Apollos head of Alliance of American Football class
March 13, 2019 3:00 AM
by Ched Whitney
The Alliance of American Football is turning into the Big 1, Little 7.
At the midway point of their inaugural season, the Orlando Apollos are running away with the league. Their supposed showdown on Saturday with defensive-minded Birmingham turned into a 31-14 Orlando rout. At 5-0, the Apollos have a two-game lead over everybody else in the AAF, and they’re 4-1 ATS and have been favored in all five games.
The key for Orlando has been offense.
Steve Spurrier’s team is averaging almost 30 points a game. San Diego, the second-highest scoring team is averaging just over 22. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the leading MVP candidate at this point, has thrown for 1,357 yards, better than 300 more than his closest pursuer. He also has thrown eight touchdowns with no interceptions and is completing 62.8 percent of his passes.
Wide receiver Charles Johnson, who played three seasons in the NFL (and may find himself there again in 2019), is leading the AAF with 493 yards receiving.
In Saturday’s win in Birmingham, the Apollos piled up 468 yards of total offense. The Iron had given up an average of just 265 yards in its previous four games.
“They do a fantastic job of getting their players ready and we got to do a better job of getting ours ready,” Birmingham coach Tim Lewis told AL.com. “You like to think you’re doing the right things and you’re prepared and ready to go until you run into a buzz saw like that.”
Teams have struggled to prepare for Spurrier’s game plan.
In a 37-29 win at San Antonio, Gilbert had a record 393 yards passing inside the Alamodome. In snowy Salt Lake two weeks later, the Apollos ran the ball a season-high 33 times.
So where is Orlando’s chief competition?
While San Antonio and San Diego (both 3-2) have both overtaken preseason league favorite Arizona in the West, an Eastern Conference rival could pose a threat.
While the Apollos were never threatened in a 40-6 thrashing of the Atlanta Legends in Week 1, Atlanta (2-3) has won two straight games since turning to former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray, who replaced an injured Matt Simms in the Legends’ 14-11 win over Arizona in Week 4, has completed 47 of 66 passes for 560 yards in two games.
Atlanta had a season-high 435 yards of offense in its 23-20 Week 5 win over Memphis. The Legends also have the No. 1 defense in the league. The No. 2 defense? Orlando’s.
Memphis Express at Salt Lake Stallions: In a battle of two improving offenses, watch the total. OVER
Arizona Hotshots at Orlando Apollos: When the season began, the Hotshots were the 5-2 favorite to win the title. They’ve now lost three straight and have to travel across the country to take on the top team in the Alliance. APOLLOS
San Antonio Commanders at Atlanta Legends: The Commanders and Legends have both won two in a row, and this is the third straight road game for San Antonio. LEGENDS
Birmingham Iron at San Diego Fleet: The Iron hits the road for just the second time this season. Birmingham won at Atlanta in Week 3. The Fleet is 0-2 on the road but 3-0 at home. FLEET
Last week: 2-2
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