Welcome to week seven! The AAF action is heating up, with a playoff spot up for grabs. Here are this weekend’s picks:
Orlando Apollos (5-1) vs. Atlanta Legends (2-4)
The last time these two teams met, it was all Apollos. Orlando dominated from start to finish, winning 40-6. Atlanta seemed to be on the way up after naming a new starting quarterback in Aaron Murray, but he struggled mightily last week against the Commanders, throwing three interceptions, one of which was returned for six points. This bodes well for the Apollos, who are third in the league in interceptions with seven and should be poised to pick off Murray multiple times.
Speaking of poise, the Apollos lost their poise last weekend against the Hotshots. Arizona was certainly capable of knocking off Orlando, but many just didn’t think they would. Orlando was plagued by penalties at the worst possible time and even had one player ejected for throwing a punch. That did not bode well for the Apollos, and they will hope to not repeat the same mistakes.
Bottom Line: Look for the Apollos to bounce back this weekend. With a chance to secure the first playoff spot in AAF history, Orlando will rise to the challenge. It may not be a blowout like in week one, but the Apollos will pull off the win and clinch that playoff spot. Atlanta has scored 20 points or more only one time this season, and it’s unlikely the Legends will surpass that number in this contest either.
Prediction: Apollos 27, Legends 15
San Antonio Commanders (4-2) vs. Salt Lake Stallions (2-4)
San Antonio has been on a tear lately. The Commanders have won three in a row on their way to sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. This weekend will be the first time they have played at home in three weeks, so expect record attendance for this game.
Salt Lake is a true mystery team. The Stallions rank last in passing defense, and first in rushing defense. Sometimes they look dominant, and then they turn the ball over on the next play. In fact, Salt Lake is seventh in the league in turnover margin at -11.
Bottom Line: Turnovers will decide this game. San Antonio is first in turnover margin at +11, including 13 interceptions! Salt Lake quarterback Josh Woodrum has thrown five interceptions this season. Pair that with a San Antonio home game, and a recipe for disaster is brewing for the Stallions.
Prediction: Commanders 25, Stallions 18
(3-3) Arizona Hotshots VS. San Diego Fleet (3-3)
This is most certainly the most difficult pick of the weekend. It may also be the game that impacts the West more than any other, as the winner of this matchup holds the tiebreaker over the loser, at least until they play again.
The Hotshots are looking to build on a huge win against the Orlando Apollos, whereas San Diego is coming off of a crushing last-second defeat against Birmingham last week. The teams are fourth and fifth in my power rankings.
Things to consider here: The Hotshots have been an up and down team, typically having a good game followed by a bad game. This week could certainly bring a bad game, especially after coming down off of the high of the Orlando victory. However, San Diego has never won a road game, so that could also play a factor.
Bottom Line: Anticipate Arizona to come out a little flat after last weekend. Conversely, San Diego will be pumped up for this game, after their close loss at home last week. Look for Kameron Kelly and the Fleet defense to put a lot of pressure on the Hotshots, leading to a San Diego victory.
Prediction: Hotshots 22, Fleet 24
(1-5) Memphis Express VS. Birmingham Iron (4-2)
The addition of Johnny Manziel to the Memphis Express roster changes this game from a definitive victory to an interesting contest, or at least it does in theory. The Express could reinvent themselves this weekend, go on a run, and finish 5-5.
However, that is unlikely. Memphis currently ranks 8th in run defense (yards per game) and 6th in pass defense (yards per game). They are facing a Birmingham team that has figured out how to throw the ball, and do it well. Additonally, the Iron still have the number one defense in the AAF in terms of yards allowed. I’m not sure that Manziel will be able to be that much of a factor in this game, with only one week of practice before facing the best defense in the league.
Bottom Line: The Iron can smell the playoffs. After losing two in a row, they righted the ship in San Diego. It is tough to put that much faith in Manziel, and Birmingham will get their fifth win of the season.
Prediction: Express 15, Iron 21