Up The Gut: AAF Week 5

Shaun Morash breaks down the latest AAF action and offers predictions for this week's games

The DA Show
March 08, 2019 - 10:46 am
Aaron Murray AAF

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By Shaun Morash

Cold Open

The Flex Cam was a fun in-stadium bit sweeping stadiums of any sport nationwide. Get the little kid to make a muscle and a mean face, and everyone laughs; everyone enjoys it. Now the Alliance of American Football is making everyone laugh with their version of the Flex Cam, only it may be the greatest sign of the health of this league.

No, it isn’t an actual kid making a muscle. It is the schedule – which, from Day 1, had an asterisk on the broadcast partner, reading “*Subject to Change.” One week after the Alliance chose to move the Orlando Apollos' visit to Salt Lake – in what is now forever known as the “Ice the Rice Game" – to primetime, the Alliance is again flexing games. Two Saturday afternoon games in March have been moved off of Bleacher Report Live’s stream only service, and onto TNT where 1 million people watched a Week 2 game between the Iron and Express.

Both of those games feature the Apollos​ – Saturday's clash of East titans – in Birmingham. More growth on television is a good thing for this league, and I, for one, am pumped up to break out the chips and salsa, throw on TNT and continue to do my part to help the ratings grow for a sport and league that has done the best job at filling the cold winter sports void that exists year in and year out.

League Musings

-Look, I don't want to overreact here, but the Legends going into Arizona to beat the Hot Shots is the biggest football upset since Super Bowl 42. Matt Simms' injury was tough for a guy who has taken a beating behind a bad offensive line all season, but pride of Georgia Aaron Murray seizing the opportunity and leading the upset was what was meant to be. Murray gets another shot under center Sunday afternoon versus the Express.

-With so little training camp and practice time involved, it shouldn't be a surprise that so many teams got their starting quarterback decision wrong, yet it still feels shocking. The Express took off with Zach Mettenberger, not Christian Hackenberg; the Legends now with Aaron Murray over Matt Simms; and who can forget the legendary Fleet career of Mike Bercovici, which lasted just one half for Mike Martz. Now it seems like eight stable quarterback situations are in place, San Diego injuries not withstanding. 

-CBS Sports Network had to feel like they were stuck with a complete dud this Sunday afternoon when they took a peak ahead to the AAF scheduling just a week ago. Well, the winless Legends and winless Express each ended that stigma getting one in the win column this past weekend. Now, if the Apollos stay unbeaten and beat the Iron, the winner of Legends-Express will be just one game back for that second spot in the East with half the season left to play.

-The San Antonio Commanders are the best team in the Western Conference. Their win in Birmingham cemented that for me. Just three weeks ago, they were derailed by a late pick-six or they would have topped the Apollos as well. Logan Woodside has taken his share of criticism for the sometimes sputtering offense for Mike Riley's crew. However, I fully expect his connection to Greg Ward Jr. to continue to flourish as one of the best connections in the AAF in the second half of the season. 

Potential NFL Player to Watch

Karter Schult, Defensive End, Salt Lake Stallions. All eyes are on the offensive weapons in the AAF, but quietly Schult may be the best player pound for pound in the league. He leads the AAF with 26 total pressures. NFL GMs would kill for pass rushers, and Cameron Wake coming from the CFL is a good example of this. Look for Schult to hustle his way to a camp in August.

My Picks

I have made some dollars betting early season AAF Games and feel comfortable enough with the rules, schemes and rosters to now make some picks publicly as I do during the NFL season. 

Apollos -5.5 @ Iron: It is going to be a little wet, a little drippy, in Birmingham on Saturday. However, as the Apollos just showed, their offense will find a way to take over, even if it takes until the fourth quarter, in any elements. Luis Perez has been overrated all season long, and I expect the wet conditions to cost him a couple of turnovers versus the defense leading the league in turning you over. 

Express PK @ Legends: ​The Legends stink. Their win in Arizona is downright unexplainable. Aaron Murray is a nice story, but scoring against an underrated Express defense will be difficult, and Zach Mettenberger simply makes plays. Sherman Badie and Zac Stacy control the game on the ground and suddenly Mike Singletary's crew is on a winning streak. 

Stallions PK @ Fleet: Phillip Nelson's injury has San Diego now turning to Alex Ross, its fourth quarterback since draft day. Josh Woodrum played safe football and handed it to Brandon Oliver plenty in the snow Saturday Night. This should be a fun ground-game battle between Oliver and Ja'Quan Gardner. Ultimately, though, the Stallions will be able to make a couple plays in the air, perhaps to Kaelin Clay and they get the big road win. 

Commanders +3.5 @ Hotshots: They are no longer feeling "hot-hot-hot" in Arizona with two straight losses, and in comes the best defense in the West. Kenneth "Mia" Farrow will have his way on the ground, and Arizona will lose its third straight out right. This is the Vegas spread of the week that makes no sense. The better team is getting the points. Take it and run.

Thanks for reading as always and you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MrazCBS.