Week 2 of the Alliance of American Football league gave us the league’s highest scoring game yet, a pass so absurd that Patrick Mahomes was literally proud plus enough big hits and explosive plays to make everyone briefly forget that we’re watching football in the middle of February.
Now it’s time for Week 3. What follows is a preview of all four games featuring betting odds, trends, key matchups, injuries, daily fantasy edge and betting pick(s).
And if that’s not enough, we also have this lineup of comprehensive coverage:
- Koerner’s Power Ratings: San Antonio-San Diego Offers Biggest Betting Value
- AAF Fantasy Football Rankings
- Offensive Scouting Reports: Every Team’s Biggest Strength, More
- Who Is Orlando Apollos WR Charles Johnson?
- The Action Network NFL Podcast: AAF Week 3 Breakdown with Evan Silva
Now let’s dig into this weekend’s games.
Betting Odds: Arizona Hotshots at Salt Lake Stallions
- Spread: Arizona -4.5
- Over/Under: 44
- Time: 3 p.m. ET on Saturday
- TV: B/R Live
Betting market: The Hotshots should be among every AAF diehard’s top two teams through 120 minutes of action. They’ve accordingly been bet up to 4.5-point favorites after opening at -3.5 against the Stallions.
The total, meanwhile, has been in a free fall after opening at 46.
Week 2 Takeaways
Arizona’s 20-18 Win Over Memphis
- The Hotshots didn’t have their starting right or left tackle and accordingly struggled out of the gate before rallying from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Having the league’s No. 1 defense in yards allowed per play and pressure rate certainly had something to do with it.
- Arizona continues to deploy the league’s most modern passing game. Head coach Rick Neuheisel has enabled quarterback John Wolford to lead all AAF quarterbacks in quickest time to attempt (2.39) as well as have the second-highest play-action percentage (30.6%).
- Jhurell Pressley seemed locked in as the bell cow in Week 1, when he racked up a team-high 18 carries and played 44-of-75 snaps (59%). But that wasn’t the case last week. Pressley played 32-of-64 snaps (50%) and was out-carried 13-to-12 by Tim Cook. With scat back Justin Stockton also involved, this could be a three-back committee moving forward.
Salt Lake’s 12-9 Loss to Birmingham
- This might’ve been the worst loss we’ve seen an AAF team suffer through two weeks. Salt Lake managed to miss three field goal attempts, botch a fourth due to a bad snap and lose a fumble inside Birminghams’ 10-yard line courtesy of Matt Asiata.
- Salt Lake averaged more yards per rush (4.87) than pass (3.28) thanks in large part to its massive offensive line. Asiata’s (11 snaps) aforementioned fumble got him benched, as Joel Bouagnon (20) and Branden Oliver (23) racked up double-digit carries and were plenty involved in the passing game.
- The passing game remains a bit of a work in progress, as only tight end Anthony Denham (12 targets), along with wide receivers De’Mornay Pierson-El (11) and Adonis Jennings (9), have more than five targets this season. They would all benefit from the expected return of Josh Woodrum, who exited at halftime in Week 1 against the Hotshots with a hamstring injury. Arizona led Salt Lake just 19-16 after two quarters, but went on to win convincingly 38-22.
Which team is healthier? Arizona
There are several health concerns on both sidelines.
Starting receiver Richard Mullaney (knee) didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday and isn’t expected to suit up this Saturday. His absence would mean more snaps for Josh Huff, who was limited in practice on Wednesday due to an illness before being upgraded to a full participant on Thursday. Wolford was also limited with a knee injury Wednesday, although he’s tentatively expected to suit up after being left off the report on Thursday.
Salt Lake is also banged up at wide receiver, as Kaelin Clay (hand) and Jordan Leslie (hamstring) were limited in practice on Wednesday. Clay appears to be good to go after getting in a full practice on Thursday. Woodrum (hamstring) was upgraded to a full participant on Thursday and head coach Dennis Erickson expects to have his QB1 back for the Stallions’ home opener. Matt Asiata (hamstring) was downgraded to a limited participant on Thursday.
Both teams also had some meaningful transactions throughout the week. Arizona released backup running back Larry Rose III as well as tight end Bryce Williams while Salt Lake placed wide receiver Dres Anderson on the injured reserve list and signed receiver Brian Tyms in a corresponding move.
