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Challenger emerges vs. Orlando Apollos

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CEO of the AAF, Charlie Ebersol, stops by the USA TODAY studio to discuss the start of the new football league.
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Here’s how the eight teams in the Alliance of American Football rank through three weeks of play.

1. Orlando Apollos (last week: 1) — Steve Spurrier might not believe his team is the best in The Alliance, yet, saying, “Well, we’re not the top team right now. Our record is I guess, but I don’t think we’re the best team by any means right now.” This came after his team held on for a 21-17 win over the winless Memphis Express. However, the Apollos are 3-0, scored the most points (by a hefty margin, 98-73, over the next team, the Arizona Hotshots) and have the best point differential. The Birmingham Iron are the only other remaining unbeaten team after the events of Week 3. Unfortunately, AAF fans will have to wait another week for the potentially colossal Apollos-Iron showdown.

2. Birmingham Iron (3) — Trent Richardson has had quite an AAF existence through three weeks. The former Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts running back has accounted for all six of the Iron’s offensive touchdowns, including three in Birmingham’s 28-12 win over Atlanta. On the flip side, Richardson is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry (59 attempts, 145 yards). That’s a drop off from his career NFL average (3.3 yards).

3. San Diego Fleet (5) — Coach Mike Martz’s Fleet have shifted gears from “Greatest Show on Turf” to ground-and-pound.  After being a relative non-factor in the Fleet’s Week 1 loss to the San Antonio Commanders, running back Ja’Quan Gardner has been a revelation since. Gardner has rushed for 211 yards as the Fleet have reeled off consecutive victories. Gardner — who was in training camp with the San Francisco 49ers in 2018 — leads the AAF in rushing yards (281), well ahead of the next-best total (188), by the Memphis Express’ Zac Stacy.

4. Arizona Hotshots (2) — In addition to suffering their first loss of the season — 23-15 to the Salt Lake Stallions — the Hotshots’ starting quarterback, John Wolford, left the game with an injury. Wolford, the former Wake Forest star, had been one of the early surprises of the nascent AAF, throwing for seven touchdowns through 10 quarters of play before having to be replaced by Trevor Knight on Saturday.

5. Salt Lake Stallions (6) — After opening the season with consecutive road games, the Stallions treated the local fans to a victory in their first home game. Can the Stallions keep that momentum going when the Head Ball Coach’s Apollos come to town on Saturday?

6. San Antonio Commanders (4) — The Commanders could be in for a rough stretch of games. After getting gouged by Gardner in Sunday’s 31-11 loss to the Fleet, San Antonio visits Birmingham and must find a way to stop the AAF’s touchdown machine, Trent Richardson. The Commanders don’t return to the Alamodome until Week 7.

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7. Memphis Express (8) — It finally happened, Christian Hackenberg has lost his starting quarterback job in favor of Zach Mettenberger. Hackenberg was benched in Saturday’s game, replaced at halftime after throwing two first-half interceptions. Mettenberger came in and nearly led a comeback, throwing for 120 yards and two touchdowns as the Express gave the Apollos a second-half scare. That has to be an encouraging development for Express fans. 

8. Atlanta Legends (7) — The Legends haven’t provided much hope for their fanbase, losing all three of their games by double-digit figures. And despite a stat line that includes six picks to two touchdowns, Matt Simms hasn’t been replaced at quarterback in favor of former Georgia Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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