Well... we flew too close to the sun guys. 0/3 ATS this week is a brutal result, though 15/21 is still OK for the season.
Last week's recap:
- TEX is officially the worst team in the league through 7 weeks. No discipline on D, careless offense, it's no wonder that players are posting cryptic emojis on Twitter.
- Speaking of bad teams, El Paso and New Orleans both picked up wins (and covered). Rocketman looked great against a reasonable Toros defense and the Voodoos beat up on a hapless Lovallo-less Stingers squad.
- QB Marischen turned back the clock this week against the Privateers. Even though he wasn't particularly efficient against a tough SCU secondary, he didn't throw any INTs and made a couple good plays with his legs.
- ACI's OC Pillmeier has some explaining to do for that call at the end of the first half against STL. Haven't seen it yet? Check it out for yourself...
- DET looked in good shape but really struggled to stop CLE on 3rd down. Referees calling back 100+ yards of DET's offense was also suspect.
Let's try and be a little more careful this week... Safe plays only! BANKROLL BUILDERS!
Iowa City (-3) at San Antonio - Our first win of the week comes courtesy of the Stingers. The team is in complete freefall without RB Lovallo who is expected to sit out this week with a strained foot ligament.
SAN just can't get anything going without RB Lovallo. His gravity facilitates everything for the team. Without Lovallo, their rushing attack ranks dead last by a significant margin at 3.01 ypc. Lovallo is also their most effective receiving threat, at 12.6 ypc and 10.2 ypa on 16 targets. A criminally underused talent under new GM hbcook86 through the first half of the season, I fear his injury will be used as an excuse for the team's poor results. The injury isn't the problem; if he was used more the Stingers would be in a much better spot!
The Soldiers have struggled this year, but a bright spot has been their offensive line. Against this opponent it should be enough. Much of their talent on defense is in their front seven and if IWC can neutralize that, this game should be a walk in the park. QB Joslyn is one of the better pocket passers in the game if he can get into his rhythm and the three headed monster of WR Rhodes, Garcia, and Van Dyke should feast on short-medium routes against an aging SAN secondary.
This game isn't particularly exciting, but should be free money for the short road favorite. Isn't that what we REALLY want? 27-14 IWC.
Atlantic City at Baltimore (-4) - One week without the Cardiac Kings of BAL and I'm already missing the excitement. It goes without saying I like the Phantoms plus the points, but I'll break down this defensive chess match just a bit more.
BAL boasts the second toughest front against the run and an aggressive secondary that can win games if the dice land right. Future HOFer DE Johnstone isn't getting after the QB as easily as he used to but it's clear his presence is helping sophomore DE Garrett Hitchcock. It could be the attention Malachi is getting from opposing OL or maybe it's just some mentorship from the 10 year veteran, but DE Hitchcock is hitting new highs this season. He's a physical freak that simply must be double teamed off the snap-- and even when he is, he still wrecks plays.
On the other side, ACI isn't much worse against the run and infinitely better in coverage. The Phantoms secondary plays a more conservative style which doesn't yield as many INTs, but consistently limits opponents to 20% less yardage through the air. An effective pass rush helps as well-- this unit is quietly 4th in PRPct without a true superstar leading the way (BAL is #1 with DE Hitchcock). The glue that holds this together is their stellar linebacker trio in LB Mangrum, Crawford, and Barker and it's a marvel to watch them read opposing offenses.
Now for the ugly part... the Bombers traded for QB O'Neill this offseason but the offense is still very much mediocre. Running the ball isn't really a strength and they only do it so teams don't completely sell out against the pass. But opponents probably aren't too concerned against the pass either as O'Neill has yet to develop a strong connection with any of his receivers. QB Hauer will likely get the start for ACI this week, but make no mistake that this offense will go through 1st round pick RB Hitchcock. WRs Forrester and Stephenson have seen their production decline precipitously and it's tough to expect better with either QB under center.
I'm very curious to see how BAL's creative coaching staff will eke out a win today, but I don't think they'll cover and that's where the value should be. Give me the points with ACI though I definitely won't be taking the ML in what should be a low scoring contest. BAL 17-14.
