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 5 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.
Seattle Dragons at Houston Roughnecks — Saturday, March 7, 2 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Roughnecks -12.5 (-110)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Roughnecks -12.5 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: Roughnecks -12.5 (-110)
- Fox Bet Point Spread/Odds: Roughnecks -10.5 (-105)
The Dragons went down in defeat again in Week 4. Yet if there was ever a loss with a potential silver lining, their 23-16 stumble against the BattleHawks certainly qualifies. Versatile QB B.J. Daniels took over in the second half for an ineffective Brandon Silvers and nearly led Seattle all the way back before a late interception derailed the comeback. Meanwhile, the Roughnecks were busy keeping their record unblemished in the infamous Texas Throwdown game against the Renegades. They escaped Dallas with a 27-20 victory.
Daniels will presumably get plenty of playing time, if not the start outright, in Week 5. What makes that particularly intriguing is that the free-wheeling style the 30-year-old signal-caller flashed in the second half last week could dovetail perfectly with a gameplan that figures to be hyper-aggressive this week in an attempt to keep up with the high-octane Roughnecks offense. There will be points to be had against Houston. The Roughnecks have allowed at least 20 in three straight games. Additionally, Seattle’s talented three-headed backfield of Kenneth Farrow, Trey Williams and Ja’Quan Gardner could benefit from the presence of run-pass option threat like Daniels. The trio didn’t really have a chance to take advantage of the lanes an elite running threat under center can create for the defense due to game script last week. That could certainly change versus a Roughnecks squad the Dragons would do well play keep-away against by focusing on the ground game.
For the Roughnecks, there’s obviously zero reason to depart from what they’ve been doing on the offensive end. Week 4 saw another strong performance by QB P.J. Walker. What’s more, the XFL MVP candidate got it done with all of one completion to star receiver Cam Phillips. That speaks to the versatility of the Run and Shoot attack. Saturday, Houston figures to have its pick on how to attack Seattle. The Dragons have struggled versus both the run and pass at varying times. They enter the contest allowing 111.3 rush yards per game and 226.3 per contest through the air. That ranks them in the bottom half of the league in both categories. The dueling weaknesses could prompt a balanced approach from coach June Jones and more opportunities than usual for talented RB James Butler.
Final Word: As good as Houston has been, they’ve had trouble separating except for their season-opening win over the Wildcats. The Roughnecks’ defense has also given up its share of yards and points. I see Daniels as bring enough of a dimension so as to make the entire offense, including the running game, much better. This is a big spread as well, putting me in the direction of a Seattle cover.
The Pick: Dragons +12.5 (Confidence 8/10 — as long as Daniels is starting QB)
New York Guardians at Dallas Renegades — Saturday, March 7, 5 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Renegades -7 (-115)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Renegades -7.5 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: Renegades -7.5 (-110)
- Fox Bet Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Renegades -8.5 (+120)
The Guardians finally got back in the win column after what seemed like more than just two consecutive losses. Coach Kevin Gilbride may have found his answer at QB for the time being in Luis Perez. He played a mistake-free game and leveraged a strong running game to help New York score a 17-14 home victory over the Wildcats. The Renegades had a much worse time of it in Week 4. Not only did they lose starting QB Landry Jones to an MCL injury, they dropped a 27-20 decision to in-state rival Houston as well to move to 2-2 on the season.
Gilbride does have a QB decision to make ahead of this matchup. The rib injury to Matt McGloin that enabled Perez’s opportunity to start last week has now healed, and the former is probable for Saturday’s game. Whether Gilbride rides the hot hand in Perez remains to be seen. The good news for whomever is under center for NY is that the Guardians do have a balanced attack courtesy of an impressive backfield tandem of Tim Cook and Darius Victor. They combined for 114 rushing yards in Week 4 and will likely be leaned on heavily again in Week 5 irrespective of who’s helming the offense.
The Renegades will be forced to turn back to Phillip Nelson in Week 5 and beyond with Jones sidelined. Nelson was serviceable in the season-opening loss to the BattleHawks but couldn’t get Dallas into the end zone. Perhaps a second go-around as a starter will yield better results. Nelson is not without talent and does have plenty of weapons to work with. One of the most potent is certainly massive tight end Donald Parham. His power forward body and disarming speed has already created plenty of mismatches. Nelson will also have the benefit of two outstanding pass-catching backs in Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar to dump off to when necessary and faces a Guardians defense that’s ranked last with 236.8 passing yards per game allowed.
Final Word: Just as with the first game, this is another situation where there’s a big spread at play. The Renegades are likely to be at least a tick less effective — and possibly more — without Jones at quarterback. New York likely got some of its confidence back last week and has talent on offense to maintain enough balance to keep the defense guessing. Dallas’ D has been very good overall. Yet it’s their offense that may have some trouble separating enough to accomplish the cover of the big line. In a tough call, I lean toward the Guardians sliding in under the number.
