Omaha is only favored by 3 at home vs Santa Cruz. This is a ridiculous line as this is going to be like the SCU/DEN debacle all over again. Get your bets in now boys before the Vegas boys realize their massive mistake.
1-2 last week... brutal scenes as the Sodbusters pick up steam behind QB Woodard's return. Also not really sure how the Brawlers collapsed so comprehensively, but it looks like they couldn't get the ground game going so QB Staat had to throw and... well, not a good look for them.
This week, we're going to take a look two mismatches and one potential public overreaction...
Las Vegas (-9) at Honolulu - The Rounders took care of business against the Toros last week but QB McKnight taking a tumble makes this week's matchup a potential value play. LVS desperately needs to stay healthy towards the end of the season and I expect they'll be resting their star passer this week.
HON got embarrassed by BCI last week, but they've been a solid middle of the pack team with a tremendous ground game. Averaging nearly 7.5 ypc, the duo of RBs Gaiter and Boone should be carrying the load this week against a LVS defense that has traditionally struggled against the run. Losing so many starters on defense has taken a toll on their metrics though, so maybe HON can get away with a bit more than usual.
The Rounders should be pulling this one out, but I like the Hammerheads to cover. 24-17 LVS.
Miami at Fargo (-9) - In my most anticipated game last week, the Sodbusters put the Privateers straight into the dumpster. Though they weren't really able to contain the Fulton and Schreiber ground game, SCU simply could not keep running the ball after falling behind in the second quarter. Woodard and the aerial attack carried the day for FAR, but that's why I think MIA has a good shot to cover this week.
The Talons still have one of the most talented defensive units in the league. I pegged them as the #10 defense going into 2059 and although they've struggled in the first half of the season, I expect them to pull it together. DE Miyabuchi and the defensive front should pressure Woodard and I like CBs Eastman and Perry in coverage enough that Crabtree shouldn't have as free of a game as he's had.
FAR is really clicking this season, but I think MIA has enough to stay within the number. 30-24 FAR.
Durham (-3) at St Louis - This is a crazy one to me. I love Ortiz and Arnold as much as the next guy, but I can't trust the Bulldogs laying points. The Arch has a some great veterans on the roster that aren't happy with their recent results.
DUR enjoys most of their success when RB Arnold chews up yards and clock on the ground. Ortiz has the arm to make fantastic throws, but you can see the inexperience in his middle of the pack 58.3% completion rate. Even that is a bit inflated by the attention defenses have to give to Richie Arnold. What little success STL has seen has been on the defensive side as they are generally able to hold teams to manageable averages (11th in ypcarry and 8th in ypcatch). The struggles come when rookie QB Joyner and the offense repeatedly give the ball back over (currently 30th in the league with 17!).
I think that STL's defensive line has the goods to slow down Arnold-- they've done it with NOS' Alexander Mueller and SHR's CJ Russell. Then when Ortiz has to air it out, CB Traxler and SS England will be waiting. I just hope Joyner and the offense can get something going and not let it go to waste. 21-20 STL.
8-10 on the season, things are looking bad for us... Perhaps I'm giving too much weight to 2058 results. I'll dial that back a little bit...
In any case, some interesting games this week and all of them will be better than watching Detroit play:
Brooklyn (-4) at Atlantic City - The Phantoms are looking like one of the worst teams in the CFL right now posting some real duds on both sides of the ball. As the team starts most games slowly, journeyman QB Amadro is seeing his attempts tick up through the last few weeks. RB Trey Keith has been quietly very efficient on the ground... it would be nice if they didn't have to dig themselves out of 7-10 point holes in the second quarter. That's pretty much it for bright spots though. I pegged ACI at 9th best defense going into the season, but I don't know if they're even in the top half of units in the league right now.
The Brawlers, in stark contrast, are quickly becoming my favorite team to watch. These guys are a Steel Curtain for all but the most talented rosters and they are playing good team football. The Brawlers are continuing to pressure opposing QBs despite losing DE Springer this offseason, and now they've learned how to tackle and chase down ball carriers. What DC Wendell Blackwell has done with this unit is nothing short of miraculous. The offense is set up to partner with the stifling defense perfectly, grinding out games with RBs Shannon and Boyer with a few passes to WR Fernandes sprinkled in. Time of possession is king in BKN and I see this recipe going far.
It's hard to see any world where the Phantoms don't come out on the losing end. BKN wins handily, 24-10.
Fargo (-3) at Santa Cruz - The big storyline here is RB Fulton vs the team that franchise tagged him twice, then traded him for mere pennies on the dollar. Fulton is having a great season and might be the reason the offense is actually getting somewhere but the team improved defensively as well. The addition of veteran DT Mario Corral has had immediate impact against the run and CB Humphries shutting down half the field keeps QBs on their toes.