Key matchup: Salt Lake CBs vs. Arizona WRs
It’s not a secret that Rashad Ross has been the engine of the Hotshots’ offense through two weeks. The former Redskins receiver and returner has emerged as arguably the league’s top receiver:
Rashad Ross is looking like the best receiver in @TheAAF after two weeks.
3 TDs pic.twitter.com/WIfg8sxGDv
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 17, 2019
Up next is a Salt Lake defense that ranks first in average yards allowed per rush … but sixth in yards allowed per pass. Cornerback Will Davis has earned Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 grade among all cornerbacks this season, but Salt Lake doesn’t have another corner graded higher than 20th.
DFS edge: Jhurell Pressley
Yes, #JhurellCow truthers like myself were served a nice slice of humble pie last week when the Arizona offense staged most of its comeback with Cook or Stockton on the field.
Pressley certainly appears to be engulfed in a committee backfield and not the three-down workhorse we were hoping for.
However, the pricing disparities on FanBall went a bit too far in knocking down Pressley’s price tag. He’s easily seen the biggest price reduction among top running backs this week, even though pretty much everyone outside of Trent Richardson and potentially Zac Stacy remains involved in a committee backfield.
Seven @Fanball RBs are priced over $5K
Three of those RBs have a Week 3 salary that's at least $1K cheaper than Week 2
Trent Richardson (+$200)
Zac Stacy (+$800)
Ja'Quan Gardner (+$1.6K)
Kenneth Farrow (+$400)
Joel Bouagnon (-$1.1K)
Jhurell Pressley (-$1.5K)
Akeem Hunt (-$1.1K)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 21, 2019
Bet to watch: Salt Lake +4.5; Under 44
According to our FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, quarterbacks in their second matchup against division opponents have averaged 1.5 fewer points per game with a 44.5% Consistency Rating compared to a 52% rating in late-season matchups against non-division opponents.
I’m happy to take the points now that Salt Lake — my top-ranked preseason team — is expected to finally have its starting quarterback back in action. I’m also in agreement with the early action on the under for the week’s highest opening total.
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Betting Odds: Memphis Express at Orlando Apollos
- Spread: Orlando -15
- Over/Under: 45
- Time: 8 p.m. ET on Saturday
- TV: NFL Network
Betting market: Surprise! The public is still fully on #TeamFadeHackenberg.
Orlando stands alongside Arizona as the league’s consensus top two teams and opened as a 14-point favorite. The total has fallen to 45 points after opening at 45.5.
Week 2 Takeaways
Memphis’ 20-18 Loss to Arizona
- Christian Hackenberg was awful aside from several surprisingly-nimble scrambles that resulted in multiple unnecessarily huge hits. Backup Brandon Silvers was warming up on the sideline midway through the third quarter, indicating Hackenberg’s starting position is far from secure.
- Alton “Pig” Howard led the way in Week 2 with seven targets and is one of eight players in the AAF with 12-plus targets. Still, anyone involved in the league’s least efficient pass offense is probably better off left alone in fantasy.
- Zac Stacy managed to become the first AAF back to break the century mark on the ground by converting 19 carries into 101 yards and a touchdown. Terrence Magee (six carries) and Rajion Neal (five) were involved, although Neal was released this week in favor of free agent Sherman Badie. Every backfield outside of Birmingham is basically a committee, but these recent roster moves and Week 2 usage suggest it might be #StacySzn.
Most combined carries and targets among all RBs in @TheAAF
1. Trent Richardson (50)
2. Zac Stacy (32)
3. Jhurell Pressley (31)
4. Kenneth Farrow (29)
T5. Ja'Quan Gardner (28)
T5. Joel Bouagnon (28)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 18, 2019
Orlando’s 37-29 Win Over San Antonio
- The Apollos trailed San Antonio by 17 points entering the fourth quarter before rallying to take home the victory. Their league-worst pass rush in pressure rate per dropback didn’t make things easy, but Keith Reaser (PFF’s No. 1 cornerback) sealed the deal with a late-game pick six.
- Orlando and San Diego are tied for the league’s highest pass play rate (58.7%). The run game’s production has accordingly been volatile, but wide receivers Charles Johnson, Jalin Marshall, Chris Thompson and Ishmael Hyman have emerged as pass-game weapons and each have top-10 marks in yards per route run (PFF).
