- Vipers the only road team favored to win in Week 1
- Renegades the lone double-digit favorites
- Roughnecks, Defenders favored over Wildcats, Dragons
We don’t typically associate the middle of February with football season, but that could be about to change. Super Bowl 54 is in the rearview mirror, and the NFL won’t resume play until late in the summer. Fortunately, the XFL is here to tide football fans over for a while.
Vince McMahon had the idea of giving football fans something to watch during the NFL’s offseason about 20 years ago when he started the XFL the first time. While ratings were good during the XFL’s inaugural weekend in 2001, public interest quickly started to dwindle. Declining ratings and lagging performance led the XFL to cease operations after just one season.
Here’s hoping McMahon learned from the mistakes he made the first time around. The mogul is reportedly set to invest a whopping $500 million in the XFL’s reboot, which should at least guarantee that the league is able to avoid the embarrassment that the Alliance of American Football endured when it folded up shop halfway through its first season last year.
Football betting sites are already offering odds on the brand-new league. BetOnline has odds posted ahead of the 4 games set to take place on opening weekend. Saturday’s 2-game slate features the Seattle Dragons facing the DC Defenders in Washington, while the Los Angeles Wildcats will head east to take on the Houston Roughnecks in Texas in the nightcap.
On Sunday, the New York Guardians will host the Tampa Bay Vipers before the Dallas Renegades welcome the St. Louis Battlehawks to town. Let’s break down all 4 games and try to identify some betting value, shall we?
Seattle at DC
|Seattle Dragons||+7 (-110)||-115|
|DC Defenders||-7 (-110)||-105|
BetOnline only has the spread and moneyline available for all 4 games. I suppose it’s tough to know how many points will be scored considering this is a new league with a bunch of unproven players. I would imagine the XFL’s brass would like a fast, high-scoring style of play, but we’ll see what happens.
The Defenders are 7-point favorites to beat the Dragons at home, which makes them the second-biggest favorites on opening weekend. Seattle head coach Jim Zorn doesn’t seem overly confident in his team, as he has already cautioned that the Dragons’ roster isn’t as big or as fast as that of other teams. That seems…not ideal! Here’s the exact quote, ““That is the biggest mystery. I think everyone is nervous. … I don’t know if we’re as big as everyone else or if we’re as fast as everyone else, but the proof will be in lining up and just playing.”
The Dragons will be quarterbacked by Brandon Silvers, who you may remember as one of the standouts from the AAF. DC, meanwhile, will have former National Championship-winner Cardale Jones under center. Jones is one of the QBs in the league with some NFL experience, though he has never gotten a real shot at starting in the league.
DC is tied for the best odds of winning the XFL title at +350, while Seattle has the lowest odds at +900. We don’t know much about these teams, which makes betting inherently risky, but I”ll side with DC at home against the spread. The fact that the Dragons’ head coach doesn’t seem to have much faith in his own team makes me a little more confident in DC.
The Pick: DC Defenders -7 (-110)
Los Angeles at Houston
|Los Angeles Wildcats||+5.5 (-110)||-110|
|Houston Roughnecks||-5.5 (-110)||-110|
The Wildcats and Roughnecks both have +700 odds to win the title in the XFL’s inaugural season, so it’s interesting that Houston is a 5.5-point favorite at home. Former NFL veteran Josh Johnson will start at quarterback for Los Angeles, while PJ Walker reportedly won the quarterback competition for the Roughnecks over former Raider Connor Cook.
June Jones, who is primarily known for engineering the pass-happy Hawaii offense back in the day, figures to employ a similar offensive philosophy as the man in charge of the Roughnecks. LA is planning on building around their defense, which is a different route than most other teams seem to be taking.
This looks like it could be a closely-contested contest between a pair of evenly-matched teams. Houston could be a high-scoring offense with Jones pulling the strings, but I think there’s value in taking the Wildcats to at least cover. I think Houston wins, but Los Angeles keeps things competitive.
The Pick: Los Angeles Wildcats +5.5 (-110)
Tampa Bay at New York
|Tampa Bay Vipers||-2 (-110)||-110|
|New York Guardians||+2 (-110)||-110|
Tampa Bay looks like one of the better teams in the league on paper. The Vipers are tied with Dallas and DC for the best odds to win the championship at +350. New York, meanwhile, is near the bottom at +750. Those are the second-lowest title odds of any of the league’s 8 clubs. The Guardians topped the Vipers in a warm-up scrimmage late last month, but I wouldn’t put much stock in that result.
It’s interesting that this game has the closest spread of the week considering the discrepancy in those aforementioned championship odds. That said, the Vipers are also the only road team favored to win on the season’s opening weekend.
Former Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin will be under center for the Guardians, while ex-Georgia standout Aaron Murray will lead the charge for the Vipers. Tampa Bay’s head coach, Marc Trestman, is known for running a pass-happy offense, and he has a reputation as a “quarterback guru.” I think the Murray-Trestman tandem may wind up being one of the more potent combinations in the league.
Tampa Bay rolls in this one. Take the Vipers -2 and run.
The Pick: Tampa Bay Vipers -2 (-110)
St. Louis at Dallas
|St. Louis Battlehawks||+10 (-110)||-110|
|Dallas Renegades||-10 (-110)||-110|
The Battlehawks are an interesting case considering their starting quarterback, Jordan Ta’amu, has never started a professional game until now. Dallas will have former Oklahoma standout Landry Jones under center taking his cues from his old college coach, Bob Stoops. Stoops is clearly the most accomplished head coach in the league, which is no small factor in the Renegades being one of the odds-on favorites to win the title.
I have to think Dallas is such a heavy favorite because of their superior experience level over St. Louis in the first game of the season. Betting on a double-digit favorite covering the spread in a game between a pair of unknowns is a dicey proposition, but the fact that Jones and Stoops have a history together makes me think the Renegades will be tough to beat.
Bet on Dallas to cover on their home turf.