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Sportsbooks have Dallas as the best in XFL, but don’t overlook Wildcats

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The Los Angeles Wildcats are one of eight teams in the newly reformed XFL, which starts this weekend.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

As the football season has been winding down, we don’t have to quit cold turkey as the XFL returns this weekend.

Just like the original XFL in 2001 when the Los Angeles Xtreme won the title, L.A. has its own team with the Wildcats visiting the Houston Roughnecks on Saturday (2 p.m., Fox).

The consensus from Las Vegas sportsbooks seems to be that the Dallas Renegades are the best in the eight-team league. They’re 5-2 favorites at the Westgate SuperBook and Caesars properties while 3-1 co-favorites with the Tampa Bay Vipers at William Hill and MGM.

The New York Guardians are the 5-1 co-second choice at Westgate but were the longest shots on the board at 12-1 at MGM and William Hill before getting bet down to 7-1 at William Hill as of Thursday morning. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Battlehawks are 10-1 at the Westgate but only 6-1 at MGM and Caesars, so this gives us hope that our guesses are just as valid as the oddsmakers.

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If all goes well, more than half of the L.A. Wildcats won’t return after the upcoming XFL season. That’s a good thing because they will be in the NFL.

The Wildcats are between 8-1 and 9-1, but we believe they have a much better chance at making another run at the title. We’re excited to see what former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow can do with the XFL’s rules that favor the offenses.

I had a lot of success betting on the original XFL and won seven straight best bets last year in the AAF and was bummed when it folded after Week 8, so I’m excited about this new opportunity. Full disclosure: I went 0-2 against the spread (ATS) in AAF Week 1 last year before watching teams and making better decisions. Here are some takes on the four XFL Week 1 matchups.

Seattle Dragons at DC Defenders (-7.5)

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This line opened at -7, and it has been bet up to -7.5. But, don’t get hung up on 7 as a key number in this league. DC is led by former Ohio State QB Cardale Jones, who led the Buckeyes to the 2014-15 national title as a freshman but hasn’t had a chance to shine in the NFL. Seattle is coached by former Seahawks QB Jim Zorn, but maybe he should consider putting on the pads if the best QB option is Brandon Silvers. Former Navy QB Keenan Reynolds will be a fan favorite as a multi-threat RB/WR, but there isn’t enough on the Seattle roster to back this underdog. Best Bet: Pass.

L.A. Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks (-5.5)

Winston Moss of the Wildcats is probably the most unheralded of the XFL’s coaches, but we’re counting on Chow to make sure the Wildcats are competitive. His quarterback is Josh Johnson, the definition of a journeyman who has been with 13 NFL teams in 11 seasons. He might still have the most talent in this league and be worth a shot in the opener. I definitely give them an edge over Houston quarterback Connor Cook and coach June Jones. Other bettors have moved Houston from 4.5- to 5.5-point favorites,. The Wildcats were up to +6 at Caesars as of Thursday morning, so wait for the best line. Best Bet: Los Angeles +5.5 or better.

The XFL revealed the uniforms for its eight teams. Which players are going to look the sharpest? (Hint: the ones with the dragons on their helmets.)

Tampa Bay Vipers (-2.5) at New York Guardians

Some books have had this game as high as Tampa Bay -5, and it was down to -2.5 at most books as of Thursday. Again, there’s a lot of difference of opinion about this New York team. The hope is that the downward movement is from professional bettors, as this is the lone home underdog in XFL Week 1. Former Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin is in charge of the New York offense, and he is likely very underrated. You should have no problem trusting him against Tampa Bay coach Marc Trestman and expected starting quarterback Aaron Murray. Best Bet: New York +3.5.

St. Louis Battlehawks at Dallas Renegades (-10)

This line opened Dallas -7 and is all the way up to -10 (and as high as -10.5 at Westgate), presumably as the hype builds around the Renegades as title favorites. The temptation is to pass on them, especially with the uncertain injury status of Dallas quarterbacks Landry Jones (former Steeler who many have pegged as the best quarterback in the XFL) and Eric Dungey, but it’s looking from most reports as if St. Louis might be the worst team in the league. So, it’s best to wait for better teams to go against Dallas. Best Bet: Pass.

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