AAF Week 1 Betting Breakdown: Futures and Game Picks
Suffering from NFL football withdrawals? This year football doesn’t end with the Super Bowl, as the Alliance of American Football (AAF) league launches this weekend. We have a complete betting breakdown with future odds and Week 1 AAF picks. There is value in wagering on new football leagues, so bet wisely and enjoy the games.
Besides a big gap in talent level, there’s one big difference between the NFL and AAF. While the NFL has been slow to (publicly) embrace sports betting, the AAF is going all in. The AAF has taken on MGM as an official gaming partner and created an app that allows in-game betting.
By using the MGM app, bettors will be able to wager on things like whether the next drive will be a touchdown or who the next player to score will be. Wagering on the app is currently only legal in Nevada, with AAF betting in New Jersey a fluid situation but probably happening. In any case, it’s forward thinking by the AAF, as more states will be adding mobile betting in the near future.
The AAF even stated players may get paid more if gamblers are betting money on them. If bettors wager the most money on a certain running back to score, that player could profit by getting a bonus. Imagine that happening in the NFL. Maybe 20 years from now.
CBS will broadcast the AAF’s Feb. 9 Opening Day, while CBS Sports Network will then carry one AAF game each week throughout the season. The NFL Network will also broadcast AAF games, starting Sunday when Salt Lake visits Arizona.
With the AAF season kicking off on Saturday, we’ll take a look at future odds and the Week 1 matchups, so you have all the information to wager on the new league.
Odds to win the AAF Championship at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook
Arizona Hotshots: +250
The Hotshots are coached by Rick Neuheisel. Best known for his stints at Colorado, UCLA and Washington, Neuheisel also spent one unsuccessful season as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator in 2007.
It appeared the Hotshots nabbed one of the AAF’s top coordinators when they signed Hugh Freeze to run the offense. However, Freeze’s time in Arizona was short-lived. He left in December to become head coach at Liberty. Freeze is still listed as the offensive coordinator on the team’s web site. It’s likely that Neuheisel and quarterbacks coach Steve Axman will now call offensive plays.
The Hotshots are in good hands on the defensive side of the ball. Nick Aliotti will run the defense. Aliotti was Oregon’s defensive coordinator from 1999-2013 and he’s a respected defensive coach.
Former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight is expected to start at quarterback for the Hotshots. Knight’s claim to fame is beating out Baker Mayfield at Oklahoma and leading the Sooners to a 45-31 win over Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. However, he’s done little since. Knight was cut by the Arizona Cardinals in 2017 in his only NFL stop.
In the preseason, Arizona finished third in passing yards (224) and first in yards per attempt (7.7). They have the talent to win it all but look to be a little overvalued at +250. Wait for a better price if you like the Hotshots.
Salt Lake Stallions +400
The Stallions will be led by 71-year-old Dennis Erickson. While Erickson is older — a trend among AAF head coaches — he’s had successful coaching stops at Miami and Oregon State. Erickson NFL career didn’t go nearly as well. He never finished above .500 in his two jobs with Seattle and San Francisco.
Erickson hired two coordinators with plenty of NFL experience. Tim Lappano will run the offense, while Donnie Henderson takes over as defensive coordinator. Lappano has coached with Erickson in the past. Henderson was a coordinator with the Lions and Jets but both times his defenses ranked near the bottom of the league.
If you’re looking for a potential breakout star in the AAF, keep an eye on Salt Lake quarterback Josh Woodrum. The athletic Woodrum is a threat as both a passer and runner. In his four seasons at Liberty, Woodrum threw 61 touchdown passes and added 16 more on the ground. Woodrum spent time with the Giants, Bears, Colts, Bills and Ravens. He completed an impressive 67 percent of his passes on 55 attempts over his career in the preseason.
While Woodrum could be a star, Salt Lake threw by far the fewest passes in the preseason (18), while rushing for an AAF best 4.5 yards per carry on 26 attempts. One reason for more rushing attempts is the three-headed attack at running back of Matt Asiata (former Vikings RB), Branden Oliver (Chargers) and former Northern Illinois star Joel Bouagnon. The trio gives the Stallions arguably the deepest backfield in the AAF.
Salt Lake is our highest rated team entering the season, so there’s value taking them at +400.
San Antonio Commanders +500
The Commanders are the most interesting team in the AAF and worth a shot to win it all at +500. Former Oregon State head coach Mike Riley will lead the Commanders. Riley had one disastrous stop in the NFL with the Chargers and most recently got fired from Nebraska in 2017 after finishing 4-8.