- Garrett Gilbert has easily been the best quarterback in the AAF through two weeks. His numbers are even more extraordinary after considering he’s attempted a league-high 30.2% of his passes downfield. No NFL quarterback has reached even a 20% rate over the past five seasons.
Which team is healthier? Orlando
Memphis opened the week without too many injuries to worry about. Backup quarterbacks Brandon Silvers (flank) and Zach Mettenberger (illness) joined offensive tackle Toby Weathersby (knee) and defensive end Corey Vereen (knee) on the sideline, while defensive end Anthony Johnson (hip) and wide receiver Kayaune Ross (thigh) were each limited. Ross was downgraded to a DNP on Thursday and should be considered very questionable for the weekend.
The Apollos don’t have any injuries to speak of on offense, but safety Will Hill was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice.
Key matchup: Memphis secondary vs. Orlando WRs
Steve Spurrier’s downfield-heavy approach has resulted in a plethora of fantasy-friendly opportunities for the offense’s pass-game weapons.
- Chris Thompson: 6.67 yards per route run (first among 41 qualified receivers)
- Charles Johnson: 5.6 (second)
- Ishmael Hyman: 4.09 (third)
- Jalin Marshall: 2.65 (ninth)
Memphis has largely played well on defense this season during the first three quarters, but the offense’s inability to control the ball has assisted in its defense wilting during the fourth quarter. Overall, the Express have only been out-scored by their opponents 15-12 during the first three quarters compared to 31-6 during the fourth quarter alone.
The Express have faced a league-high 71 rush attempts, but have allowed just 4.15 yards per carry — the fourth-lowest mark in the league. They also managed to consistently pressure Wolford and Luis Perez to open up the season, as the Memphis pressure rate (48%) ranks fourth in the league.
Memphis will again need to be sturdy against the run while also getting consistent pressure to have any hopes of slowing down Orlando’s high-octane offense.
DFS edge: Zac Stacy
Richardson is easily in the best spot of any back this week thanks to his plus matchup against Atlanta and massive workload. Still, Stacy has been the more efficient back all season and appears poised to gain a similar workload moving forward after the Express’ aforementioned roster moves.
Stacy was already one of the only backs to rival Richardson in snap share before the moves.
It’s probably wise to jam both Richardson and Stacy into cash lineups. Perez ($5,700) and Woodrum ($5,200) both offer reduced price tags at the quarterback position to help provide salary relief.
Bet to watch: Orlando -15
We actually made money by backing Hackenberg last week. That was fun, but let’s not get carried away, people.
Orlando is better in every facet of the game, and the Apollos’ offense is explosive enough to make Memphis pay in a big way if their defense again wilts toward the end of the game.
Betting Odds: Birmingham Iron at Atlanta Legends
- Spread: Birmingham -6.5
- Over/Under: 38.5
- Time: 4 p.m. ET on Sunday
- TV: CBS Sports Network
Betting market: The Iron were the league’s consensus “worst” team based on preseason odds to win the championship. Now they’re favored by more than a touchdown on the road and opened as 6-point favorites.
The total has also been on the move, as the matchup opened with a week-low over/under of 40 points.
Week 2 Takeaways
Birmingham’s 12-9 Win Over Salt Lake
- The Iron should have lost this game. The offense didn’t managed to score any points until there were fewer than five minutes left in the game, as defensive MVP frontrunner Jamar Summers helped engineer a third quarter special teams score with a well-timed forced fumble.
- Luis Perez has dealt with a league-high eight drops this season in addition to a banged-up group of receivers. He’s also been pressured on a league-high 28 dropbacks, although Perez and the Birmingham scheme haven’t helped matters by averaging a league-high 2.93 seconds per pass attempt.
- Quinton Patton (16 targets) is easily the team’s No. 1 pass-game option, but Trent Richardson (eight) has also been plenty involved as Birmingham’s three-down workhorse. Only backup running back Ladarius Perkins (nine) and receiver Tobias Palmer (six) have also surpassed five targets.
Atlanta’s 24-12 Loss to San Diego
- Atlanta and Memphis have separated themselves as the worst teams in the AAF. The Legends’ latest loss was at least hard fought, as they led San Diego 12-9 with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in the game before ultimately losing by two scores.
