Mar. 26, 2019
AAF Week 5 Recap: Big Match Weekend
The midpoint of any sports season does carry a level of significance, as the franchises of said league will be doubling their efforts to build upon early success or rally from struggles. For the AAF in their maiden campaign, their Week 5 was accentuated with key games for most of the teams due to the layup of the standings in each conference. Without further ado...
The Orlando Apollos march to 5-0 in a convincing 31-14 romp over the previously one loss Birmingham Iron. This game would be the heavyweight fight that this young league could use to draw an audience not dedicated to the Alliance. There was the high flying Apollos, with the ol' Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier leading his Sun 'N Gun offense against the grinding Iron, who have embraced the smashmouth style of defense and a potent run game. What we got was a rout, with the Apollos playing like their deity namesake: line gods. The Iron were left unable to recover from early mistakes, unable to contain Orlando's offense, and unable to stave off a 2 game losing streak. And for those of you who believe that Spurrier is calling a pass happy game, chew on this: Orlando ran amok on Birmingham, outgaining them 182 rushing yards to a paltry 49 by the Iron. This leaves many wondering who can stop Orlando (5-0), because it sure as hell won't be anyone in the East. Birmingham (3-2) is in second place in the Eastern Conference, but only enjoy a one game cushion. The Iron better figure out how to get more offense production before they go into a freefall.
The San Diego Fleet win a barnburner over the Salt Lake Stallions, 27-25, in what is bring deemed an instant classic. Orlando and Birmingham may have been the presumed main event this weekend, but it was the Fleet and Stallions who stole the show on Saturday night. It started off ugly, with the Salt Lake offense turning the ball over on multiple occasions. San Diego defensive back Kam Kelly had 3 interceptions on the night, one of which he returned for a touchdown. But the Stallions and their quarterback Josh Woodrum would come storming back, fighting tooth and nail to overcome a 13 point deficit to take the lead with less than a minute left for the Fleet to respond. San Diego QB Mike Bercovici made a couple of key passes to get the Fleet into position for PK Donny Hageman to hit a 44 yard game winning field goal as time expired. The Fleet (3-2) stayed undefeated at home in an absolute thriller, while the Stallions (1-4) were once again left out in the cold with another loss, despite Woodrum's heroic efforts (31 of 48 for 380 yards, TD, & the aforementioned 3 INT's). The Fleet have become playoff contenders in the Western Conference, while Salt Lake is being hailed the best 1-4 team many have seen, be it the AAF, NFL, or otherwise. It'll be interesting how each team responds to such an emotional roller coaster of a game next week.
The Atlanta Legends win another game off the leg of PK Younghoe Koo, who sent the Memphis Express off with a 23-20 loss. A game that features two of the weaker teams in the AAF was probably not appointment watching for many, including those who are engaging in the product. However, there was something to learn here, especially about the Legends. Yes, Koo & The Gang (not your humble scribe's nickname for Atlanta, I assure you) did notch their second straight victory after losing their first three. But as in their match against Arizona, their statistical edge was so great, this should have been a Legendary blowout. Atlanta led Memphis in total yards (410-217) and time of possession (38:37 to 21:23), yet this game was never put away. Legends QB Aaron Murray had an outstanding outing (27 of 43 for 306 yards & 1 TD) to cement his place in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future, but the Express remained a threat throughout this contest. This still leaves this observer wondering if Atlanta (2-3) has turned a corner and are able to contend for the Eastern Conference's second playoff spot. As for the Memphis Express (1-4), their postseason hopes are slipping away, as they are needing both a furious rally and for a team or two in front of them in the standings to slip on a banana peel just for the chance to contend, with Orlando all but guaranteed a berth.
The San Antonio Commanders, spearheaded by QB Logan Woodside's best game this season, capitalize on 5 Arizona Hotshots turnovers and survive a rally to seize a share of control of the West in a 29-25 road victory. With the Western Conference in a three-way dead heat, both the Commanders and Hotshots needed this win, especially with San Diego getting the result on Saturday. Each team had a story in this one. San Antonio rode Woodside's hot hand (21 of 27 for 290 yards, 2 TD's & 1 INT) to a comfortable margin for most of the game, with the Commanders stiffening up when Arizona got close to pick up their third win of the season (3-2). Arizona, meanwhile, would endure a bevy of self inflicted wounds, from ill timed penalties to the aforementioned 5 giveaways to the San Antonio defense (3 John Wolford picks, lost fumbles by RB Justin Stockton and WR Marquis Bundy, with Bundy's occurring on an onside conversion attempt in the fourth quarter). But despite all that, the Hotshots (2-3) scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to give themselves a chance to pull that game out of the fire. While the record may not show it, the team that beats the Hotshots more than anything are the Hotshots. If Arizona can curb the damage it does to themselves, then they would be the front-runners in the West. Can they stay out of their own way?
Week 6 lineup looks like this: (All games are available to be livestreamed on AAF.com)
Memphis @ Salt Lake 4pm EDT, Bleacher Report Live
Arizona @ Orlando 8pm EDT, NFL Network
San Antonio @ Atlanta 4pm EDT, CBS Sports Network
Birmingham @ San Diego 8pm EDT, NFL Network
H/T to noextrapoints.com for statistical information for the AAF
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