By Steven Weldon
The AAF had a banner weekend with its slate of week four games. No team is winless, some teams are falling, and only one has hit its stride. Here's what we got to see.
MEMPHIS EXPRESS 26, SAN DIEGO FLEET 23
Hold the dad-gum telephone, the Express have finally won a game! After an awful first half, the Express defense put together a solid finish, only allowing a field goal in the final frame. The Fleet could not hang on to the ball, with multiple offensive miscues, including a fumble recovered by the Express that would lead to their game-tying touchdown. QB Zach Mettenberger won as a starter in a football game for the first time since 2014, and the Express removed that awful zero from their win column.
Star of the game: Memphis Defense and Zach Mettenberger 18/25, 174 yards, 1 TD, 1 rushing TD
I had to name them both. Mettenberger put the offense on his back, and the Defense backed it up. Memphis earned this victory.
ORLANDO APOLLOS 20, SALT LAKE STALLIONS 11
The Orlando Apollos are for real, as they waltz into Salt Lake and take another victory against inclement weather. It was a wire to wire victory for the Apollos, but the game was very much in the balance going into the fourth quarter. As they have done all season though, the Apollos held strong for the win. The Stallions looked reasonably good, but they ran into the best team in the league at the wrong time.
Star of the game: Garrett Gilbert, 22/32, 244 yards, 1 TD
Gilbert once again showed why he's the best quarterback in the league, fighting through the snow and tossing great passes.
SAN ANTONIO COMMANDERS 12, BIRMINGHAM IRON 11
Down goes an undefeated team! The Iron suffered through poor offensive stretches, possibly due to missing their starting center. The Commanders controlled most of the game until Trent Richardson busted through their defense for the only Iron touchdown of the day with two minutes left in the game. While it was his seventh touchdown of the season, the Iron needed more productivity from him. He finished with a paltry 8 carries for 15 yards.
Star of the game: Kenneth Farrow II, 30 carries, 142 yards.
Farrow II was one of the only productive players in this game. The Commanders scored a rushing touchdown in this game, but sadly it wasn't his. Maybe he can get one next game.
ATLANTA LEGENDS 14, ARIZONA HOTSHOTS 11
Atlanta came out swinging, replacing QB Matt Simms with former Alabama star Aaron Murray, and boy did it pay off. The defense came to play first, forcing the Hotshots into the first safety in AAF history. With the Hotshots thinking they were their namesake, the Legends showed them up, leading 8-3 at the half. It would take until the fourth quarter for Arizona to tie the game at the 5:27 mark, but it was far too much time left on the board. The Hotshots defense was porous all game, allowing 454 yards to the previously unheralded Atlanta offense. The Legends marched downfield, and Younghoe Koo, a former San Diego Chargers castoff drained the eventual game-winning field goal with 1:03 left in the game.
Star of the game: Aaron Murray, 20/33, 254 yards
Murray did not score a touchdown, but he kept the Legends moving all day. A great running attack was a large help, but unlike Simms the previous few weeks, Murray made things happen.
AAF WEEK FOUR POWER RANKINGS
1. ORLANDO APOLLOS (4-0)
This is the best team in AAF football until further notice. Another great win and gutsy performance by Garrett Gilbert. Their next challenge will be to head to Alabama and take on the Birmingham Iron in a battle of the two best teams in the league. I'm thinking the Apollos come out of next week undefeated again.
2. BIRMINGHAM IRON (3-1)
I was about to drop the hammer on the Iron, but I couldn't. Despite losing to a middling team, they're still a very talented team. Their defense is solid, their offense is still a work in progress, however. They'll need Trent Richardson to make better use of his carries to succeed. A battle against the Orlando Apollos can be the best measuring post for them.
3. SAN ANTONIO COMMANDERS (2-2)
The Commanders went into Birmingham, weathered the storm and got the win. It was not pretty, but they held off the Iron as long as they could. Solid defensive play has them trending up. They will head to Arizona next weekend and face the ice-cold Hotshots.
4. SAN DIEGO FLEET (2-2)
Full control of the game and they blew it. I hope San Diego fans weren't hoping for deja vu when it came to professional football teams. It's not good to lose to a winless team, but at least they still have time to come out of it strong. They'll host the Salt Lake Stallions next week, and hopefully, they don't let what happened this past weekend happen again.
5. ARIZONA HOTSHOTS (2-2)
Oh brother, where do I begin? They looked like the best team but their fortune turned quick. The Hotshots did run into a hungry Atlanta team with a new quarterback, but they had a chance to stop the Legends and couldn't. The Hotshots host the Commanders in the last game of the weekend next Sunday. It ought to be a good one if Wolford returns to the form he had two weeks ago.
6. MEMPHIS EXPRESS (1-3)
What a comeback! This Express team is plucky, and I can't wait to see if they can show another team the ropes. This time, it's a battle of bottom feeders, as they head to Atlanta to take on the Legends. Next Sunday afternoon should be a fun, or awful, football game. Who gets their second win?
7. ATLANTA LEGENDS (1-3)
Last weekend was the perfect storm. An amazingly balanced ground game mixed with an explosive passing attack. Hopefully, they can replicate it again. They'll face Memphis for the chance to get two wins in a row.
8. SALT LAKE STALLIONS (1-3)
I had to drop these guys to last. They didn't look good, and they didn't upset any team this weekend. In fact, I don't know when their next win will be. They'll head to San Diego and attempt to get their second win.
The AAF is heating up! Catch all the action next Saturday and Sunday on TNT, CBS Sports Network and NFL Network.