The term "wild, wild west" certainly applies here. The Alliance of American Football's (AAF) Western Conference has become a log jam. Right in the middle of it are the San Antonio Commanders (2-2) and the Arizona Hotshots (2-2) who play against each other on Sunday night to close out Week 5. They’re tied atop the conference with the San Diego Fleet (2-2) who will need to defeat the Salt Lake Stallions (1-3) on Saturday night just to keep up. As for this game, both teams are coming in looking for a much-needed win.
The Commanders, who are wrapping up a stretch of three straight road games, relied on their rushing attack and took advantage of mistakes made by the Birmingham Iron to walk out of Legion Field with a huge upset victory last weekend. The Hotshots are in the midst of a two-game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 37-26, as their offense has stalled and the defense has struggled (737 yards allowed in last two games). Being the team that gave the Atlanta Legends their first win of the season has to leave a bad taste in their mouths.
A win for San Antonio gives them a 2-1 record for this road trip, while an Arizona victory re-establishes them as contenders. The biggest thing to come out of this game, however, is that the winner will have at least a share of first place depending on what happens between Salt Lake and San Diego.
San Antonio at Arizona
Kickoff: Sunday, March 10 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, Ariz.)
TV: NFL Network
Three Things to Watch
1. The Hotshots are still an offensive threat
Despite being shocked by the Legends last week the Hotshots still posted some solid numbers. Quarterback John Wolford threw for 185 yards and a touchdown, running back Jhurell Pressley ran for 110 yards while averaging 7.9 yards per carry, and receivers Rashad Ross and Josh Huff combined for 117 yards on eight receptions. On top of that, Arizona outscored Atlanta 8-6 in the fourth quarter. The biggest priority for the Commanders is to either stop or slow down this offense.
2. Give the ball to Farrow
Running back Kenneth Farrow was the Commanders' offense in Birmingham last week. He ran the ball 30 times for 142 yards for an average of 4.7 yards per carry. His runs helped engineer some of San Antonio's scoring drives, and he’ll be leaned on again this Sunday. If head coach Mike Riley can dial up running plays that are successful, it’ll go a long way in limiting the Hotshots' offensive chances.
3. Hotshots' offensive line will be tested
The Commanders lead the AAF with 14 sacks in four games, and they’ve posted five of those in just the last two weeks. This is definitely an area of concern for Arizona, who has allowed 10 sacks this season, three of those came courtesy of Atlanta last week. If the Commanders can rattle Wolford’s cage the same way, they’ll have a good chance of winning this game.
Even though the Hotshots are just 1-1 at home, they have outscored their visitors 49-36. They’ve also limited guests to just 12 second-half points, and they have three takeaways in games played at Sun Devil Stadium. Home-field advantage is very much intact for the Hotshots. And while losing streaks are never fun, Rick Neuheisel's team continues to thrive offensively. The Hotshots have accumulated 611 total yards in the last two games, it's just that points have been harder to come by and the defense has had trouble slowing teams down.
Home cooking is what the doctor ordered as Arizona pulls off a slim victory. But rest assured that the Commanders will make it difficult for the Hotshots.
Prediction: Hotshots 24, Commanders 21
— 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 graphic courtesy of AAF.com)