Rookie RB Ian Holzer has stepped into the massive shoes Fulton left in Fargo to somewhat mixed results. The opportunities are there, but the rookie's struggles have turned the spotlight onto the immensely talented WR Dakota Crabtree. Whether the ball is coming from Woodard or Schafluetzel, Crabtree eats up chunks of the field with every catch. CB Humphries will have his hands full with the second best receiver in the CFL. Perhaps because they've been a run first team for so long, the Sodbusters are showing the ability now to shut down opponents' rushers. I'm cautiously optimistic, but until they face better competition than the San Andreas division, I stand by my #25 preseason ranking.
Turnovers will feature prominently here as both teams have trouble keeping possessions going. I think SCU has what it takes to cover and probably win here in spite of rumors that QB Woodard is starting under center. 27-24 SCU.
Tucson at Las Vegas (-14) - I know, I know, trusting any amount of money with the Toros is not what anyone wants to do right now, but injuries are piling up for the Rounders at a rate that can't possibly be sustainable. DE Johnstone, DT Sjostrand, LB Gillespie, CB Sexton, and SS Sweazy are all nicked up starters that may or may not see play this week. LVS at 6-2 is still in great shape to make the playoffs this year, but they need to get healthy if they want to avoid a round 1 knockout. I expect as many starters as possible to sit and rest up this week against a bottom of the barrel TUC squad.
The Toros are, in their own words, an almost team in an almost season. Close losses are their MO as they have only lost by double digits once against BKN (the single best defense in the CFL). I like where GM sverngold is taking the team, but the fans are surely frustrated with how long it's taking. QB O'Neill is still a work in progress, but he and RB Johnson should find some success this week against a decimated Rounders squad.
The Toros will cover this week in a close game, but I think they'll find a way to lose in the end. 30-27 LVS.
Had to take a break after the beating we took in week 6... need to rest up and recalibrate. It's a damn good thing too since I started drafting a post and all my picks lost. In any case, we have a couple road dogs that I like this week:
Boston at Hartford (-2) - BOS is coming off their bye week looking to bounce back from two close losses to BKN and IWC. CB Alworth and RB Barker missed a few weeks, but should be healthy enough this week. The retooled offensive line without OG Kanervala is a bigger question mark, but they looked OK against BKN and I think they'll continue to gel as the season goes on.
HAR is still just a mess... against a DET team in a tailspin they were unable to convert on excellent field position and two trips to the red zone. Rookie QB Barker's ghastly interceptions practically handed the win to the Vampires who were held to a pathetic 250 offensive yards. It wasn't the worst offensive performance this week, but it was up there. I think Vegas must be expecting Barker and Alworth to sit out, but I don't think they will as BOS needs to pick up the easy wins if they want to return to the playoffs.
BOS wins this one on the road behind a rejuvenated Thurman Barker, 27-20.
Denver at Death Valley (-7) - DEN got put in the dumpster against FAR this week. Even with two interceptions on the Sodbusters' side of the field, QB Allen and the Dynomite were unable to post a competitive scoreline. DEN's top flight defense has regressed significantly this season, falling to the middle of the pack in many metrics, but the talent is still there. I hope they'll be able to shake it off and perform this week against a Copperheads team that probably has not been favored by 7 or more points since 2055.
DVY has their own issues on defense and a team that ranks dead last in passing yards allowed and 31st in total yards allowed simply can't be fixed in one week. They probably would be last if their opponent last week was anyone other than ELP. The team has a weakness in the secondary that I hope an experienced QB in Cooper Allen can exploit. If DEN loses here, I'd be first in line calling for changes.
I chalk up this week's loss to some Bye Week shenanigans. The Dynomite pick this one up 30-24 in what could be the ugliest game this week.
Kansas City at Atlantic City (-2) - The Phantoms conclude their tour of the Great Lakes with a game at home against the Storm. At 1-2 against the GL division, ACI struggled against the gritty Midwestern defenses. QB Amadro and the boys are in for a tough one as the Storm are probably the most complete defensive package in the CFL right now. The injection of youth with rookies LB Edwin West and DT Joe Butterfield has revitalized this unit and there is effort and hustle here that a lot of teams lack, ACI included.
There's certainly a chance for the Phantoms if they can shut down the Grueneich-Van Pelt connection, but KCY has the weapons on offense to make do. They aren't running the ball particularly well, but this matchup could be a good one if LBs Mangrum and Crawford are forced into coverage. Amadro will need to find more success with WRs Stephenson and Keith than they have against other GL teams and I just don't see it happening.
KCY knocks the Phantoms down this week in a low scoring affair 20-13.