Oregon (-1) at Alaska - The Kodiaks have featured in the column in previous weeks as the darling of the public bettor and here again they're a popular play. It seems their drubbing of a mediocre SCU team has convinced some folks that the team is back, but I'm not so convinced.
A quick review of their game against the Privateers is all you need to see the mismatches up and down the field. QB Marischen against QB Hardy-- not even a contest. I had SCU in my leans last week, but that was predicated on RB Fulton getting some touches. He got 12 carries for 71 yards. Just 12! That right there tells you it was even a coaching mismatch as SCU's OC Chandler failed to utilize his best weapon. The secondary played about as well as they could, but you simply can't stop Jimmy without pressure. ALA looks like they've adjusted to life without WR Farley but they are a far cry from the offensive powerhouse of recent history. Games against FAR and CLE show how poorly they perform when QB Marischen is pressured. SEA and ATL have shown how teams can reasonably expect to simply outlast the Kodiaks. I suspect ORE will take the latter route.
I'll admit I haven't really been paying attention to the Bandits this season, but I'm looking at them now. They're leading the league in points per game by a significant margin and are the only team averaging 30+. It's great to see DET's old backup take the reins in ORE and arguably play better than DET's current starter. With receiving talent like WR Spradling and TE Weikel and a tough rusher in RB Lillis, it's not hard to imagine how the Bandits are scoring. Opponents can stop one, MAYBE two, but someone (defense included!) always puts points on the board for ORE.
That being said, and I know ORE fans will not want to listen, one does need to temper expectations. The Bandits have had the benefit of playing 3 teams from the regularly disappointing San Andreas division. I daresay that they haven't really been tested since week 1 against SEA and even then, they had a +5 TO margin and only won by 13. I think the Spartans win that matchup if they play again and we'll see that in week 11. The Bandits defense has been a bit banged up but that's no excuse for their numbers. They can't stop the run, haven't had much success rushing the passer, and play aggressively on the back end to make up for their lack of talent in the secondary. This team is definitely focused on scoring points more than stopping opponents from scoring.
The sportsbooks I've looked at are reporting a significant ticket count on ALA. That's not surprising-- it's hard to bet against QB Marischen as an underdog. The point total opened at 55 and has since ticked up to 57 so many are expecting fireworks. I'm inclined to agree with that and will back ORE to win by outlasting the Kodiaks-- 34-27.
As a side note, if I were the ALA front office I'd be looking to trade for another strong receiver, no matter the cost. WR Russell just isn't cutting it. NOS, TEX, and BOS are all teams that could be looking to trade their receiving talent to salvage a lost season. We're getting to the twilight of Marischen's career and it would be an absolute shame if he missed the playoffs.
ELP @ HON (-6)
ATL @ BCI (-7)
IWC (-3) @ SAO
KCY @ NOS (-7)
DVY (-3) @ SCU
STL (-2) @ HAR
MIA @ FAR (-2)
BOS @ DUR (-4)
LVS (-13) @ TUC
CLE @ TEN (+0)
DEN @ LAS (-2)
DET @ SHR (-5)
Yeah I don't know why I like all the road teams this week...
Okay, how do the sharps keep crushing it? Split action on SHR/TEN suggested quite a few public bettors on the underdog but the overwhelming majority of sharp money was on SEA and they got there. Luckily we were on that side too, but I don't consider myself a sharp!
2/3 ATS this week puts us up to 15/18... still a great clip but of course bankroll management is key. Also don't be parlaying these plays like a crazy person...
Last week's recap:
- Baltimore games are always wildly entertaining, how on earth are they 5-1?
- Cleveland is rolling, is QB Rod Minton this year's Ortiz?
- Speaking of teams that are rolling, the Ring of Ice is bringing the HEAT! The division has scored 613 points through 6 weeks, over 100 points more than the next two divisions (ROF and Deep South at ~490).
- El Paso continues their implosion as they get blown out AGAIN... between them and New Orleans, I'm not sure which team has been a bigger disappointment. Both of these teams have the talent but the season is already slipping away.
- Shreveport's coaching staff is phenomenal and I will no longer be betting against them (on the moneyline at least).
On to WEEK 7 and more rivalry games:
Los Angeles at Las Vegas (-7) - The biggest Jekyll and Hyde team hits the road against Mr. Consistent this week and while there could be fireworks, we're tuning in for the VALUE.
