It’s week seven of the AAF season, and playoff positioning is at all-time importance. The Arizona Hotshots welcome the San Diego Fleet to Sun Devil Stadium. This is the first time the franchises will meet on the gridiron. Both teams enter the game with a 3-3 record and currently trail the San Antonio Commanders in the AAF West. The winner of this game will take sole possession of second place in the AAF West and control their own playoff destiny. Needless to say, this game is big!
— The Alliance (@TheAAF) March 22, 2019
Much like last week’s matchup with the Orlando Apollos, the matchup with the Fleet feature high powered offenses. The Hotshots come into the game with the second-ranked offense in the AAF with 343 yards per game while the Fleet ranks third with 329 yards per game. At quarterback, the Hotshots have the advantage as John Wolford has been more consistent than Mike Bercovici. Many think the Fleet has the better rushing attack with Ja’quan Gardner. However, the Hotshots have the advantage averaging 142 yards rushing per game while the Fleet average118 per game.
— Arizona Hotshots (@aafhotshots) March 21, 2019
Hotshots running back Jhurrell Pressley is the leading rusher in the AAF after a big performance last week. The Hotshots will also split carries with Tim Cook and Justin Stockton. While I have viewed the three-headed running back monster a weakness most of the season. The Hotshots have seemed to figure out how to rotate the backs effectively. The Fleet’s Ja’quan Gardner is the third leading rusher in the AAF with 309 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. Terrell Watson will get some carries, but unlike the Hotshots, the Fleet mainly use one back.
The Fleet’s Dontez Ford
The biggest question coming into this game is the health of Fleet wide receiver Dontez Ford. Ford is coming off a monster performance versus the Birmingham Iron where he had 3 catches for 182 yards. On the season, he has 15 catches for 435 yards but has put up bigger numbers with Mike Bercovici under center. He has been in a walking boot all week and is questionable for the game. If he can’t go, Nelson Spruce will have to step up to give the Fleet a passing game weapon.
For the Hotshots, the health of wide receiver Rashad Ross is a concern as he was noticeably less than 100 percent last week. However, Ross is expected to play this week. The Hotshots offense also got a shot in the arm last week with the return of wide receiver Richard Mullaney. With the Hotshots getting more healthy, it is allowing their offense to develop chemistry and come together. If the Hotshots can maintain balance on offense and avoid turnovers, they should put themselves in a position to win.
On the defensive side of the ball, statistics would suggest this could be a shootout. The Hotshots are the AAF fifth best defense giving up 320 yards per game. The Fleet rank sixth giving up 329 yards per game. However, the defenses are not similar. The Fleet has the better unit up front. The Fleet’s edge rusher Damontre Moore is a monster! On the season, Moore has 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks. The 5.5 sacks rank second in the AAF and could cause issues for a susceptible Hotshots offensive line that has been plagued by injuries.
The @AAFFleet d-line gets after the quarterback!
Here's the top-graded players on the San Diego defense led by edge-rusher Damontre Moore! pic.twitter.com/b2eDiBrET7
— PFF_AAF (@PFF_AAF) March 22, 2019
On the other hand, the Hotshots do their damage in the linebacker and secondary levels. The return of linebacker Steven Johnson provided a boost for the Hotshots last week. However, from a statistical perspective, cornerback Erick Dargan is the leader of the defense. Dargan has 43 tackles and an interception this season. He provides solid coverage skills in the passing game and a wonderful weapon in the secondary for run support. Dargan along with an extremely active linebacking corp could provide issues for Ja’quan Gardner and the Fleet.
The determining factor in this game will be, which team can successfully attack the strength of their opponent? If the Hotshots can run the ball effectively and stay ahead of the chains, it should neutralize the Fleet’s pass rush. However, if Dontez Ford can play and Mike Bercovici can reduce mistakes, the Fleet have an opportunity to provide a challenge for the Hotshots secondary. It is impressive that the Fleet has been able to win despite using three different quarterbacks. However, we are getting to crunch time in the AAF season; chemistry will be vital. This reason is why I like the Hotshots to leave Sun Devil Stadium with sole possession of second place in the AAF West.