It was a rough week of picks for JB and I as we struggled through Week 6. But as most football coaches say, we are focused on one week at a time.
Somehow, I stayed in first this week with a 1-3 record while JB went 0-4. So I get the incredible responsibility of giving you this week’s bold predictions. And boy, they are more daring than ever.
–Brian Brown (San Diego) is the leagues leading receiver in yards for Week 6
–Johnny Manziel scores his first AAF points on a rush to convert a two-point conversion
–Garrett Gilbert doesn’t throw a touchdown pass against Atlanta, but Orlando still wins
–Aaron Murray will lead the Legends in rushing
-Logan Woodsides throws two interceptions after throwing one over the last three weeks
-John Wolford has his best statistical day since Week 1
-De’Mornay Pierson-El has three receiving touchdowns, leading the league
–Trent Richardson will (be ready to gasp) average more than 3.5 yards a carry
Oh, and one more bold prediction this week. JB and I do better than last weeks miserable 1-7 performance.
Zach: 63% (15-9) (1-3)
JB (TAFKAFS): 46% (11-13) (0-4)
Jason: 50% (10-10)
Orlando Apollos (5-1) at Atlanta Legends (2-4)
Orlando (26)-Atlanta (20)
After a rough performance for each teams quarterback, I expect one of them to bounce back. To be clear, it’s not going to be Aaron Murray. Of his last three starts, Murray has played against two of the best teams in the AAF. Murray won’t play horribly, but if Murray’s receivers can’t get open against the likes of Keith Reaser and Marquez White, Atlanta is going to have a long day offensively. On the defensive side of things, unless they get consistent pressure on Garrett Gilbert, it’ll be difficult. Gilbert is at his best when he can sit comfortably in the pocket. If Atlanta lets him have time, Gilbert will always find the open man. Watch out for Orlando’s running game as well, as they boast one of the more potent rushing attacks of the league.
Key Matchup: Aaron Murray vs. Garrett Gilbert
Whichever quarterback turns the ball over less is going to come away with a win. My gut tells me that guy is going to be Garrett Gilbert. Atlanta’s defensive backs struggled against the Commanders, and I would expect much of the same against Orlando.
Atlanta (28)-Orlando (23)
How does a team have more 1st downs, better third-down efficiency, 18 more plays, and 56 more yards of offense and still lose by 31 points? Four Turnovers, including one for a Touchdown, is an excellent way to start. That’s what happened to the Legends last week against the Commanders. A statistically impressive performance that didn’t translate into a win. Aaron Murray leads a team that has drastically improved since he got into the game three weeks ago. The Apollos lost their first game of the year last week facing the Hotshots. Like the Legends, the Apollos had more first downs, better third-down efficiency, more offensive plays, and more total yards than their opponents and lost. Although not the four given up by the Legends, the Apollos turned the ball over twice on their way to a 22-17 loss. The Legends have come a long way since their 40-6 loss to the Apollos in week one. A league-leading (in yards allowed) defense is now being paired with a potent offense. Look for the Legends to hand the Apollos their second loss of the year.
Key Matchup: Legends Seantavious Jones vs. Apollos Marquez White
Jones had 89 yards on five receptions against the Express two weeks ago. He was held to 36 yards on six catches last week; he’s due to bounce back this week. Marquez White leads the Apollos in Passes Defended.
Salt Lake Stallions (2-4) at San Antonio Commanders (4-2)
San Antonio (30)-Salt Lake (15)
The Commanders have looked dominant in each of the last two weeks after an inconsistent stretch to begin the season. San Antonio stands at 4-2 and atop the West, playing the “better-then-their-record” Salt Lake Stallions. I see this game going much like the previous two for San Antonio. Josh Woodrum has played well, but not well enough to score early and often against the Commanders. And without a running game to keep the San Antonio pass rushers, Salt Lakes offense will be open season for the best pass-rushing unit in the league. It will be up to Salt Lake’s defense to hold the big play ability of San Antonio in check. Karter Schult will need to have a big day to keep Logan Woodside in check.
Key Matchup: Karter Schult vs. San Antonio’s offensive line
Salt Lake should and could move Schult around early and often until they find someone who cannot handle his pass rushing abilities. He needs to keep Woodside uncomfortable often if Salt Lake wants to have a chance.
San Antonio (22)-Salt Lake (17)
In spite of limping to a 31 point victory over the team with the worst record in the league, I like the Commanders’ chances this week against the Stallions. A team can’t be blamed for another team handing them a win, and I won’t punish San Antonio for it now. The Commanders return to the Alamodome for the first time since February 17th. The Stallions come off a not very impressive victory over the Express. Woodrum got off to a hot start, throwing two touchdown’s in the first Quarter, and then was content to play it safe against an Express team who lost their starting QB to injury on their first play of the game. Stallion RB Joel Bouagnon ended up with 60 yards rushing on 19 carries, no catches, and no touchdowns. Home field advantage is worth something in this league, and the Alamodome has more of an advantage than most stadiums in the AAF. That will be enough for the Commanders to get the win.
