Salt Lake Stallions (0-0) vs. Arizona Hotshots (0-0) at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
AAFL Week 1: 3:00, February 10, 2019 at 4:00 ET
No one really knows what to expect in the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football League, but many expect the Arizona Hotshots to be the league champions, and they will get the opportunity to prove if that faith is well-founded when they open the season on Sunday evening against the Salt Lake Stallions. There is a lot of former NFL talent here, so this could be an extremely exciting contest.
Former College, NFL Head Coach Leads Stallions
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The Salt Lake Stallions got off on the right foot when they named former Seattle Seahawks head coach Dennis Erickson to be the team’s first head coach. Erickson has an impressive pedigree, coaching at the University of Miami where he would win national championships in both 1989 and 1991. Erickson would also coach the San Francisco 49ers. This will be a homecoming for Erickson, who coached at Arizona State for four seasons.
There is a lot to like about this Salt Lake offense, starting with running back Matt Asiata. Asiata took over for Adrian Peterson in Minnesota in 2015, scoring 10 touchdowns before injury wiped out his season. He should be the focus of the Stallions attack. Branden Oliver will spell Asiata. He has appeared in 30 games for the then San Diego Chargers
Josh Woodrum will be the starting quarterback for Salt Lake. Woodrum has been in NFL camps before, appearing for the Baltimore Ravens in August 2018, but the former Liberty standout has not really been given an opportunity. Woodrum had an impressive career, throwing for 77 touchdowns and had a 129.9 quarterback rating in his senior season (2015).
On the defensive side of the ball it will be two former University of Utah standouts who will lead the squad. SealverSiliga and TennyPalepoi will help man the defensive front, which should put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
This will be the first professional football team playing in Utah. No doubt that when this team returns home for their first AAFL game, it should be quite a spectacle.
Dual Threat QB Leads Favored Hotshots
While not many people are sure of what to expect from the AAFL, one thing that most football insiders are quite confident about is the fact that the Arizona Hotshots should be pretty good. They are led by former Texas A&M standout quarterback Trevor Knight, who had an excellent season in his senior year. In 2016, Knight threw for 19 touchdowns and ran for 10 others. He is just 25 and can run a 4.54 40 yard dash.
His primary target this season is likely to be former University of Oregon standout Josh Huff. Huff has NFL experience, playing for the Philadelphia Eagles where he made 44 catches. Huff will be joined by Marquis Bundy, who spent one season on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.
The defense will be led by safety Sterling Moore. Moore appeared in 62 NFL games, with his last season being in 2017 when he played for the New Orleans Saints. The safety has six career interceptions and his leadership should be a huge factor for this young Arizona defense.
Arizona will be led by head coach Rick Neuheisel. Neuheisel has very limited experience at the pro level, but has been a head coach at UCLA, Colorado, and Washington. He has always been viewed as one of the more innovative coaches in the sport.
The Winner Prediction
One of the most exciting parts of this contest will be the matchup between the two head coaches. Both Erickson and Neuheisel are proven winners, and each has established himself as an innovative, offensive genius. That should mean that the contest should be an exciting one on the offensive side of the ball.
The difference is going to be that Arizona looks to have the better playmakers, at least on paper. In a game where no one really knows what to expect, we like the fact that Knight can make plays in many ways. He will be the difference in this game, along with a more experienced defense for the Hotshots. Look for Arizona to win.
The Pick:Arizona Hotshots (-3.5) (-110)
Since this is the first week in the first season for the AAFL, we expect there to be a lot a low-scoring games, as offenses try to build chemistry. That will likely mean a lot of games where the total winds up being under 30 for the first few weeks of the season.
However, we expect this to be the exception. These are two teams with great head coaches and enough playmakers to produce some points. We take the Arizona Hotshots to win, 31-24, so take the over.
The Pick: Over 53.5 (-110)