- Matt Simms played a bit better last week and managed to complete 13-of-15 passes to start the game, although most of theses passes weren’t exactly thrown downfield or into tight windows. The Legends have “racked up” a combined 18 points after eight quarters of football and could turn to backup Aaron Murray sooner rather than later.
- None of the Legends’ skill position options are appealing fantasy options considering Atlanta is one of just three teams averaging fewer than four yards per play this season. Tarean Folston (six carries, zero targets) played just 13 total snaps last week and worked behind each of Lawrence Pittman (nine carries, zero targets) and Akrum Wadley (four carries, eight targets).
Which team is healthier? Atlanta
Birmingham wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo (knee) didn’t suit up last week and should be considered questionable for Sunday after failing to practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Tight end Busta Anderson (hamstring) joined Etta-Tawo on the sideline, while receivers L’Damian Washington (quad) and Quinton Patton (foot) were upgraded to full participants on Thursday. Tobias Palmer (heel) was downgraded to a DNP on Thursday.
Starting tight end Connor Davis has reportedly been moved to the injured reserve list.
Atlanta is fully healthy on offense, but its secondary is dealing with more than a few nicks and bruises. Cornerbacks Doran Grant (groin), Dwayne Hollis (quad) and Desmond Lawrence (groin) have all failed to get in a full practice this week while linebackers Dylan Donahue (calf) and Tau Lotulelei (groin) are also banged up.
Key matchup: Atlanta front seven vs. Birmingham run game
The Legends have been bad in just about every facet of football, but particularly in their on-going quest to properly defend the run.
Best defenses in @TheAAF in yards allowed per rush:
1. Salt Lake (3.2 yards per carry allowed)
2. San Diego (3.5)
3. Arizona (3.9)
4. Memphis (4.2)
5. Orlando (4.4)
6. Birmingham (4.5)
7. San Antonio (4.9)
8. Atlanta (5.3) 👀
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 20, 2019
This is pretty much the best case scenario for Birmingham, which seemingly remains fully committed to Richardson and his average of 2.4 yards per carry.
PFF grades Atlanta’s defense as the league’s second-worst unit, while Birmingham boasts PFF’s fourth-best offense. Perez and the passing game are still set up well even if Richardson and the rushing attack continues to struggle.
DFS edge: Trent Richardson
T-Rich has overcome his inefficient rushing ability with pure volume and fantasy-friendly opportunities on the ground. Overall, Richardson’s 11 red-zone touches are five more than the next back.
Richardson has had success without overwhelming volume is in the passing game.
Trent Richardson on 42 carries in @TheAAF : 99 yards
Richardson on 10 targets: 64 yards pic.twitter.com/CUQrPb4aVj
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 20, 2019
Richardson caught 51 passes as a rookie with the Browns back in 2012 and finished his three-year career at Alabama with a sterling 68-730-7 receiving line.
Continuing to integrate Richardson as a receiver could help Birmingham better handle opposing pass rushes while also further booming the fantasy stock of the AAF’s current overall RB1.
Bet to watch: Birmingham -6.5
The “Birmingham Iron Curtain” defense has allowed the second-fewest yards per play in the league and boasts the best pass defense in yards allowed per attempt. Of course, neither San Diego nor Memphis presented much of a test for the Iron’s secondary, but Atlanta doesn’t look like the unit that will change that.
Atlanta is playing its first home game and certainly possesses the “nobody believes in us” rallying cry that’s essential for any upset. Still, I’ll be betting on the Iron thanks to their superior quarterback and overall team at anything up to eight points.
Betting Odds: San Antonio Commanders at San Diego Fleet
- Spread: San Diego -2.5
- Over/Under: 43.5
- Time: 8 p.m. ET on Sunday
- TV: NFL Network
Betting market: The Fleet opened as 1.5-point favorites but have since moved up to -2.5. Meanwhile, this is the only total with no change since open.
Week 2 Takeaways
San Antonio’s 37-29 Loss to Orlando
- San Antonio blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter and failed to take down Orlando at home. The Commanders’ pass rush continues to be a force to be reckoned with, as they lead the league in sacks (11) and rank second in pressure rate (52%).
- The most surprising development was San Antonio’s new-found quarterback rotation. After the game head coach Mike Riley said, “I do think Logan [Woodside] is our starter … I really like him.” Riley added, “Marquise [Williams] made some plays as you saw … I should have put him back in during the second half for a drive, but I lost track of what was going on there when we should have put him back in. We’ll continue to do that with him.”
