This could be a trap game for the Apollos
They say that a wounded animal in survival mode is a dangerous animal. And that situation could very well apply to this Week 6 Alliance of American Football (AAF) matchup between the Arizona Hotshots and Orlando Apollos. That's because the Apollos (5-0) are looking to remain the only undefeated team, but must overcome a hungry and defiant Hotshots (2-3) team that's shown numerous signs of life despite a three-game losing streak in order to do so.
Orlando took full command of the AAF's Eastern Conference with their dominant win over the Birmingham Iron last week, while Arizona nearly overcame a 26-point deficit in a close loss at home to the San Antonio Commanders. Despite their losing streak, head coach Rick Neuheisel and his Hotshots offense continues to move the ball and score points. But make no mistake about it, Steve Spurrier's Apollos are the current favorites to win the inaugural Alliance Championship in late April.
Arizona at Orlando
Kickoff: Saturday, March 16 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Spectrum Stadium (Orlando, Fla.)
TV: NFL Network
Three Things to Watch
1. Offense keeps the Hotshots going
Despite Arizona's recent misfortunes, the one thing that has gone right for them is their offense. Against San Antonio last week, the Hotshots trailed 26-0 at halftime. But Arizona proceeded to rattle off 25 straight points to cut the lead to one before giving up what proved to the game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter. John Wolford threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.
Wolford leads the AAF in touchdown passes (10), he's second in passing yards (1,026), and also ranks in the top 10 in completion percentage (60.3). Putting pressure on him should be Orlando's top priority.
2. The Apollos' defense is up to the challenge
This is the most underrated unit in the AAF. Last week Steve Spurrier's defense collected another five sacks (third in the AAF with 14), defensive back Keith Reaser grabbed his third interception of the season (tied for league lead), and the Apollos held Birmingham to just 14 points. This team is more than prepared to do battle with this red-hot Arizona offense.
3. Garrett Gilbert is practically unstoppable
When you talk about Spurrier's "fun-n-gun" offense you must know that everything starts and ends with the Apollos quarterback. Gilbert threw two more touchdown passes in last week's win at Birmingham, and he continues to light up both the scoreboard and the box score on a weekly basis. Gilbert leads the league in passing yards (1,357), he's right behind Wolford in TDs (8), he's third in completion percentage (62.8), and he's yet to throw an interception (in 148 attempts). Teams haven't really been able to pressure him, which could be a challenge for Arizona's defense.
With the Apollos enjoying home-field advantage and having all of the momentum, they'll find a way to slow down the Hotshots. This team doesn't have a ton of flaws and they don't really make mistakes. The Apollos will continue their march to perfection.
Prediction: Apollos 30, Hotshots 22
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of AAF.com)