1/3 last week brings our record to 12/22... and we're close to being negative on the season now dear god I gotta hit some bangers. Looking at teams that have some real motivation to win this week-- Boston, Alaska, and Seattle are all hurting for some DUBs.
Denver (-1) at Boston - The newly re-branded Blizzard aren't looking the hottest, but they will be playing to keep their wildcard hopes alive this week. There are a lot of talented players on the squad but, as usual, they haven't been able to convert that into wins. There's some sloppiness throughout and late game choking issues, but I think they've looked fine the last four weeks. One thing I've noticed is how much sharper WR Torres looks lately-- he seems to be doing everything at a higher level than QB Klingbiel's favorite target WR Daly. Some depth chart adjustments are in order.
Denver's last loss to MIA knocked them out of contention for this postseason and it's time to look to the future. QB Woodard's going on 13 years in the league and is still a serviceable player, but QB Dole is a promising young rookie. He should start getting snaps. The rest of the team is also getting older and I wonder how much longer they can keep this core group of players together given the lack of results.
Boston's CB Hannam is questionable for the game but I don't think it will matter with how poor the Dynomite have been. I'll take the home dog to keep their postseason hopes alive: 27-21.
Durham (-1) at Alaska - The West is as tough a conference as any we've seen and ALA's injuries aren't helping. C Lefebvre, WR Jennings, S Montano, and LB Chapman are all starters that are or have missed time but they need to buckle down and win some games. DUR is the latest potential champion they'll face down the stretch with OMA, BCI, and BAL to follow.
The Bulldogs put themselves back in the driving seat after four wins in a row, but they haven't been dominating as in seasons past. The defense has been middling and RB Ellingsen hasn't been quite as effective as older veterans that suited up for the red and blue. Still, they find a way to win late even if they fall behind early-- thanks to QB Ortiz.
The aging and short-handed Kodiaks need to win to keep pace with the division and despite every fiber in my being telling me to back Durham, I'm going to trust QB Marischen and the veterans around him. The Bulldogs have all-stars up and down the roster and it won't be easy but this line has got me spooked. ALA wins this one in tight fashion, 33-31.
Seattle at Omaha (-2) - Can a 7-3 team have less hype and fanfare than the Spartans? I feel like I saw their week 1 loss to BCI and wrote them off but here they are.
I like what we're seeing from rookie RB Jefferson and the backfield as they've been able to take some of the pressure off QB Emmons, but this will always be a pass first offense. WR Wojdylo is hitting the prime of his career but he's still struggling with efficiency... on film it looks like his size is holding him back and you can't coach that. SEA aren't nearly as explosive as they were in 2059, but a tougher ball hawking defense is making up for it. 9 fumbles and 8 interceptions through 11 weeks is a step up from the 6 fumbles and 9 interceptions for all of 2060.
The OMA defense has been the real MVP of this Arrowheads season in my eyes. This team shot up the ranks and sits near the top of almost every passing defense metric. The unit that GM JJsmitty invested in is finally paying off-- LB Garibay and FS Borders command the back end of this stingy defense and opponents just can't break past the eerily prescient adjustments.
This is a tough one to call-- but I think there's something to be said for how strong the West is relative to the East. I'm leaning towards the Spartans to prove that this week: 24-20.
2/3 last week brings our record to 11/19... we had to skip week 10 but we're back!
Detroit at Kansas City (-12) - It's always hard to put numbers to these things but 12 seems mighty high for a divisional rivalry. These two teams are on slightly different trajectories this season, but a strong showing from the Vampires in week 10 has me seeing some value this week.
QB DiCosomo picked up his second win of the season and completed the season sweep of IWC last week. The return of LB Carr might have had something to do with the surprisingly solid defense and special teams play, but Scottie looked excellent under center. He connected on 20 of his 25 passes for 264 yards, 2 TDs, and no interceptions. The emergence of rookie WR Jeffries as another deep threat has opened up a lot for this offense and it will be interesting to see if it continues.
