The Memphis Express finally got off the schneid and grabbed their first win of the inaugural season Saturday afternoon, defeating the San Diego Fleet at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium 26-23.
Zach Mettenberger got his first start of the year putting up a solid performance going 18-25 for 174yds 1 TD and tacked on a 5yd score on the ground as well. “I think there are a lot of things we can learn from this. Especially me being a young QB, but I believe in the guys in this locker room.” Mettenberger said after the win.
It may sound crazy saying this after the Express were viewed pretty universally as the worst team in the league over the first three weeks. Despite that notion and only having one win, this team has created some momentum over the last couple of weeks. Specifically since the coaching staff made the change under center from the “Hack Show” to the “Mett Show”. The potential of this offense goes to another level with Mettenberger leading it. Despite still seeing a bit of conservative playcalling at times we saw explosive plays down the field in the 2nd half of the loss at Orlando and at times against the Fleet giving a glimpse of what this unit can look like at full tilt.
LOOKING AHEAD :
I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. The Express are currently (1-3). On paper that sounds pretty bad right? But going back to what I said above. I think this team has possibly turned a corner. They are about to embark on a two game road trip starting off with a WK5 trip to face the (1-3) Atlanta Legends. In WK6 they’ll make the long trip out west to face the Salt Lake Stallions who are currently (1-3) as well.
The early line in Vegas has the Legends as 1pt favorites. Personally I think the Express are the better team. The Express have struggled to put points on the board (especially in the first 2 weeks of the season) averaging 15.3ppg (2nd worst) and scoring 61pts (2nd worst) total for the season. The Legends have mustered just 11ppg (league worst) and 44 total points (league worst) on the year. This is a game that the Express should win and I think they will which would put Memphis at (2-3).
Looking forward to WK6 the Express will face off with the Salt Lake Stallions who are currently (1-3) as well. When it comes to scoring the Stallions are 3rd from the bottom in the pecking order scoring 16.5ppg on average and 65 total points on the season. With the change at QB I think Memphis is a bit better than their seasonal averages so let’s give them a win here bringing them to .500 at (3-3).
The Express are currently 2gms behind the Birmingham Iron for 2nd place. Why is that so important you ask? In the AAF playoff format the top two teams in each division make the postseason.
The Iron suffered their first loss of the season in a weird but entertaining affair on Sunday afternoon 12-11 at the hands of the San Antonio Commanders falling to (3-1). In WK5 they have a home date with Steve Spurrier and the (4-0) Orlando Apollos. The Iron feature the top defense in the league but Orlando features the top offense with an average of 29.5ppg. Something has to give in this matchup and I think offense wins out. Defense can certainly carry you for stretches but at some point you have to put points on the board. I don’t think the Iron will be able to keep pace and they’ll lose their second in a row, falling to (3-2).
In WK6 the Iron will make the long trip out west to take on the San Diego Fleet at SDCCU Stadium. The Fleet have been extremely tough at home, currently (2-0). As I mentioned above, it’s a long trip out to California and this is a Sunday night prime time game. For some strange reason, home teams in prime time night games have a fantastic track record. Adding to those factors is the fact that the Fleet are another team that can put points on the board in a hurry. This will be a tough task for Birmingham. I think they drop this one as well falling into a tie at (3-3) with Memphis.
This would set up a colossal winner take all (for one week atleast) WK7 Sunday night matchup under the lights at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium between the Express and Iron. How crazy would it be for a team in the Express who struggled mightily to start the season, be in position to move into second place and contend for a playoff spot. One caveat to this, the Iron started off the season with a home heavy schedule. Their final 2gms of the season are on the road at Arizona and at Orlando which means they could be in line for a tough finish.
We could be in for an exciting last 6 weeks of the season. It’s professional football and it’s in your city Memphis! Enjoy and cherish it as I think the Express are about to #TakeOff.