Albany (-12.5, 97.5) @ Washington
Friday, 7 p.m., ET
The Washington Valor drew the ire of Under bettors last week in its meeting with Philadelphia. Washington came out with a strong effort in the first half and combined with Philly to score 56 points. However, the Valor was shut out in the second half and turned it over on all five possessions leaving Over bettors six points shy of their goal. The inconsistencies that have plagued Washington all season long came back again in a big way, and there is no reason to expect anything different against the best defense in the AFL. Quarterback Arvell Nelson will need to be much more careful with the ball after losing two fumbles against Philadelphia, and he will be put in that situation again as the Valor uses his athleticism often. We’ve covered the defensive shortcomings of Washington in PSW at length, so no need to say anything more about it.
That defense has a tough task on Friday with Albany heading to the nation’s capital. The Empire ended a two-game slide last week against the Baltimore Brigade with a strong 56-49 victory. The 56-point effort was the fourth straight week the team has scored over 50 points. In fact, Albany has scored a total of 247 points over that four-game stretch! The team scored on eight of 10 possessions against Baltimore, with the two non-scoring drives ending with a missed field goal and fumble. The defense returned to its normal level of play as well, with four forced turnovers against the Brigade. Albany does routinely get off to slow starts, as they have a negative-16 point differential in the first quarter, so if you back the Empire don’t sweat an early deficit.
Albany has won all three contests with Washington this season, and by an average of 20.6 points per contest. With the Empire fighting for home-field advantage in what looks like an inevitable meeting with Philadelphia in the postseason, expect Albany to come out strong. So don’t be afraid to lay some points. As for the total, I’m not sure if bettors should trust the Valor offense to do its share and reach the point total.
VON TOBEL’S PICK
: Albany, Under
Baltimore @ Philadelphia (-1, 96)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Bettors might be surprised to see the Soul as a slight favorite over the first-place Brigade, but the three-time Arena Bowl champions got some good news during the week; Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh was activated from injured reserve on Tuesday. Whether he plays or not on Saturday remains to be seen, but one would he think he sees the field at some point to get some reps in preparation for the postseason. Raudabaugh returns just as Philadelphia seemed to have found its answer at his position in journeyman Shane Austin. The former Valor signal-caller has tossed 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions and has been a catalyst in Aaron Wascha’s emergence at wide receiver. Will Raudabaugh be able to duplicate that success after a long layoff?
The questions at quarterback for Philadelphia come at an inopportune time with a home date against Baltimore on the horizon. The Brigade will be looking to get the bad taste of a 56-49 loss to Albany out of its mouth, a performance in which it made four turnovers. It was also the first time in five contests that Baltimore was held to under 50 points scoring. The Soul aren’t exactly a pushover defensively, and own the best point per game mark in the AFL at 45.8 points allowed per contest.
It will be intriguing to see how Philly lets the quarterback situation play out on Saturday. Will Raudabaugh see the field, or will the Soul roll with the hot-hand in Austin? With the unknown element at quarterback, it is hard to back Philly in this spot, especially as a favorite. The Soul were on my list of plays prior to seeing the line, but I made them a slight ‘dog in this meeting. If you can catch points with Philadelphia, then that’s my official recommendation. However, with the spread given here, I can’t pass up a team that I feel should be favored as an underdog. Meanwhile, the Over has cashed in seven of eight games in the AFL, and if another one is going to hit it should be here.
VON TOBEL’S PICK
: Baltimore, Over