the 18,000 average attendance? (The four hosts this week have averaged 14,396 per game over five games).
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:
San Diego Fleet (2-1) at Memphis Express (0-3)
Saturday, March 2, 2019, 4:00pm EST (B/R Live), Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tennessee
The Fleet managed to get revenge on the San Antonio Commanders for their loss during Week 1, winning 31-11 behind stellar performances from the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week. After playing in relief in Week 1, Philip Nelson has claimed the starting quarterback job and has won two straight games, but it’s easy to do so when you can rely on running back Ja’Quan Gardner to do a lot of the work, with Gardner delivering two straight 100-yard rushing performances to vault himself to the top of the rushing leaderboard by nearly 100 yards.
The Express, on the other hand, will be making a change at quarterback this week, with Zach Mettenberger taking over under center for the much-maligned Christian Hackenberg, giving the Express the lead in total number of letters in their starting quarterbacks’ names. Hackenberg had averaged only 92 yards a game (111 if you removed the entire second half he missed last week), so it makes sense for coach Mike Singletary to replace him with the guy that had a perfect rating in relief last week (9-12, 120 yards and two touchdowns). Whether it will be enough to win their first game remains to be seen.
Orlando Apollos (3-0) at Salt Lake Stallions (1-2)
Saturday, March 2, 2019, 8:00pm EST (NFL Network), Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah
Speaking of winning their first game, the Stallions managed to revenge of their own last week, beating the Arizona Hotshots in their first home game of the year. Josh Woodrum returned after missing Week 2 with a hamstring injury, and the Stallions defense held the Hotshots offense in check, holding them to 150 fewer yards and 23 less points than in their week 1 matchup.
The Stallions have the pleasure of hosting another high-flying offense in the Orlando Apollos this week, who will be hoping to enter their Week 5 matchup against the Iron undefeated. Despite a relatively off week last week, Garrett Gilbert still leads the league in passing, and is the only quarterback who has yet to throw an interception. They do throw it a lot too, with over 67% of their total yards this season coming through the air. This game was moved to prime time this week for a reason; let’s just hope that it lives up to the hype.
San Antonio Commanders (1-2) at Birmingham Iron (3-0)
Sunday, March 3, 2019, 4:00pm EST (CBS Sports Network), Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
After winning the first ever Alliance game, the Commanders have now lost two straight, a shootout against the Apollos and a blowout loss to the Fleet. This week, they get to travel to face off against the stingy defense of the Iron, who are second in yards allowed per game (268.0) and first in scoring defense (7.0 points per game). The Commanders are hoping that the diminishing performance from quarterback Logan Woodside will come to an end, as he has gone from 255 yards passing in Week 1 to only 151 yards last week. He is also second in the league with five interceptions thrown – including one returned for a touchdown last week – so ball security against perhaps the best defense in the league will be extremely important.
When the Iron have the ball, quarterback Luis Perez will guide an offense that seems to be more in error prevention mode than anything else. Perez threw his first interception of the season in last week’s win against the Legends, but he has yet to throw a touchdown. The Iron offense seems to be “hope for a short field and hand the ball to Trent Richardson 20 times a game and eventually he’ll score.” Richardson does lead the league with six touchdowns, but he is still averaging 2.5 yards per carry and has yet to break off a run longer than 10 yards. But at 3-0, the Iron can’t really complain.
Atlanta Legends (0-3) at Arizona Hotshots (2-1)
Sunday, March 3, 2019, 8:00pm EST (NFL Network), Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
The Legends seemingly abandoned the run altogether last week against the Iron, though they were trying to come back for most of the game. Matt Simms threw the ball 48 times – the single game high for the league thus far – but had all his efforts wasted with three interceptions. Atlanta is the only team without a rusher in the top ten of the league, and they are just behind the Iron in averaging 68.3 rushing yards per game. All this has resulted in the worst scoring offense (10.0 ppg), which is even worse than the only club to suffer a shut out this season. The Legends best chance for their first victory will likely come next week against that team – the Memphis Express – in what will be Atlanta’s second home game of the season.
The Hotshots are hoping that last week’s performance against the Stallions can be blamed on the weather – it was around 40 degrees at game time – and not on other reasons. They did lose quarterback John Wolford to a back injury on the first play of the second half. He’s been slowly ramping up his practice participation this week, and having the last schedule slot of the weekend is probably good for his chances of playing. Even after the struggles in Salt Lake, the Hotshots still have the second-best offense (in both yards and scoring), as well as the top defense (in yards allowed). It’s going to take a great game from the Legends to win this one.
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: San Diego Fleet, Orlando Apollos, San Antonio Commanders, and Arizona Hotshots.