The last 6 weeks have been wild for the Outlaws. You blow the doors off of TUC, drop a goose egg at NOS, get into a shoot-out with ORE that ends in a tie, and squeak by MIA off a missed extra point... I don't think anyone knows what exactly to expect from LAS. The only two things we can count on are a strong ground game behind a stellar offensive line and a smothering secondary that leads the league in interceptions. But from QB Bailey? Who knows! The gunslinger has the green light from OC Dwayne Clancy and the team lives and dies by his play. No game illustrates this better than week 5 against MIA-- the Outlaws were down 13 going into the 4th quarter thanks to TWO Bailey interceptions (one taken to the house!) but 12 minutes late they're up by 1! This team loves to play against LVS and I think we'll get their best this week.
On the other end of the spectrum, QB McKnight is quietly leading the Rounders to another playoff run. I called him Mr. Consistent and you can see why-- passing yardage in his last 5 games: 208, 188, 188, 188, 194. The team has adopted a champion's mentality and is just looking to stay healthy for the playoffs (yes, even this early in the season). You can see players letting up just a tiny bit to avoid injury, particularly on defense. Their metrics have dropped but if it means everyone's ready to go come the postseason it will have been worth it.
I like LAS to cover the +7. The Rounders will probably do just enough to win-- or QB Bailey will do just enough to lose-- but seven points is just too much for this matchup. The last four times these teams met ended in a margin of victory of 6 points or less, this will be the fifth time: LVS 30-27.
Brooklyn (-2) at Omaha - This is a revenge game I've circled on my calendar since the schedules were released. OMA was a betting favorite in the conference round and was well on their way to pull out the win if not for an incredible interception by LB Vance off a tip from CB Luckman. Now, 10 months later we get the line and ask ourselves: Is there value on OMA as the underdogs?
2054 feels like a long time ago for the Arrowheads. Every season since WR Dole arrived has been a deep playoff run but they've been stopped short 4 times in a row. Last season was particularly disappointing and I'm sure QB Harrison wants that ill-fated throw back. Well, that won't happen but what COULD happen is a nice little dish of revenge. The Regular Season Kings have corrected course after dropping two games to BAL and MIA even as WR Dole nurses an bruised sternum, but their last three games have looked far from convincing. Newly acquired RB Duane Johnson is out with a broken foot and whatever load they were hoping to take off of WR Dole is just right back where it was.
QB Harrison's efficiency has dropped this season. He's still on pace to throw for 4,000 yards and 34 TDs, which is pretty amazing, but that drop is enough for opponents to close the gap. The Arrowheads defense continues to be in the bottom third by almost every metric and after watching their last three games, I can pretty confidently say that this team should actually be 1-5. ACI and STL both should have closed out their games. ACI's K Young missed two reasonable FGs and STL... well, let's just say that was a bonafide miracle. For those of you who missed it, OMA punts from their 25 with 1 minute left in the 4th quarter down 6 points. Game over right? Well, STL's S Vanhorn fumbles on the return and rookie LB Carmody scoops it up and runs to the end zone. Unbelieveable. BOS probably should've won but I don't know what's going on there.
The Brawlers are carrying their 2058 form through and look just as scary. They are dominating time of possession, boast a +9 TO margin, and QB Staat is managing the games perfectly. They look singularly focused on D and keep opponents out of scoring range with such consistency I can't help but think this is a mismatch all the way-- it wasn't broken and they sure didn't fix it.
Action is split on this game as the public can't help but back any team with WR Dole, but I lean the other way. When he initially went down, the timetable for his full recovery was about week 7 or 8. He looked fine against BOS, but this team has some significant issues if he isn't performing. I don't think they'll be gifted the win this week and I can only see this game going one way-- a decisive win for the runner-ups, BKN 17-10.
Cleveland (-3) at Detroit - Though it's early in the season, the Great Lakes division is looking like a two horse race between CLE and DET and this week's matchup could play a huge part in determining the winner.
