Both teams are looking to climb from the bottom of their respective conferences
It's a battle between two teams hoping to salvage their seasons when the Memphis Express take on the Salt Lake Stallions Saturday afternoon. Entering Week 6, both the Express (1-4) and Stallions (1-4) reside in the basement of their respective conferences. Despite their records, both teams have talent, both teams can execute on both sides of the ball, and both teams have been competitive in recent weeks. Now these two teams have to get past one another as they look to end the AAF's inaugural season on a high note.
Salt Lake lost a shootout to San Diego last week on a field goal as time expired, while Memphis also dropped a close game to Atlanta courtesy of a late kick. Both teams present balanced offenses as well as capable defenses that can rush the passer and force turnovers when needed.
Memphis at Salt Lake
Kickoff: Saturday, March 16 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium (Salt Lake City)
TV/Stream: B/R Live
Three Things to Watch
1. A battle of the quarterbacks
Despite missing some time early in the season due to injury, Salt Lake signal-caller Josh Woodrum has been effective under center. He's completed 63 percent of his passes for 823 yards and three touchdowns. The four interceptions have been troublesome, but Woodrum has done his best to keep his team moving. He threw for a season-high 380 yards in the loss to San Diego last week. It was his first game with more than 200 yards through the air, so he'll be looking to build on last week's breakthrough performance.
Since taking over for Christian Hackenberg in Week 3, Memphis quarterback Zach Mettenberger has completed 66 percent of his attempts for 475 yards, three touchdowns, and just one interception. With Mettenberger at the helm, the Express have reached the 20-point mark in each of their last two games. They've become a more efficient team, and they hope to continue their evolution against the Stallions, who are last in the AAF against the pass (233.6 ypg).
2. Don't forget about the running backs
Express running back Zac Stacy is one of the top rushers in the league, while Joel Bouagnon helps the Stallions feature a balanced attack. Stacy is fifth in the league in rushing yards (273), third in rushing touchdowns (3), and averages 3.6 yards per carry. He's been a nice security blanket for the passing game.
Bouagnon is seventh in rushing (220), second in touchdowns on the ground (five) and is faring a little better in the yards per carry department (3.8). Both backs are capable of carrying their teams should their team's passing attack struggle.
3. It could come down to defense
Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance on this side of the ball despite winning just one game through the first five weeks of the season. Both teams are tied for fourth in sacks (11), while the Express are third in takeaways (10). The Stallions have created just three turnovers, but have recorded 11 sacks. Defensive end Karter Schult leads the AAF with five sacks.
Memphis is winless on the road this season while Salt Lake's lone win came at Rice Eccles-Stadium. Dennis Erickson's squad has posted 34 points on home soil, while Mike Singletary's team has been outscored 70-37 on the road. The Stallions will successfully defend their home field in a tightly contested game.
Prediction: Stallions 21, Express 20
— 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)