Week eight of the Alliance of American Football season has come and gone, and two teams have clinched playoff positions. The Orlando Apollos will host the Birmingham Iron in the East playoff match. The West is still open, but the Arizona Hotshots and San Antonio Commanders are best positioned to make the playoffs there.
How do these top four teams stack up? Who manages to be best of the rest? Here are the AAF power rankings after eight weeks.
1. Orlando Apollos, 7-1 (Up 1 Spot)
Previous: 34-31 win at Memphis Express
Upcoming: vs San Diego Fleet
The Apollos seemed to get some help from the officials in their win over the Memphis Express. Overall though, the Steve Spurrier-coached Apollos look poised to dominate in the playoffs. Orlando has secured home field for their playoff game against Birmingham and look to be the more complete team of the two. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert has had his two worst games the last two weeks. It will need to be a bounce back from him and a continued effort on the ground from D’Ernest Johnson and De’Veon Smith to keep their offense on track.
2. Arizona Hotshots, 5-3 (Up 1 Spot)
Previous: 23-6 win at San Antonio Commanders
Upcoming: vs Birmingham Iron
Speaking of effort on the ground, the Hotshots have been one of the best teams in the Alliance at establishing the run and using it to set up the pass. When the run game is clicking with Tim Cook and Jhurell Pressley, it allows John Wolford to take what the defense gives him and work his way down the field. The Hotshots defense did a great job holding the Commanders to only six points and now Arizona sits right next to San Antonio in the top spot in the West.
3. San Antonio Commanders, 5-3 (Down 2 Spots)
Previous: 23-6 loss vs Arizona Hotshots
Upcoming: vs Memphis Express
The Commanders fell short this week against the Hotshots, and now are faced with a quarterback quandary for the first time this season. Logan Woodside had in the past been solid if unspectacular. He was replaced my Marquise Williams, who played the rest of the loss to Arizona and showed patience and the ability to make plays with his legs. The Commanders defense is still elite, and they’re still in a good position to make the playoffs. If the quarterback position isn’t solidified with better play soon, the defense might not be enough to carry them far.
4. Birmingham Iron, 5-3 (No Change)
Previous: 17-9 win vs Atlanta Legends
Upcoming: at Arizona Hotshots
The Iron have a spot in the playoffs after their win against Atlanta this week. Birmingham will get two straight weeks in Orlando, as they play the Apollos in week ten and then again in the East playoffs. The Iron defense didn’t have the best effort when they met the Apollos in week five, but have looked sharp since. They’ll need to be at their ball-hawking best to give the Iron a shot, as the Birmingham offense has really only been successful this year doing short field drives.
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5. Memphis Express, 2-6 (Up 1 Spot)
Previous: 34-31 loss vs Orlando Apollos
Upcoming: at San Antonio Commanders
Memphis is officially out of playoff contention, but the players still have two weeks to show their potential value to NFL clubs. Quarterback Johnny Manziel left the game against Orlando with an injury after a shot to the head, and hopefully he will be good to go next week. His presence brings much needed ratings and eyeballs to the Alliance product. There are other players who could find the NFL calling who will use the next two weeks to showcase themselves. Linebacker Demarquis Gates and defensive end Corey Vereen could find their way into NFL training camps if they close the year strong.
6. Salt Lake Stallions, 3-5 (Up 1 Spot)
Previous: 8-3 win vs San Diego Fleet
Upcoming: at Atlanta Legends
It definitely wasn’t pretty, but the Stallions got their third win of the season by topping the San Diego Fleet 8-3. Salt Lake has a slim playoff hope still, but they’ll need to win out and still get some help. Even if they miss the playoffs, the Stallions have players to look at for NFL training camps as well. One to watch is linebacker Greer Martini. At only 23 years old, Martini has 32 tackles and has shown the ability to make big plays.
7. San Diego Fleet, 3-5 (Down 2 Spots)
Previous: 8-3 loss at Salt Lake Stallions
Upcoming: at Orlando Apollos
After falling to Salt Lake, the Fleet will have a tough road to get to the playoffs in the West. The Fleet could not get their offense going in Salt Lake, going 3-15 on third down and stalling on critical drives. Quarterback Mike Bercovici was ineffective, averaging only 4.5 yards per pass attempt and throwing two interceptions. The bright spots on this Fleet team are now firmly on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive end Damontre Moore keeps playing well, and safety Ryan Moeller collected three turnovers for San Diego.
8. Atlanta Legends, 2-6 (No Change)
Previous: 17-9 loss at Birmingham Iron
Upcoming: vs Salt Lake Stallions
I will fully admit that after he led the Legends to two wins, I was the conductor on the Aaron Murray hype train. That train is fully off the rails, as the Legends went back to Matt Simms this week in a losing effort. Simms didn’t play well either, and Murray even got back onto the field. Some bright spots for the Legends as they play for pride and reputation the rest of the year. Jeff Luc exploded this week for three sacks and showed sideline-to-sideline tackling ability. On offense, Tarean Folston and Brandon Radcliff have both been solid backs that should get more carries in the final two weeks.