AAF Week 9 Power Rankings: A new No. 1 emerges with only a few weeks left before playoffs
The Orlando Apollos are no longer the No. 1 team in the Alliance
If they say live every day like it'll be your last, then I guess it's fair to power rank every AAF team like. If the season ended today -- who knows, it might if controlling owner Tom Dundon opts to dissolve the league -- the Arizona Hotshots would be my No. 1 team.
Yes, the same Hotshots who began the year as the No. 1 team in these power rankings. The same Hotshots who lost three straight from Week 3-5, sliding all the way down to the cellar of these same rankings. The same Hotshots who have now won three straight, including two of the biggest wins of the season.
If I'm going to punish teams for when they play poorly, I have to reward them when they play well, and Arizona has played as well as, if not better than, any other team in the Alliance since mid-March. So, yes, Arizona is my top team, but Orlando didn't fall very far. Here's how the rest of the AAF ranks heading into Week 9 -- if there is a Week 9.
1. Arizona Hotshots (5-3)
Forget the records. In the last three weeks, Arizona has wins against Orlando and San Antonio, both on the road. The Hotshots are playing better and more cohesively than any other team in the Alliance at the moment. The defense is legit, quarterback John Wolford is making an MVP case for himself and receiver Rashad Ross remains the biggest home-run threat. The three-game losing streak that preceded the three-game winning streak remains perplexing, but this team has found a way to overcome it. Previously: No. 3
2. Orlando Apollos (7-1)
The Apollos are obviously still extremely good. They're probably still the overall best team in the AAF, but they haven't played like it lately. Since the midway point in the season, Orlando was upset by Arizona and could have (should have?) lost to Memphis last Saturday. That game was uncharacteristically sloppy and heated for Steve Spurrier's team. They're still the No. 1 seed in the East and likely to make the championship game, but they seem just a little more mortal lately. Previously: No. 1
3. San Antonio Commanders (5-3)
Coach Mike Riley said after a 23-6 home loss to Arizona on Sunday that penalties and a few big plays were the true difference in the game, despite what the scoreboard said. Considering the Commanders held the ball for most of the second half and couldn't capitalize, I tend to agree. In any case, that was a sobering stop to a four-game winning streak. They're probably still playoff-bound, but they didn't make it easier on themselves. Previously: No. 2
4. Birmingham Iron (5-3)
That 17-9 win vs. Atlanta was so #onbrand for the Iron, who are now playoff-bound as the No. 2 seed behind Orlando. The next couple of weeks will be interesting. Staying healthy without a bye week is tough, so you want to lay off the gas a little in that respect. However, you also want to play well going into the playoffs. Previously: No. 4
5. Salt Lake Stallions (3-5)
Last Saturday's win over San Diego kept the Stallions alive in the playoff race, if only barely. They'll need some help elsewhere, but the final two-game stretch is certainly manageable if they can stay in it. Though this team hasn't won on the road, playing at Atlanta isn't murderer's row, and a Week 10 home game against San Antonio could have an all-or-nothing feel to it. I've long believed Salt Lake is better than its record. Now would be the time to show it. Previously: No. 7
6. San Diego Fleet (3-5)
Fleet defensive back Ryan Moeller recorded three takeaways against Salt Lake over the weekend, and the Fleet scored exactly three points. As long as there's a chance, nothing is certain, but that seemed like the kind of stat that keeps you out of the playoffs. Previously: No. 5
7. Memphis Express (2-6)
Poor Memphis. The Express came oh so close to beating Orlando -- again -- and came up short. Memphis has lost both of its games to the Apollos by a combined seven points and there's certainly an argument to be made they should have pulled the upset the second time around. All the same, the Express are eliminated from the playoffs and probably can't even (or shouldn't) play Johnny Manziel (concussion) for the rest of the year. That's the rare one-two blow. Previously: No. 6
8. Atlanta Legends (2-6)
The Legends have scored fewer than 10 points in half their games. That's ... pretty much all you need to know. Previously: No. 8
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