The Storm averaged over 30 points per game in their 4 game win streak-- the 1-4 start looks distant in the rearview mirror as they are now tied up with IWC at the top of the division. Unfortunately injuries are starting to pile up and the latest victim is star WR Alexander Elder. With DT Butterfield, WR West, LB West, and a couple of guys on the OL banged up or visibly fatigued, can KCY put together a strong showing?
DET and KCY have gone back and forth in the last few years but most games have been close. I expect the same kind of slugfest and for the Vampires to cover, but probably lose: KCY 27-24.
Fargo (-1) at El Paso - The bout to determine the winner of the Cavalry division looks like a banger and though the value is minimal with this line, I like the underdog here.
QB Mitchem looks great in Green and Gray and the team is rocking and rolling to a top seed in the playoffs. Look at their team summary and you'll see an offense ranked tops in almost every category. It's a tough offense to stop and we haven't really seen anyone succeed, but the first step is to win the turnover battle as TEX and MIA did.
On the other side, El Paso has put together a very compelling case for their claim to the division. They are as cohesive a unit as we've seen in the league now after several seasons together and as well balanced as their opponents. This week, I'm looking at TE McKenzie to pull out some magic as FAR will be missing LB Sutter in the middle. He's already QB Sullivan's favorite target, particularly in the end zone, and should feast.
I'm not sure which team will win, but the + money sounds good to me. Give me El Paso at home in a surprisingly low scoring game: 24-21.
Cleveland at Iowa City (-4) - The other decider for tops of the division pits the Argonauts against the Sentries. It's a tight race in the Great Lakes division and this game is pivotal for both teams.
CLE has gone with the older veteran in QB Kelley over the young QB Minton and I think it's safe to say that hasn't worked out. The team has only won one out of five with Kelley and that was against a floundering Detroit. It looks like they'll be trotting him out again this week but I don't think they should. RB Mansour and Co. have a great shot at winning the division-- why aren't they trying a bit harder to find the best personnel for that?
The Argonauts have dropped two after going on a nice five game streak and their latest loss to the Vampires is the most damning. DET held IWC to 10 points or less in their two games and they face another stout defense in CLE. I've noticed IWC is quick to give up on the run when they fall behind but they've actually had a lot of success with RBs Stewart and Fields keeping the pressure off QB Joslyn. Sure they may not have the best matchup this week but they can't allow CLE to sell out to stop the pass.
I think the Sentries are a but underrated at the moment after their run of losses and I'll take them to cover here. A win certainly is possible, but I haven't been impressed with QB Kelley's play. IWC wins, 28-27.
1/3 last week brings our record to 9/16... TEX really should've come through for us and I have no idea how HON could've lost... but hey, we're still >50% and breaking even. This week's got some great teams that are a little undervalued at the moment so hopefully these dogs will come through.
Shreveport (-4) at Durham - QB Ortiz and the Bulldogs have bounced back from their two unfortunate losses in a big way-- a clean win on the road at NOS and a big win against division rivals OMA. QB Harrison and the Arrowheads almost brought it back in a wild sequence of events, but DUR put them away with a confident drive to get into field goal range. Few offenses are as explosive as OMA so it remains to be seen whether or not DUR's defense is exploitable or not. It's business as usual for the Bulldogs and the only thing I've been keeping tabs on is the backfield situation. Rookie RB Roy Ellingsen hasn't been as reliable as RB Arnold, and often gets pulled in 3rd down situations, but comfort should grow with time and exposure.
Shreveport's GM Raven Hawk is doing it again... the team sits at 6-1 and looks positioned to take the division en route to another playoff berth. RB Russell continues to shoulder the heavy load but QB Scott is equally productive and spreads the ball well. Strangely, WR Warren has not been seeing many targets though he is on the field almost as often as the other guys. Maybe they just don't need his production yet and it looks like this team might have an extra gear if they need it.
This is a game with two great GMs and coaches and both have a good shot at coming away with it. However, from a betting perspective it really seems like the Bulldogs are undervalued. Give me the points and a little moneyline sprinkle on DUR: 28-24 for the home team.
