There was a lot of movement in the middle of these rankings after week three, but the top and bottom stay the same. Surprisingly, there is a lot of parity in the AAF as any team (yes, even Atlanta) can beat or play it close with any other.
Like every week, here are some things I noticed during week three.
- Memphis might have found an answer at QB and could be dangerous moving forward
- The Iron have the best defense in the AAF, and it might take them places
- The Hotshots have fallen off offensively, need to figure out that offensive line
- Nobody knows what’s going on in Atlanta, and I don’t think a new QB can fix it
- The Stallions are the best team with a losing record
- QB Controversy in San Antonio? Possibly after an iffy performance by Woodside
- The Apollos are still the best team in the AAF, but they aren’t unbeatable.
- If the Fleet keep playing like they just did, they could be a dark horse in this league
After a weird week in the news for the AAF, a great weekend of football was necessary. That’s what they gave the fans, and it goes to show that great football is more important than any news.
Week Four Power Rankings
- Orlando Apollos (3-0) ↔ 0
- Birmingham Iron (3-0) ↑ 1
- Arizona Hotshots (2-1) ↓ 1
- San Diego Fleet (2-1) ↑ 1
- Salt Lake Stallions (1-2) ↑ 1
- San Antonio Commanders (1-2) ↓ 3
- Memphis Express (0-3) ↔ 0
- Atlanta Legends (0-3) ↔ 0
1) Orlando Apollos (Won 21-17 against the Memphis Express)
Football is a weird game. Orlando looked straight up dominant in the first quarter, especially on their first drive. They drove 75 yards in four plays and scored a touchdown on their first drive for the first time this season. Orlando picked off Hackenberg twice in the half, but only got three points off of those turnovers. The Apollos have had no problem scoring points in their previous two games, so to see them struggle against this Memphis defense is surprising. The defense did really well for the most part and held Zac Stacy and Memphis to only 132 yards rushing and 17 points, but they had trouble when Mettenberger started playing in the third quarter. Part of that is being unable to gameplan for him, but they had struggled against the Commanders as well. The Apollos are still the best team in the AAF, but they aren’t as unbeatable as we originally believed.
Standout: Garrett Gilbert (14/28, 207 yards, 1 passing TD, 7 carries, 43 yards, 1 rushing TD)
Gilbert wasn’t as efficient through the air, as we have grown accustomed to over two weeks, but he didn’t make mistakes, which is huge for any offense. The former NFL quarterback also might have learned a few things from Cam Newton during his time with the Carolina Panthers, as Gilbert made a few crucial plays with his legs against Memphis.
2) Birmingham Iron (Won 28-12 against the Atlanta Legends)
The Iron are 3-0 because of their defense, which has been the best in the league by far. They have only given up an average of seven points per game this year and they have forced eight total turnovers. The Birmingham offense is anything but impressive so far. They have managed to score points, but they seem to move the football very well. On 12 scoring drives, they are averaging only 46 yards per drive and four of them are because of turnovers forced by their defense. Their rushing attack has been less than stellar, averaging 2.4 yards a carry. Their receivers can’t seem to hold onto the ball and the Luis Perez hype has died down because of it. The defense has been stellar, but high-powered offenses like Arizona or Orlando should be able to put up at least 21 points against them. If the Iron offense can’t keep up, they simply won’t be able to win. This a team built on great defense but if their offense doesn’t pick up they won’t be at number two in these power rankings for long.
Standout: Trent Richardson (17 carries, 46 yards, 3 TDs)
I know that I just said that the Iron offense has been overwhelmingly negative, but what Trent Richardson has been doing is unique. As soon as the Iron reach the 10-yard line, Richardson becomes a bulldozer and finds the endzone. He scored three touchdowns against the Legends this past weekend and has secured paydirt six times on the year.
3) Arizona Hotshots (Lost 23-15 against the Salt Lake Stallions)
This was a tough loss in more ways than just the scoreboard would indicate. They lost quarterback John Wolford and he is on a day-to-day basis with a back injury. Back injuries are fickle things, so we won’t know if he will be back this week or at all. The Hotshots offensive line that looked so good in week one has looked super porous during these last two weeks. They weren’t able to run the football against this Stallions defense, only totaling 66 yards on 21 carries. The defense wasn’t great, but they still played well enough to win. The Hotshots are still good, but unless they figure out how to protect John Wolford or Trevor Knight they are in trouble.
Standout: Steve Beauharnais (7 total tackles, 4 solo tackles, .5 sacks)
He was really good during a mediocre defensive performance for the Hotshots defense. He and Steven Johnson highlight a good linebacker group that held the Stallions to 95 total rushing yards.