DET is bouncing back nicely from two opening losses with three wins on the trot. After trading for OG Brooks, the team's offensive focus has tilted to the run (>50% split through 3 weeks) behind RBs Marsh and Keith and that has opened up massive opportunities for WR Von Wyss over the top. Despite some serious regression from #2 receiving target TE Voinovich, the Vampires lead the league in yards per catch and are top 5 in yards per carry. Against SAN, TEN, and BOS they've scored 11 TDs on 11 trips to the red zone and are one of the most dangerous scoring team in that span. The defense has played well too, boasting top 5 marks in OPP. yardage allowed both on the ground and in the air.
For as good as DET has been, CLE has been right there step for step. The Sentries have been consistently dominating since day one and they've been successful by winning in the trenches. Led by DT Willis on defense and C DeGirolamo on offense, the Sentries have largely stopped opponents from even getting started. The game is easier when your team can do things (run the ball, disrupt the QB, etc.) that your opponent simply can't. RB Mansour and TE Colin Lane continue to be versatile mismatches for defenses while rookie QB Rod Minton, when he isn't just handing the ball off, is given plenty of time to go through his progressions. In fact, they've been so successful that in all 5 of their games, CLE has been ahead going into the 4th quarter!
This is a fascinating matchup up and down the field. Can DT Willis and a young CLE DL beat the experience of C Dubester and DET's OL? The Vampires defensive front are obviously no slouches either-- will NT Schindlbeck have the upper hand against the likely C DeGirolamo and RG Kirk double team? Will TE Colin Lane and WR Rusty Von Wyss continue to be unstoppable mismatches?
Injuries may be the key in this week's tilt-- CLE's LB Wilson is expected to return to the field this week after missing the last two games with a foot sprain. The Sentries didn't skip a beat in his absence but his coverage skills will surely help against DET's frequent two TE sets. DET's DE Gradkowski is doubtful this week with a pulled groin and most likely will not play. I suspect snaps will be split between 3rd year DE Coffey and rookie DE Hoover, but they have some incredibly big shoes to fill. On the other hand, Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner QB Minton is questionable with a sprained knee. If he isn't good to go, expect 4th year QB Kelley to suit up. He hasn't played a snap in nearly 10 months nor did he take part in training camp and could be rusty, but with 16 games as a starter in Santa Cruz, it shouldn't take too long to get back up to speed.
I think there's value in DET+3... they may even win, but I'll take the points. Look for the line to drift up a bit as we get closer to gametime-- LB Wilson hasn't been activated at the time of this writing but I could see some shops moving to +3.5 or even +4 when he does. The Vampires are too hot to get blown out at home: CLE 27-24.
BCI (-7) @ TEX
ORE (-6) @ DVY
IWC @ SHR (-11)
KCY @ TEN (-6)
ACI @ STL (-2)
ALA (-4) @ SCU
FAR (-2) @ DEN
BOS @ HAR (-9)
TUC @ ELP (-6)
SEA (-7) @ ATL
SAN @ NOS (-7)
3/3 ATS this week puts us up to 13/15 which would probably get us blacklisted from any sportsbook in Vegas. Of course, the NFL is much harder but I digress...
DUR and HAR turned into the snoozefest I was expecting... and SAN's offensive woes continue. TUC is in for a rough season but as long as spreads don't get too out of hand, there's going to be value. DEN are a great squad and I would certainly back them to win and cover this week as well, but we must look elsewhere in the league for our plays.
Shreveport (-3) at Tennessee - One of the best rivalries in the league gets featured this week because anytime the home team is catching points against a subpar QB... we have to take it.
I have to give it up to the Pride's coaching staff-- those guys are getting every last drop out of their players. QB Nolan posted the best QBR of the week throwing for 184 yards, 3 TDs, and no interceptions in the face of a pretty fierce pass rush. RB Russell is turning into not only one of the most productive backs in the league, but one of the most consistent as well. He has only gotten caught behind the line of scrimmage 8 times out of 91 attempts-- up there with the other big names in RB Ian Holzer (10 out of 121) and ahead of guys like RB Gmerek (13 out of 108). The defense has been a stellar unit too-- who needs high offensive production when your opponents average just 15 points per game?
Even though the Militia is winless the last two weeks, they're still a talented bunch and my frontrunner out of the division. QB Porto is having to do more as RB Zhang continues to struggle but it looks like he's up to the task. Not only is he throwing more than he ever has through 5 weeks, but he's being much smarter about scrambling too. If RB Zhang or WR Picton can find their rhythm, the wins will come in bunches.
