For the second consecutive year, football bettors have a post-Super Bowl outlet for getting some action in. The newest iteration of the XFL will roll out its four Week 2 games this weekend. The XFL is embracing sports betting on its games and is openly discussing point spreads and over/under totals on its broadcasts. There’s also a solid number of states and sportsbooks making lines available each week.
Naturally, handicapping a new league’s first season of games is an exercise in uncertainty to a large degree. However, XFL rosters do have plenty of former AAF and NFL names scattered through them. Many of the key skill-position players also had decorated college careers. Consequently, there’s a solid amount of history to go on with some of the more impactful pieces on each squad.
We’re offering a betting take on each game throughout the league’s 10-week regular season and two-week postseason. We’ve also assigned a confidence rating on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest) to each pick as an additional tool.
New York Guardians at DC Defenders — Saturday, Feb. 15, 2 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Defenders -7 (-105)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Defenders -6.5 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: Defenders -6.5 (-110)
One of two Week 2 matchups between undefeated teams kicks off the ledger, with Defenders still heavy favorites over the visiting Guardians. Although both squads were impressive in their respective openers, they got there in different ways. The Defenders played a complete game, racking up a pair of defensive touchdowns while also having their way through the air courtesy of an impressive performance by Cardale Jones in a win over the Seattle Dragons. The Guardians played some standout defense as well in their 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers, but their offense wasn’t quite as potent, scoring just 16 points.
DC’s opportunistic defense should have chances to exert its will against Guardians QB Matt McGloin, who was interception-free last week but has had issues with ball security throughout his college and NFL career. DC did display some vulnerability to the run against the Dragons last week, surrendering 93 yards to Seattle’s top three backs on 19 carries. However, their secondary is stocked with a pair of former high NFL draft picks in Rahim Moore and Matt Elam, which could help frustrate New York’s air attack frequently.
For the Defenders, Jones figures to have a thornier matchup against a New York secondary led by lockdown corner Jamar Summers. Washington does have solid experience on that side of the ball in Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross, however, and Jones’ play in Week 1 (235 yards passing, 28 yards rushing) lends credence to the notion the XFL could be just the platform to let his natural talent shine through.
Ultimately, I see New York’s Week 1 performance as a bit of a mirage. They caught a Vipers team that appeared out of sorts and were able to ride a fast start to the home win. Now they’re on the road in what should be a tough environment and facing what looks to be a more dynamic offense. I see home-field advantage carrying the day here for a Defenders cover.
The Pick: Defenders -7 (Confidence 9/10)
Tampa Bay Vipers at Seattle Dragons — Saturday, Feb. 15, 5 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Vipers -2.5 (-105)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Vipers -3 (+100)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: Vipers-3 (+100)
The Dragons got ambushed a bit by a keyed-up DC Defenders squad on its home field in the opener. However, Seattle, even in the midst of getting blown out by a 31-19 score, showed some flashes on offense through both the air and the ground. Meanwhile, the Vipers seemed to be out of sorts for much of their 23-3 loss to the Guardians. Then, quarterback Aaron Murray (foot) is very questionable to face the Dragons. A Murray absence would leave the versatile but inexperienced Quinton Flowers to helm the offense.
The Vipers now head into CenturyLink Field for what will be Seattle’s home opener. Tampa Bay has some talented offensive pieces in the likes of RB De’Veon Smith, WRs Jalen Tolliver, Daniel Williams and Reece Horn, and TE Nick Truesdell. However, the ability of either Murray or Flowers to get those pass catchers the ball consistently remains in question. Flowers does bring an excellent ground dimension, but Tampa will presumably need to move the ball consistently through the air to notch a road win.
The Dragons’ defense’s biggest weakness after one week appears to be against the pass. Seattle did a good job on DC running backs Jhurell Pressley and Donnel Pumphrey in Week 1. But, as just noted, Tampa Bay may not be in optimal shape to exploit that vulnerability. Meanwhile, the Dragons’ offense has a chance to roll out a balanced attack again. The top RB trio of Kenneth Farrow, Ja’Quan Gardner and Trey Williams was efficient in compiling 93 yards versus New York. QB Brandon Silvers also displayed some strong chemistry with WR Austin Proehl and threw three touchdowns overall.
