The AAF moves into its fifth week of regular season play and, while a lot of questions still linger, the undefeated Orlando Apollos are the best team in the league at the moment. This week, they take to the road to visit the 3-1 Birmingham Iron in a game that will feature Orlando’s top scoring offense versus Birmingham’s league-best defense. Date: Saturday, March 9 at 2 PM ET Live From Legion Field in Birmingham
The Apollos are averaging 29.5 points per game but that high number can be attributed to 69 points they put up over the first two weeks. They rallied to score 21 points and beat Memphis in a Week 3 thriller and then put up 20 last week against Salt Lake. They rank in the lower half of the league in 2-point conversions, 3rd down conversions, and time of possession. Scoring on the league’s best defense will be a challenge. Still, they have Garrett Gilbert leading a very potent pass attack.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Apollos are also quite good. They have given up just 15.75 points per game and they have excelled in forcing turnovers. They will undoubtedly be focusing a lot of attention on Trent Richardson who now has a league-best seven rushing touchdowns although his overall yardage is rather pedestrian. Earl Okine and Andrew Ankrah should be able to put a bunch of pressure on Iron quarterback Luis Perez while Terrence Garvin and Keith Reaser are great coverage guys.
Birmingham couldn’t muster enough offense in their Week 4 loss to San Antonio. Even though they scored 26 against the Express in Week 1 and 28 points against lowly Atlanta in Week 3, offensive production is an issue. They have been very good at converting third downs and maintaining possession. Luis Perez has passed for the second-most yards and they are the least penalized team but none of that has translated into many points on the board. Even the seven rushing scores that Trent Richardson has racked up have mostly been in close range. He hasn’t put up an impressive number of yards.
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Birmingham’s strength is their defense and it has been very good. They can apply a ton of pressure and be disruptive. There is no reason to think that they won’t be able to make life miserable for Garrett Gilbert on Saturday but they will need to keep Charles Johnson covered while keeping Orlando’s mediocre running game under control. The defense will be instrumental in determining the outcome.
The oddsmakers have Orlando listed as a 3.5-point favorite indicating they think this will be close. This will be the Apollos’ toughest game yet and they have shown that they are vulnerable. Their scoring has decreased on a weekly basis and the points will be tough to come by this week. Fortunately for them, Birmingham’s offensive difficulties will prove costly.
The Pick: Orlando -3.5
While the AAF was supposed to boast a lot of scoring, that hasn’t been the case in a lot of games so far and the bookies are dropping the totals. The total for this tilt is just 34 points and that number might still be a tad high. Even if Orlando scores 20-24 points, can the Iron score enough to put it over?
The Pick: Under 34