By Jose Romero and Jaylon Thompson / The Alliance
Atlanta Legends (0-3) at Arizona Hotshots (2-1)
Sun Devil Stadium
Sunday, 8 p.m. ET/Atlanta; 6 p.m. Phoenix
NFL Network: Andrew Siciliano, Marvin Lewis and Shaun O’Hara. Get tickets here
The Arizona Hotshots are home for the first time since Week 1, looking for their third win of the season. They face the winless Atlanta Legends, who have 30 total points through three games and have lost every game by no fewer than 12 points.
This is the only time in the regular season these two teams will face each other. It’s the Legends’ second trip West this season after a Feb. 17 loss at San Diego.
The Legends are looking for balance offensively. This season, the team has struggled running the ball. They have mustered 3.3 yards per carry on the ground. Conversely, the Legends have thrown it 109 times and put up 652 yards through the air.
The uneven numbers played a role last week in a loss to the Birmingham Iron. Legends quarterback Matt Simms was 28-for-48 and threw for 328 yards. He had one touchdown and three interceptions. As for the running game, the Legends had 43 total yards.
The Hotshots need to rediscover a running game that was key to their first two wins. Theirs is a big-play offense that was largely held in check in Salt Lake last week, and when quarterback John Wolford was lost due to injury, the offense sputtered in the second half.
Defensively, Arizona has allowed the fewest total yards per game in The Alliance of American Football, 244.3. They’ll likely be without tackling machine Steven Johnson, so the offense needs to get off to a better start to support a defense that has kept the team in every game.
When the Legends have the ball
A successful attack will be needed against the Hotshots’ talented front seven. Arizona’s main defensive line with Trent Thompson, Will Sutton and Rykeem Yates can wreak havoc inside. A consistent run game can neutralize their impact and provide time over the middle, where opponents have had success against the Hotshots.
When the Hotshots have the ball
Wolford is expected to start, and once he gets rolling, the Hotshots can score in a hurry. Arizona likes to spread the ball around to its wide assortment of offensive weapons, hoping to soften up the middle and get a ground game going.
Protecting Wolford is a huge priority. The Stallions made it a point to hit him on throws and knock him down, something the Hotshots have to eliminate to do what they want to do regularly on offense.
Legends players to watch
WR Montay Crockett: There is an old saying that you can’t teach speed. Crockett has plenty of speed to burn as he runs a 4.25 40-yard dash. Last week against the Iron, Crockett got loose for 47 yards on two catches. In the fourth quarter, he hauled in a 23-yard touchdown after beating his defender on a corner route. The Legends want to feature him more in the offense.
DE J.T. Jones: The Legends defensive line is a solid group. Several players can get into the backfield with regularity. Go ahead and count Jones in that mix. Jones has been dominant this season. He has six tackles and two sacks in three games. He is a pure speed rusher but can mix in power and finesse moves.
Hotshots players to watch
WR Rashad Ross: Four touchdowns in three games, and the primary receiver for Wolford. Look for these two to connect again.
LBs Nyles Morgan, Steve Beauharnais: These two need to raise their game and stop the run with Johnson out.
K Nick Folk: He has two misses on the season and is looking to stay perfect going forward.
By the Numbers
Legends SS Tyson Graham Jr. leads The Alliance with 24 tackles. … CB Carlos Merritt is tied for second in The Alliance with two interceptions. … WR Seantavius Jones leads the Legends with 10 catches and 138 yards. Jones averages 13.8 yards per catch and converted the first onside conversion attempt in The Alliance’s history. … The Hotshots were penalized twice for illegal defense last week and need to show they have cleared up those issues. … The Hotshots have three players in the top five in the Alliance in passing yards, receiving yards and rushing yards.