While our focus is first and foremost Raiders football, this time of the year any football we can watch is worthy of discussion. Our own Kelly Kriner looks at the Alliance of American Football which kicks off this weekend.
The confetti has fallen and the Gatorade has been dumped signifying the end of yet another NFL season. Usually, this weekend starts the months-long depression that all football fans go through. But now, football fans going through withdrawal will have a new option to fill the gap between now and August – the Alliance of American Football. The first Sunday after the Super Bowl will now have football…well some kind of football. The talent on the field may not quite be NFL ready but the AAF has made a couple rules changes that should spark enough interest for even the casual fan to check out.
The eight-team league will have a 10-game schedule that culminates in the championship game hosted here in beautiful Las Vegas. The rosters are littered with former NFL talent and you will notice a regional flair for each team. Building the rosters with local and regional talent is an interesting concept to try and draw from the local fan bases.
— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 8, 2019
One of the intriguing angles for fans who will watch the AAF are the rule changes, which experiment and try to make the game faster and more fan-friendly. Here’s a few of the more interesting rules changes (in relation to the NFL) worth watching:
- No Kickoffs: Propagating the belief that kickers aren’t people the AAF has completely abandoned the kickoff. Teams will start with the ball on the 25 yd line as if the kick was a touchback. Onside kicks have also been pushed to the side in favor of a 4th down and 12 play from the 28yd line. Complete the 1st and you have the ball around midfield, fail and you put the opposing team right in FG range.
- No Kicked Extra Points: More kicker slander with the rule that after every TD the team must go for a 2 pt conversion.
- No TV Timeouts and a 35-second Play Clock: To try and speed up the game for today’s smartphone-addicted, short attention span fan, the AAF is trying to get the full game in 2.5 hours. Expect in-game ads and product placement to be a staple in the league.
- Balls-out Overtime: OT will be an interesting affair. Each team gets a shot with the ball being placed on the 10 yd line and 4 downs to score. If teams are tied after the OT the game ends in a tie.
Each team will have a couple of players or even a coach or two that will ring a bell with even the casual football fan. Here is a quick rundown of each team with the personal to look forward to.
Arizona Hotshots +250
Head Coach: Rick Neuheisel
Offensive Coordinator: Hugh Freeze
Players of Note: QB Trevor Knight, WR Josh Huff, DT Will Sutton
The colorful past of the coaching staff will be talked about but there is a reason the Hotshots are the early betting favorite to win the inaugural AAF championship. In a league built around offense, this team will be ready to put on a show both on the ground and in the air.
Salt Lake Stallions +400
Head Coach: Dennis Erickson
Players of Note: RB Matt Asiata, OL Jeremiah Poutasi, DT Handsome Tanielu
The Salt Lake Stallions are full of former Utah and BYU players that will ensure a physically tough team that will be built to run on offense and punish people in the trenches on defense. The WR core is very talented and will be able to make some plays down the field.
Orlando Apollos +500
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier
Players of Note: QB Garrett Gilbert, RB De’veon Smith, S Will Hill
The story with the Apollos is the old ball coach is back in football. Love him or hate him, football is better with Steve Spurrier on the sidelines. Expect an air-based attack on the field and interesting as always press conferences and interviews during the week.
San Antonio Commanders +500
Head Coach: Mike Riley
Players of Note: QB Logan Woodside, WR Greg Ward Jr., LB Joel Lanning
Mike Riley will have the opportunity to run an interesting offense with players able to play multiple positions. All three of the players I mentioned above have played quarterback at a high level in college. In a league that wants interesting football, this team could provide some explosive plays.
Atlanta Legends +500
Head Coach: Kevin Coyle
Players of Note: QB Aaron Murray, RB Denard Robinson, RB Akrum Wadley, WR Stephen Hill
Head Coach Coyle is a 17-year defensive coach in the NFL but the offense on this team should be the star. If Stephen Hill learned how to catch a football in his time away from the NFL, the Legends should have a very explosive offense. RB Robinson will run around people while Wadley will run right through them.
Birmingham Iron +1000
Head Coach: Tim Lewis
Players of Note: RB Trent Richardson, WR Quinton Patton, QB Lewis Perez
Trent Richardson should probably be the most interesting player on any team because of his status as a massive bust in the NFL, but I’m more interested in QB Lewis Perez. Perez started as a walk-on and worked his way to the Harlon Hill trophy as the best Division II player. Oh, and by the way, he is an accomplished bowler and passed up an opportunity to become a pro bowler to concentrate on football.
San Diego Fleet +1000
Head Coach: Mike Martz
Players of Note: QB Mike Bercovici, TE Gavin Escobar, DE Damontre Moore
Martz is known for his innovative offense but losing their starting QB, Josh Johnson, to the Washington Redskins, has put him behind the eightball. Bercovici had a good run at Arizona State, but he was the backup for a reason. Don’t expect too much from the Fleet this season.
Memphis Express +1000
Head Coach: Mike Singletary
Players of Note: QB Zach Mettenberger, QB Christian Hackenberg, RB Zac Stacy, DE Sam Montgomery
This team was my dark horse to win the league until I saw who the head coach was. It has by far the most interesting QB room and if Hackenberg has fixed his yips could be the star of the league. With a roster full of former SEC players there is not a lack of talent on the field, but I’m not sure about the choice of leadership. They are picked last in the power rankings but don’t be surprised if the Memphis makes a run to the playoffs.