New Football League AAF: Use Caution When Betting
Just five days after the Super Bowl, the AAF, the Alliance of American Football, debuted on CBS. It's an eight-team league that is well funded, with all teams centrally owned. The games drew decent numbers, outpacing an NBA game on ABC and pulling in the right demographics on a Saturday night. The league isn't trying to take on the NFL - they aren't that dumb. But they do see themselves as a way to satisfy the endless hunger of Americans for football and to give players who have not made it in the NFL another chance to cut it.
Whenever something new like this comes along, the question we have to ask ourselves as bettors is whether we should bet on it. The books have posted numbers, so we certainly can bet on it. But should we?
The short answer is pretty simple - of course not. You would have to be an idiot to seriously bet on this league at this point. A total and complete idiot.
There are a few reasons why betting on the league is such a bad at this point:
1. Sample size: Each team has played one preseason game and one regular-season contest. And that's it. The teams were formed from scratch and are led by brand new coaching staffs. We barely know anything about the NFL a week into the regular season, and by that point they have played four preseason games. And we have almost infinite knowledge about the league as every play of every past season has been broken down a thousand different ways. Football bettors rely on information and statistics to make good decisions. There is very little meaningful information about this league yet, and it will be a long time until there is. Plus, only half of the teams have played a home game, so we have no idea what home-field advantage looks like in the league and what impact the crowds can have. Those crowds in the opener ranged from decent but not overwhelming in San Antonio to very sparse in Arizona. And that was for the opener when novelty and curiosity were involved.
2. Rule changes: The league is trying some different rules than we are used to in the NFL. The play clock is five seconds shorter. You can only go for two-point conversions. Only a maximum of five defensive players can cross the line of scrimmage, and none can do so more than two yards outside the tackles. There are no kickoffs, and onside kick rules are different. The overtime rules are different as well. None of the rules are massively dramatic - they still use a regular football and play four downs - but add them all up and they are going to have an impact. By now we know that any rule change can have unintended consequences that are hard to predict until they are given time to play out. With this many changes, we need to wait and watch to see what impact they have.
3. Level of play: Frankly, it wasn't very good. It wasn't at a caliber that matched up to Power 5 college football, never mind the NFL. I watch a fair bit of CFL, and this was nothing like the CFL in terms of quality, either. It will get better as players knock the rust off, coaching staffs better implement systems and get to know their players, and so on. But it's a moving target, and the upside isn't massive. There is a reason that we aim for the top levels when betting - it's much more attractive to bet on the NHL than the AHL, on the NBA than the G-League, or on MLB than on the Pacific Coast League.
The league isn't a total disaster by any means. In fact, I enjoyed watching the San Antonio game quite a bit. There are some good things they are trying out. You can see in the booth when they are doing reviews. Coaches are wired, so we can hear them talk to players and get inside huddles. The league has an app that allows you to play along with the game, calling the plays as they happen to earn points. It didn't work well on opening night - I could watch the play before I called it on the app, so earning points wasn't hard. But the idea is excellent and could really grow - especially if they start working with a gambling partner at some point. There are things to keep an eye on, and it's an interesting experiment, but I wouldn't bet on it right now if it was the last league in the world. Not with anything approaching real money, at least. Betting for kicks is a different story - it's not like we have emotional ties to any of these teams, so having a few bucks on the line could make things more interesting. But just a few bucks.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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