XFL Football Review: McMahon, Luck Find End Zone in Week 1
Three of the first four XFL games failed to hit their betting total at online sportsbooks, but WWE CEO Vince McMahon and XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck still managed to find the end zone in Week 1 of the XFL.
Even before the Seattle Dragons and DC Defenders kicked off the season in the nation’s capital on Saturday, it was evident there was a healthy appetite for non-NFL football less than one week removed from Super Bowl 54.
DraftKings and FanDuel, the two leading daily fantasy sports sites, posted relatively large XFL DFS tournaments. With less than four hours until XFL’s 2020 debut, DraftKings’ largest contest, the XFL $350K Kickoff Special, boasting 41,176 entries at $10 a pop and a $100K first-place prize, was filled.
Fantasy sports players were eager to get in on XFL action even if what they were playing was more of a guessing game than usual. Predicting the outcomes of players like former NCAA national champion quarterback Cardale Jones and past NFL running backs such as Christine Michael and Cameron Artis-Payne, along with a majority of players that are unknown to even the biggest of football fans is no easy task, after all.
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DraftKings, whose main slate consisted of all four games, successfully filled up other contests, but DFSers weren’t as quick to rush to FanDuel’s two-game slates.
The XFL’s debut game drew 3.3. million viewers compared to 2.9 million for the Alliance of American Football’s first game last year. The XFL’s biggest challenge will be to grow that number, or at least make sure it doesn’t significantly fall in Week 2.
In terms of XFL betting, which the league has fully embraced, hence the highlighted spreads and sports betting talk included in their live broadcasts, online sportsbooks had 2020 XFL Championship odds in the week leading up to the XFL’s reboot. Sportsbooks posted XFL spreads a few days before kickoff, and point totals were available at various online sportsbetting sites as early as Friday. Will we eventually see XFL prop markets? Don’t count on them anytime soon, but maybe some ambitious US sportsbooks will try later in the season.
We saw mixed results with favorites and underdogs finishing 2-2 against the spread. Favorites dominated Saturday, as the Defenders and Houston Roughnecks each covered. On Sunday, underdogs barked back, with the New York Guardians winning outright as 3.5-point underdogs against the Tampa Bay Vipers. To conclude Week 1, the St. Louis Blackhawks traveled to Dallas to face Bob Stoops and the Renegades, upsetting the pre-season XFL Championship favorites 15-9 in a game that resembled the sloppiness we saw from the AAF.
When it came to point totals, the under hit in every game except the Houston Roughnecks vs. L.A. Wildcats. With the infamous ‘run-and-shoot’ offense on display, the Roughnecks scored 37 points while throwing the ball 39 times in a 37-17 win. The Roughnecks looked to have by far the most finely tuned offense in the new football league, which doesn’t come as a surprise considering the history of Houston’s head coach June Jones. Jones had success with the run-and-shoot while coaching at the University of Hawaii and SMU before spending 2017 and 2018 in the CFL.
Interestingly, Circa Sportsbook in Las Vegas opened Week 1 point totals for all four games at 44 on Thursday before other sportsbooks began posting significantly higher numbers in the 50-52 range on Friday.
XFL Week 2 Lines
Circa is again the first to swing at XFL Week 2 lines:
- Guardians at Defenders -5.5 (opened -2), O/U 48 (opened 51.5)
- Vipers at Dragons -2.5, O/U 48.5 (opened 50)
- Renegades at Wildcats +3, O/U 47
- BattleHawks at Roughnecks -6, O/U 51.5
The Las Vegas-based sportsbook posted lines for the first two games on Sunday, and there has already been a good amount of line movement. The Defenders moved from 2-point favorites to 5.5-point favorites, and the Over/Under has dipped multiple points for both games.
All of the Week 1 winners minus the St. Louis BattleHawks have jumped the Renegades on the XFL Championship betting board. Take a look at updated XFL futures odds from FanDuel Sportsbook:
- DC Defenders +350 (Previously +500)
- New York Guardians +350 (Previously +400)
- Houston Roughnecks +500 (Previously +900)
- Dallas Renegades +600 (Previously +300)
- Tampa Bay Vipers +600 (Previously +450)
- St. Louis BattleHawks +700 (Previously +1000)
- Los Angeles Wildcats +1000 (Previously +650)
- Seattle Dragons +1600 (Previously +1200)
It’s worth noting that the Renegades and the Wildcats were without their presumptive starting quarterbacks in Landry Jones and Josh Johnson, but my early-season prediction is a DC Defenders vs. Houston Roughnecks 2020 XFL Championship.
XFL Lasting Power?
How you feel about the spring football product itself might depend on how you fared in XFL betting and DFS. A 15-9 game can be fun to watch if you bet the right side.
It wasn’t the most exciting football, but the XFL succeeded in implementing rule changes that incentivized more kickoff returns, fourth-down attempts and exciting extra point(s) conversions following touchdowns. The problem is, the XFL needs more touchdowns.
Overall, it was a good first week, but the same was said for the now-defunct AAF.
The NBA all-star break will aid McMahon and Luck’s cause in Week 2, but they’ll need better quarterback play and increased scoring from some of the league’s teams going forward if the XFL is to have any lasting power.
As for this new XFL fan, I’m anxiously waiting for more sportsbooks to post XFL Week 2 lines, XFL DFS pricing to come out and for the delivery of my new DC Defenders hat.
Image Credit: USA Today Sports Images