What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Now that we are past the third week of the Alliance of American Football’s season and charging headlong into Week 4, we are a third of the way through the regular season. As a dedicated sports junkie, both Mrs. J-Dub and I have been religiously consuming what this league has to offer. In fact, we’ve become such fans of this league, we’ve gone all the way to picking the teams we are going to support. Mrs. J-Dub is all about the Arizona Hotshots, because right before the AAF season started, we watched the 2017 Josh Brolin movie “Only The Brave” which features the firefighters for which this team is named, and she has been a fan of head coach Rick Neuheisel ever since we discovered he really is the “Weird” Al Yankovic of professional football.
As for me, I’m simply a sucker for “The Ol’ Ball Coach.” I’m 100% behind a team which gives me such 100% pure gold nuggets of vintage Steve Spurrier. Not to mention, I’ve always believed football need more Greek mythology; hence I’m all about the Orlando Apollos.
As far as the regular season is concerned, we have seven more weeks to go, after which we get two weeks worth of play-offs. We’ll be back to re-evaluate these rankings at selected points throughout the season.
It doesn’t matter which level of football we are discussing; if your quarterback is an early leader for the league’s MVP award, chances are your team figures high in these sort of rankings. The Apollos have shown themselves to be more like the Zeus of this league, thanks in large part to quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who as of this writing leads the AAF in passing yards, is leading Orlando to a league-high 32.7 points per game, and is the main reason why the Apollos features two receivers (Charles Johnson, Jalin Marshall) in the top five in receiving yards.
Go figure…a Steve Spurrier-coached team featuring a nuclear-powered offense…
Despite their loss last week to Salt Lake, signs still point to this team being one of the best in the league, but I also see the signs of trouble on the horizon. This team had to mount a comeback against a struggling Memphis team for their second win last week, and losing their quarterback in week 3 doesn’t help. Head coach Rick Neuheisel said that quarterback John Wolford had a “back strain,” but nobody really knows what that means, or what his status will be this week when the ‘Shots host Atlanta.
If you are my age, you remember the old game show “To Tell The Truth.” The plot of this show was three contestants would try to stump an all-star panel by claiming to be the same person; the panel’s job being to ferret which one was telling the truth about who they were. The Birmingham Iron would be a perfect contestant for that show because I can’t tell what they really are.
Their 3-0 record suggests they could be considered amongst the AAF’s elite. But those three wins come with some “Yeah, buts…” because their offense shows all the signs of being less than they seem on paper. Yeah, Trent Richardson has a league-leading six touchdowns, but he is not the “bell-cow” of the offense. Despite the heavy-lifting in the red-zone, Richardson’s total production amounts to 145 yards on 59 carries. Yeah, everybody loves the story of quarterback Luis Perez and how his journey to being a professional quarterback began with watching YouTube videos, but the story nobody is talking about is Perez has been limited to “high-percentage” dump-offs and other underneath stuff. In other words, this offense get a lot of short fields, thanks to a Birmingham defense who has racked up nine take-aways in three games.
So, yeah, the Iron might look pretty good, but will that continue when they face a team in the top half of these rankings?
This team is the antithesis of the Orlando Apollos. Like Steve Spurrier and the Apollos, the Fleet are captained by another offensive guru in Mike Martz. The difference is the Fleet abandoned ship on an approach based on what you would expect, a quarterback in a Martz offensive scheme filling the skies with footballs. When that approach cost them a loss in Week 1 against San Antonio, Martz and the Fleet shifted to a “ground and pound” style, which has driven running back Ja’Quan Gardner to being the AAF’s rushing leader.
Also, this team features a defense which treats opposing quarterbacks like naval artillery targets. They allow on average 12 points per game, and they’ve racked up 11 sacks and 5 interceptions along with countless knockdowns. It doesn’t matter what level of football we are discussing; good things happen when you can run the ball and play defense.
As it stands now, Salt Lake is this league’s “hard luck loser.” For the first two weeks, the Stallions couldn’t catch a break, and in week three once they finally did, the knocked off one of the best teams in the AAF. The key to this was a) quarterback Josh Woodrum was finally able to play an entire game, and b) the Stallions figured out that controlling time of possession works. You dramatically reduce the other guy’s chances to beat you if you cut the time he has the ball. The Stallions are doing this with a one-two punch of running backs (Joel Bouagnon and Branden Oliver) who both rank in the AAF top ten for rushing yards.
The first question coming to your mind right now is how can a winless team not rate lower than a team who has notched a victory? Easy. This team has some talent, and just fixed it’s biggest problem when head coach Mike Singletary benched quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The dividends on that move paid quickly as in relief, Zach Mettenberger hooked up on nine of twelve passes for 120 yards, two touchdowns, and a two-point conversion. In other words, Mettenberger damn near pulled off a massive comeback Against OrlandoHe nearly pulled off a great comeback against the AAF’s best team. On top of that, the Express’ defense showed signs of life by holding the Apollos offense in check.
Every week, this team takes steps toward not sucking.
The first game I watched in this league was between these Commanders and the San Diego Fleet. Then, it looked like the Fleet were the team that would find itself foundering. Instead, it is San Antonia who finds themselves sinking fast, having lost their two game since while giving up 37 and 31 points respectively. As I said in my initial review of this league, the AAF will give Commanders head coach Mike Riley yet another league for which he can be fired. The fact that he can’t seem to find an effective offensive “personality” for this team seems to be giving us a head-start down that road.
My grandmother Jane always told me if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.
<insert sound of chirping crickets here>
Just for you, Grandma, I can honestly say the Legends have sharp-looking uniforms. They will really be something as soon as they can put them on some guys who can play this game. I have no idea how a team can average 4.4 yards per play, and somehow only manages 10 points per game. Even the astonishing number of turnovers this team commits (seven interceptions and three fumbles), doesn’t explain the fact this team has only scored two touchdowns in three games. Think about it. If a team average 4.4 yards per offensive play, they should be racking up first down and/or at least avoiding a large number of drive-killing “3rd-and-long” situations.
But the sheer amount of time spent on the field by the Legends defense says that clearly isn’t true. In three games, Atlanta has allowed 40, 24, and 28 points respectively. To be brutally honest, at this rate, the Legends could be the AAF’s first 0-10 squad.
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