In the 19th century, as the U.S. was spreading influence across the West, the concept of manifest destiny was a common theme. In their eyes, their personal virtue to accomplish each mission and spread influence across North America and the West was their destiny. Sunday night, the Arizona Hotshots invade the Alamodome and look to spread their influence across the AAF West. If the Hotshots win the game, they will be in a tie for first place in the West with their opponent this week, the San Antonio Commanders, However, a loss and the Hotshots run the risk of being tied for second place and potentially missing the AAF playoffs altogether.
John Wolford vs Logan Woodside
— PFF_AAF (@PFF_AAF) March 30, 2019
When previewing football games, it often starts at the quarterback position. This week, John Wolford and Logan Woodside will go head-to-head. It’s been a tale of two seasons for Wolford. The first half of the season, Wolford had highlight reels and enormous struggles to find a rhythm. The second half of the season, Wolford has found a middle ground where he takes what the defense gives him. Wolford has improved his touchdown to interception ratio to 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, an almost 2:1 ratio.
On the other side, Logan Woodside has found the ability to bring stability to the quarterback position for the Commanders. Woodside’s stats certainly don’t stand out but he provides a game managing style and reduces turnovers. Woodside has done a solid job the past few weeks, he is up to a 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 7 touchdowns and interceptions on the season. He has been sacked 17 times and has a passer rating of 77.0. If the Hotshots get pressure to Woodside, it’s possible he reverts to old tendencies.
I like John Wolford to come out on top in this matchup. The Hotshots ability to run the RPO will be a game changer that will allow the Hotshots to keep offensive rhythm. A big reason why the Hotshots are currently on a two-game winning streak.
“Rocket” Ross vs “Big Play” McKay
Fortunately for AAF fans, the best playmakers for both teams offenses play wide receiver. It will be exciting to watch the Hotshots Rashad Ross and the Commanders Mekale McKay battle. Rashad Ross is a stable force in an otherwise inconsistent season for the Hotshots. On the season, Ross has 32 catches for 505 yards and a league-leading 6 touchdowns. If the Hotshots stable of running backs led by Jhurrell Pressley get the running game going and John Wolford finds a rhythm early, Ross will be in for a big day.
For the Commanders, Mekale McKay has been one of many weapons at wide receiver, Greg Ward, Jr., Alonzo Moore, and Demarcus Ayers have all stepped up at different times. However, make no mistake, McKay is the straw that stirs the Commanders offensive drink. On the season, McKay has 22 catches for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns. The fate of McKay’s day will be determined by the performance of the Hotshots linebacker and secondary corps. The numbers say that McKay will get his yards. However, I like the Hotshots defense ability to force Woodside to rely on other weapons to win the game for the Commanders. On the other hand, if McKay has a big day the Hotshots will be in hot water.
The Impact of Hotshots Linebacker Steven Johnson
— José M. Romero (@RomeroJoseM) February 20, 2019
While the offenses certainly are the stars of this preview, one must not overlook the defenses. For the Hotshots, the defense is led by the courageous leadership of linebacker Steven Johnson. Johnson has dealt with injuries and missed games this season which lead to the Hotshots defense struggling. However, when he is on the field, the Hotshots defense is better and the linebacker corp is the best in the AAF. On the season, Johnson has 40 tackles and 3 interceptions. The interceptions are incredibly impressive, at the linebacker position, Johnson is tied for second in the league. Also, Johnson is healthy again which is a good sign for the Hotshots defense as a whole. The Hotshots defense is better with the presence of Johnson’s leadership in the huddle.
The Commanders Secret Star, Jayrone Elliott
The AAF has highly touted pass rushers in Karter Schult and Damontre Moore. However, the Commanders have their own star in Jayrone Elliott that hasn’t had the attention of the others mentioned. He has been a nightmare for the opposition this season. On the season, Elliott has 18 tackles and 6.5 sacks, which is tied for second in the league with Damontre Moore. The question is, why does Elliott go unnoticed? It’s simple, the Commanders have a lot of star power on offense that their defense gets overlooked. However, this is a mistake, the Commanders have a capable defense that is second in the AAF against the run.
As we have seen at times this season, the Hotshots offense lose rhythm when Jhurrell Pressley and company cannot run effectively. The Hotshots ability to stay ahead of the chains will determine the effectiveness of Jayrone Elliott in this game. However, I like the Hotshots to take what the defense gives them and roll the pocket away from Elliott to allow time for the Hotshots offense to make big plays.
The Impact of the “Alamosphere”
Attendance for Saturday's Commanders/Stallions game: 30,345
— ESPN SA (@ESPN_SA) March 24, 2019
When traveling to the Alamodome, one factor that must be considered is the fans. The Commanders lead the league in attendance. Last week, the Commanders set a league record with an attendance of 30,345 fans. However, with outstanding support, I expect the record to be set again this week. It’s imperative for the Hotshots to strike early and take the fans out of the game. I like the Hotshots to accomplish this feat as tall as it may be. If the Hotshots get out to a quick start, they win but if they struggle early, the game is for the Commanders taking.
I expect this game to be the game of the weekend. This is a battle of the two best teams in the West. The only team to beat the Commanders at home this season is the Orlando Apollos. While the task isn’t easy, I believe the Hotshots win. Regardless of my opinion, the Hotshots outcome will be determined by a common theme, their virtue to accomplish team goals, their mission for victory, and the ability to fulfill their destiny of conquering the West, manifest destiny!