AAF Power Rankings: Hotshots Continue to Rise

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San Antonio Commanders' Marquise Williams (12) evades Salt Lake Stallions' Cody Brown, right, and Josh Banderas during the second half of an AAF football game, Saturday, March 23, 2019, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. San Antonio won 19-15. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

The Alliance of American Football’s seventh week may be the week that has separated the league’s top four teams from the pack. The teams ranked one through four in these rankings are not perfect. However, they may be the four playoff teams for the Alliance when the season wraps up in three week’s time. One team, the Orlando Apollos, have clinched their playoff birth already. What teams are primed to join them?

1. San Antonio Commanders, 5-2 (No Change)
Previous Week: 19-15 win vs Salt Lake Stallions
Upcoming: vs Arizona Hotshots

San Antonio continues their streak as the hottest team in the Alliance with a 19-15 victory over Salt Lake. Did the Stallions push the Commanders to their limit? Absolutely. Did the Stallions look resilient in holding on? Absolutely to that as well. The Commanders were saved by De’Vante Bausby jumping a two-point conversion and returning it for a conversion the other way. San Antonio’s defense continues to be the catalyst for their four-game winning streak, and they have the chance to get two more wins with two straight home games coming up.

2. Orlando Apollos, 6-1 (No Change)
Previous Week: 36-6 win at Atlanta Legends
Upcoming: at Memphis Express

After their first loss of the season, the Apollos bounced back in a big way this week. Orlando trounced the Atlanta Legends and did a great job on both sides of the ball. The running duo of D’Ernest Johnson and De’Veon Smith make it so defenses have to stack the box, allowing Garrett Gilbert to make higher percentage throws. Defense continues to be the underappreciated aspect of these Apollos. They’ve allowed only 15 points per game, which is tops in the Alliance.

3. Arizona Hotshots, 4-3 (Up 1 Spot)
Previous Week: 32-15 win vs San Diego Fleet
Upcoming: at San Antonio Commanders

John Wolford is back for the Hotshots in a big way. Wolford had one of the best performances in the opening weekend and got back to that form this week with three total touchdowns. The Hotshots rushing attack continues to be the best in the Alliance with 148.8 yards per game, buoyed by the two-man power trip of Tim Cook and Jhurell Pressley. These Hotshots do not look the same as the Hotshots who lost three straight games from weeks three to five.

4. Birmingham Iron, 4-3 (Down 1 Spot)
Previous Week: 31-25 loss at Memphis Express
Upcoming: vs Atlanta Legends

The Iron could have snuck away with the win in Memphis if not for some interesting play calls and the late-game heroics of Memphis quarterback Brandon Silvers. Instead of using some run plays to run the clock out or force the Express to use timeouts, the Iron chose to pass and had attempts fall incomplete. The defense then allowed Silvers and the Express back into the game with a game-tying score and was unable to stop them in overtime. The vaunted Iron defense has been more vulnerable of late, allowing 30.3 points per game in the last three weeks after allowing just 8.25 points per game in weeks one to four.

5. San Diego Fleet, 3-4 (No Change)
Previous Week: 32-15 loss at Arizona Hotshots
Upcoming: at Salt Lake Express

The Fleet feel so difficult to pin down this season. For the first few weeks, they were defined by the pinball running of Ja’Quan Gardner, who has now fallen off to the tune of 30 yards on 29 carries the past four weeks. They have standout defenders in cornerback Kameron Kelly and defensive end Damontre Moore, yet find themselves allowing big plays to opposing offenses. The quarterback play from Mike Bercovici has been streaky at best. Who really are the Fleet? They’ll need to shore up that identity fast, as one more loss could sink their ship in the West playoff race.

6. Memphis Express, 2-5 (Up 2 Spots)
Previous Week: 31-25 win vs Birmingham Iron
Upcoming: vs Orlando Apollos

All of the talk surrounding the Express and their slim playoff hopes will likely revolve around the quarterback position. Will coach Mike Singletary switch to Johnny Manziel once he knows more of the playbook, or will he stick with Brandon Silvers? My bet is on Singletary staying with Silvers and using Manziel as a gadget QB as long as the Express are mathematically alive for the playoffs. Once they’re out, Manziel may get more reps. Don’t sleep on the other talented players on this Express team. Demarquis Gates leads the Alliance in tackles with 46, and wideout Reece Horn has put together consecutive games of 100 or more receiving yards to get to fourth in the league.

7. Salt Lake Stallions, 2-5 (Down 1 Spot)
Previous Week: 19-15 loss at San Antonio Commanders
Upcoming: vs San Diego Fleet

One play away. The Salt Lake Stallions were one two-point conversion away from getting their third win of the season and feeling like potential playoff spoilers. Once the Bausby interception and return happened, those hopes were dashed. The Stallions will need some help and some wins to make the playoffs at 5-5 in the west, but not all hope is lost. The talented front seven continues to make life hard for opposing offenses, and a home game against an inconsistent San Diego Fleet team could be just what the doctor ordered for Salt Lake.

8. Atlanta Legends, 2-5 (Down 1 Spot)
Previous Week: 36-6 loss vs Orlando Apollos
Upcoming: at Birmingham Iron

The Legends take the bottom spot in the power rankings due to their poor play against the Orlando Apollos. Atlanta’s defense struggled to generate a pass rush against the Apollos, giving Garrett Gilbert all day to find open receivers against them. Legends quarterback Aaron Murray didn’t have a great day either, throwing two interceptions. This game marked two straight weeks of allowing over 36 points and only scoring 6 points for Atlanta. That’s bad enough for the eighth spot in the rankings.

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