NFL football may be over, but another football season is just beginning.
If you’ve never heard of the Alliance of American Football, I’m sure you’re not alone; it has flown somewhat under the radar as of late, and I would imagine that there is some skepticism surrounding its viability. With the UFL, NFL Europe, XFL, Arena Football League, and even the magnificence that is the Legends Football League all either folding or failing to take root across the American sports landscape, it’s understandable if you never gave the AAF a second thought.
But in case the notion of eight months without football gives you hives, you can tune in starting this weekend, when the Memphis Express takes on the Birmingham Iron at 4PM EST on CBS. The night game will feature three additional games, most likely broadcast regionally, as well as available via the AAF mobile app.
The AAF will feature a 12 week season with the following eight teams:
- Arizona Hotshots
- Atlanta Legends
- Birmingham Iron
- Memphis Express
- Orlando Apollos
- Salt Lake Stallions
- San Antonio Commanders
- San Diego Flee
Rules will be with similar to standard NFL games. There will be, however, a few notable exceptions:
- A 35 second playclock
- No kickoffs; each team will start all possessions at the 25 yard line.
- No onside kicks; if a team wants to go for a back-to-back possession, they must convert a fourth and 12 from their own 28 yard line, otherwise the opponent gets the ball on the 28.
- No extra point attempts; all teams must go for two.
- No TV timeouts and fewer commercials in an effort to make the game half an hour shorter.
- Alternate OT rules in which each team will get the ball at the opposing 10 and have one possession to score a TD and then go for two - no field goals at all. If neither teams scores, the game ends in a tie.
- There will be a sky judge ref who uses real-time technology to correct any missed calls.
There will also be a number of former Patriots scattered across the AAF, perhaps hoping to make enough of a splash that they get invited back into the NFL for a shot at the big leagues. You may also recognize a few notable names on the list of head coaches:
- Arizona: Rick Neuheisel
- Atlanta: Kevin Coyle
- Birmingham: Tim Lewis
- Memphis: Mike Singletary
- Orlando: Steve Spurrier
- Salt Lake City: Dennis Erickson
- San Antonio: Mike Riley
- San Diego: Mike Martz
Steelers legend Troy Polamalu will serve as the league’s Head of Player Relations. His old teammate Hines Ward is the league’s Head of Development.
I’ll definitely be following the AAF with interest, as well as a healthy dose of skepticism. I know that I for one need a break from football for a little while, but I’d definitely be willing to tune in on a lazy Saturday when I’m just doing things around the house.
My gut tells me that it’s Arizona’s year, but watch out for Memphis; those guys may turn some heads as the season wears on.