4) San Diego Fleet (Won 31-11 over the San Antonio Commanders)
It’s amazing what good offensive line play can do for a team. Coming into week three, I was fairly high on the Fleet’s defense but low on their ability to move the football against the quality front seven of the Commanders. The offensive line, which was originally a liability, has become a strength of this San Diego team. The Fleet ran for over 200 yards and threw for 193 while scoring 25 total points. This offense could become a powerhouse once they fully learn Mike Martz’s playbook, which he basically dropped on the team. There defensive line as a whole is the best defensive line group in the league as they have remarkable depth and talent at the position. The one question mark for the Fleet defense is their defensive backs, but with the return of Kameron Kelly, it should get a lot better. This team has a lot to be excited about going forward if Philip Nelson can consistently play well.
Standout: Philip Nelson (17/25, 193 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int)
After the early mistake, Nelson played nearly perfect and surprised me with his good pocket presence and accuracy. His ability to maneuver in the pocket makes the Fleet offensive line better and allows for Martz’s long developing pass plays to work. He will be key for this San Diego offense moving forward.
5) Salt Lake Stallions (Won 23-15 against the Salt Lake Stallions)
Salt Lake showed us how good of a team they can be with decent quarterback play. My main concern with the Stallions before this was their inability to finish, but they showed me otherwise against the Hotshots on Sunday. A great defensive performance, highlighted by an athletic pick from Greer Martini and Karter Schult dominance, held a highly touted Hotshots offense to only 15 points and 66 rushing yards. Salt Lake had efficient quarterback play from Josh Woodrum and a good overall rushing game from both Oliver and Bouagnon. This balanced attack could prove what many of us have been thinking: This is the best team with a losing record in the AAF.
Standout: Karter Schult (2 solo tackles, 1 sack)
His performance may not have lit up box scores, but he was dominant against the Hotshots. Wolfords one interception was a result of a Schult hit. His ability to apply pressure in the run and pass makes him a dominant force.
6) San Antonio Commanders (Lost 31-11 against the San Diego Fleet)
Oh, what could have been. If not for a holding penalty, Greg Ward would have had a 14-yard touchdown that could have put the Commanders up at least 14-0. But soon after, Woodside felt the pressure and threw an interception that eventually led to 28 unanswered points. The offensive line worries me, and when that defense isn’t getting pressure on the quarterback, the rest of their team seems exposed. It seems like there is a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing at the Alamo as Marquise Williams took all of the snaps in the last drive. They should stick with Woodside, but if they switch to Williams it will bring an interesting dynamic to the league.
Standout: Trey Williams (7 carries, 75 yards)
He was a pleasant surprise for the Commanders in this rather disappointing performance. He averaged 10.7 yards a carry and was the only spark San Antonio had late in the game. He could possibly take the lead role in that backfield.
7) Memphis Express (Lost 21-17 against the Orlando Apollos)
At least that’s how I think Memphis fans feel about their passing game as soon as Zach Mettenberger entered the game on Sunday. The Express offense immediately got better as Mettenberger came in and with this sudden surge of energy into the offense, Memphis could surprise some. The Express has a really good defense that held the Apollos, who had scored over 35 points in each of their last two games, to 21 points. They also boast a decent running game. The only thing holding the offense back is a lack of identity at times, but if Memphis can figure out what to do to stay consistent with Mettenberger at the helm, the rest of the league should watch out.
Standout: Zach Mettenberger (9/12, 120 yards, 2 TDs)
What a difference a decent quarterback makes. His ability and willingness to push the ball downfield was what kept the Express in this game, and could help this 0-3 team surprise some people down the road.
8) Atlanta Legends (Lost 28-12 against the Birmingham Iron)
Nobody knows what is going on with the offense in Atlanta. First Brad Childress left, then Michael Vick, and now Rich Bartel has left Atlanta. Surprisingly, it didn’t show on this team’s first two drives. They actually moved the ball fairly well, getting all the way to the one-yard line before stalling and then kicking a field goal on their second drive. After that, it was mostly downhill as Atlanta turned the ball over six total times (Three interceptions, one fumble, two on downs) and punted three times. Matt Simms never looked truly comfortable and they have no rushing attack to speak of. Defensively there were some positives, as the Legends kept the game close going into the half, only down 9-3. But after the half, the Iron scored on three of their last six drives (not including the one that was basically two kneel downs to end the game). This whole team is a wreck. This team needs to change some things, probably starting with the quarterback position.
Standout: Tyson Graham Jr. (14 total tackles, 10 solo tackles)
Tyson Graham has been one of the top safeties in the AAF despite being on a bad defense, and he is fantastic in run support. He was one of the few bright spots the Legends have had this season.