After a hot 3-0 start the Birmingham Iron have responded with two disappointing losses. Last week in their loss to the Apollos, the Iron did what several other teams in the AAF have done: change their quarterback. Quarterback Keith Price entered the game after a pick-six thrown by Luis Perez and played well. On the other side of the ball, the Fleet are coming off a thrilling victory against the Stallions. To much surprise, quarterback Mike Bercovici went on to play his best game this season, throwing for 304 yards and one touchdown. The battle to stay in a top two spot in their respective conferences makes every game a must-win heading down the back half of the season. Here is the week six preview between the Birmingham Iron and the San Diego Fleet.
AAF Week Five Preview Birmingham Iron at San Diego Fleet
Neither team was able to stick to their game. Both offenses thrive when the running game is flowing, so both teams had to rely on their quarterbacks to get the job done last week. For the Fleet, we know what star running back Ja’Quan Gardner can do in open space. The Fleet as a team finished with 31 yards rushing, with Gardner accounting for three yards on nine rushes. However, Gardner is still second in the league in rushing with 290 yards and is still averaging over five yards a carry. Expect Gardner to continue to tote the rock despite a down game last week against the Stallions.
The Iron running game has been virtually nonexistent in their losses. The key for the Iron offense to be effective is ball control and first downs. The last two losses combined, the Iron are five for 23 on third down conversions, good for a 22 percent rate. That will not get it done against the top tier teams in this league. The running game helps make third downs shorter, so the more the game struggles, the longer the distance becomes on third downs. The Iron are 3-0 when Trent Richardson reaches 40 yards or more. Although he is a power back, if Richardson can find seams in the defense, it opens up play-action passing for the Iron offense.
Two of the top three scoring defenses will be on the field Sunday night. The Iron defense ranks first giving up 12.8 points per game, while the Fleet ranks third giving up 17.8 points per game.
The Iron struggle stopping the run. While the Iron have a bend don’t break mentality, including several goal line stands against the Commanders, the Iron are giving up the second most rushing yards per game. Linebacker Beniquez Brown is leader of this defense, totaling 34 tackles and two sacks on the season. Brown will need to rally this defense and shut down an explosive rushing attack the Fleet provide.
The Fleet defense is as opportunistic a defense you will find. Their pass rush is devastating, with the likes of Damontre Moore and Shakir Soto combining for seven and a half of the teams’ 15 total. Although the Fleet rush defense has been stout this season, teams can usually find success through the air against the Fleet. The Fleet are allowing 211.6 yards through the air per game, fourth-most in the AAF. But when the Iron are throwing Sunday, they should be aware of where defensive back Kameron Kelly is. Kelly is a ball hawk who is coming off a three-interception game against the Stallions.
Two weeks ago, looking ahead at this game, the Iron would be expected winners of this match-up. But there has been no indication of who will start for the Iron on Sunday between Luis Perez or Keith Price. However, it will not matter because the Fleet are playing at a high level. Their defense is flying around and forcing turnovers.
The Fleet may have the best home crowd in the AAF. The Fleet are currently 3-0 at home and are a completely different team in San Diego. With the combination of fan support and a nonexistent Iron offense, expect the Fleet to win 20-6 over the Iron.
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