Week 8 of the AAF begins with a matchup of the league’s top team, the Orlando Apollos, taking on the Memphis Express and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on Saturday afternoon. Orlando saw their undefeated season end two weeks ago, but rebounded last Saturday to down the Atlanta Legends, 36-6. Meanwhile, the Express stunned the Birmingham Iron, winning in overtime, 31-25. Saturday, March 30, 2019 at 2:00 ET at Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tennessee These two teams have already faced each other this season. That came in Week 3 when Orlando narrowly defeated Memphis 21-17. Gilbert Nearly Perfect in Leading Apollos to Victory The Orlando Apollos crushed the Atlanta Legends on Saturday, taking an 8-0 lead about seven minutes into the contest and never trailing afterward on their way to a 36-6 victory. De’Veon Smith only rushed for 40 yards on the day, but scored three touchdowns, one in each of the first three quarters, and Ayodeki Olatoye sealed the victory with a 65 interception return for a touchdown. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert had an impressive day, completing 19 of 23 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. He was not sacked nor did he throw an interception and recording a 120.5 quarterback rating. D’Ernest Johnson led the team in rushing with 54 yards on just seven carries. Charles Johnson and Jalin Marshall each had four receptions. The Orlando defense had another impressive outing, allowing 255 total yards, just 166 through the air. The group intercepted two passes and recorded three sacks. Orlando continues to be led by a blistering defense allowing less than 300 yards per game of offense to opponents. The Apollos have recorded 18 sacks and they have nine interceptions this season, led by linebacker Terrance Garvin and Keith Reaser who each have three. The team has yet to recover a fumble this season, however. Gilbert is coming off of his best performance of the season and now has 11 touchdowns to just one interception. The Apollos’ quarterback has completed 135 of 219 passes for 1842 yards. Johnson leads the team in rushing with 348 total yards, but it is Smith with five touchdowns this season. Charles Johnson continues to be one of the leading receivers in the league, with 37 receptions for 552 yards and four touchdowns. Express Rally to Score 17 Unanswered Points in 31-25 OT Victory When the Birmingham Iron added a touchdown with about nine minutes left in regulation, there are 11 point lead looked like it would be insurmountable for Memphis. However, the Express would rally for 11 points in the final five minutes of the contest, led by a Brandon Silvers to Reece Horn 7 yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds left in the game that tied the score. Silvers would then find Daniel Williams as time expired in overtime for a 10-yard score to give Memphis their second win of the season. Silvers had his best game of the season, completing 24 of 35 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Horn was his primary target, making seven catches for 113 yards and a score. Zac Stacy had a very tough day on the ground, gaining just 14 yards on 13 carries. After leading Memphis to victory, it looks like Silvers will be back under center on Saturday. However, Manziel did see some action in his first game since joining the team, completing three of five passes for 48 yards. He could very well get into this game as well. Silvers has completed 65.8% of his passes for 530 yards and three touchdowns. Stacy continues to see his per carry average plummet, dropping to 3.2 yards per carry after his Week 7 performance. Horn leads the team in receptions with 28 for 429 yards and a score. The defense has been impressive, recording 16 sacks and 14 turnovers. Defensive end Corey Vereen leads the team with four sacks. Three different players on the team have recovered two fumbles this season. The Winner Prediction There is no doubt that Orlando was still the better team in this contest. Last weekend they looked like the team that started the season undefeated and they should win this game. However, 10 points is a lot to expect them to win by, especially considering that they won by just four points over Memphis earlier in the season. This will probably be a fairly close contest, so take Memphis and the points, especially considering that if the Express offense struggles, that will surely bring a call for Manziel who should keep this a close game. The Pick:Memphis Express (+10.0) (-110)
How much of a difference maker will former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel be when he leads the Memphis Express against the Birmingham Iron?