Express at Stallions Game Preview
We wrote a brief preview about all Week 6 games yesterday. However, just like we do every week, we’ll be writing a more in-depth look at the weekend’s game featuring our hometown team, the Salt Lake Stallions.
The Stallions will play hosts to the Memphis Express at Rice-Eccles Stadium this week. Both teams are 1-4 on the season, and both teams are coming of last second losses last week. The Stallions lost perhaps the best AAF game of the season to the San Diego Fleet, while the Express lost a game on a last-second field goal by the Atlanta Legends.
The game “kicks off” from Salt Lake City at 4:00pm EST/2:00pm MST today, and unlike the previous home games for the Stallions this season, we might have decent weather for this one. The game time temperature is predicted to be 45 degrees and sunny; not exactly a balmy spring day, but much better than the freezing conditions of the prior home games.
Here’s what to expect from the teams in the game:
When the Express Have the Ball
The Express have the worst offense in the league, averaging only 239 yards of total offense per game. This is primarily a product of having the worst passing offense in a passing league, with the Express averaging only 133.8 passing yards per game. This is a team that started Christian Hackenberg for the first three games of the season (all losses), and he provided a blistering 277 total passing yards in those games. That’s just barely more than MVP-favorite Garrett Gilbert of the Orlando Apollos has averaged per game this season. Zach Mettenberger hasn’t exactly been Tom Brady the past two games, but he’s brought some semblance of competent quarterbacking to the team the past two weeks.
Running back Zac Stacy is the lone bright spot on offense, rushing for 271 yards and three touchdowns on the season. The Express are the only team in the AAF to have used two kickers this season (believe me, Josh Jasper was not the team’s problem the first three weeks), so you can tell how well the season has gone for them. There is definitely multiple reasons why this team is 1-4.
When the Stallions Have the Ball
For a team coached by Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, you would expect a bit more defensive intensity. The Express haven’t really slowed opponents much this season, surrendering the most yards per game (367.8) this season. They aren’t exactly the worst at pass defense – which should be a good thing in a passing-dominated league – but they give up the most rushing yards per game (151.0) by far, giving teams another avenue to beat them.
The team has 12.0 sacks on the year, led by Corey Verren’s four on the season. And they get after the quarterback, with 31 quarterback hits through five games. However, what they have in pressure they lack in the defensive backfield, with only three interceptions on the season. When your offense is bad, you need your defense to generate turnovers, something the Express have just been unable to do this season.
Salt Lake Stallions
When the Stallions Have the Ball
Last week’s game against the Fleet was the first one that the Stallions’ passing offense shined… if you totally ignore the three interceptions thrown by Josh Woodrum. But Woodrum was otherwise outstanding, throwing for a league record 380 yards in defeat, and putting the Stallions up in the final moments on a miraculous two-point conversion.
His favorite target all season has been De’Mornay Pierson-El, who had his first 100-yard game of the season last week against the Fleet. For the season, he has 23 catches (on 30 targets) for 279 yards and a touchdown. I’ve personally been waiting for Brian Tyms to have a breakout game. Could this be the one?
Running back Joel Bouagnon is the leading rusher on the team after Branden Oliver was lost for the season last week. Bouagnon has 225 yards and five touchdowns through five games, and should again get the bulk of the carries this week. I expect bigger things from him given the Express’ porous run defense; let’s hope he can take advantage.
When the Express Have the Ball
As mentioned previously, the Express offense is pretty bad. The Stallions defense, at least by the numbers, appears to be bad too, surrendering the third-most yards in the league (324.4 per game). But the do continue to have the league’s leading rush defense, which is kind of like saying that they’re the sharpest spoon among the knives (since nobody really runs it in this league). The one team that this could come into play is the Express, however, unless Mettenberger can somehow remember to be decent at quarterback.
I’ve really liked how the Stallions defense has played this season; they tend to be the victims of giving up big plays, or not stopping a team on third-and-long. Otherwise, they can look downright terrifying at times, with linebackers Greer Martini, Gionni Paul, and Luke Carrezola smothering ball carriers all over the field.
When the other team drops back to pass, Karter Schult is unleashed, and he leads the league with five sacks (and is second with 11 quarterback hits). If they can avoid giving up the big play – and against Memphis, this might be fairly easy – the Express could be in for a long day at the RES.
Who Comes Out On Top
We’ve picked the Stallions in all but one game this season, and we’ve been wrong nearly every time. The Stallions offense can struggle at times – though Josh Woodrum seems to have found a rhythm as of late – and the defense can give up backbreaking plays when least expected. But I also think that they’ve been the better team in two of their losses, and their 1-4 record could easily have been 3-2.
Both teams are likely going to miss the inaugural playoffs, and will likely need to go at least 4-1 down the stretch to sneak in as the number two seed in their respective conferences. That stretch needs to begin in this game, and I think the better team in this match up is the Stallions.
Unless they play another game with five turnovers, I don’t see how the inept Memphis offense scores enough to beat Salt Lake. If Woodrum can continue his performance from last week (minus the interceptions) and Bouagnon can find the holes in the Memphis run defense, this game could get ugly quick. The Stallions will move to 2-4 on the season, while the Express will fall to 1-5.
Enjoy the game, and we’ll be back with a recap when all is said and done!