The Super Bowl has been and gone. We’ve had a full week to comprehend that once again, the Patriots somehow have another Lombardi trophy, and Tom Brady has another ring. The good news? He only has four more fingers. So the Brady-Belichick reign has to end soon. Surely.
Now that the NFL season is complete, we have almost six months before the first preseason game is played. So that means we have six months of awkward Sundays where we’re struggling to find something other than actually socialising with our families and loved ones, right? Wrong. Football fans, meet the AAF.
What is the AAF I hear you ask? (Thanks for asking. This article would have been short if everyone stayed silent.)
The Alliance of American Football is a new professional football league launched by Charlie Ebersol & Bill Polian (who has decades of experience working as an NFL executive), their leadership board has household names such as Hines Ward, Jared Allen, and Troy Polamalu. The basic rules to the game are the same as the NFL, with some slight differences to make the game more exciting, and enjoyable for the fans.
The league has started with 8 inaugural franchises:
Arizona Hotshots (Western Conference)
Atlanta Legends (Eastern Conference)
Birmingham Iron (Eastern Conference)
Memphis Express (Eastern Conference)
Orlando Apollos (Eastern Conference)
Salt Lake Stallions (Western Conference)
San Antonio Commanders (Western Conference)
San Diego Fleet (Western Conference)
Who are the players?
Each team will have a roster tailored around them based on their regional appeal, so they will be assigned players that have played college/NFL ball in the franchise’s states/areas.
So, the Birmingham Iron team is full of Alabama players (expect them to be near the top at the end). The ultimate goal for the league is to develop the players and hopefully give some players a shot at the NFL that may not have had a chance otherwise. Every player is on the same three-year $250,000 contract, which all include an “out clause”, so if the NFL comes a knocking, then they’re free to leave. No quibbles.
There is bonus money available in the contracts for marketing and PR events, however, it’s small change compared to the NFL money, so you have to assume that the goal is to progress into the NFL for the younger players in the league.
Kickers are people too. Just less worthy of a roster spot in the AAF. The kick-off has been scrapped, as well as the extra point. After a touchdown, the only option is to go for 2 points each time.
After a score/at the start of a half, the offensive team will start with the ball on their 25-yard line when they begin their possession.
The play clock has been reduced as well, in order to speed up the game, and reduce the overall length of the game.
Also, onside kicks have been pulled, instead if a team want to go for an onside kick, they will get it on their 28-yard line and have a 4th and 12 situation, if they convert, it’s game on, if not then the opposite team will take over where they were stopped. Other than those changes, it’s fairly similar to the NFL rules.
By this point, week one is in the books, the results are in and we have had time to digest the play in the games, for those of you not wanting to know the results, look away now.
Fleet 6 – 15 Commanders
Legends 6 – 40 Apollos
Stallions 22 – 38 Hotshots
Express 0 – 26 Iron
Each team had one month to get the players together and working as a team, and to be honest, you could tell at some points. However, it was only some points.
For the majority of the games, it seemed a lot like I was watching a good football match. None of the games were overly competitive, all four games were a 2 + score game, but it will take time for the teams to become cohesive with their teammates. This will only improve with time and is promising that during the game, there was good football being played.
Looking towards next weekend the fixtures are as follows:
Salt Lake Stallions (0-1) at Birmingham Iron (1-0), Legion Field
Arizona Hotshots (1-0) at Memphis Express (0-1), Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Orlando Apollos (1-0) at San Antonio Commanders (1-0), Alamodome
Atlanta Legends (0-1) at San Diego Fleet (0-1), San Diego County Credit Union Stadium
I would love to be able to give you a prediction for these games, but I’ve had a total of three hours film on each team, so my knowledge is limited at best. However, I’m not one to back down from a challenge.
Iron 37-9 Stallions
I think this one is reasonably comfortable. The Stallions lost QB Josh Woodrum late in the first half against Memphis, however even with him at the helm, it didn’t look like the offence was up to much. Birmingham is stronger on both offence and defence. They win this comfortably.
Hotshots 34-14 Express
The Hotshots were hot hot hot on offence, but their defence was leaky. I trust Wolford to score more points than Christian Hackenberg (who I expect to be benched at some point during this game).
Apollos 27-17 Commanders
Two good defences on show here, both allowing just two field goals in their first game. However, I give the edge to the Apollos for their free-scoring offence. Putting up the most points in week 1 will always stand you in my good books.
Legends 9-6 Fleet
Why? Purely because Mike Vick is play calling for the Legends. I’m not convinced there is much in it, and neither offence really stood out last week. Maybe giving Nelson a week with the first team will do the new Fleet QB good, but I didn’t see much in the first game to be overly optimistic about.
That’s right. The AFF also has their own version of the Super Bowl, let me introduce the AAF Championship.
Look, they only founded the league 10 months ago. It took the NFL three years to decide on the Super Bowl, let’s give them time to decide on a better name.
The top two teams in each conference will progress to the playoffs to compete for the overall championships (name suggestions are welcome and will be forwarded to the league board), the game will be played on 27th April 2019.
The future of the league
The Alliance have said that the business plan will take time to settle and really stick. If it’s good football and fills a void between the NFL season, then they believe that is enough to encourage people to come along and support the league.
The Alliance are looking to be more interactive and exciting than the NFL, so the supporters feel closer to the game and their team than ever before. They are all-in on fantasy football, as well as gaming. The Alliance app already has a never before seen way to watch football, in real-time animation. Which proves that they are trying to be progressive and could be a great place to try new technology out before it reaches the NFL.
If the league is successful, then it will have a positive impact on the local communities that host the games, and the option to expand into more areas and have a northern league as well as the southern-focused league at the moment, is very much on the horizon.
Whether the league leads to players getting another shot in the NFL or not, one thing is certain, for the next two months, we have football every weekend.