Premier Lacrosse League Week 1 expert picks and best bets: Whipsnakes run wild
The Premier Lacrosse League kicks off the 2022 season this weekend in Albany, NY with a pair of double-headers — one on Saturday and another on Sunday.
Early in the season it can be tough to get a handle on where these teams shake out, for a few reasons. First, there were a multiple big-name retirements this offseason — many of them from players who were still productive pros. At the top of that list is Paul Rabil, the face of the league and the all-time points leader in pro field lacrosse, hanging it up following an All-Pro season and transitioning to a role as league president. Other retirees included Kyle Harrison, Connor Buczek, Joel White, John Galloway, Jordan Wolf, Ned Crotty, Drew Adams, Joe Walters and Drew Snider, all of whom could still make a gameday roster. Teams were left to fill gaps left by legends of the sport as a youth movement takes over the PLL.
Compounding the uncertainty of filling retirement gaps is the fact that the NLL Championship overlaps with the start of the PLL season. Players who play in both leagues and are on either the Bandits or Mammoth, who are playing for the NLL title, won’t be available for their PLL teams until the NLL championship is won, which means they could miss up to three weeks of the PLL campaign. Some teams are more affected than others and coaches have been allowed to add players from the player pool to fill the gaps until their regulars return.
Even with all that roster turnover, there are a few lines that look like solid value bets in Week 1. Here are my favorites.
Whipsnakes -1.5 over Chaos (-145)
Picking against the Chaos is going to be a popular play until their regulars return. Their top four scorers and top faceoff specialist from a year ago are all still playing in the NLL, part of a contingent of seven total players missing for coach Andy Towers’ squad. His defense is intact however and has been one of the stories of the preseason. Jack Rowlett returns off a Defensive Player of the Year finalist season. Jarrod Neumann was the DPOY winner in 2019 and returns as well, having made serious improvements to his on-ball defense during the 2021 postseason. They’ll be joined by 1st-round pick Brett Kennedy, and reports out of camp say Kennedy is fitting in very well with this unit. Behind these three, as always, is reigning MVP netminder Blaze Riorden. The Chaos defense in camp held the Cannons to just 4 goals in a 50-minute scrimmage.
So why pick the Whipsnakes? In that same scrimmage, Chaos only managed 8 goals. With so much of their star power out on offense, it’ll be about the Chaos defense holding firm until the new offense gels in Towers’ system or his regulars return. The Whipsnakes will have a major advantage facing off, as Joe Nardella remains a top-3 specialist in the PLL, meaning possession should be heavily tilted against Chaos. The Whips’ offense is also significantly better than the Cannons even without Zed Williams and will likely have matchup advantages against the Cannons. The Whipsnakes’ average margin of victory a year ago was 2.3 goals. The Chaos defense may hold up for a while, but between Nardella and a loaded Whips offense paired with an excellent Whips defense against a depleted Chaos offense, the ‘Snakes should grind this one out and come away with a win.
Be sure to check out our full game preview for Whipsnakes vs Chaos
Matt Rambo (Whipsnakes) Under 3.5 points (-125)
Rambo is likely going to be leaned on a little more heavily with Zed Williams out of the lineup. And with a faceoff advantage created by Joe Nardella, the Whipsnakes should dominate the possession battle. But I’m going to go against the grain a bit and say that doesn’t translate into Rambo points for a few reasons.
First, the Chaos defense found another gear in the postseason a year ago. Jarrod Neumann matched up with Rambo in the championship game last year and held him to a single point and just one shot. In camp this preseason, Neumann looks to still be playing at that level — matching up with Lyle Thompson and able to play physically when needed and use his feet to play position with agility as well. Second, the Whipsnakes have a deep and versatile offense. They don’t need Rambo to pile up the points to win this game; they have no need to force-feed him. That’s not how head coach Jim Stagnitta operates.
Last year Rambo registered 4+ points just twice in eight games. If Neumann is winning the battle early or other offensive weapons represent better opportunities, Stagnitta will utilize them. Finally, Blaze Riorden is in net for Chaos. The league MVP last year, Riorden is a veritable brick wall. Rambo and Riorden are also good friends. The first two years of the league, Rambo had big games against his pal. Last year? Two points and six shots in two games. I like the Whips to win, but I think they can do it without a big day from Rambo.
Be sure to check out our full game preview for Waterdogs vs Cannons
Mikie Schlosser (Waterdogs) Over 1.5 points (+110)
Waterdogs take on Cannons on Sunday. Schlosser is not looking like a primary option on a team with Michael Sowers, Zach Currier and Connor Kelly. What makes this an attractive bet for me is the matchup. The Cannons will likely pole Currier, and use elite SSDM Zach Goodrich on Connor Kelly. That leaves the other shorty for Schlosser. The shorty he’s up against in this matchup will likely be Tyson Bell, who struggled in coverage against bigger, downhill dodgers — which is exactly what Schlosser is.
Moreover, Schlosser can shoot but also passes very well, as that’s a requirement to be a part of the Waterdogs’ offense. Schlosser can have a big impact on this game, either off a re-attack dodge after Sowers unsettles the defense, finding a skip lane off dodges by Currier or Sowers, or just winning his own short stick match up to shoot or feed. There’s no shortage of assist targets on the Waterdogs with players like Kelly, Ryan Brown and Kieran McArdle on the field to bury open looks. Last year Schlosser averaged 4.5 shots and 1.7 points per game. He also hit a pair of two-pointers. The Cannons’ defense could dare him to beat them, and Schlosser would oblige.
- Don’t miss our PLL Championship and MVP best bets (includes one at +800 odds!)
- Gear up for the start of the PLL season with our full team-by-team guide
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