This is a very even matchup but at the end of the day, I have my doubts about QB Nolan. Will he be able to win in a shootout with QB Porto? He may have the better receivers but that can only compensate so much. Give me the home team to get back on track against a Pride outside their jungle 32-24 TEN.
Santa Cruz at Atlanta (-8) - I'm putting on the snorkel to find some value in teams I'm not so familiar with but this one looks surprisingly palatable. We're looking at an 8 point spread between two teams that have averaged a nearly identical ~17.5 points per game.
The Wolfpack have all but abandoned the ground game in favor of the downfield pass and against some of the best teams in the league, it hasn't worked. Last week's bye was a much needed reprieve from the toughest stretch of schedule I've seen in a while and it remains to be seen if the game plan is still "Give QB Clements the ball and cross your fingers." Despite not picking up many wins, the team's 7.69 YPA through the air is impressive and can easily get out of hand if unchecked.
On the other end of the spectrum are the boys from SCU where ground and pound is the name of the game. Or at least it would be if they weren't always getting down double digits early in football games. The ageless wonder RB Fulton continues to be effective in his 9th season but he needs the ball to do his best work. With CB Humphries on track to return this week, I think the Privateers will be able to keep the score close and stick to their usual gameplan. After all, since they traded QB Kelley there's really no other option...
Give me the points with SCU to cover-- though I have my doubts as to whether they can win, so ATL 24-20 is my prediction.
Alaska at Seattle (-1) - One of the bigger "Pros vs. Joes" game this week, ALA at SEA is also looking like one of the biggest bet games for the books. Just about everyone and their mothers is coming in and grabbing the Kodiaks at plus money but it doesn't look like a lock to me.
ALA just doesn't have the horses it used to without WR Farley and QB Marischen looking like a shadow of his former self on the field. RB McWhorter and the defense were as much a part of the Kodiaks' last two wins as Marischen and I think it signals a real shift in the league. One of the brightest stars in football really could be on their way out. The team isn't bad, but they just don't do anything at a particularly elite level. It could be the team just trying to figure out life without WR Farley, but they need to find their answer soon.
Meanwhile, the Spartan's QB Emmons is having the best season of his career. It was hard getting recognition when QBs Marischen and Doser were fighting over the top spot in the division but it looks like SEA has put the right talent in place. With WRs Hartsock and Wojdylo hitting their strides (and WR Dole being banged up), the Spartans have the most explosive aerial attack in the league. Unlike ATL, however, they can and do gash opponents on the ground as well. The defense is serviceable, particularly against the run, but this team is going to win by outrunning their opponents, not by trading blows and bleeding clock.
Call me crazy, but I'm going to back SEA in this game. The matchup is good and the timing couldn't be better. I realize the Spartans beat the Kodiaks just once since 2054 but this is as good a spot as any for the next W. SEA wins and covers at home in a shootout, 34-30.
2/3 ATS this week puts us up to 10/12 through 4 weeks. A very nice record indeed. The two losses we saw this season were some pretty bad beats too...
Week 5 brings some interesting matchups-- probably the most interesting is LVS vs FAR but I don't see value in betting that game. It could go either way.
Denver (-11) at Tucson - Nothing to really analyze here-- Denver is about to plow. Tucson is achieving peak rebuild and has traded not one, not two, but three of their best players in an attempt to collect draft picks for an upcoming revitalization. I've heard that the Toros owners are getting mighty tired of losing and everyone and everything is going to be looked at under the microscope. The players don't want to lose, of course, but I mean... come on. The only reason anyone would watch this game is to see WR Nikolaus but he's not likely to play due to injury.
So I'll take the rest of this space and just say Denver has a nice thing going. They really should've won at home against the champs and kept pace with the usually high octane offense by feeding the ball to rookie RB Eagleton. The defense was a success at every level but somehow the Rounders pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the end. Shwiner didn't look quite as good as he did in earlier games but I think he's got a bright future.
If DEN doesn't get up for this game, I could see TUC covering this spread but I'll take the Dynomite in a blowout 35-7.
