Week 8 of the AAF season is underway. Considering there was a possibility the league, it's a good thing that there are games being played to begin with. There was a lot on the line, too. Orlando had already secured a playoff spot coming into the weekend, but had to squeak out a sloppy victory at Memphis to get the top spot in the East.
That was followed by a pivotal game in the West between San Diego and Salt Lake, both of whom were vying for a playoff spot. The Stallions got their third win of the season -- all at home -- and will live to fight another week. CBS Sports was here throughout the day covering all of the latest scores and highlights from Saturday's action, so check out all the updates below.
Orlando Apollos 34, Memphis Express 31(Final)
Salt Lake Stallions 8, San Diego Fleet 3 (Final)
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Stallions close out defensive struggle over Fleet
Salt Lake desperately needed a win to stay alive in the playoff race and they got one against the Fleet. No, the 8-3 victory wasn't exactly what you'd call "exciting" or "good football," but a win is a win. Salt Lake overcame three turnovers, including two at the goal line, and leaned heavily on its defense to close out the win. In pretty much every way imaginable, it was the polar opposite game from San Diego's thrilling 27-25 win over the Stallions in Week 5.
Salt Lake was outgained with only 245 total yards at 3.4 yards per play, but its defense also forced three turnovers from the Fleet, including the game-winner inside the final minute. The victory bumps the Stallions to 3-5 (and drops the Fleet to the same record) and keeps them alive in the playoff race heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Salt Lake should be up more on San Diego
The Stallions have an 8-0 lead on the Fleet after one half, but the game should probably be even more one-sided than it is. Salt Lake has two turnovers at or near the goal line, both courtesy of San Diego's Ryan Moeller. The Fleet's Swiss army defender picked off Stallions quarterback Josh Woodrum at the 5-yard line in the first quarter and then recovered a Woodrum fumble at the goal line in the second quarter. However, Salt Lake did get a touchdown right before the half despite fumbling again at the goal line.
This should easily be a three-score game and the Stallions have dominated the time of possession almost 3-1. And, yet, it's a one-score game. That has to give San Diego some confidence that it's still very much in this game despite being thoroughly outplayed on both sides of the ball.
Memphis mishaps and Orlando's two late scores prevent upset
If nothing else, Memphis has been one of the most undisciplined teams in the Alliance this season. And that is why the Express are 2-6 following a heartbreaking 34-31 loss to Orlando. The Express played easily their best game of the season, moving the ball on the Apollos and creating takeaways on defense. And, yet, penalties and special teams mishaps doomed them in the end, preventing the upset bid. With both sides exchanging points, the game really began to change in Orlando's favor when Memphis punter Ryan Winslow bobbled a snap, giving the Apollos the ball on the 26-yard line.
Shortly thereafter, running back De'Veon Smith plunged into the end zone for a touchdown. Though the call was initially short, the SkyJudge overturned the ruling and gave Orlando the lead with under two minutes to play.
Finally, Memphis quarterback Brandon Silvers was picked off as he tried to get rid of the ball as Memphis tried to rally. That allowed Orlando to run out the clock. Silvers had played well in the wake of the head injury to Johnny Manziel, finishing the game with 269 yards and a touchdown. His lone mistake ended up being costly.
All in all, it was a sloppy, heated game with the teams combining for 25 penalties for 259 yards. Orlando Quarterback Garrett Gilbert also had a streaky day with 310 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, but also two interceptions (and another two called back because of defensive penalties). Those kinds of mistakes are uncharacteristic of Orlando. This easily could have been an Express win and undoubtedly they feel they should have won. However, Memphis has now lost its two games to the Apollos by a combined seven points. Officially, they are eliminated from the playoffs while Orlando grabs the top seed in the East.
Turnover gives Memphis its first lead
The Express came from behind to beat Birmingham in Week 7. Can they do the same thing against Orlando? After falling behind 22-9, Memphis mounted a comeback with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns. The first came on a long drive in response to Orlando's opening third-quarter touchdown. That pulled the Express to within five at 22-17. The next touchdown was a potentially game-changing scoop-and-score off of a strip-sack on Apollos quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
Say this for Memphis: it's playing with a lot of confidence. Quarterback Brandon Silvers is slinging it and the defense is once again creating takeaways and getting points off of those turnovers. With Orlando playing a little sluggish in stretches, this definitely has the recipe for an upset.
Apollos open second half with long score
The one thing you learn about Orlando is that when it's down or not playing well, it typically doesn't stay there long. The Apollos needed a big-time drive coming out of halftime and they got one in the form of a 75-yard scoring drive in about a minute's time to go up 22-9. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw a 65-yard bomb to Donteea Dye, which is the kind of demoralizing response the Apollos have been dishing out all season long.
Orlando finally gets a touchdown
It hasn't been the cleanest half of football for Orlando, which is trying to lock down the top spot in the East for the playoffs. However, the Apollos hold on to a 14-9 lead over the Express thanks to a late D'Ernest Johnson touchdown before the half coupled with a two-point conversion.
However, Orlando will need to clean up its act in the second half if it wants to pull away. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert has thrown two bad interceptions while the defense has made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Keep in mind, too, that no double-digit favorite has covered this season and Orlando is a 10.5-point favorite over Memphis this week.
Johnny Manziel leaves game with head injury after throwing INT
Well, Manziel's time with the Express isn't exactly off to the best of starts. After playing a complementary role in last week's win over Birmingham, Manziel was primed for more playing time this week against the Apollos. However, Manziel's day was cut short after he left the game with a head injury in the first quarter. The injury happened when Manziel's pass at the goal line was tipped and picked off, causing Manziel to get a blow to the head as he laid out for a tackle. After staying down on the field for a few minutes, Manziel had to be helped off by trainers and was clearly wobbly. He was helped into the locker room and he has been ruled out for the rest of the game. He finished with two completions for 13 yards.
Memphis' second-leading wideout among inactives
The Express have found a true No. 1 wideout in Reece Horn, but they'll be without their second-best target on Saturday vs. the Apollos. Pig Howard did not participate all week with a knee injury and was listed as questionable as of Friday's injury report. He is second on the team with 17 catches for 157 yards. Orlando's secondary has been one of the best in the Alliance, and although Horn is the top target, not having someone else to balance the passing attack underneath like Howard puts more pressure on him with the team's dim playoff hopes on the line.