Atlanta Legends (0-0) vs. Orlando Apollos (0-0)
This is a matchup of two quality teams in the Orlando Apollos and the Atlanta Legends. The Legends made somewhat of a stunning announcement the other day with Matt Simms being named the starter over the overwhelming favorite, Aaron Murray. This may be a decision based out of wanting to have the most experienced signal-caller under center, and Head Coach Coyle did not rule out seeing both Simms and Murray under center. With Denard Robinson nursing a quad injury it seems to turn attention to another quality combo back in Tarean Folston, and expect a heavy dose of the run game so that Simms has a chance to throw off of play action. Simms will have a set of big-bodied targets on the outside to throw to in Malachi Jones and Seantavius Jones so expect a lot of combat-type throws. On the defensive side of the ball, expect the defensive line to bring a tenacious pass rush that hopefully will bring on some opportunities for turnovers.
The Apollos have an athletic and highly skilled roster on both sides of the ball, and this matchup has the makings of the game of the week. Garrett Gilbert will be under center and expect him to come out slinging. He is a fiery competitor that has great arm talent and experience on his side, so this offense should get moving early and often. Akeem Hunt is an explosive scatback type who is tabbed as the starter, but he has been quietly nursing a knee injury. Keep an eye on his dynamic backup, D’Ernest Johnson, who could come out as a key playmaker for this offense this season. Out wide, Gilbert will be targeting a host of talented pass catchers led by Charles Johnson, who has had a coming out party by securing big catches in practice. The Apollo Militia F.L.A, as affectionately named by LB Reggie Northrup II, will be an aggressive and athletic amoeba type of defense that should wreak havoc on Atlanta’s OL.
Players to watch
Malachi Jones, WR (AL) vs. Ladarius Gunter, CB (OA)
J.T. Jones, DE (AL) vs. Orlando Apollos OL
Jeff Luc, LB (AL) vs. Akeem Hunt, RB (OA)
Keys to the game
Let Matt Simms get into a Rhythm
Get the ball into Malachi Jones hands
DL needs to bully the Apollos OL
Establish the running game
Push the ball downfield with Gilbert
Let defense pin ears back and attack the QB
Top 5 Fantasy Players
Garrett Gilbert, QB (OA)
Malachi Jones, WR (AL)
Charles Johnson, WR (OA)
Seantavius Jones, WR (AL)
Matt Simms, QB (AL)
I believe the Apollos front seven will put too much pressure on the immobile Matt Simms and force a host of turnovers. Garrett Gilbert will pass for over 300 yards, and put up multiple TDs. The Legends will make a late comeback bid, but ultimately fall short.
Final Score: Apollos 38, Legends 30
Written by: Roy Countryman
San Diego Fleet (0-0) vs. San Antonio Commanders (0-0)
The inaugural AAF season kicks off on Saturday night with a couple of intriguing matchups. In particular, San Antonio, a city with a deep love of football but a history of failing teams, will host San Diego, who recently lost their NFL team to Los Angeles. Both cities hope to reignite the locals' interest by starting out their season with a win.
Players to watch
On the Commanders offense, one fascinating player to watch is WR Greg Ward Jr., converted from QB. He's impressed the coaching staff with his speed and evasiveness in camp. With his versatility, don't be surprised if there's a special section of the playbook just for him. He sets up the potential for trickery. On the other side of the ball, CB Zack Sanchez has been shutting down opposing receivers. Small but physical, Sanchez threatens to snag an interception every time a ball is thrown his way.
For the visitors, Damontre Moore is looking to make an impact during his homecoming. A Texas native and A&M grad, Moore was highly touted out of college and has a plethora of NFL experience to bring to the table. This DE/LB hybrid is likely to start at end for the Fleet and may lead the way in disrupting the Commanders' offense. Another name to keep an eye on is TE Gavin Escobar. Like Moore, he has significant NFL experience under his belt and showed a lot of potential in college. Expect QB Mike Bercovici to look his way quite a lot because of his sure hands, size, and physicality.
Keys to the game
San Diego Fleet
Scheme it up. The Fleet have an experienced - and pretty successful - NFL coach and coordinator, Mike Martz, at the head coach position.
Limit Mekale McKay. This matchup nightmare likely can't be totally shut down, but force Vaughan to look other ways.
Get ahead early. Force the Commanders to play from behind.
San Antonio Commanders
Get after the quarterback. The Fleet lost their 1st-overall pick to the NFL. Rattle him early and force him to make mistakes.
Command the clock. Use a balanced offense to set the pace of play.
Get creative on two-point conversions. There are no PATs in this league, so the two-point conversion game may decide a lot of games in this league. They have the offensive weapons to convert them in a variety of ways.
Top 5 Fantasy Players
Gavin Escobar, TE (SD)
Mekale McKay, WR (SA)
Cole Hunt, TE (SA)
Kenneth Farrow, RB (SA)
Terrell Watson, RB (SD)
I think the Fleet offense will struggle to find an identity early in the season, with the projected starters at QB and RB lost to the NFL and injury, respectively, and this road test will be too much for them in their first game. Despite this, I think they will manage to keep the game within a few scores. The Commanders will employ their full array of offensive weapons to go 1-0 on the season.
Final Score: Commanders 30, Fleet 19
Written by: Kristen Mori