San Antonio (-4) at Kansas City - A couple of teams are suffering from early season injuries and KCY is one of them. QB Grueneich and RB Barker were both banged up and have missed a few games but it looks like they'll probably play. The Storm can't afford to lose too many more games with CLE making a bid for the season by trading for QB Kelley and DET looking like they might have figured things out a bit.
The Storm rallied around QB Sasser against OMA but fell short down the stretch. With Barker out the next week, SHR absolutely demolished the Storm allowing just 29 rushing yards and sacking QB Sasser a whopping 9 times. It's hard to really say how good this KCY offense is, but it's clear the supporting cast isn't good enough when either Barker or Grueneich are out.
The Stingers have had a rough go this season under new GM hbcook. He seems to be a firm believer in spreading the ball around and RB Lovallo has seen fewer touches as a result. The generational offensive talents of the league can't do much without the ball and Lovallo isn't getting the chance to carry this team. Will the Stingers try to stick to that plan again this week or will they let the reigning MVP take them to the promised land?
I'm thinking KCY will hurry their stars back to get more wins under their belt. I like the Storm to win or at least cover here at home, KCY 20-17.
Durham at Hartford (-6) - Just a week ago I thought this would be a pillow fight between two rebuilding rosters but after the hurt DUR put on BAL, I'm actually looking forward to this. Oh yeah and this'll be the first duel between QB Ortiz and QB Barker since they were drafted 1 and 2 last season.
Neither team was expecting anything for a little while but a surprising postseason appearance by DUR got many thinking they were already done with their rebuild. Down 0-3, the team snapped out of whatever funk they were in and dismantled the Bombers on all fronts. QB Ortiz looked unflappable in the face of the Johnstone rush and hit tight passes against one of the top ballhawking secondaries. He certainly looked every bit the first overall pick as the defense came up with three turnovers and put the game away.
I haven't written much about HAR but it looks like they're competing against the middle tier teams on their schedule. BKN blew them out but they squeaked by SCU and CLE behind having the better defensive performance on the week. Barker impressed in collegiate play on an unremarkable UNC roster but hasn't been able to replicate that success in the pros. The young backfield is having some issues in pass protection and the secondary has been retooled one too many times to function as a true unit. WRs Morrish and Joseph get open looks but Barker just can't connect with regularity.
The Attack is on an upward trajectory, but it'll be a season or two before they break through to the next level. I think the Bulldogs are already there and should win or cover on the road DUR 27-20. There's enough talent on the Attack to keep it close though-- if DUR slumps back into their early season form it could go the other way.
Guys, we are 8/9 through 3 weeks and currently making it rain. Is printing money really this easy?
Better not let it get to our heads this week... TEN almost choked that one away and it's a good thing ACI doesn't have a QB.
Miami (-1) at Los Angeles - The boys from South Beach are going cross country this week to play an Outlaws team that is absolutely shitting the bed. Now I'm not gonna make excuses for 'em, but how are ya gonna get shut out against NOS and then TIE with ORE? Three weeks in and it's already been a tough year for LAS. DEs Liddell and Emerson are out for at least a few weeks with some cuts and bruises but at least they finally get to open The Coliseum.
It was an exciting game but defense died last week in ORE. Cold and rain is one thing but I'd never seen so many missed tackles and guys slipping around... it's probably a good thing that more players weren't injured. I'm not sure what's going on with the LAS receivers but they aren't doing QB Bailey any favors. WR Leighton has taken the most precipitous downturn and if last week's tape is any indication, TE Covington might be the number one option going forward. I think the problem with Leighton is that he's just getting bullied by bigger DBs. On shorter timing routes, Leighton (5'9" 190lbs) just ends up getting jammed by guys like CB Lauher (5'10" 194lbs) or CB Kahn (6'1" 204lbs).
Fortunately, MIA does not have big CBs. In fact, CB Eastman is one of the shortest in the league at 5'6" 189lbs. CB Perry isn't much better at 5'9" 185lbs. In addition, the Talons won't be able to cover TE Covington as their linebackers are just not big, athletic, or talented enough to do so. What MIA does have, however, is the most effective pass rush through 3 weeks and a stout front against the run. They aren't doing much offensively, but QB Hughes has a couple good throws in him each game and they don't need too many points to win.
