After three weeks of action in the new Alliance of American Football, Orlando has solidified the title of 'top team to beat'. The Apollos are off to a 3-0 start following Saturday night's 21-17 win at home over Memphis.
League-leading quarterback Garrett Gilbert came out hot, hitting 6-for-6 on Orlando's first two possessions. However, the passing attack fizzled after that so head coach Steve Spurrier turned to the running game and Gilbert scored the game-winning points on a 21-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter. His 43 yards rushing complimented D'Ernest Johnson's 79 and De'Veon Smith's 52.
Orlando tallied a touchdown on just 5 plays to open the game and added a field goal on its next series to stake-out a 9-0 lead.
Orlando's biggest challenger for 'best team' title comes from its own Eastern Conference. Birmingham is also 3-0 as former Alabama Crimson Tide standout Trent Richardson has scored all 6 Iron touchdowns on the season. Birmingham was a 28-12 winner at the Atlanta Legends on Sunday.
In the Western Conference, the San Diego Fleet upended the San Antonio Commanders 31-11. It was a rematch of an opening week tilt that saw the Commanders prevail 15-6 at home over the Fleet. The win gives San Diego a 2-1 record and a tie at the top with the Arizona Hotshots which were upset 23-15 at the Salt Lake Stallions. Arizona had defeated the Stallions at home in week 1.
There's no place like home as six of the eight Alliance teams are perfect in their own venue. Only Memphis and Atlanta have yet to notch a win as host. Over-all, home teams are 9-3.
Orlando and San Antonio are drawing the most fans. The Apollos have had just over 20,000 butts-in-seats for each of the first two home games and played their lone away game in front of nearly 30,000 at San Antonio which has averaged 28,000 for its two home games. San Diego home attendance is averaging 17,000, though the head-count dipped from 20,000 for a week two game to just 14,000 this past weekend. Birmingham has had 17,000 for both of its home contests, but Memphis' lone home game had fewer than 12,000 in attendance while Atlanta's home-opener this past weekend had an announced crowd of 10,717. Salt Lake fared even worse with 10,412 attendees.
Attendance is important for a new league as it indicates direct interest and support, but perhaps the league found its best barometer in the actions of self-made billionaire, Tom Dundon. The owner of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes poured $250,000,000 into the league last week and became the Chairman of the Board. Dundon is also a major investor in Top Golf.
TV viewership is very crucial to the league as it's impossible to succeed without high visibility and the desire for fans to tune-in. The opening weekend games averaged nearly 3,000,000 viewers and subsequent games are said to have compared favorably to major college football, preseason NFL football and NBA basketball ratings.
Wagering is also a sure way to gauge a league's possible survival and by that metric, the Alliance is building positive steam. According to an article at Forbes.com, MGM saw triple the wagering expected on opening weekend and futures, and DraftKings Sportsbook just got in on the action with this past weekend's slate. The article also dives into the unpredictability of outcomes, though home teams were 6-2 ATS in the first two weeks.
|Team||W-L||vs. East||vs. West||Home||Away|
|Team||W-L||vs. West||vs. East||Home||Away|
|1||San Diego Fleet||2-1||1-1||1-0||1-0||1-1|
|3||San Antonio Commanders||1-2||1-1||0-1||1-1||0-1|
|3||Salt Lake Stallions||1-2||1-1||0-1||1-0||0-2|
Garrett Gilbert (Apollos) — 827
Logan Woodside (Commanders) — 629
Matt Simms (Legends) — 614
John Wolford (Hotshots) — 596
Luis Perez (Iron) — 596
John Wolford (Hotshots) — 7
Garrett Gilbert (Apollos) — 5
Josh Woodrum (Stallions) — 2
Logan Woodside (Commanders) — 2
Zach Mettenberger (Express) — 2
Phillip Nelson (Stallions) — 2
Matt Simms (Legends) — 2
Ja'Quan Gardner (Fleet) — 281
Zac Stacy (Express) — 188
D'Ernest Johnson (Apollos) — 171
Jhurrell Pressley (Hotshots) — 155
Joel Bouagnon (Stallions) — 154
Trent Richardson (Iron) — 6
Ja'Quan Gardner (Fleet) — 3
De'Veon Smith (Apollos) — 2
Kenneth Farrow II (Commanders) — 2
Joel Bouagnon (Stallions) — 2
Charles Johnson (Apollos) — 305
Rashad Ross (Hotshots) — 221
Quinton Patton (Iron) — 209
Mekale McKay (Commanders) — 207
Jalin Marshall (Apollos) — 150
Rashad Ross (Hotshots) — 4
Nelson Spruce (Fleet) — 2
Jalin Marshall (Apollos) — 2
* 16 tied with 1
Tyson Graham Jr. (Legends) — 24
Beniquez Brown (Iron) — 19
DeMarquis Gates (Express) — 19
Greer Martini (Stallions) — 15
Steven Johnson (Hotshots) — 14
Karter Schult (Stallions) — 4
Shaan Washington (Commanders) — 3
Shakir Soto (Fleet) — 2.5
Winston Craig (Commanders) — 2.5
* Eight tied with 2
Terrance Garvin (Apollos) — 3
Ryan Moeller (Fleet) — 2
Jamar Summers (Iron) — 2
Keith Reaser (Apollos) — 2
Carlos Merritt (Legends) — 2
De'Vaunte Bausby (Commanders) — 2