Both of these teams got off to a strong start this season but they have been moving in opposite directions since Week 3. The Orlando Apollos continue to dismantle opponents and have built a 5-0 record while the Hotshots have hit the skid with three straight losses including their Week 3 loss to a winless Salt Lake and a Week 4 loss to the then-winless Legends. They were impressive in the second half of their Week 5 game against San Antonio but they couldn’t muster the win. Arizona started the season with high hopes but they need to turn things around quickly to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Date: Saturday, March 16 at 8 PM ET Live From Spectrum Stadium in Orlando
John Wolford leads a pass attack that has shown the capability to be very potent. He has tossed 10 touchdown passes with six of them going to wide receiver Rashad Ross. Jhurell Pressley leads a good rushing attack with his 4.6 yards per carry while Justin Stockton is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. As good as the running game is, it has only produced a pair of touchdowns in 5 games. We know that Arizona can put up points but they have been inconsistent.
Inconsistent is also a word that could be used to describe Arizona’s defense. Linebacker Da’Sean Downey leads the team with three of the team’s nine sacks while Erick Dargan, Robert Nelson, and Steven Johnson are the only Hotshots to have caught interceptions. Orlando presents this defense with the biggest challenge it will face this season and it will have to rise to the occasion on the road.
What can be said about the Orlando Apollos that can’t be said by looking at their record? Aside from their narrow 21-17 win over Memphis in Week 3, Orlando has won the rest of their games by no fewer than eight points. They have yet to be held to under 20 points and they’ve eclipsed the 30-point plateau three times in their five games. Garrett Gilbert is arguable the best quarterback in the league with his 1,357 passing yards with eight touchdown passes and not a single pick. While his favorite target has been Charles Johnson, Gilbert spreads the ball around to the rest of his more-than-capable receivers. Let’s not forget that their top three running backs all average over five yards per carry.
As superior as their offense is, their defense is also a force to be reckoned with. With the exception of their 37-29 shootout win over San Antonio, Orlando has allowed 6, 17, 11, and 14 points in their other games. Earl Okine and Anthony Moten Jr. each have four sacks while Andrew Ankrah has three. Terence Garvin and Keith Reaser have given quarterbacks fits with three interceptions each. This defense is going to make life miserable for the Hotshots.
With Orlando favored by 9.5 points, they are the biggest favorites of the week and they deserve to be considering how both teams are playing. They have an edge in almost every department and they even get home field advantage. The one thing that should be considered that Arizona should be a lot more motivated. They aren’t in “must win mode” yet but a loss here could do a lot of damage. They have shown that they can be a good team and 9.5 points is a lot. Take a deep breath…
The Pick: Arizona Hotshots +9.5