The Pick: Guardians +8.5 (Confidence: 9/10)
St. Louis BattleHawks at DC Defenders — Sunday, March 8, 3 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: BattleHawks -5.5 (-105)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: BattleHawks -4.5 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: BattleHawks -4.5 (-110)
- Fox Bet Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: BattleHawks -4.5 (-110)
The BattleHawks’ only loss has come to the unbeaten Houston Roughnecks. That underscores how much St. Louis has exceeded preseason expectations. At the heart of their stellar play is QB Jordan Ta’amu. He continued his impressive development by completing 74.0 percent of his throws for the second time this season in a Week 4 win over the Dragons. In turn, the Defenders closed out the Week 4 slate with a second consecutive putrid road performance, one that got previously surging QB Cardale Jones benched in the fourth quarter once again. DC has looked lost on both sides of the ball in those defeats to the Wildcats and Vipers on either end of the country.
Much like the Roughnecks, St. Louis would do well to leave their offensive formula untouched going into Week 5. That’s particularly true against a Defenders defense that hasn’t stopped anyone the last two weeks. DC showed it had the talent to play much better when it raced out to a 2-0 start. Nevertheless, the way Ta’amu is working with a talented receiving corps that features De’Mornay Pierson-El and L’Damian Washington presents as a tall order. Then, Ta’amu’s exploits through the air are complemented by the 1-2 punch of Matt Jones and Christine Michael in the backfield. Both NFL veterans continue to play through some nagging injuries but have found ways to be effective as both runners and receivers at different points in time.
Jones is likely on a very short leash entering this game because of his performance the past two weeks. Tyree Jackson may not be an improvement. But, coach Pep Hamilton likely isn’t going to hesitate to find out first-hand if Jones struggles early. The matchup against St. Louis’ defense is a daunting one. Even factoring in their game against Houston’s high-powered offense, the BattleHawks are allowing the second-fewest total yards per game (266.3). Jones has a fully healthy receiving corps headlined by the capable and experienced Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross, but his propensity to throw it to the other uniform has completely sabotaged both players in the last pair of contests.
Final Word: I expect to see a much different Defenders team with DC back on its home turf of Audi Field. Jones is very likely playing for his job. So are several members of a defense that already saw one-time NFL first-round pick Matt Elam issued a pink slip this past week. Therefore, I concur with the oddsmakers and public that this will be a relatively tightly contested game. Nevertheless, given St. Louis strong all-around play, I’m in the corner of the BattleHawks accomplishing a hard-fought cover.
The Pick: BattleHawks -4.5 (Confidence: 8.5/10)
Tampa Bay Vipers at Los Angeles Wildcats — Sunday, March 8, 9 pm ET
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Wildcats -2.5 (-110)
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Wildcats -2.5 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: Wildcats -2.5 (-110)
- Fox Bet Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: Wildcats -2.5 (-118)
Much like the Wildcats had heading into Week 3, the Vipers appeared to be a team that was progressively improving with each defeat and on the verge of a breakthrough going into a Week 4 battle versus the Defenders. They delivered in fine form in that Sunday night home matchup. Tampa Bay authored a 25-0 shutout that saw both sides of the ball play stellar football. For their part, the Wildcats couldn’t carry over the momentum they’d seemingly garnered with their own Week 3 thrashing of the Defenders. They fell to the Guardians by a 17-14 score on the road.
Time will tell if this is a letdown spot for the Vipers They’re traveling cross-country after their aforementioned rousing win. The last team to make the trek from the East Coast, the Defenders, were promptly manhandled by a 39-9 score in Week 3. Tampa Bay will play exciting football if nothing else with Taylor Cornelius under center. The Oklahoma State product has made progress in the offense in each of his first three starts and has shown a willingness to play without fear whether throwing or running. His burgeoning rapport with receivers Daniel Williams and Jalen Tolliver — as well as the return of talented TE Nick Truesdell — gives Cornelius plenty of weapons with which to attack. The potent RB due of De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick is in even better shape. Los Angeles is ranked last in the XFL with 131.5 rushing yards per game allowed, while the duo combined for 230 yards at 5.1 yards per carry in Week 4.
The Wildcats are seemingly back to square one as far as the standings are concerned. They saw their chance to reach .500 go by the wayside last week. Los Angeles can take heart that it played well enough to have won their game against the Guardians with a couple of breaks. The fact they played as tough as they did while traveling across time zones and taking the field without star receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) is reason for optimism. There’s good news/bad news on each front this week. L.A.’s body clocks will be back to normal for their home game, but Spruce remains out. Nevertheless, the play of QB Josh Johnson (788 passing yards, 7:1 TD:INT through three games) is more than sufficient to keep the Wildcats offense going, especially when considering the contributions of WR Tre McBride (13-236-3 in two games).
Final Word: The Vipers are likely to fall victim to at least a bit of sluggishness due to their travel and the fact they’ll lose an hour of sleep due to this weekend’s time change. It does help that the game doesn’t kick off until 6pm Pacific time, but Tampa Bay is likely going to be in for a battle. Johnson won’t have it easy against the Vipers’ No.1-ranked unit either. However, I see his own defense — which ranks in the top half of the XFL in sacks (10), INTs (7) and fumble recoveries (2) — making life hard enough on Cornelius and his teammates to allow L.A. to pull off the cover.
The Pick: Wildcats -2.5 (Confidence: 9/10)
This article was written Friday afternoon. Odds subject to change.