- Mekale McKay (20 targets) and Greg Ward Jr. (13) have separated themselves as the pass game’s top-two options, but Alonzo Moore (10) and De’Marcus Ayers (eight in only Week 2) are also plenty involved. Kenneth Farrow (75 snaps, 27 rushes, 2 targets) has been the lead back ahead of Aaron Green (48 snaps, 12 rushes, 6 targets) and David Cobb (44 snaps, 16 rushes, 2 targets).
San Diego’s 24-12 Win Over Atlanta
- The Fleet benched opening day starter Mike Bercovici in favor of Philip Nelson, who completed just 14-of-30 passes (47%) for 142 yards (4.7 Y/A) with zero touchdowns and one interception.
- The Fleet thankfully backed off of their pass-heavy approach from Week 1 and ran the hell out of the ball in Week 2. Both Ja’Quan Gardner (15 carries, 104 yards, 2 TDs) and Terrell Watson (14 carries, 49 yards) were heavily involved. Watson managed to out-snap Gardner 45-to-34.
- The Fleet (51.4% pressure rate) join the Commanders (52%) and Hotshots (55.4%) as the only teams that have pressured the opposing quarterbacks on more than half of their dropbacks. Defensive end Damontre Moore has been the wrecking ball behind the group’s impressive effort.
Damontre Moore played with the Giants, Dolphins, Seahawks, Cowboys and Raiders from 2013-2018.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 18, 2019
Which team is healthier? San Antonio
Commanders starting running back Kenneth Farrow (back) didn’t practice Wednesday, but he did return to a limited session on Thursday. His absence would likely result in David Cobb starting and an enhanced third-down role for Aaron Green. Additionally, backup running back Trey Williams is expected to make his Commanders debut after not being listed on the injury report.
We’ll also have to keep an eye on difference-making linebacker Shaan Washington (ankle) and defensive lineman Matt Godin (head) who were each unable to practice on Wednesday.
San Diego is also banged up, as cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah (wrist) is out indefinitely. The Fleet’s secondary is in a bad enough place that wide receiver Kameron Kelly was moved to cornerback. Additional injuries include offensive lineman John Montelus (shoulder), linebacker A.J. Tarpley (hip) and free safety Demetrius Wright (thigh), who were all limited in practice Wednesday.
Quarterback Philip Nelson (back) also popped up on the injury report, although he’s fully expected to start considering he practiced in full.
Key matchup: San Antonio front seven vs. San Diego run game
To reiterate: San Antonio just might have the league’s scariest pass rush.
The “Revenge of the Alamo” features edge defenders Washington (team-high three sacks), Tyrone Holmes (team-high 10 pressures) and Jayrone Elliott (two sacks), who have consistently made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
Still, the defense’s aggressiveness hasn’t been great for the overall health of the unit. San Antonio ranks eighth in both yards per pass and yards per play allowed. The Commanders “improve” to seventh in yards per carry allowed.
Meanwhile, San Diego has employed the league’s best rushing attack behind Gardner and Watson, who helped the Fleet’s rushing attack convert 16 carries into 99 yards (6.2 yards per carry) against the Commanders back in Week 1.
DFS edge: San Antonio WRs
Backing these receivers didn’t pay off last week, but the San Antonio offense at least continued to demonstrate more fire power than most of the league’s other teams.
Their price tags seem a bit low this week, especially when we consider each wide receivers’ targets per dollar.
- Mekale McKay ($6,200): No. 1 receiver in targets per dollar
- Greg Ward ($5,300): No. 3 receiver
- Alonzo Moore ($5,000): No. 13 receiver
De’Marcus Ayers ($6,000) is also in play considering all eight of his targets came during his season debut in Week 2.
Salt Lake boasts the league’s best defense in fewest yards allowed per carry, but also the AAF’s sixth-worst defense in yards per pass attempt.
Bet to watch: San Antonio +2.5; Under 43.5
I’m sticking with the theory that offenses don’t perform up to expectations in their second meeting with a team and taking the under here.
The Commanders have also been the better team in my opinion, as their defensive woes against Orlando shouldn’t be outweighed by San Diego’s underwhelming Week 2 victory over Atlanta.