Honolulu (-2) at Boise City - QB Doser and the Stampede started the season slowbut are finding their footing of late. Strong defensive play got them through weeks 6 and 7 and their offense finally woke up against a struggling TUC team.
With 4 new offensive linemen, I'm surprised they're doing this well. QB Doser taking fewer hits and throwing fewer INTs so far-- but it comes at a cost. RB Lovallo and RB Arnold are vets that should be getting the job done but through 8 weeks their 3.6 YPC is much worse than 2060's 4.44. They're doing what they can behind this new line but I can see that miscues and missed blocks are making this offense a bit one dimensional.
HON will be another tough test for the Stampede. Despite choking in the fourth quarter against LOS, the Sharks executed reasonably well and were the better team for 45 minutes and QB Bailey just caught fire right at the end. Sometimes there isn't anything you can do...
There are a lot of teams where the weak BOI OLine would kill the team's chances from the jump, but the Sharks aren't one of them. They are in the bottom third at generating pressure and allow an ugly 4.69 ypc to opposing rushers. If this game turns into a shootout, I don't mind taking the +2 with the home team: BOI wins this one 35-33.
Hartford at Kansas City (-6) - UDFA QB Bennett has done well to bag 3 wins for the Attack, but this week should see the return of QB Barker. In fact, I don't even know why he hadn't been playing. I'm pretty sure Barker is better!
The Storm are playing catchup after starting 1-4, but two wins off the back of WR Elder's play go a long way. Much like in 2060, this offense is based on the downfield pass. The front office really doubled down on the idea and hoped that adding another speedster in rookie WR Padron would've kicked everything up a notch. His numbers aren't great, but another credible threat slowly opens opportunities for everyone else.
HAR's defense isn't perfect, or even amazing, but they do have excellent linebackers and serviceable DBs. I think they do actually have the personnel up front and on the back end to keep QB Grueneich from delivering strikes. I've noticed that he's been holding onto the ball a tick or two longer than usual and against LBs Bartrum and DE Collins, it could be a tick too long. I'll assume QB Barker is starting for the Attack: 28-24 for the visitors.
7/12 turns into 8/13 after a 1-1 split last week. I'm not sure what's going on with the Vampires, they're making rookie and UDFA QBs look like gods.
On to week 8 and probably the last time we see a few of these teams on the betting previews.
Atlanta (-2) at Texas - Season records don't tell the full story of the Texas Inferno. After 3 forgettable games to start 2061, they played DEN, DVY, FAR, and MIA close. While QB Womble's play is still touch and go, the one two punch of RBs Parker and Boddy has been the difference maker. These two guys have settled in behind this offensive line and quietly become the #1 most efficient ground attack in the CFL. Combined with their contribution in the passing game, you really have some of the most productive running backs in the league. In fact, RB Parker has 8 total TDs on the season, right up there with the best of them.
Atlanta stopped a 3 game skid with a win at Santa Cruz, but it doesn't change the team's prospects for the season. QB Clements could come back in as little as 3 weeks time but with a more conservative estimate at 5 weeks, the Wolfpack's postseason outlook is dim. Still, a win against a division rival here would go a long way and Vegas fancies their chances on the road so what are we looking at? In a loss to MIA, we saw just how talented this group of receivers is-- WRs Reis, Terry, and Terry absolutely popped off against a well coached, but inexperienced secondary. I'd say that the Inferno are closer to the Talons than the Privateers in this area so a repeat performance could be in the cards.
Despite the mismatch, I like TEX here. They should be able to pick up whatever they want on the ground and if you win TOP you'll keep these dangerous receivers off the field. Give me the points with the Inferno: TEX wins 30-22.
Los Angeles at Honolulu (-6) - This game caught my eye as a line that seems a bit too short for the matchup. Let's face it-- the Outlaws aren't very good this season and at 1-5 in the Ring of Fire, they're pretty much done for the year. They haven't covered in but 1 of their games (the lone victory at IWC) and have only beaten Honolulu once since 2058. The team certainly has talented pieces but they're just not fitting well together and I can't find anything here that would make me hesitate from slamming the Sharks -6.
