AAF Week 5 Betting Preview: Odds, Picks and Power Rankings
It’s hard to believe but the Alliance of American Football (AAF) will be halfway through its 10-game regular season following this weekend’s games. We saw a slight shift in Week 4, as three road teams emerged victorious .Home teams had been 9-3 straight up and 8-4 ATS entering last week. The trend of low-scoring games continued with three more unders cashing. The Under is now 12-4 through 16 games. The AAF is still doing well in the ratings but attendance is down and bettors aren’t running to wager on the new league. There are some interesting betting lines for Week 5 but until the quarterback play improves, lower scoring games will continue to be the norm.
AAF TV ratings still strong
The television ratings on NFL Network fell slightly last week but the overall numbers are still strong for a new football league appearing on a cable channel in February. In fact, TNT has added two more games this season, starting with Saturday’s Orlando-Birmingham matchup. TNT also added Orlando’s game against Atlanta on March 23, although that one will be going up against the first weekend of March Madness.
Overall, the AAF has to be pleased with its early TV ratings that have been higher than some NHL, MLS and college basketball games. It’s still all quiet on the betting front though. Oddsmakers have refereed to the AAF betting handle this season as “so so,” “not bad” and “pretty small.” Gambler’s interest in the AAF could decline even more in the coming weeks with the NCAA Tournament starting on March 19. It may not seem like a big deal but a large part of the AAF’s success is predicated on generating interest among bettors and fantasy football players. So far, it’s not happening.
While the TV ratings are a positive sign, it doesn’t appear the AAF will make a big splash with bettors during its inaugural season.
All lines/odds referenced herein are from the Westgate.
Editor’s Note: Get in one the action and play fantasy AAF on PrizePicks this weekend.
Week 5 Power Rankings and Future Odds
Orlando Apollos (+125)
Birmingham Iron (+500)
Arizona Hotshots (+350)
San Antonio Commandeers (+700)
Memphis Express (+5000)
San Diego Fleet (+800)
Salt Lake Stallions (+1200)
Atlanta Legends (+5000)
Overview: What a difference a week makes in the AAF. Last week I wrote how certain teams were starting to separate from the pack. Now after a weekend of upsets, injuries and quarterback changes, its Orlando and seven teams lumped together.
The Apollos are still the clear favorites to win the title at +125 and deservingly so. Orlando has the league’s best offense, best quarterback, best coach and a strong defense. They’ve won two games at home and two on the road. After the first month, there’s really no team close to the Apollos. Orlando has its toughest test of the season this week when they travel to Birmingham. If the Iron’s defense can’t stop Steve Spurrier and Garrett Gilbert at home, Orlando’s odds to win the AAF championship will be even shorter next week.
Birmingham saw its odds go from +300 to +500 after laying an egg at home against San Antonio. We’re halfway through the season and the Iron offense is still struggling to score points. That’s not a great sign but the good news is outside of Orlando, the other AAF teams are in the same boat. Birmingham can make a statement this week when it hosts Orlando.
Oddsmakers still love Arizona after its embarrassing home loss to previously winless Atlanta. I don’t get it. The Hotshots haven’t played well since their season opening win over Salt Lake. Since then, they have a two-point win over the Christian Hackenberg-led Express and losses to Salt Lake and Atlanta. Arizona is a strong pass for me at odds of +350.
San Diego was dealt the biggest blow of Week 4. Not only were the Fleet upset by Memphis, they lost starting quarterback Philip Nelson for 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury. San Diego’s offense had emerged as the second-best unit in the AFF behind Orlando with Nelson under center.
Now the Fleet will go back to Week 1 starter Mike Bercovici. I mentioned before the season Nelson was a better fit in Mike Martz’s offense than the erratic Bercovici. He struggled in the opener versus San Antonio but to be fair, Bercovici didn’t get any help from his offensive line. San Diego still has a team good enough to make a title run but the quarterback position is now a big concern with Nelson out.
If you’re looking to take a team with longer odds, Memphis at 50/1 is my recommendation. I’ve been higher on the Express in my power rankings all season than probably anyone. I’ve stated repeatedly that Memphis is much better than its record. The problem was Christian Hackenberg. Last week, Memphis got its first win and not surprisingly, it was the first game Hackenberg didn’t start.
Zach Mettenberger completed 18 of 25 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in the Express’ 26-23 win over San Diego. Memphis has one of the AAF’s top defenses and offensive lines. If Mettenberger continues to play well, the Express can still be a factor and make the playoffs. Memphis hosts Atlanta this week with shot to move to 2-3. They are the best value on the board at 50/1.
In terms of betting AAF futures at this point, I suggest taking Orlando and one other team. I have Orlando as such a big favorite to win the AAF, there’s still a little value at +125. Pair them up with a Memphis or San Diego. To be completely honest, not many of these teams have a realistic shot to win the league if Gilbert stays healthy. The Apollos are head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of quarterback play, coaching and overall talent.
Week 5 Matchups, Lines and Picks
Orlando at Birmingham
Line: Orlando -3.5, 34.5
I’m all in on Orlando here. Birmingham is a tough place to play in the AAF but no team has a huge home field advantage. Orlando has already won at San Antonio and Memphis this year, so the Apollos have shown they can win away from home. The reason I like the Apollos in this spot because Birmingham simply can’t score and that’s not the way to beat Orlando. A good Memphis defense held Orlando to 21 points but if the Apollos get to that number on Saturday, they’ll win comfortably over a Birmingham squad that throws a parade when it gets into the end zone.
Pick: Orlando -3.5
Salt Lake at San Diego
Line: San Diego -5.5, 34.5
I was really high on San Diego entering last week because of the stability Nelson provided at quarterback. Now Nelson is out and Bercovici is back under center. I’ve never been a Bercovici fan dating back to his college days at Arizona State. I still think San Diego is the better team but the Fleet are dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball. Not only is Nelson out but stud linebacker A.J. Tarpley missed last week’s game with an injury. I’ll take Salt Lake to stay within the number here.
Pick: Salt Lake +5.5
Memphis at Atlanta
Line: Atlanta -2.5, 38.5
Memphis is probably my top play of the AAF season so far. Atlanta predictably played better on offense once Aaron Murray replaced Matt Simms at quarterback last week, similar to Memphis once Mettenberger took over Hackenberg. Seriously, what are these coaches thinking? Anyone with eyes could see Simms and Hackenberg weren’t the answer. The big difference for me in this game is Memphis’ defense and offensive line. While the Legends’ offense played much better with Murray, I give Memphis a significant edge in those two areas. Now with Mettenberger leading the offense, Memphis’ arrow is pointing up. I’ll take the Express to win outright.
Pick: Memphis +2.5
San Antonio at Arizona
Line: Arizona -2.5, 39.5
This is the toughest game for me to call in Week 5 because I’m not high on either team. Arizona simply isn’t playing very well and San Antonio’s defense can be exploited by every team besides Birmingham, apparently. I’m not in love with Arizona but I give them an edge on both sides of the ball, so I’ll take the Hotshots to cover the short number at home.
Pick: Arizona -2.5