Koerner’s AAF Power Ratings: A Few Week 2 Spreads Are Way Off
Courtesy of @TheAAF/Twitter. Pictured: Arizona Hotshots RB Jhurell Pressley
- Sean Koerner's AAF Power Ratings reveal major discrepancies in opening spreads and over/unders for Week 2.
- He runs through all four games and explains how to exploit these lines while betting on this new league.
The inaugural week of the Alliance of American Football league is in the books, which means we’ve seen how all eight teams play and have at least a small sample size of data to work with.
What I want to tackle here is identifying any potential “value” in the opening spread/totals for Week 2. In order to do so, I created our first set of power ratings for all eight AAF teams, which we can use to estimate a line for each matchup.
Here’s what they are as of writing on Wednesday:
Before diving into each matchup, I want to look at three league-wide factors we learned in Week 1.
To no surprise, we saw some massive line movement in the Week 1 games from their opening to closing lines. I expect it to be a few more weeks until the market comes to enough of a consensus that books can be more confident with their opening numbers.
Week 2 will likely have some severe line moves as well, so it’s important to identify where the lines could move to in order to get the best number early.
One thing we aren’t too sure of yet is just how much home-field advantage should be worth.
I’m going with a value of 2 to start. Before we have enough data, all we can do is estimate here, and my reasoning behind 2 is that the AAF likely won’t have the crowd sizes to make it worth around 3 (like it’s worth in the NFL) or up to 4-5 (like it’s worth for certain college teams). But there still is the aspect of travel and the slight biases referees might have for a home team.
We saw home teams outscore away teams 119-34 in Week 1. It’s also worth pointing out that all four home teams were favorites. I would say this has more to do with the four home teams likely being the top four teams in the league with a lot of it chalked up to randomness of a sample size of four games.
It’s going to cause people to overweight home-field advantage and overrate the four “favorites” that won heading into Week 2. Given that three of the four teams are on the road this week, we’ll start to learn just how much home-field advantage should be worth. I’m sticking with a value of 2 for now.
The third factor we need to quickly learn is the average score of an AAF game.
The 35-second play clock, mandatory two-point conversation attempts after every touchdown and even rules preventing blitzing led most to think that the league would be fairly high scoring. But we might’ve underestimated the fact that there are no kickoffs and that every drive starts on a team’s own 25-yard line.
It takes away the randomness of a long kickoff return or even a turnover that would give a team great field position. Instead, these offenses are required to drive down the entire field after every score.
We witnessed the market inflate both totals to 54 for this past Saturday’s opening two-game slate. Only three total points being scored in the first quarter of both games and each going under the total impacted Sunday’s games, dropping both to 46.5 and 49.
The “over” went 1-3 on opening weekend with an average total score of 38.25. We’re sure to see the market adjust accordingly and I currently have the average total rating for each team being 46.
We’re only going to see these offenses improve going forward, so I’m expecting a much higher scoring Week 2.
AAF WEEK 2 POWER RATINGS
Salt Lake Stallions at Birmingham Iron
- Spread: Birmingham -8
- Over/Under: 44.5
- Time: 2 p.m. ET on Saturday
- TV: TNT
This opening spread appears to be an overreaction in both directions.
The Iron went into the season as the biggest longshot to win the AAF championship (12-1) and had the lowest regular season win total at 3.5. The Stallions, on the other hand, were pegged as being more of a .500 team heading in.
Now, just after one game, we see the Iron as -7.5 favorites!
I think we need to be careful here.
The Iron beat what could arguably be the worst team in the league, the Express, 26-0. The Stallions were defeated by what many consider to be the best team in the league, the Hotshots, 22-38.
We can learn from Week 1 that the Iron are much better than we expected, especially their defense, so I have them all the way up to No. 3 in my ranks. But this line should be much closer to -5. I think sanity will prevail here and the market will move the line toward that number, so it’s key to get in now.
As for the total, I was expecting it to be around 44.
The Iron will likely be involved in lower-scoring games as they’ll lean heavily on former NFL first-round pick Trent Richardson to shorten the game a bit and on what appears to be their stout defense to keep the opposing offense in check. It remains to be seen how much of their Week 1 shutout was due to their defense against an inept Memphis offense.
PICK: Salt Lake +8
Arizona Hotshots at Memphis Express
- Spread: Arizona -12.5
- Over/Under: 47.5
- Time: 8 p.m. ET on Saturday
- TV: NFL Network
There’s almost no doubt that Arizona is the best team in the league.
A lot of credit could be given to general manager Phil Savage, who has nearly two decades of NFL scouting and executive experience. Not to mention he was the executive director of the Senior Bowl for most of the past decade. It would appear that a league that’s in its inaugural season and in which a draft was conducted to fill out every roster that the GM position would have the biggest impact on each team’s success this season.
This matchup is particularly intriguing from a betting perspective given that it’s between arguably the best and worst teams in the league.
I had pegged the line to open around Arizona -8.5, so the double-digit opener was a bit surprising. Granted, the sportsbooks are purely trying to divide action, so they’re likely anticipating heavy Arizona action. I still think that number is way too high and establishes too much disparity in a brand new league after a single game from each team.
Having said that, I think the smart play here is to take the points and just pray that the Memphis quarterback situation can improve this week — it’s not like it can get any worse.
Of all the games, this is the one I’m least confident on, so I might even wait to see if this line gets bet up any higher before pulling the trigger.
My projected total of 48.5 is just a tad higher than the line as of writing, but there’s probably not enough edge to pull the trigger yet. As we saw from Week 1, the score of the early game on Saturday could impact this total as the market is still trying to estimate what the average score in this league will look like.
Orlando Apollos at San Antonio Commanders
- Spread: Orlando -6.5
- Over/Under: 45
- Time: 4 p.m. ET on Sunday
- TV: CBS Sports Network
A common theme I’m seeing in these Week 2 opening lines is that I’m banking on the premise of “these teams are still closer than we think” after a single week.
I figured Orlando would be a slight road favorite in the -2.5 range, but nearly a touchdown favorite is too much. The Apollos are clearly the second-best team in the league, just behind Arizona. However, San Antonio is no pushover and likely a .500 or better team.
Both of these teams were very close in odds to win the championship and regular-season win totals heading into the season, so it’s remarkable to see this much of a jump in power ratings after one game.
San Antonio +6.5 is my favorite bet on the board as of right now.
I had pegged this total to be closer to 47.5, so there might be some value in the over here. As we established earlier, I’m a bit less confident in these totals as we’re all still estimating league scoring right now. I’m much more willing to bet on the market overreacting to the disparity between teams via the spread.
PICK: San Antonio +6.5
Atlanta Legends at San Diego Fleet
- Spread: San Diego -9.5
- Over/Under: 44.5
- Time: 8 p.m. ET on Sunday
- TV: NFL Network
Atlanta had its head coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Michael Vick step down shortly before the season started. To no surprise, the Legends struggled in their first game, losing 40-6 at Orlando.
You could debate whether Memphis or Atlanta are the worst team in the league right now. On the other side of the ball, San Diego looks like a bottom-half team as well. The Fleet had some serious offensive line issues that nearly got their quarterback Mike Bercovici killed.
Andddd he's deadpic.twitter.com/14B1ymcfTG
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) February 10, 2019
I was anticipating a line closer to -6 or -6.5, so I am definitely taking the +9.5 here as I think it’s too soon to make a team like San Diego close to a double-digit favorite — no matter how bad Atlanta looked.
The total is close to where I pegged it. It’s worth pointing out that since this is the final game of Week 2 that the total will be impacted quite a bit by how low/high scoring the first three matchups are.
PICK: Atlanta +9.5