Much of the power in the Arena Football League resides in the state of Florida, where all three teams are in the playoff hunt. Two of them will get together on Saturday night in a game which could decide the Southern Division championship and corresponding top seed in the American Conference Playoffs. Tampa Bay has won eight straight games since losing to Jacksonville in early May at home. The rematch finds the Storm on the road, and oddsmakers at Sportsbook.com are gauging the game as a tossup. Let’s look at this key game plus some tidbits from the four others on the Saturday board.
Tampa Bay (10-3) is the league’s hottest team and leads Jacksonville by a game in the standings. However, the fact that the Sharks won the first game between the teams back in May gives them the tie-breaker edge should it come down to that in three weeks. Jacksonville gained a season-high 342 yards through the air in that 46-43 decision, but the game really came down to the Storm turning the ball over five times. Scores
Jacksonville has only lost once this year at home, to Arizona last month, and is yielding just 49.5 PPG in front of the home folks. QB Aaron Garcia and the offense have gotten hot of late as they’ve topped the 60-point mark in back-to-back games for the first time this year. Garcia is a savvy veteran capable of leading the Sharks on a postseason run.
Tampa Bay is 5-2 SU & 4-3 ATS on the road, having won its last five, including the last two by 20+ points each time.
The Storm has won eight straight games since a 2-3 start but has only beaten one team with a winning record during that span. They have beaten the pointspread in five straight games. One of the most intriguing handicapping aspects about this game concerns the schedule strengths. Tampa Bay has actually faced the league’s weakest schedule to date, with opponents averaging a 45.8 StatFox Power Rating. Conversely, Jacksonville has faced the league’s 7th toughest schedule with an average rating of 49.8, a full 4.0 difference. That leads to a StatFox Outplay Factor Rating which finds Jacksonville as a 1.5-point favorite. Odds
This week’s hottest bit of handicapping information from the FoxSheet favors Tampa Bay though. It is a long-running successful system:
Play On – All teams where the line is +3 to -3 (TAMPA BAY) – with a good offense – averaging 6.4 or more yards/play, after gaining 330 or more total yards in 2 consecutive games. (23-6 since 1996.) (79.3%, +16.4 units. Rating = 2*)
The StatFox Power Rating shows that Tampa Bay should be favored by 3 points here. Kickoff is slotted for 7:05 PM ET on local markets in Florida.
The rest of the Arena Football Betting Board for Saturday shows four games. Here they are with a key FoxSheets tidbit from each:
(355) OKLAHOMA CITY at (356) CLEVELAND (-5.5) 7:00 PM
Play On – Favorites of 3.5 to 10 points (CLEVELAND) – with an excellent offense – averaging 320 or more total yards/game. (44-21 since 1996.) (67.7%, +20.9 units. Rating = 1*)
Oklahoma City puts its 3-game winning streak on the line at Cleveland. The Gladiators are hot offensively, having scored 75 points or more in three of their last six games. Their offensive prowess leads to a nice FoxSheets system:
(359) DALLAS at (360) CHICAGO (-16.5) 8:00 PM
Chicago is one of four teams that has clinched a playoff berth and has what should be a cakewalk lined up for Saturday, hosting Dallas, who has lost its L10 games. The Rush won the earlier meeting between these teams, but only by 7 points in Dallas. This time around they’ll need to be much better to cover the much bigger number. Note that neither of the StatFox Game Estimators calls for a Chicago cover, averaging a win of just 58-49.
(361) ORLANDO at (362) MILWAUKEE (-8) 8:00 PM
Orlando has been drowning in a schedule that has seen them face nine straight opponents that currently have at least six wins. Saturday’s game at Milwaukee will be #10 in a row. Amazingly, the Predators have managed to stay right in the thick of the playoff picture at 6-7, having gone 5-4 during the brutal 9-game stretch. They will be looking to sweep Milwaukee on the season, having beaten the Iron 58-54 back in May at home. This game presents a rare situation where a team is actually playing as a smaller underdog on the road than it was at home to the same opponent earlier in the season. However, in reality the Iron are trending down and Orlando would be trending up if not for the brutal schedule.
(363) TULSA (-4) at (364) ALABAMA 8:30 PM
Tulsa is rather quietly becoming a team to watch out for on the Arena Football landscape. The Talons are in control of the Southwest Division at 8-5 and can clinch the division title with a win. However, Tulsa has been a different team on the road this season as compared to at home, and will need to turn that trend around before the postseason if they should hope to make a run. While going 6-1 in front of the home folks, the Talons are just 2-4 on the road while yielding 61.3 PPG. It’s been much of the same for Alabama, who boasts a 4-2 mark at home and is in need of a critical victory here. Tulsa is the road favorite, but home/road dichotomy seems to suggest the Vipers could be worthy of your betting dollar as the dog. Las Vegas Odds