The XFL returned to mostly positive reviews.
The overall quality of play was good — it’s not the NFL, but that’s OK — and the new rules were good without making it gimmicky. The referees mostly let the players play, plus there was transparency in the booth reviews.
It was also refreshing to see the open discussion of point spreads, totals and future odds on the network broadcasts. VSiN is doing live BetCasts for the more serious gamblers, but it seemed the networks struck an appropriate balance for their mainstream audiences.
Overall, favorites and underdogs split 2-2 straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS) in Week 1. DC and Houston won and covered as chalk in the Saturday games, and New York and St. Louis won outright as underdogs Sunday. Home teams were 3-1 SU and ATS with Dallas, the preseason favorite, the only host to fail in the openers. Unders went 3-1 against closing totals.
The Los Angeles Wildcats host the Dallas Renegades on Sunday (noon PT, ABC) in a game of what were probably the two most disappointing teams in the season openers. While the Renegades were upset 15-9 by the St. Louis Battlehawks, the Wildcats were blown out 37-17 by the Houston Roughnecks. It was so bad that defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson was fired after one game.
Both teams were without their No. 1 quarterbacks. Josh Johnson was limited in practice for the Wildcats this week and Landry Jones might return for Dallas. The Renegades are 3.5-point road favorites, but injury reports are few and far between so far in the XFL, so the recommendation is to pass on this game for now. Charles Kanoff played OK at times for the Wildcats, but he’s also dealing with injuries (shoulder, head). The Wildcats plus the points would be a good bet if Johnson or Kanoff start against Dallas backup quarterback Philip Nelson. But you should pass if third-stringer Jalan McClendon plays.
Here are the other XFL Week 2 matchups. Lines are from Circa Sports in Las Vegas.
New York Guardians (O/U 48) at DC Defenders (-7)
A lot of people are jumping on the DC bandwagon after the Defenders’ 31-19 win over Seattle. But while quarterback Cardale Jones played well and the team looked good, don’t crown them yet. Seattle was expected to be among the worst teams in the league, yet the Dragons were tied 19-19 late in the third quarter and still covering until a pick-six put the Defenders over the 9.5-point closing spread. New York quarterback Matt McGloin played well; the defense was more impressive. The Guardians swarmed to the ball, tried to rip out fumbles, covered well in the secondary and intercepted two passes on tip drills. The saying is that defense always travels, so trust the Guardians’ defense will show up on this short trip to the nation’s capital. Best Bet: New York +7.
Tampa Bay Vipers (-3) at Seattle Dragons (O/U 44)
Tampa Bay quarterback Aaron Murray took a lot of heat for his XFL debut and was benched in the fourth quarter. That’s to be expected when he completed only 47% of his passes and the team scored only three points, but he also had some passes dropped. If you like betting favorites, consider Tampa Bay (-2.5) as the Vipers should rebound from that performance against Seattle’s weaker defense. Best Bet: Pass (lean to Tampa Bay -3).
St.Louis BattleHawks (O/U 50) at Houston Roughnecks (-7.5)
Houston quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns in the opener, and you can see why he beat out Connor Cook. The Roughnecks probably had the best overall performance in their 37-17 rout of Los Angeles as 7.5-point home favorites, but the BattleHawks were just as impressive in beating preseason favorite Dallas 15-9 as 9-point road underdogs and +310 on the money line. This is the highest Over/Under of the week because of everyone seeing Houston score 37 points behind Walker. Since there is less confidence in St. Louis to contribute to the scoring, go with Under. Best Bet: Under 50.
Last week in The Times: 1-1.
Dave Tuley writes for VSiN, the sports betting network.