Key Matchup: Commanders LB Jayrone Elliott vs. Stallions DE Karter Schult
These two don’t line up against each other, but they lead the AAF in Sacks. Schult is in 1st place with seven sacks (18 QB hits), and Elliott is in second with 5.5 sacks (nine QB hits). Neither team has been great against the pass rush, (Stallions 18 sacks allowed, Commanders 19) and when there is chaos in the pocket, anything can happen. The game may come down to which team has a better answer for the pass rush.
San Diego Fleet (3-3) at Arizona Hotshots (3-3)
Arizona (28)-San Diego (25)
This game is vital for both teams as they look to get ahead in the race for the West’s second playoff spot, and I hate what I am doing. I am picking against the Fleet. I haven’t picked against them yet this year, but they struggle in places Arizona can exploit. Wolford is athletic and high on the move, so San Diego’s defensive line will have to fight to keep him in the pocket. The Fleet defensive backs struggle against straight line speed which Arizona receiver Rashad Ross has in bunches. The Fleet have had trouble running the football, and Arizona just held the best passing attack in the AAF in check. The cards are stacked against San Diego as far as matchup’s go. San Diego can hang tight with Arizona, and it will come down to what team makes fewer mistakes.
Key Matchup: San Diego’s Defensive Line vs. John Wolford
While San Diego pressured Luis Perez on more than half of his snaps, they struggled to keep him in the pocket. This allowed plays to be extended and Perez to make plays with his feet as well. San Diego needs to keep Wolford in the pocket if they want to be successful, as he is more athletic then Perez and can do more damage with his legs.
Arizona (25)-San Diego (22)
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks in San Diego with the Fleet winning their week five matchup against the Stallions on a Field Goal as time expired, and then losing last week to the Iron on a field goal as time expired. The Fleet travel to the desert this week to face the Hotshots who stumbled their way to a victory over the Apollos last week. Both teams come into the game at 3-3. Bercovici seems to be settling in at quarterback for the Fleet after Philip Nelson’s season-ending injury. Bercovici threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Dontez Ford had the bulk of the receiving with 182, including a mind-boggling 122 yards after the catch. The Hotshots worked hard to keep the ball on the ground against the Apollos rushing 38 times for 179 yards and a touchdown. That strategy could play into the hands of the Fleet who have a stronger defensive front than Orlando, and a secondary that has given up big plays. Hotshots John Wolford has only thrown for 200+ yards twice this year. Look for him to do it again this week.
Key Matchup: Hotshots QB John Wolford vs. Fleet Secondary
The Fleet will have a chance if Kameron Kelly can have another three-interception game as he did two weeks ago against the Stallions. If he plays as he did against the Iron, one pass defended and zero tackles, along with getting burned deep a couple of times, the Hotshots will win.
Birmingham Iron (4-2) at Memphis Express (1-5)
Birmingham (23)-Memphis (16)
I don’t know how good Birmingham is. They struggled for two straight weeks, not able to produce much of anything offensively. But then they go and score 32 points against San Diego, and Perez had a day, throwing for his first three touchdowns of the season. But he also had five turnover-worthy plays, two of which turned into interceptions. Memphis should turn more of those into interceptions and force Birmingham in a corner. Memphis’s Brandon Silvers was very efficient in his first start, throwing for a touchdown and no interceptions. But he needs more of a rushing attack if Memphis want’s to produce. Birmingham has struggled against the pass, but having a balanced attack will make Birmingham play the pass a little less diligently and open things up for Memphis.
Memphis has been the most successful when they can run the football effectively. I would expect them to try against this stout Birmingham defense. Massaquoi has been a leader on this Iron defense, and expect him to have a significant role in stopping the run.
Birmingham (28)-Memphis (14)
This is the second game of the year between the Iron and the Express. The first game was a 26-0 blowout of the Express at Legion Field in Birmingham. Luis Perez threw for over 250 yards, and Trent Richardson ran for two touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Express QB Christian Hackenberg threw for fewer than 100 yards, and Zac Stacy ran for 58 yards. The Express has come a long way since then. Bobby Blizzard has stabilized the offense since he took on play-calling duties after week three. Losing starting QB Zach Mettenberger on the first offensive play of the game last week was a setback, but Brandon Silvers handled himself well, throwing for 242 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. WR Reece Horn caught eight passes for 129 yards, while Zac Stacy and Terence Magee were both held under three yards a carry. Fast Forward to last week and Luis Perez had been benched in favor of Keith Price but got the chance to get back into the lineup when Price went down with an injury. Perez went on to throw for 359 yards and three touchdowns against the Fleet. He did have some trouble with his accuracy. L’Damian Washington had 128 yards on four catches but was targeted ten times. Quinton Patton had 53yds on eight catches but was targeted 15 times. His overall completion percentage was still over 50%. The Iron defense will prove to be too much for the Brandon Silver led Express to overcome.
Key Matchup: Mike Singletary vs. Johnny Manziel
This might be the key matchup for any Express game from here on out. The Express picked up Johnny Manziel last Sunday. He has spent this last week practicing with the team and scrambling to learn the playbook. He does have a leg up having played in a similar offense at Texas A&M, but he will not be ready this week. That being said, if the Express get down early, it might be too much of a temptation to plug Manziel into the offense. I’m going to be looking for what the feel of the stadium is. Will fans be calling for Manziel? I can’t wait to find out.