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The Ultimate Week 1 AAF Betting Guide: Whatever You Do, Fade Christian Hackenberg

Feb 10, 2019 11:00 PM EST
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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

  • The first week of AAF is set to begin this weekend and the Arizona Hotshots (+250) have the best odds to win it all.
  • Here we break down down the season storylines and four Week 1 matchups.

Just when you thought it was time to pretend to enjoy basketball for the next three months: We have more football!

The Alliance of American Football league gets started this Saturday night on CBS to kick off a 10 week regular season featuring eight teams that resemble throwback Backyard Sports create-a-team options:

  • Arizona Hotshots
  • Atlanta Legends
  • Birmingham Iron
  • Memphis Express
  • Orlando Apollos
  • Salt Lake Stallions
  • San Antonio Commanders
  • San Diego Fleet

The league features a number of new rules that seem to be designed around increasing the pace of play and eliminating kicking:

  • Extra point kicks are gone, so every touchdown will be followed by a two-point conversion.
  • Kickoffs are also gone. Instead, teams will start with the ball at their own 25-yard line.
  • Onside kicks will be replaced by the option to attempt a fourth-and-10 at the team’s own 35-yard line.
  • The play clock will be 30 seconds compared to the NFL’s usual 40-second clock. The are also no television timeouts and reportedly 60% fewer commercials.

The idea that these modified rules could lead to more offense looks good so far, as the league’s four preseason games produced at least 44 points in every contest with an average of 51 points.

The Arizona Hotshots are the opening favorites in the AAF’s inaugural season.

Odds via Westgate


It’s going to take more than a few weeks of action before we have any meaningful amount of statistics for this brand-new league, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an edge to be found.

Preseason

Preseason stats are largely useless, and I’m guessing that point is especially true in a one-game sample for expansion leagues. Still, it’s quite literally the only statistical information we have about each team to this point. Also, some of the efficiency and run/pass volume numbers could be helpful to begin to figure out the offensive identities around the league.

(All preseason stats are courtesy of noextrapoints.com.)

Offense

  • Arizona, San Antonio and Orlando engineered the highest-scoring offenses of the week, but San Diego’s passing game stole the show as the week’s most-productive unit. Their efficiency was also solid with the obvious exception of three interceptions.
  • Orlando’s minimal volume in a 31-point effort can be explained by an interception return for a touchdown along with two scoring drives that consisted of four or fewer plays.
  • Atlanta (+500) is the only losing team with better than +1000 odds to win the title. They joined Arizona and San Diego among the week’s top-three most-efficient overall offenses in terms of yards per play.
  • Memphis’ commitment to the run despite both poor efficiency and pass-friendly game flow will be something to watch in upcoming weeks.
  • Salt Lake and Arizona easily boasted the top-two most-productive rushing attacks. San Antonio was the only other team to score multiple touchdowns on the ground.
  • Weather isn’t expected to be too much of a factor with such a southern-focused league, but San Antonio will be the only team with an indoor stadium and will play their home games at the Alamodome.

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Power Rankings and Team Notes

Depth charts are anything but certain entering Week 1. Still, we can learn a lot about each respective team based by focusing on their coaching staff and quarterback.

Below are my subjective preseason power rankings that are heavily weighted by each coaching staff’s track record of somewhat-recent success along with quarterback play:

1. Salt Lake Stallions

  • The Stallions will turn to longtime coach Dennis Erickson as their leader. Erickson has local ties after serving as the Utah running backs, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach from 2013-2016.
  • Erickson managed to lead top-40 scoring offenses in three of his five seasons as Arizona State’s head coach from 2007-2011, although none of his teams at Utah managed to crack even the top-50 units.
  • Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano bounced around the NFL as an offensive assistant for skill position players for about a decade, but most-recently worked as the wide receiver coach at George State from 2014-2016.
  • Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson most recently worked as the Bills defensive backs coach from 2013-2016.
  • Josh Woodrum possesses surprising athleticism. His three-cone time of 6.74 seconds is the fifth-fastest time by a quarterback at the NFL combine since 2006 and is on par with someone like Danny Amendola (6.81).
  • The former Liberty quarterback posted a 61-30 touchdown/interception ratio and chipped in an additional 16 scores on the ground during his four collegiate seasons.
  • Woodrum spent time with the Giants, Colts, Bears, Bills and Ravens from 2016-2018, ultimately completing a respectable 37-of-55 passes (67%) for 442 yards (8.04 Y/A) with three touchdowns and one interception to go along with another 55 yards and two scores on the ground in seven preseason appearances.

  • Longtime NFL backups Matt Asiata and Branden Oliver are expected to work behind Joel Bouagnon, who combines three-down size (6-foot-1 and 230-pounds) with solid college production (3,280 total yards and 34 TDs in 43 games at Northern Illinois) to potentially help make up for his lack of breakaway speed (4.7-second 40-yard dash).
  • The wide receiver room is fairly strong thanks to the presence of former Nebraska No. 1 receiver Kenny Bell, athletic-freak Jordan Leslie (86th-percentile SPARQ-x score) along with potential Antwaan Randle El doppelganger De’Mornay Pierson-El.

2. San Antonio Commanders