GM RedZone did great in the offseason handling QB Fryday's devastating injury by bringing in QB England. I think a lot of folks were down on him as a player but he has flourished in the Aloha state. This aerial attack tops the charts and their well established rushing game prevents opponents from selling out. Everything looks great in this first half of the season.
However, their opponents have been pretty bad. It's no real knock against the team, after all you can only beat the teams on your schedule, but at the end of the season I'd expect their opponents' record to be no higher than 0.3. We'll just have to see if they carry their regular season success into the playoffs. The Sharks will roll this week and cover easily: 32-20.
Alaska (-4) at Oregon - The Bandits are in a free fall right now and it looks like the front office is pulling the plug on this project. It's a shame to see since the games were close, but 1-6 just won't cut it in this league. I've heard no players are off limits in their effort to retool in the offseason and I can't imagine they'll pick up too many more wins in the second half of the year.
Jimmy and the Kodiaks will enjoy this confidence booster after some heartbreakers against FAR and HON. I haven't looked too closely at their games but it looks like the formula hasn't changed in Alaska: Give the ball to QB Marischen and let him go to work. It should be enough to take the win and put them back in the hunt for a wildcard spot. ALA takes care of business: 33-18.
Hartford and Baltimore took care of us last week and bring us to 7/12. Not sure what's going on with Durham though... it looked like they had this one well in hand but a wild sequence of plays let the Militia back in. Any given Sunday, I suppose....
On to week 7:
Death Valley at El Paso (-8) - Trusting the Process has El Paso at the top of the table here in 2061. They're beating the bricks of opponents, winning by an average of 12 points per game. In the hands of several capable front offices, RB Barker was just about labeled a bust but it looks like RB Barker was that final piece to the ELP puzzle. Barker's average ypc is up a full yard and he's also breaking off long runs at an impressive clip-- the only one with more 10+ runs is RB Donaldson. As long as everyone stays healthy this is a group to watch.
The Copperheads haven't been as successful as ELP but RB Donaldson still does the Lord's work for the desert wanderers. I've criticized QB Buckley's play over the years and it doesn't seem to have improved... The last time I tried to figure it out, the only thing I could see was that he must be telegraphing his passes somehow and the talented DBs of the league have figured it out. Defensively they continue to be a mixed bag but the addition of SS Kevorkian over the offseason has made them a much harder team to run against. This is a team that has not gotten better in 2061, but at least they haven't gotten worse.
The 8 point spread should be within reach for a DVY squad that has the talent to match ELP as long as they're careful with the ball. I don't think they'll win, but it should be an even contest through four quarters: ELP wins this one 30-24.
Hartford at Detroit (-1) - The 1-5 Vampires have let a couple games slip through their fingers-- turnovers and miscues killed the young squad's chances against BOS (1), TEN (2), and ACI (2). Injuries to their star linebackers (Carr, Stephens) have had markedly bigger impacts than many would've predicted as the Phantoms were able to put last week's game out of reach in second quarter. QB DiCosomo deserves much of the blame as a young starter, but there's a lack of focus and energy going through that locker room. New OC Sanders' transition from college to the pros is certainly not going as he'd hoped.
The Attack conservatively played out QB Barker's injury and held him out one more week. Fortunately CLE was also trotting out their backup and they managed to come away with the win at home. RB Feagles was the difference maker here, able to break off a handful of long runs against a stout Sentries defense. QB Barker's return should revitalize this team, but 5 weeks off could be a lot of rust.
While it's surprising to some that the 1-5 team is favored, the poor defensive metrics from the Attack should give this pedestrian DET offense some confidence. RBs Spezzano and Borders have the size and strength to wear down the HAR linebackers and I think they'll grind out this dub: DET wins 21-17.
Atlanta (-4) at Santa Cruz - TBD