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Apollos build early lead- hang on for third straight AAF win

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Three weeks and three wins for the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football Spring league, as they outlasted the Memphis Express at Spectrum Stadium 21 – 17 Saturday night.

Once again, the Apollos got a solid performance from quarterback Garrett Gilbert and some power running from former USF back D’Ernest Johnson (above) to build the early lead and then, put it away. It didn’t take long for the Apollos to assume control, as Johnson got the game going with a 4-yard touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage and a 6 – 0 lead. He would finish with 79 yards on the ground for Steve Spurrier’s squad.

Then, Gilbert got it at the act by first throwing a long touchdown pass to former UCF star receiver Ranell Hall for one score and then, running in a 21-yard touchdown with just under nine minutes remaining to push the advantage to 21 – 9.

The winless Memphis Express, who dropped to 0-3 with Saturday night’s latest defeat, benched starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg ,who threw two more interceptions in the game. They then went to former Tennessee Titans and San Diego Chargers quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who threw two second-half touchdown passes to try to rally them.

However after the second of those two touchdowns and the two-point conversion pulled Memphis within four points, Orlando killed the final five and a half minutes of the game clock.

And, just as they did in their win last Sunday night in San Antonio, Orlando successfully ran down the clock picking up three first downs, including one rushing and one receiving by Johnson out of the backfield.

As we wrote earlier on Saturday, it’s been a wild few days for the league, as the AF was rumored to be having financial trouble but secure 250 million dollars in financing from Carolina Hurricanes owner Thomas Dundon on Tuesday. Also, the Apollos are having to practice outside of the state of Florida due to restrictions on workman’s compensation and disability insurance in the Sunshine State outside of playing an actual game sanctioned by the league.

Nonetheless, the Apollos faced the adversity and won again.

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QB Murray out again for XFL Vipers home opener

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Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive week, the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL will have to go with backup quarterbacks in place of the injured, Aaron Murray.

As the Vipers get set to take on Houston in their inaugural home game Saturday afternoon, the XFL made official that Murray will miss his second game due to his lingering foot injury suffered in week one.

Murray has been unable to practice the last two weeks and that means,Tampa Bay will likely turn to Taylor Cornelius for the second straight week to start in his place. Cornelius was shaky a week ago in Seattle completing only 16 – 27 for 154 yards and two INTs, as the Vipers fell to  0- 2 with an 17-9 defeat to the Dragons.

Tampa Bay has yet to score an offensive touchdown in either of its first two games, and the Vipers may look to play former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers more (above) in this one Saturday. While not a traditional pocket passer, but more of a dual-threat, exceptional runner, Flowers has played sparingly in the Vipers first two games.

A week ago in Seattle, Flowers was just 3 – 7 for 43 yards in the air with a “pick six” as a Seattle defender leaped in the air and intercepted his pass at the Vipers one yard line and fell in the endzone.

Flowers also ran 5 times for 15 yards in the loss. He is obviously a fan favorite in the Tampa area having starred at USF in 2016-17.

If there is such a thing as a “hot seat” after only two games in the rebirth of the XFL, Tampa Bay coach Marc Trestman is clearly on it, as offense is supposed to be his forte’. Yet, the Vipers have not been able to sustain much of anything in their two losses to New York and Seattle scoring a total of 12 points.

Saturday’s home opener at Raymond James Stadium will be the first Spring football professional game in the Tampa Bay Area since the final season of the USFL and Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits played at the old Tampa Stadium in 1985.

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Report- new 17th game for NFL teams will all be International

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

More details are coming out on the new proposed collective bargaining agreement for the NFL and its players. And, a report Friday says that the 17 game in the regular season schedule will be a neutral field, international games for every team.

NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported Friday morning that for fairness and schedule balance, the extra game will favor neither team:

As it stands right now, the NFL is committed to play at least four games in London each year for its “International Series.” They have done this in each of the last two years. The league is also committed to playing in Mexico City, where are the Chiefs and the Chargers played a Monday Night Football game a year ago.

The NFL has also previously played Buffalo Bills home games in Toronto during the regular season in the last decade.

While Garafolo didn’t get specific details, it appears that the NFL will now play 16 games involving the 32 teams on the international neutral fields.

Of course, as it relates to our state, the Jaguars already have an annual series where they play home games in London. Further, owner Shahid Khan just announced earlier this month that they will be adding a second home game off their Jacksonville schedule in London starting this fall.

That was meant by considerable outrage by the Jaguars fan base, as it takes a second game off of their season ticket.

The Buccaneers just play division rival Carolina at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a year ago (above), and the Dolphins last played in London against the Saints in the 2017 season.

It had been rumored that the NFL was looking to play as many as eight games in London annually, as soon as possible. It will be easy to see that the NFL varies up the combination and rotation of games between the U.K., Mexico and potentially again, in Canada to help accommodate the 16 total new games being added to the schedule.

When the CBA is ratified, it will be the first time the NFL increases its regular season since the league went from 14 to 16 regular season games in 1978. While this is not expected to go into effect for the 2020 schedule, it is believed that the 17 game schedule with each franchise playing an international game could come into play as soon as 2021.

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the league will now have an extra postseason team make the playoffs from each conference. And, that means there will be three NFC and three AFC Wildcard playoff games on the first weekend each January. That could happen as soon as this season, depending on ratification of the new deal.

Under this scenario, only the top-seeded team in each conference would receive a bye the first week and there would be three Wild Card teams pitted against the three division winners. It’s also unclear if the NFL will change the format of allowing division winners, regardless of record, to be able to host play off games. There has been considerable complaining from fans, media and teams about division winners sometimes having 2-3 or sometimes more fewer wins than the Widcard team that they are hosting.

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