If CenturyLink gives the Dragons even a fraction of the home-field edge it’s provided the Seahawks in the past, they’ll already be a step ahead. Overall, I see the environment and Seattle’s somewhat surprising underdog status leading to them coming in under the number.
The Pick: Dragons +3 (Confidence: 8.5/10)
Dallas Renegades at Los Angeles Wildcats — Sunday, Feb. 16, 3 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Renegades -3.5 (-120)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Renegades -4 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: Renegades -4 (-110)
The Renegades came into Week 1 with what were arguably the highest expectations of any team in the XFL. However, Landry Jones was forced to sit out the opener with a knee injury. Although backup Philip Nelson racked up plenty of completions, he couldn’t get Dallas into the end zone on a consistent basis, leading to a surprising 15-9 loss to the St. Louis BattleHawks. Then, no team had a more tumultuous opening week than the Wildcats. Not only did Los Angeles run into the buzz saw of the Houston Roughnecks offense, the lack of defensive execution was enough to claim the jobs of coordinator Pepper Johnson and defensive co-captain Anthony Johnson.
The Renegades’ offense could be a lot more efficient and explosive with Jones under center Sunday. The Air Raid offense should certainly give the NFL veteran plenty of opportunities to move the ball up and down the field. Dallas does have a diverse and talented group of pass catchers in Jeff Badet, Freddie Martino, Flynn Nagel and Jazz Ferguson. Then, the Renegades’ running game — which includes NFL veterans Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar — may have a chance to establish more of a rhythm this week against a Wildcats defense that wasn’t really tested on the ground in Week 1.
The Wildcats will be looking for redemption in the wake of their aforementioned 37-17 defeat at the hands of Houston. Josh Johnson (thigh) appears to be trending towards suiting up after missing the opener. The NFL vet could make a big difference after rookie Chad Kanoff unsurprisingly went through some ups and downs in the opener. The Wildcats do have some impressive weaponry in RB Elijah Hood and WR Nelson Spruce, the latter who rattled off 11 catches and 103 yards in Week 1. Consequently, Los Angeles has the potential to make one of the bigger Week-1-to-Week-2 leaps in the league.
With the Wildcats at home and Johnson on track to start, I’m leaning toward them overcoming their home underdog status.
The Pick: Wildcats +4 (Confidence: 8.5/10)
St. Louis BattleHawks at Houston Roughnecks — Sunday, Feb. 16, 6 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Roughnecks -8 (-105)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Roughnecks -8 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: Roughnecks -8 (-110)
Quarterback P.J. Walker and the Roughnecks put the rest of the XFL on notice in Week 1 with their 37-17 throttling of the Wildcats. Walker looked like a natural running coach June Jones’ Run and Shoot offense, and several of Houston’s pass catchers turned in solid performances alongside him. For their part, the BattleHawks exceeded expectations by upending the Renegades on the road, 15-9, putting together a balanced effort on both sides of the ball.
Had it not been for Walker’s stellar performance, BattleHawks QB Jordan Ta’amu could have been an even bigger story during the XFL’s opening weekend. The rookie added 77 rushing yards on just nine carries alongside his 209 passing yards. The Ole Miss product stayed away from any interceptions and threw a touchdown pass as well. RB Matt Jones was the perfect complement to his efforts with 85 yards on 21 carries, but he does carry a questionable tag as of Thursday night due to a knee injury. If Jones were to miss, fellow NFL vet Christine Michael is set to step in, although he was far from impressive in Week 1.
As alluded to earlier, Walker was absolutely dominant in Houston’s win, amassing 272 yards and four touchdown passes. As those numbers indicate, he showed excellent rapport with multiple receivers. But, as impressive as Houston’s offense was to start the season, it’s worth noting the BattleHawks did a good job against Dallas’ similar Air Raid attack in the opener. Therefore, there’s reason to believe they could be more effective against the frenetic pace of the Run and Shoot than the Wildcats were.
For the second straight week, the BattleHawks are projected as significant underdogs. As they did last week, I see them overcoming that status with their solid play on both sides of the ball and coming in under the number.
The Pick: BattleHawks +8 (Confidence: 9.5/10)
Article written Thursday night, odds subject to change.