Arizona Hotshots (1-0) at Memphis Express (0-1)

Date: Saturday, February 16th at 8 p.m. ET Live From Liberty Bowl in Memphis

A lot of fans of the new league were talking about Christian Hackenberg and the Memphis Express (0-1) after their Week 1 game against the Birmingham Iron but it was for all the wrong reasons. Hackenberg, who was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft by the NY Jets, faced constant pressure and showed signs of frustration as his offense was shutout 26-0. On the flip side, there was a fair amount of praise heaped on John Wolford and the Arizona Hotshots after their win over the Salt Lake Stallions. Wolford earned AAF Offensive Player of the Week honors. This will be the only time these two teams face each other during the regular season.

Can High-Flying Hotshots Offense Prevail Again?

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The Hotshots (1-0) have been touted as one of the best teams in the AAF and they certainly dominated in their season opener. John Wolford connected on 18 of 29 pass attempts including scoring strikes to Gerald Christian and running back Jhurell Pressley who also led Arizona’s rushing attack with 18 carries for 64 yards. Rashad Ross had a great game with five receptions for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns in what ended up being the highest-scoring contest of Week 1.

Despite the success that Arizona had through the air, their running game was also a huge factor. The Hotshots ran the ball a whopping 39 times for a total of 149 yards. The offensive line also deserves credit as they gave Wolford plenty of protection while opening up a few seems for their running backs to exploit. The Arizona defense wasn’t exactly stellar but they held Salt Lake’s running and passing games in check. The defense will need to step it up on third downs as Salt Lake converted on 8 of 16 third down attempts.

Can Hackenberg Bounce Back?

It’s widely known that Christian Hackenberg was on the verge of a total meltdown in his season opener. Really, it’s easy to see why his frustration level reached the heights that it did but the young quarterback needs to keep his emotions from getting the better of him. It was obvious that his mental state took a toll on his and the team’s performance. Mike Singletary has his work cut out for him if he is going to settle Hackenberg down for Saturday’s game.

Yes, Hackenberg has a lot to prove but it is becoming quite clear that he lacks the talent and mindset to make good decisions. Still, the Express must do significantly better in other areas to relieve the pressure on Hackenberg. Both the offensive line and the defense must crank it up a couple of notches. Memphis’ pass defense got absolutely shredded in Week 1 and Arizona’s pass attack looks a little more potent than Birmingham’s. Running back Zac Stacey will also be a critical factor as long as Memphis can keep it close. The Express simply cannot afford to fall too far behind early or Hackenberg chance of bouncing back are minimal.

Prediction

Memphis should at least be able to put up some points on the road this week but until they will be a hard sell until they actually get some production. 11.5 points is quite a lot considering we are just a week into the season but the Hotshots look like the team to beat while the Express looks like the team that will be beaten…badly. Arizona wins 33-10.

The Pick: Arizona Hotshots -11.5

The Total

We have a total of 47.5 points set for this game and it’s pretty clear who the oddsmakers think will provide most of the scoring. If Memphis busts out and makes a game of it then the score could easily go over. However, it’s more likely that Memphis struggles while Arizona takes a comfy lead into the second half and eats clock.

The Pick: Under 47.5

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