Riley hired a young offensive coordinator in Matt Troxel. A former quarterback at Montana, Troxel has spent time coaching at Idaho State and Oregon State since 2011.
The Commanders hit a home run by getting former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe to run their defense. Grobe’s Wake Forest teams had a history of overachieving on defense.
Like the Stallions’ Woodrum, San Antonio has a potential breakout player in quarterback Dustin Vaughn. The 6-5 Vaughn led all Division II quarterbacks with 5,401 passing yards and 53 touchdowns as a senior at West Texas A&M in 2013.
The Commanders had the second-most rushing attempts (31) in the preseason but threw the second-fewest passes (27) behind only Salt Lake. San Antonio will lean on two former NFL running backs in Kenneth Farrow (Chargers) and David Cobb (Titans).
San Antonio and Salt Lake look to have the pieces to be two of the most well-balanced offenses in the AAF this season.
Orlando Apollos +500
Did you miss the Ole’ Ball Coach? If so, the Apollos are for you. The 73-year-old Steve Spurrier is back on the sidelines to lead Orlando. Spurrier led Florida to a national title but his one NFL job with the Washington Redskins was a complete mess. There’s no denying Spurrier is one of the most innovative coaches in the last 25 years but at 73, it’s hard to know what to expect.
Spurrier will run the offense and Bob Sanders (not the former Colts safety) will be the defensive coordinator. Sanders coached defense under Spurrier at Duke and Florida. His defense looked good in the preseason, forcing three interceptions.
Spurrier isn’t known to have a long leash with quarterbacks and that trend could continue with Garrett Gilbert. A turnover machine in college, Gilbert threw 45 interceptions at Texas and SMU. Kevin Anderson (Fordham) and Austin Appleby (Florida) are waiting in the wings if Gilbert falters.
Orlando’s offense will feature former NFL players with running back Akeem Hunt (Chiefs), and receivers Charles Johnson (Vikings) and Jalin Marshall (Jets) are all expected to have big roles.
As you might expect under Spurrier, the Apollos were pass heavy in the preseason with the second-fewest rushing attempts (19) for just 66 yards (3.5 YPC).
Atlanta Legends +500
To be honest, the Legends look like a mess heading into their inaugural season. Brad Childress was originally supposed to be the head coach but resigned after just one month on the job. So Atlanta has turned to Kevin Coyle. Coyle has served as defensive coordinator at Syracuse, Maryland, Fresno State and the Dolphins. This is his first head coaching gig.
Coyle surprisingly hired an offensive coordinator with no experience in… Michael Vick. Vick was an exceptional quarterback who helped transcend the position but he’s never been more than a coaching intern or called offensive plays. Maybe he’ll end up being a good coordinator but we have clue how Vick might stack up as a coordinator.
Louie Cioffi was another uninspiring hire as defensive coordinator. Cioffi was the Browns coordinator in 2016 under Marvin Lewis. The Browns finished 1-15 that year.
Atlanta didn’t give Vick much to work with at quarterback. Somehow, the Legends were unable find a better option than former Jets washout Chris Simms. Simms completed just 48.7 percent of his passes in his brief NFL career. It won’t be long before backup Aaron Murray is under center.
Tarean Folston (Notre Dame) is expected to start at running back but Vick could have fun with former Michigan star Denard Robinson. Overall though, Atlanta has a lot of questions on offense.
Atlanta threw a league-high 37 passes and attempted an AAF-low 12 rushes during the preseason. It’s hard to believe the Apollos have better odds than the Birmingham Iron and San Diego Fleet with all their question marks. Atlanta is a hard pass for us at +500.
Birmingham Iron +1000
If you want to take a shot with one of the teams listed at +1000, the Iron is an attractive option. Former NFL defensive coordinator Tim Lewis is the head coach in Birmingham. Lewis was a coordinator with the Steelers and Giants from 2000-2006 but never led a top-10 NFL defense. This is his first head coaching gig.
Lewis wisely hired two experienced coordinators in Steve Logan and Rick Minter. Logan was the head coach at East Carolina from 1992-2002 and the offensive coordinator for Boston College from 2007-2008. Minter is the former head coach at Cincinnati and he’s coordinated defenses at Ball State, Notre Dame, Kentucky and South Carolina. The Iron have one of the better overall coaching staffs in the AAF.
Luis Perez will begin the season as the Iron’s starting quarterback. Perez was a stud for Division II Texas A&M-Commerce. As a senior in 2017, Perez completed 71 percent of his passes for 4,999 yards and 46 touchdowns. Perez had a cup of coffee with the Rams in 2018 before being released. Former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims will back up Perez.
