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Alliance of American Football Picks – Week 1

AAF Predictions Week 1 - Atlanta Legends vs Orlando Apollos

The NFL and NCAAF seasons are in the books, but we don’t have to wait months on end for some pigskin action this time around. The Alliance of American Football debuts this weekend with four games, two on Saturday and a pair on Sunday.

If you’re looking to learn more about the league and its inaugural season, you can check out our preview here. For a cliff’s notes version, this is an eight-team league with clubs located in football hotbeds across the country. There will be a 10-week regular season, followed by a playoff round and a championship game scheduled for April 27th.

Several big-name coaches have climbed on board, and broadcast contracts are in place for select games to be carried on CBS, CBSSN, NFL Network, and TNT. One game per week can be found on B/R Live, while all four games will be on the tube for week 1.

Some interesting wrinkles have been added to the playing mix as well, including a shorter play clock, no TV timeouts, and no extra points. Teams will go for the two-point conversion after every touchdown. Kickoffs are eliminated, as teams will start at their own 25-yard line in lieu of that. The league has a goal of completing games in about 2.5 hours, as opposed to the roughly three hours for a typical NFL game.

While we won’t have any usable game data to help with our handicapping of these games for a few weeks, we will get a good sense of what kind of product these teams are putting on the field in the interim. In the meantime, we can rely on the futures market (futures odds provided by: MyBookie) for a sense of how these teams stack up from the get-go. Here are the current odds to win the inaugural AAF championship.

  • Arizona Hotshots +250
  • Salt Lake Stallions +400
  • San Antonio Commanders +500
  • Orlando Apollos +500
  • Atlanta Legends +500
  • San Diego Fleet +1000
  • Memphis Express +1000
  • Birmingham Iron +1000

The AAF has several big names behind the scenes, as well as some broadcasting heavyweights on board to bring the new league to the masses. While the AAF has been described as ranging anywhere from a developmental league to a new competitor for the NFL, the bottom line is this: there’s a potential market to be tapped among those hankering for some football after the Super Bowl.

We wish the new foray nothing but success, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the games are compelling. The lack of data isn’t going to prevent us from digging into these games and picking winners. Let’s break down all four of these games, starting with one of the primetime affairs on CBS this Saturday night.

*Betting odds provided by: Sportsbetting.ag

Atlanta Legends @ Orlando Apollos, Sat. 8:00 PM EST, CBS

Spread:

  • Atlanta +5.5 (-110)
  • Orlando -5.5 (-110)

Total Points:

  • Over 52.5 (+100)
  • Under 52.5 (-120)


Legends vs. Apollos pick:

The first game on our list features the biggest spread of the weekend. The Atlanta Legends head to Orlando to take on the Apollos, a team being led by college football legend Steve Spurrier. The Legends are coached by Kevin Coyle, who took over when Brad Childress stepped down from his post.

What the Futures Market Says

According to the futures market, these teams are in the same neighborhood. Both clubs have +500 odds to win the league championship. That being the case, why is the spread so much greater than a field goal for two teams who don’t have a game under their belts as of yet? For a short answer, signs have emerged that Atlanta isn’t a squad that’s ready to burst out of the gates.

Coaches and Personnel

Childress stepping aside wasn’t the only change to Atlanta’s coaching staff. Michael Vick – yes, that Michael Vick – was originally on board as offensive coordinator, but he’s also now out. While Coyle has an impressive coaching resume, that’s a lot of upheaval for a team to deal with prior to its first game.

Orlando could be one of the more entertaining clubs in the league, and we can point to the presence of Spurrier as the reason for that. Garrett Gilbert is expected to be behind center, and he’ll have weapons such as Akeem Hunt and Brian Tyms to help him out. Aaron Murray is the expected starter for the Legends, with Denard Robinson in the backfield.

The Verdict

Such a big spread in a new league makes us a little antsy, but we can say the same about the rash of changes in Atlanta. We’re going to need to take a wait-and-see approach on the Legends. For game one, we like the Apollos to pick up the win and cover.

The Bet
ORLANDO APOLLOS -5.5

San Diego Fleet @ San Antonio Commanders, Sat. 8:00 PM EST, CBS

Spread:

  • San Diego +2.5 (-110)
  • San Antonio -2.5 (-110)

Total Points:

  • Over 53 (-105)
  • Under 53 (-115)


Fleet vs. Commanders pick:

Next up is a contest featuring a Fleet squad led by Mike Martz facing off with a Commanders team for which Mike Riley will be roaming the sidelines. This game is tied for the highest projected Over/Under of the weekend, and it looks like there’s plenty of talent on both sides to boot.

