Betting markets are settling in with the Alliance of American Football (which should be called the “Southern Alliance plus Salt Lake!). Orlando looks to be the class of the league with a high powered offense that’s gained 363, 428, and 388 yards three games into the campaign.
Those yardage totals REALLY jump out because so many teams are struggling to move the ball on offense. Though, it should be noted that seemingly helpless Memphis started marching late in its third game once it finally benched quarterback Christian Hackenberg in favor of LSU’s Zach Mettenberger. And, San Diego bounced back from a horrible season opener under QB Mike Bercovici after Philip Nelson from East Carolina was given the starting nod.
With so little sample size less than a month into the season, sharps are paying very close attention to how each offense is performing with its chosen quarterback. And, they’re also studying defenses to see who’s able to disrupt long drives from opponents.
Let’s look at this weekend’s four TV games with those factors in mind. Games are presented in kickoff order…
▪ San Diego (2-1) at Memphis (0-3) (BR/Live, 3 p.m. Saturday)
This was time-changed from prime time because Memphis has been so bad! Maybe Mettenberger will catch visiting San Diego napping. Though, the visiting Fleet have been playing great defense all season, allowing only 12 total points on drives of 60 yards or more. If you don’t bet, monitor what happens for future edges. Should San Diego’s defense be for real, then “SD with Nelson” arguably joins Orlando at the top of the AAF ladder after winning by a combined 55-23 the past two weeks. If Mettenberger is the answer in Memphis, the Express could be a value team in coming weeks before the line catches up.
▪ Orlando (3-0) at Salt Lake (1-2) (NFL Network, 7 p.m., Saturday)
Great test for the Apollos, who put their undefeated record on the line in what will likely be cold evening conditions in Utah. Garrett Gilbert has been league MVP through three weeks, leading his team to 55 points on drives of 60 yards or more. Though, Salt Lake did hold previously productive Arizona to just 4.3 yards-per-play and 1 of 10 on third downs last week.
▪ San Antonio (1-2) at Birmingham (3-0) (CBS Sports Network, 3 p.m., Sunday)
Birmingham is still a question mark despite its undefeated record. The Iron drew the two worst teams in the league, Atlanta and Memphis, in weeks one and three. A home win over Salt Lake was all defense, with Luis Perez only able to lead his offense to 3.4 yards-per-play and one offensive touchdown. Can Birmingham’s defense do enough to get the cover? San Antonio’s offense only has 15 total points on drives of 60 yards or more, worst in the AAF.
▪ Atlanta (0-3) at Arizona (2-1) (NFL Network, 7 p.m., Sunday)
Atlanta’s lost by 34, 12, and 16 points because its offense is a turnover machine. Now it has to visit a talented Arizona Hotshots team coming off its first loss (and worst effort) of the season.
Be sure you monitor line moves up until kickoffs this weekend. Remember that “opening lines” tell you how oddsmakers have all the teams rated, while line moves tell you what the sharps (pro bettors) are thinking. The general public isn’t that active yet with this league, and oddsmakers don’t fear public money anyway. If you see a significant line move, it was caused by smart money.
▪ Home field advantage in the AAF has been tough to gauge because home teams have been winning so easily! The average game result through a dozen outings is the host winning by 8.8 points. It’s unlikely that HFA is worth THAT much, particularly with such small home crowds at these sites. Just remember that what’s perceived by many to be “home field advantage” is more accurately “road team disadvantage” because of travel considerations and unfamiliarity with new sites.
Oddsmakers have undershot the mark so far, with hosts posting an 8-4 record against the point spread. Only two visitors have won outright, Arizona at Memphis and Birmingham at Atlanta.
▪ You’ve probably heard that AAF games have been staying Under in dramatic fashion. Early media hype had suggested a lightning-paced high scoring league. Instead, the football world was reminded that mediocre quarterbacks have trouble making plays vs. athletic defenses. Bettors investing in Unders are 9-3 (75%) through 12 games. Per-week average scoreboard sums have been 38.3, 40.3, and 39.5.
That’s a far cry from opening week market Over/Unders in the low 50’s, which were followed by an adjustment down to the mid and lower 40’s.