Yes, there was actually a week 8 in the AAF, despite Tom Dundon’s dire prediction of folding if the NFLPA didn’t help out. You can read about that HERE.
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Since the league didn’t dissolve, let’s go ahead and take a look at the AAF’s week 8 and what this means for the playoff picture moving forward.
The Orlando Apollos are becoming more and more human as the weeks tick by. They had to manufacture a comeback win against the Memphis Express who should have won that game. The Birmingham Iron made their number 2 seed official in their victory over the Legends. We all saw that coming, so that’s not surprising. The Salt Lake Stallions finally got a much needed win over the San Diego Fleet in a rather ugly battle that one could loosely refer to as football. And, the Arizona Hotshots and San Antonio Commanders continue to be a matchup to keep an eye on.
Some key injuries and turnovers played a big role in the outcome of this past weekend’s games.
(7-1) Orlando Apollos @ (2-6) Memphis Express
(34 Apollos – 31 Express)
Oh, boy. I feel the need to apologize to all of the Memphis Express fans out there after the Apollo’s “victory” in the AAF Week 8. Notice, “victory” in quotations. As an Apollos fan, it is not beneath me to admit that this game belonged to the Memphis Express. Even after Johnny Manziel went down early with a concussion, Silvers and the Express continued to cut up the Apollos and prove Orlando can bleed.
This game boiled down to three main points. Penalties, luck, and Memphis defense.
As I have mentioned before, the Express defense have been quietly impressing and keeping their team in the game. They kept Apollos quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, to a 55% pass completion rate and intercepted him twice. I should note that the Memphis defense almost intercepted Gilbert on what seemed like every play. They also held the Apollos running backs in check at only 71 total yards. Also, head coach Steve Spurrier loves to throw the ball even in horrid conditions like in week 8. That annoyed me. I’ll be honest.
The Express defense also kept the Apollos from converting on critical third downs and protected the red zone. Instead of touchdowns, the Apollos only managed two field goals as their first two scores. Gilbert, who is known for efficiency, looked harried and caused at least three delay of game penalties in a single drive. TheApollo s only had three turnovers in the last six wins, and yet three in this game alone.
Penalties on both sides of the ball were down right outrageous. Apollos and Express combined for 25 penalties for a total of 259 yards. Many of these penalties negated turnovers as well as taking touchdowns off the board.
It’s difficult for me to decide if the Apollos got lucky or if the Express were simply unlucky. Perhaps it’s a little of both. The Express picked off Gilbert in the first quarter, only to have that negated with a pass interference call on the Express. An illegal formation penalty took away an Express touchdown in the third quarter. An Express turnover resulted in another touchdown… only to have that taken off the board. Then, the Express miss a field goal. A fumbled snap by the punter resulted in the Apollo’s on the Express 26-yard-line, only to have the refs miss another delay of game. This resulted in head coach Mike Singletary nearly imploding on the sideline to get an unsportsman-like conduct penalty. You see what I’m saying?
Memphis also came into this game with some key injuries to note. One of them was star running back Zach Stacy, who is 4th in the AAF coming into week 8. They were also missing Brandon Silvers favorite target, Reece Horn, as well as Alton “Pig” Howard. Oh, and let’s not forget they were also missing two starting offensive lineman and then Johnny Manziel gets hurt.
Apollo’s fans should hope that this was simply a one-off game for their team and they can bounce back to true form in Week 9. I think many teams are going to take a hard look at how the Memphis defense unraveled the previously unflappable Apollos team.
(3-5) San Diego Fleet @ (3-5) Salt Lake Stallions
(8 Stallions – 3 Fleet)
Well, this game wasn’t nearly as exciting as their previous week 5 matchup. Remember the crazy walk-off field goal? However, the Stallions were finally able to secure a win, no matter how ugly.
Just like last week, it was clear the Fleet desperately missed running back Ja’Quan Gardner and their downfield threat Dontez Ford. I mean, look at the score. One field goal. You can’t win in this league without downfield connections and you can’t beat the number one run defense with your best running back off the field.
The injuries were bad enough, but turnovers in this game sealed the fate of the Fleet. Both teams were tied at 3 turnovers a piece, but it was a late interception on Fleet’s Mike Bercovici that did it. With 38 seconds to go, the Fleet were looking to score from the 30-yard-line. Bercovici’s pass, intended for Brian Brown was picked off and the game was over.
Although the Fleet were defeated, defensive back Ryan Moeller shined with two interceptions and fumble recovery and was awarded Defensive Player of the Week. That’s something at least, right?
With both teams tied at 3-5, we’ll see how the next two weeks shape up for both teams as their compatriots San Antonio and Arizona are also tied at 5-3. The Stallions still need to capitalize and score points if they want to keep the winning streak going. This should have been a runaway for Salt Lake but it ended up being a one-score game.
(2-6) Atlanta Legends @ (5-3) Birmingham Iron
(17 Iron – 9 Legends)
Well, no surprises here. Iron beat the last place Legends to secure number two seed behind the Apollos. The only touchdown came from, guess who, Trent Richardson, who still leads the AAF in rushing touchdowns. The Iron still aren’t consistent on offense through the air and the defense led the charge.
It was interesting that we saw both quarterbacks on both teams during this game. After Perez couldn’t get anything going, head coach, Tim Lewis, tossed Keith Price in to give them some spark. But it was a late interception by the Iron’s defense picking off Aaron Murray, that ended the game.
The Legends, yet again, could not connect nor could they score in the red zone. Each team was in the red zone four times, but the Iron were the only ones to come away with a touchdown. Thank you, Richardson. The nine total points for the Legends came on the foot of Younghoe Koo. Again. Plus, the four turnovers by the Legends didn’t help their cause.
All in all, this game was rather predictable. A rare occurrence in the AAF.
(5-3) Arizona Hotshots @ (5-3) San Antonio Commanders
(23 Hotshots – 6 Commanders)
Errr…. what happened to San Antonio’s best defense in the league?
Hotshots quarterback, John Wolford, threw 17 for 23 attempts, 216 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Running back, Tim Cook, scored two touchdowns and of course, Rashaad Ross caught a 58-yard bomb for a touchdown as well. I’m fairly certain Arizona had no turnovers in this game, which is shocking considering the Commanders are known for creating them.
The revenge had to be sweet for the Hotshots. Recall in week 5 that the Commanders went up big going into half-time to then almost lose as the Hotshots came roaring back in the second half. How the tables have turned.
Wolford continues to gain momentum and ignite his team. According to Howard Blazer of the AAF, Wolford is 48 for 69 attempts with 590 yards, only one interception and four touchdown passes in the past three weeks.
That’s not to say that the Commanders have suddenly lost all of their mojo. These teams are incredibly matched and I am so excited to see how this shapes up as we move closer to the playoffs. The Commanders are coming off of a four game winning streak while the Hotshots have added to their steak with a third win. Let’s see who has that extra “something” to get the job done.
Upcoming games – Week 9