AAF Week 5 Schedule and Picks
It’s Week 5 in the Alliance!
Some questions we have entering this weekend’s action:
- Will the Orlando Apollos remain undefeated, or will the Birmingham Iron find a way to win and move into first place in the Eastern Conference?
- Can the Salt Lake Stallions find their first victory on the road this season against the San Diego Fleet?
- Will the Memphis Express and Atlanta Legends rush for more than 100 yards combined?
- Will the winner between the San Antonio Commanders and Arizona Hotshots take over first place in the Western Conference, or will they be joined by a victorious Fleet?
- Overall attendance has declined every week during the season. Will this trend continue? (The average attendance of the four hosts this weekend is 12,665 over six games)
We have four original matchups this weekend, and three will have a direct impact on what teams are at the top of each division at the midway point of the season. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s matchups:
Orlando Apollos (4-0) at Birmingham Iron (3-1)
Saturday, March 9, 2019, 2:00pm EST (TNT), Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
This game lost a little luster with the Iron’s loss last week, but it still a game that will determine who is in first place in the Eastern Conference at the end of the game. It’ll be a battle between the #1 offense of the Apollos versus the #1 defense of the Iron, and mid-league squads when the roles are reversed; the Apollos are fourth in total defense (though second in scoring defense), while the Iron are 5th in total offense (4th in scoring).
Despite having that top defense, the Iron have only intercepted two passes all season, so I expect that Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert will end another game without an interception (he remains the only qualifying quarterback with that distinction). The Birmingham offense will likely feature about a dozen 2-yard rushes by Trent Richardson, though he will somehow still score a couple touchdowns to extend his league-leading total in that category. Should be a good one to start the weekend.
Salt Lake Stallions (1-3) at San Diego Fleet (2-2)
Saturday, March 9, 2019, 8:00pm EST (NFL Network), SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, California
The Stallions head west looking for their first road win of the season after losses in Arizona and Birmingham to open the season. San Diego, on the other hand, is undefeated in their two home games thus season, and hope that the strong San Diego crowd (third in average attendance) can buoy the Fleet to another home victory and a share of the Western Conference lead.
The Fleet will be returning quarterback duties to Mike Bercovici, who will be starting in the game in relief of the injured (and on injured reserve) Philip Nelson. He’ll be facing off against new Salt Lake defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee, who took over defensive play calling duties before last week’s game against the Apollos. The Stallions defense has had stretches this season where they looked great, and facing a quarterback that struggled in their previous start might be exactly what they need to find some consistency on that side of the ball.
Memphis Express (1-3) at Atlanta Legends (1-3)
Sunday, March 10, 2019, 4:00pm EST (CBS Sports Network), Georgia State Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
With both teams winning their first games of the season last week, the bracing need to win this week is somewhat eliminated, though the loser this week would likely be eliminated from playoff contention with four losses (and the conference leader being at least three games ahead). Still, after struggles all season, both teams will likely want to extend that winning streak to two and take sole possession of third place in the east.
Atlanta will also be starting a new quarterback this week, though it’s more because of performance than injury to his predecessor (though Matt Simms did leave last week’s game with an injury). Former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will be under center this week, facing off against former teammate (and later SEC opponent) Zach Mettenberger nearly six years after the last matchup, an epic 44-41 victory for Murray’s Bulldogs. Here’s hoping that they find some of those fireworks in the rematch Sunday.
San Antonio Commanders (2-2) at Arizona Hotshots (2-2)
Sunday, March 10, 2019, 8:00pm EST (NFL Network), Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
Perhaps the biggest contrast in this meeting is how the teams got to 2-2 on the season. The Commanders knocked the Iron from the ranks of the undefeated last week, while the Hotshots have lost two in a row, including Atlanta’s first win on the season last week. One thing that both games had in common: they weren’t pretty.
The teams are also a contrast on offense. The Commanders (3rd in total offense) rely heavily on the run (1st with 152 yards a game), with a 53/47 pass/run split. Running back Kenneth Farrow II was the Offensive Player of the Week after setting a new single-game rushing record. The Hotshots, behind Week 2 OPotW quarterback John Wolford, are second in total offense, with nearly a 60/40 pass/run split. This game has the potential to be an offensive show too, especially considering the Commanders enter the game with the worst defense (by yards allowed). Hopefully, we get better Sunday games than last week.
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: Orlando Apollos, Salt Lake Stallions, Memphis Express, San Antonio Commanders