We wrote a brief preview about all Week 7 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.
Both teams in this game are coming off wins last week, taking advantage of playing the two weaker teams in the Eastern Conference. The Salt Lake Stallions welcomed the Memphis Express to Salt Lake, and won fairly convincingly – though they struggled a bit after racing out to an early 16-0 lead. The San Antonio Commanders, on the other hand, dominated the Atlanta Legends on both sides of the ball in winning 37-6. The first matchup between these teams “kicks off” at 8:00pm EST (6:00pm MST) from San Antonio, and will be broadcast on NFL Network.
The Commanders have been on the road for the past month, winning three games in a row away from the Alamodome, the location of today’s game. But when they have been home this season, they’ve averaged over 28,000 fans in attendance, so playing three of their final four games at home could be enough to get them over the finish line. The Stallions, on the other hand, have not yet won on the road (0-3) this season, so the Alamodome might not be the friendliest location for their first road game of the season.
Here’s a look at how the teams stack up:
Salt Lake Stallions
The Stallions are 2-4 on the season, and are currently in last place in the Western Conference.
When the Stallions have the Ball
After averaging 142 yards passing per game through the first four weeks of the season, the Stallions have done better the past two weeks, with quarterback Josh Woodrum setting the league record with 380 yards two weeks ago against the San Diego Fleet. Nevertheless, the Stallions are still 6th in the league in passing yards per game (196.3), which isn’t necessarily good in a league that throws the ball 65% of the time.
The rushing offense isn’t terribly better, also 6th in the league in yards per game (100.7). Since losing Branden Oliver to injury during Week 4, Joel Bouagnon has been the primary back with mixed results. In two weeks as the primary ball carrier, he’s rushed for only 96 yards total, though he did add two touchdowns against San Diego. Expect the Stallions to try and establish the run early with Bouagnon or Terrell Newby, hoping for short field situations thanks to their defense.
The leading receiver for the Stallions remains De’Mornay Pierson-El, who has 28 catches (on 36 targets) for 317 yards. Woodrum also likes to throw to his tight ends, with Nick Truesdell (18 catches) and Anthony Denham (13 catches) among the top four in receptions. I’ve been waiting a few weeks for Brian Tyms (eight catches) to break out, so it remains to be seen if this is the week… or if I should just move on.
When the Commanders have the Ball
When the Stallions are on defense, they have a chance to shine. One of my biggest complaints about the team’s defense this season has been that they tend to give up a lot of big plays, especially late in drives or on third down. For example, they probably lost the San Diego game because they gave up a 45-yard completion after taking an improbable lead with less than a minute in the game.
Still, the defense has drives where they truly shine. This week’s Defensive Player of the Week was Karter Schult, who leads the league with seven sacks and is always seemingly in the offensive backfield. In fact, the defensive line is one of the strongest units in the league, setting the league record for sacks in last week’s game.
The Stallions lead the league in rush defense (83.7 yards per game), which could come into play against the Commanders and their rushing offense. This is primarily because of their swarming linebackers, led by leading tackler Gionni Paul. Like the defensive line and the offensive backfield, the Stallions’ linebackers always seem to swarm on the ball when it is within a few yards of the line of scrimmage. But can they avoid the big plays that have doomed them all season?
San Antonio Commanders
The Commanders are currently in first place in the Western Conference with a 4-2 record.
When the Commanders have the Ball
The Commanders offense wasn’t much needed last week, with a punt return and defensive touchdown, as well as three other drives that started deep on the Legends’ side of the field. They had the lowest offensive output last week… but still scored the most points.
But last week’s offensive stats have dropped them in the rankings, though they are still ahead of the Stallions. Logan Woodside was Offensive Player of the Week two weeks ago, and has the second-most passing yards in the league with 1,189. However, his six touchdowns and matched with six interceptions, placing him among the middle of passing leaders in the league.
Running back Kenneth Farrow is the league’s second-leading rusher with 342 yards and four touchdowns, and was named Offensive Player of the Week for Week 4 after he established the league record for single game rushing against the Birmingham Iron. Receiver Mekale McKay is also among the league leaders in receiving yards, with 354 yards and three touchdowns.
When the Stallions have the Ball
Overall, the Commanders have the second-worst defense in the league, at least when it comes to yards surrendered. Opponents have gained an average of 336.3 yards per game and have been outgained in four of the their six games this season.
But being outgained in yards doesn’t always result in losses, as attested by the Commanders’ 4-2 record this season. They’ve surrendered an average of 19.3 points per game, which is third-best in the league, showing the true ability of the Commanders’ defense. They may have allowed the most yards, but they tend to surrender field goals when their opponents get down the field, or, like last week, they force turnovers and score points directly off of them.
De’Vaunte Bausby leads the league with four interceptions, and two other players – Zach Sanchez and Derron Smith have three on the season, with Smith returning an interception 87 yards for a touchdown last week. Along the defensive front, Jayrone Elliott is second in the league with 5.5 sacks, so it should be an exciting game featuring the top two sack leaders.
How We See It
The Stallions would like to get a win in this one, if only to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. A win would also give them an early leg up in the head-to-head matchup with the Commanders, with the rematch coming in the last week of the season. Against the other Western Conference teams, the Stallions have either split (1-1 against the Arizona Hotshots), or trail pending the rematch (0-1 versus the Fleet), so getting out to a lead would give them the chance to actually win the season series.
With a win, the Commanders would maintain a one-game lead over the winner of the Hotshots-Fleet game tomorrow, and a loss would move them into a tie. The Western Conference has been very tight this season, with seemingly a new leader every week. We don’t expect it to be any different this week, with the Salt Lake Stallions as our choice in this game, which would move them one game back of the leaders in the race for the playoff.
We’ll be back after the game with our recap; hopefully it ends up the way we are hoping.