Game Preview: Week 3 vs. Memphis Express
Week 2 was sure something, wasn’t it? Coming from behind 12 points not once, but twice?! The Apollos showed they’re a force to be reckoned with in the AAF. Now they face a 0-2 Memphis team hungry for a win. This is a game the Apollos should win handily, but that also means this is a bit of a trap game. Arizona almost fell into that trap last week against Memphis, but mounted a comeback of their own. Here’s what the Apollos need to do to make sure they don’t fall into the trap.
Stop the run
Memphis is a one dimensional team. They run the ball in part because quarterback Christian Hackenberg is pretty ineffective in the passing game. If Orlando can stuff the run and limit league-leading rusher Zac Stacy, the Express will be in for a world of hurt. Hackenberg may not last the game if he has to throw the ball a lot, and that plays right into the Apollos’ hands.
Win the turnover battle
Part of the Apollos formula for success in the first two games has been limiting mistakes and turnovers. QB Garrett Gilbert has not thrown an interception this season, though he’s been close in both games. Memphis was able to jump far out in front of the Arizona Hotshots in large part because they forced 3 turnovers early, and generated points off them. If Orlando can continue to play mistake-free ball, it will force the Express to go the the length of the field on most drives, something they haven’t been able to do all season.
Protect the QB
Memphis has a big, strong, SEC-powered defense. They’re especially big up front, something that gave the Hotshots fits last week. The Apollos struggled against the Commanders’ big defensive front last week as well, giving up 4 sacks including one that led to a fumble and a touchdown. Just like the turnover battle, the Apollos must protect Gilbert well if they want to win this game. If the new offensive philosophy is to throw the ball deep, Gilbert will need time to throw. He won’t have that if the offensive line doesn’t do their job.
As I said in the opener, this is a game the Apollos can and should win handily. They are 13.5 point favorites in Vegas for a reason. Even against a strong defense, this offense put up 37 points (6 from a pick 6). Can the Apollos do it again? I think they will.
Score: Orlando 36, Memphis 12