The Talons have a good thing going, but just like I picked NOS to win when LAS traveled cross country, this road trip is going to be tough. I think LAS will bounce back and the matchup is a good one as long as QB Bailey can stay on his feet. The Outlaws win this one 30-17.
Durham at Baltimore (-7) - QB Ortiz isn't looking so hot in his second year in the CFL. The receiving corps shakeups might have something to do with that: WR Johnstone was traded and WR Shaw went from their most reliable wideout in 2058 to someone who barely sees the field. Second round pick WR Hindman looks pretty good but WR Craig is hogging the lion's share even as his efficiency plummets. We're seeing the focus on TE Reynolds who, through three seasons, really hadn't featured as a pass catcher.
There have been pretty big changes to the other units as well. The offensive line is adapting well to rookie C Trey Cinkovsky and unit as a whole is doing a decent job. However, rookie CB Darius Taylor is getting the start and we're seeing a lot of shifts in the defensive line as the team tries to find something that works. I think the changes are probably for the better here but the players still aren't on the same page just yet.
BAL are a team surprising a lot of us analysts this season-- it seems like every week there's a new face to watch. Week 1's hero was QB Newman who stepped in after QB O'Neill got hurt and converted a heroic 4th and 4 to complete the upset against OMA. Week 2 saw rookie FS Alex Leskun and the secondary completely flummox QB Rocketman Sullivan as he threw 4 interceptions in a rout at home. Special teams got the call this last week as all 23 points were scored by either K Chiaccheri or WR Kenyon Austin returning kickoffs.
I really don't know what to think about the Bombers. Their spread offense under second year OC Dean Everett is showcasing some pretty obscure names. They're playing pretty well but I wouldn't say they should be 3-0 and they certainly shouldn't be favored by 7 points against a division rival. I don't want to believe, but I might start this week. I think BAL somehow pulls it out in the end in a tight game and fails to cover, 24-22.
Las Vegas at Denver (-1) - Speaking of surprises, my last pick of the week takes us to Mile High where the defending champs take on a 3-0 Dynomite squad. Outside of a beating by the league foil SHR, the Rounders have been playing great football. QB McKnight isn't making too many mistakes and a healthy RB Gmerek continues to impress. Pressure metrics have taken a dip without DE Johnstone but DE Anagnostis still leads the league with 5 sacks and they're still one of the most fearsomely talented units.
The Rounders responded well against ATL last week, holding the Wolfpack to just 23 yards in the 4th quarter and shutting the door on the comeback. They focused on taking care of the ball and dominated the time of possession. It wasn't flashy, but it was good, solid fundamentals that they'll need to build on this week against DEN.
The Dynomite were the recipients of my strongest curse in 2058 (aside from the Vampires)-- I had them pegged to be the best defense in the league and make another, deeper playoff run. They at least had a good defense, but the offense let them down... which is why it makes perfect sense why OC J.J. Haluska got to stay on and DC Herman Huntley got the boot, right? I kid... but it looks like Haluska is doing his job this season. The pieces on offense are much the same, but the addition of rookie RB Orlando Eagleton and shifting targets to WR Shwiner give it a very different complexion.
RB Eagleton smashed records at LSU and takes his freakish athleticism and pass catching ability to the CFL. He's stepping right into RB Jorge Raymond's role from 2058 and doing everything better. Shwiner only now getting significant use is a mystery but he's already up there with WR Dole, Von Wyss, and Spradling in yards per catch. He's not as talented as any of those guys, but used properly he's putting up some great numbers.
That's all well and good, but what about the defense? I'm happy to report that DC Jamal Williamson's new 4-3 over scheme hasn't taken long to adopt at all. NT Wortham is still adjusting but DE Luckman and Branch are already hitting QBs. LBs Young and Buchanan have even gone on record to say they prefer the change.
On paper, it's hard to go against the defending champs. Short road favorites are always very seductive, but I think the Dynomite have something cooking at Mile High. If the Rounders lean on Gmerek, well... NT Wortham and DEN would love to play that game. If QB McKnight airs it out, I think the DEN secondary is more than capable at keeping up with WR Conley and Johnston. If OC Haluska can keep QB Allen's uniform clean, I like the Dynomite to catch the Rounders looking ahead to a week 5 matchup with FAR and win and cover at altitude 27-20.