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Week 3 of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) schedule features a match-up between the winless Memphis Express (0-2) going on the road to visit the unbeaten Orlando Apollos (2-0). Based on prior results, stats and having home field advantage, Orlando comes in as a heavy favorite. This game will feature a contrast in styles. Memphis will likely try to slow down the pace and relying on the run, while the Apollos will want an up tempo game with big pass plays and high scoring.
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Memphis will start with the embattled Christian Hackenberg at Quarterback trying to keep his job. It is clear from listening to Coach Mike Singletary that “Hack” may be replaced if his performance does not improve this week. Orlando goes with Garrett Gilbert who has been nothing less than sensational. Gilbert has 4 TDs with no INTs in two games and came 7 yards short of the first 400 yard passing game in league history last week.
Can the Memphis Express beat the Orlando Apollos?
If the Express has any hope at all of pulling an upset in Orlando they will have to play a near perfect game. The main keys to the game:
- Zac Stacy needs another monster game. Orlando has been inconsistent against the rush allowing 80 yards for a respectable 3.3 YPC in against the Atlanta Legends in game 1. However, in game 2 they allowed 175 rushing yards and a 5.19 yards per carry against the San Antonio Commanders. Orlando also has some injuries with their defensive front heading into this game. Zac Stacy is coming off his first 100 yard game with a TD against the Arizona Hotshots. He is currently tied for the league lead in rush yards at 159 in the first two games He will need a similar effort to his first two iif the Express wants to keep the Apollo offense off the field and out of the endzone
- The Memphis Secondary needs to limit big plays. Orlando leads the league in plays over 50 yards featuring efficient and accurate deep passes. Memphis needs to try to get back and cut down the long pass and force Orlando to stay underneath just to slow down their attack. Garrett Gilbert will be looking to add to his league leading 620 passing yards. Channing Stribbling has been one of the best DB’s in the league so far and he will really need to bring his A game for this and get a lot of help against an Apollo team that features multiple big play options led by Charles Johnson and Jalin Marshall.
- Offensive Line Play. Memphis needs to improve on pass protection. Christian Hackenberg has been under pressure on almost every pass attempt. This cannot continue. They need to create some time to make the Quarterback’s job easier especially against an Orlando team that already boasts 5 sacks and 4 INTs.
Orlando leads the league in scoring. They lead the league in passing yards and also average over 100 yards a rush as well. It will take an unbelievable defensive effort for the Express to try to limit the Orlando offense, especially on the road. The offense will need to hold on to the ball and move the ball on the ground. I expect Orlando to stack the box against the run with the Express QB play not scaring anybody right now. If the Express fall behind early it will be interesting to see how long Hackenberg stays in before a change is made. He must know this is likely his last chance to prove he can be the man before someone else gets their try.
This may be the last chance for Memphis to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Falling to 0-3 may be tough to overcome as a loss here would put two teams multiple games ahead of them with head to head wins in hand. To spice up the game team President Kosha Irby of the Express made a bet with Michael Waddell, his counterpart in Orlando. If Irby’s Memphis squad can pull the upset, Waddell will need to dress up like Elvis Presley and If the Apollos win Irby needs to wear mouse ears (in honor of Disney World, which is a greater Orlando attraction). Will the Express rise to help Irby avoid doing something “cheesy”? We will find out.