At running back, the Iron are giving former Alabama star and NFL bust Trent Richardson a second chance. Richardson has battled weight problems in the past but the Iron list him at 229 pounds. We’ll see.
Birmingham attempted the third most passes (34) in the preseason but finished with an AAF-worst 5.3 yards per attempt. On the flip side, the Iron’s 4.16 yards per carry on 25 attempts ranked second in the league behind Salt Lake in the preseason.
In a league where there’s a lot of uncertainty, the Iron look to be good value at +1000.
San Diego Fleet +1000
Like Spurrier, the new head coach for the Fleet is one of the most innovative offensive minds of our time. However, also like Spurrier, Mike Martz’s time was over a decade ago. Martz led some of the most prolific offenses in NFL history while with the Rams but his last two stops as offensive coordinator in Detroit and Chicago ended in disappointment.
Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord coached under Martz in Chicago. The two will work together to run the Fleet’s offense. It’s an honor to be the oldest coach in the AAF. That honor goes to San Diego defensive coordinator Larry Marmie at 76-years-old. Marmie was Martz’s defensive coordinator with the Rams in 2004. He hasn’t run a defense since.
The Fleet got a bad break at quarterback. San Diego selected Josh Johnson with the top pick in the AAF draft. Then Johnson got a shot with the Redskins after Washington was down to Mark Sanchez at quarterback. Johnson exceeded expectations and is likely to re-sign with the Redskins.
The Fleet now turn to former Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici. I think I once bet someone that Bercovici would never play pro football. Didn’t see this coming.
Martz can coach quarterbacks though and the Fleet’s passing game looked good in the preseason. San Diego finished first in passing attempts (53), yards (382), touchdowns (3) and completion percentage (75.5).
The Fleet are the toughest team to project. They have the talent to compete for a league title if Bercovici plays well at quarterback. Because of the boom or bust potential of the Fleet, they’re worth consideration at +1000.
Memphis Express +1000
Some people prefer defense over offense. If that’s the case, the Express is right down your alley. Mike Singletary is the head coach, so expect the Express to win with defense and running the football. Yippee.
Singletary brought in Dennis Thurman to run the defense. Once a promising NFL head coaching candidate, Thurman’s had success as a coordinator with the Jets but his defense underperformed in Buffalo. Still, Thurman is a strong hire as Memphis’ defensive coordinator.
The Express originally hired Hal Mumme to run the Air Raid offense but he left the team in November. David Lee – the guy who introduced the Wildcat to the NFL while in Miami – is the quarterbacks coach and will have heavy influence on offensive play calling.
Quarterback is where Memphis has its biggest issue and the issue is Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg was a monumental bust as a second-round pick with he Jets. If (when) Hackenberg implodes, former Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger is next line. Again, the Express will try to win with defense and the running game.
Spearheading Memphis’ rushing attack is former Rams starter Zac Stacy. Stacy scored eight rushing touchdowns as a rookie in 2013 but his career 3.8 yards per carry average is less than encouraging.
Memphis’ offense was dreadful in the preseason, averaging an AAF-worst 4.5 yards per play. The Express ran the ball 26 times but for just 56 yards (2.1 YPC). We have Memphis at the bottom of our AAF rankings to start the season.
Future Bets Considerations:
Salt Lake +400
San Antonio +500
San Diego +1000
Week 1 Matchups
Atlanta at Orlando (-4.5)
We’re not high on either of these teams so this is a stay-away game. If we have to make a pick, we’ll take the points with the underdog. Too many questions on both of these squads to be confident on either side.
Pick: Atlanta +4.5
San Diego at San Antonio (-3)
These are two teams we recommended as future plays. San Diego’s passing game looked good in limited preseason action. The money is coming in on the Fleet and the line is down to three. San Antonio is second in our rankings but we’ll take the points with the Fleet in Week 1 in what should be a tight game.
Pick: San Diego +3
Memphis at Birmingham (-3)
If you’re looking for a betting angle in the AAF, how about fading Hackenberg? According to our power rankings, Birmingham is the better team in this matchup and the Iron are playing at home. Strong lean to Birmingham laying a field goal.
Pick: Birmingham -3
Salt Lake at Arizona (-3.5)
This line looks way off to us and money is coming in on Salt Lake. The number opened -5 and is down to 3.5. We have Salt Lake rated ahead of Arizona to start the year. We’ll gladly take 3.5-points here with Salt Lake being the strongest play for Week 1.
Pick: Salt Lake +3.5