The Arizona Hotshots will welcome the winless Atlanta Legends Sunday night to Sun Devil Stadium. While most people have this game pegged as a blowout, it will still be interesting to see if this game can be competitive as the major majority of AAF games have been. Both teams are also coming off of tough losses and will have their sights set on getting back in the win column, or in the Legends case just getting in the win column. Let’s examine the factors that will determine the game and give you a reason to tune in to NFL Network Sunday night.
The Health of Hotshots Quarterback John Wolford
“Not 100 percent yet but hoping to be 100 percent by the end of the week,” John Wolford on his back strain.
— Arizona Hotshots (@aafhotshots) February 28, 2019
In last week’s loss to the Salt Lake Stallions, Hotshots quarterback John Wolford took a shot at the beginning of the 2nd half that resulted in an interception and a back injury that would keep him out the rest of the game. The play proved to be a turning point in the game as the interception got Salt Lake off to a fast start in the 2nd half and the Hotshots offense completely shut down as Trevor Knight proved ineffective. The Legends may be the worst team in the AAF, but if Trevor Knight has to play, it could be the opening they’re looking for. However, Hotshots fans can rejoice because it appears John Wolford will give it a go this week and has proved to be effective at practice the latter half of the week. If Wolford can stay healthy and be his usual self, this will be great news for the Hotshots.
Chance John Wolford’s Health Plays A Factor: Likely
The Matt Simms Saga
Look online at any Atlanta Legends fan page or website, and one thing is prevalent, they’re tired of Matt Simms at quarterback. The Legends fanbase wants former University of Georgia quarterback, Aaron Murray to get an opportunity to lead the Legends offense. Unfortunately for the Legends fanbase, the Legends coaching staff seems firm on Matt Sims. However, what if Matt Simms gets off to another bad start? Simms on the year has a stat line of 60/101, 614 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. It is the touchdown to interception ratio that especially stands out. The typical professional quarterback usually strives for 2 touchdowns to 1 interception ratio. Simms is currently at 1 touchdown to 3 interception ratio. This ratio is horrendous, and even though the Legends coaching staff has shown confidence in Simms, it has to be believed that another bad start and the coaches will start looking for other solutions. If Simms gets off to an unusually fast start or the Legends finally free Aaron Murray, could this set up a situation similar to the Memphis and Orlando last week where something different gives the Legends a much-needed shot in the arm?
Chance, The Matt Simms Saga, plays A Factor: Likely
This factor may be an old school thought but has stood the test of time, if you turn the ball over more than the other team you will usually lose, but if the other team turns the ball over more, you usually win. In a game where the Hotshots are the clear favorite, the turnover margin could be especially critical. Everyone was surprised when Memphis was able to hang with the Hotshots, but a quick analysis of the turnover margin explains everything. The Hotshots had 3 turnovers to the Express 0. This made a game that was supposed to be double digits a 2 point game. Can the Atlanta Legends do the same? Arizona comes into the game with a -1 turnover margin, Atlanta comes into the game with a whopping -5 turnover margin. Atlanta will absolutely have to turn this trend around if they want a shot at victory. If the Legends can force the Hotshots into turnovers then the Legends will have a chance to win, the question is, can they?
Chance Turnover Margin Plays A Factor: Not Likely
When you’re a team in the Atlanta Legends position the strategy should be simple, keep the better team off the field. However, the Arizona Hotshots love to run an uptempo offense. This is bad news for the bigger, grind it out style roster of the Legends. The Hotshots average 64 offensive snaps per game on offense while they are on the field for 66 plays on defense. For the Legends, they average 60 offensive snaps per game while they are on the field for 61 snaps per game on defense. The magic number in this game for the Legends should be 60. If the Legends can force the Hotshots to have less than 60 offensive snaps, they will give themselves a fighting chance. If the Hotshots get over 65 offensive snaps, the blowout could be on. The Legends are not built for a shootout and week 1 in Orlando is proof of that. It is imperative for the winning team to dictate tempo in this game as the styles are quite different from one another. The team that can do this wins!
Chance Tempo Plays A Factor: Likely
Three takeaways from Saturday's rematch.
— Arizona Hotshots (@aafhotshots) February 25, 2019
To piggyback off of my tempo factor, the coaching staffs for both teams ability to set up their team’s ability to succeed will be vital. I know this sounds like coaches speak and vague but hear me out, Arizona is built for the quick game with high scores, on the other hand, Atlanta is built for physical football played in the trenches. However, one curious thing about this topic stands out, Arizona’s coaching staff has continuously formed game plans that try to take advantage of their strengths while the Legends seem to lack an identity in play calling. The Legends average 36 passing plays per game, compared to 21 rushing attempts. For a team with a physical, in the trenches identity, this is not putting your team in a position to succeed. If the tumultuous Legends coaching staff can figure this out and turn it around, they will see a lot more success. For the Legends, it is simple, run the ball! The Hotshots average 30 pass attempts per game while averaging 32 rushing attempts per game. The Hotshots coaching staff does a better job of maintaining balance for their explosive, dynamic offense. The team that can establish an identity in the game will have a huge advantage. If we can trust history, this should be a good thing for the Hotshots.
Chance Team Identity Plays A Factor: Likely
The theme of this game will be will history tell the story or will each team turn a new leaf? For the Hotshots, it is an opportunity to overcome the adversity of losing their first game. For the Legends, it is much more desperate; this team needs to establish chemistry and an identity. Another week is another opportunity and Atlanta’s only chance for success is to embrace that. Which team is more likely to capitalize on a new opportunity? I believe it to be the Hotshots
Landon’s Prediction: Hotshots 32 Legends 16
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Check out my last Hotshots article HERE