What the Futures Market Says

There’s a +500 difference in odds to win the title for these two teams. The visitors check in at +1000, while the hosts are deemed a +500 shot to win it all. The spread for this one is much tighter at 2.5 points, which seems more in line for a game between two teams which we can’t be certain what to expect from.

Coaches and Personnel

NFL buffs will remember Martz as one of the architects of the Greatest Show on Turf at the turn of the century when the then St. Louis Rams were lighting up the league. Naturally, that bolsters optimism that the Fleet will be one of the more productive offensive teams in the new league. Riley has spent time in both the NFL and college, most recently on the staff at Oregon State.

The Fleet initially had the rights to Josh Johnson, but he was plucked up by the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Mike Bercovici now has the keys to the offense, and he’ll have targets such as Kameron Kelly and Gavin Escobar at his disposal. Dustin Vaughan is the starter for the Commanders, with the top offensive options including Kenneth Farrow II and Mekale McKay.

The Verdict

There has been some buzz that San Antonio looks like one of the better teams in the league. However, we must keep in mind that there’s a big difference between practice and executing in games that count. We’ll look for San Diego to surprise us and walk away with the road victory.

The Bet
SAN DIEGO FLEET +2.5

Memphis Express @ Birmingham Iron, Sun. 4:00 PM EST, CBSSN

Spread:

  • Memphis +3.5 (-115)
  • Birmingham -3.5 (-105)

Total Points:

  • Over 51 (-105)
  • Under 51 (-115)


Express vs. Iron pick:

The lone Sunday afternoon game will see the Mike Singletary-led Express head to Birmingham to take on the Iron, a club coached by Tim Lewis. Both men have NFL coaching experience on their resumes, while Singletary is a Hall of Famer and legendary part of the famed Chicago Bears defense of the 1980s.

What the Futures Market Says

These clubs have matching odds of +1000 to be celebrating when the final whistle blows after the league championship game. That places them at the bottom of the barrel in the futures market, as all clubs with the exception of the Fleet have more of a chance to make some noise as far as the oddsmakers are concerned.

Coaches and Personnel

Singletary had a brief but memorable stint as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. His fiery play in the field has translated into his coaching career. That being the case, the Express could be one of the more hard-hitting teams in the league as the season moves along.

This will be the first head coaching gig for Lewis. Included on his resume is time spent as the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. Signs point to Christian Hackenberg as the starter for Memphis, while it will be Blake Sims or Luis Perez behind center for the Iron. Notable skill position players include Memphis RB Zac Stacy and Birmingham RB Trent Richardson.

The Verdict

The respective resumes of the coaches in these two tilts suggest we could be in for a defensive-oriented affair. The fact that this contest has the lowest projected total of the weekend provides further confirmation of that theory. We’ll take the Express to pull off the road upset in what could be a slugfest.

The Bet
MEMPHIS EXPRESS +3.5

Salt Lake Stallions @ Arizona Hotshots, 8:00 PM EST, NFLN

Spread:

  • Salt Lake +3.5 (+110)
  • Arizona -3.5 (-130)

Total Points:

  • Over 53 (-105)
  • Under 53 (-115)


Stallions vs. Hotshots pick:

It looks like the best has been saved for last, at least as far as signs from the futures market are concerned, that is. The Stallions head to Arizona to take on the Hotshots, a meeting of the two teams who are favored to win the inaugural league championship.

What the Futures Market Says

Salt Lake stands at +400 to win it all, while Arizona has odds of +250. It’s safe to say the oddsmakers like what the two clubs have constructed thus far. One of the interesting tidbits about the AAF is that teams are constructed with an eye toward the clubs having dibs on the best regional talent around them. That has left the Stallions and Hotshots with positive marks on the talent front thus far.

Coaches and Personnel

Dennis Erickson is the man in charge for Salt Lake. He has been a head coach at both the NFL and college levels, but he’s best remembered for the pair of national titles he won with the Miami Hurricanes. For Arizona, Rick Neuheisel leads the way. He has been plying his wares for CBS and CBSSN as a college football analyst in recent years, and he has a number of collegiate head coaching jobs on his resume.

On the talent front, the Stallions have B.J. Daniels at signal caller and wideouts including Kaelin Clay and Kenny Bell. For the Hotshots, Neuheisel has his choice of Trevor Knight and John Wolford at QB, while skill position players include RB Jhurrell Pressley.

The Verdict

The background of both head coaches suggests these two squads should be well-prepared, and the futures market has christened these two teams as the best in the league before the first whistle blows. This game is tied for the highest projected Over/Under of the week at 53 points, so there could be some fireworks to boot.

It’s a toss-up on paper, but the hosts have been deemed a 3.5-point favorite by the oddsmakers. The offensive potential of the Hotshots has us leaning that way as well, and we’ll look for the hosts to get the job done and cover.

The Bet
ARIZONA HOTSHOTS -3.5