Remember the 20th century’s yarns about how American football odds were impossible to make money on? Minor league football is making bookmakers look so clumsy, they may have to start spreading their own fairy tales about how they really do put out accurate lines…sometimes.
When it comes to the XFL, sportsbooks have overcorrected themselves like a bowler who throws in the right gutter and then starts compulsively going “Brooklyn.”
First, sportsbooks too underdog-action losses after foolishly setting 2-score spreads on the league’s pre-COVID reboot in 2020. In 2023, bookies are falling prey to lopsided outcomes that offer gamblers a “gimme” of a win on point spreads that have been set almost obsessively at (-2) and (-3) points. But this week, instead of trusting each score to be as tight as 2-3 bones, Las Vegas odds-makers (perhaps egged on by the notion of yet another lousy “home team” in the XFL’s 0-2 Vegas Vipers) are finally letting their hair down and speculating spring football again.
That’s all Sunday’s bouts, though. The Arlington Renegades are a huge favorite over so-far sorry Orlando, and the Houston Renegades have earned a (-200) Sunday favorite’s line at FanDuel Sportsbook. For this Saturday’s lone XFL game (wouldn’t you know) bookmakers are again handicapping tight odds between the Seattle Sea Dragons (-160) and the underdog host Vegas Vipers (+3.5).
Week 3 XFL Odds, Lines, Spreads, and Picks
Seattle Sea Dragons at Vegas Vipers (Saturday, March 4)
In 4 collective tries, neither of these opponents has won a game, though the Sea Dragons’ offense has looked a little livelier than Sin City’s. The league passing-yards leader Ben DiNucci has been throwing to a pair of excellent WRs this season, and a combined 23 catches for Jahcour Pearson and rehab-project Josh Gordon through 8 quarters are causing speculators to believe high-scoring Seattle victories are a matter of time.
DiNucci, however, is prone to making turnovers, giving the Vipers a solid upset chance.
WagerBop’s Pick: Vipers ATS (+3.5)
St. Louis Battlehawks at DC Defenders (Sunday, March 5)
The St. Louis Battlehawks are threatening to become the best XFL story of 2 consecutive seasons. Even though those seasons were a full 3 calendar years apart. Quarterback A.J. McCarron’s studious learning curve during a ballgame is paying rare dividends for St. Louis, which often begins the 1st half looking awful and finishes the game as heroes. McCarron’s viral post-game interview following STL’s road win in Seattle, which put the Battlehawks at 2-0, was a nice moment for a league that in the past has been marred by vulgarity.
Of course, there aren’t any feel-good narratives that can affect the icy-cold predictions of sportsbooks. The DC Defenders can match the St. Louis Battlehawks with a 2-0 record of their own, and carry a (-2.5) favorite’s spread into Sunday’s first XFL kickoff.
Odds-makers like that Jordan Ta’amu, ironically enough the St. Louis Battlehawks’ signal caller in the last XFL reboot, is executing so smoothly with a colorful cast of Defenders skill players and another contributing QB in D’Eriq King. Ta’amu’s chance to lead a victory of 3+ points will boil down to the Defenders’ ability to ward off a visiting pass rush. The STL edge-rush has been gaining steam from quarter to quarter, also a lot like back in 2020.
Defenders vs Battlehawks is drawing an O/U (37.5) point-total number, illustrative of the sub-40 point Over/Under markets that are consistently being offered on the new XFL. Innovative rules meant to make games go faster, have a lot to do with conservative XFL point-total lines, such as the game clock running after incompletions are thrown.
WagerBop believes that the XFL’s likely season-average of well over 1 point scored per conversion-after-TD could make up for the small clock details in O/U trends.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (37.5)
Orlando Guardians at Arlington Renegades (Sunday, March 5)
The Arlington Renegades are only 1-1 and 3rd place in the South Division. In fact, Arlington had to labor to win its only game so far. So why are the Renegades, a rail-thin 1-to-5 pick at sportsbooks this week, such a heavy favorite over the Orlando Guardians?
Most likely because Orlando looks worse. Potentiall much worse. The 0-2 club has given up 3 times as many points as it’s scored, and veteran Guardian editorialist Mike Bianchi went so far as to compare Orlando’s home-opener flop to the very first, very dodgy XFL campaign of “He Hate Me” lore from back in Y2K.
In fairness, Rod “He Hate Me” Smart later reached the NFL and flourished there, something that not many of the current Guardians may get to do if minor-league football doesn’t improve in the Sunshine State.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (38)
San Antonio Brahmas at Houston Roughnecks (Sunday, March 5)
The Houston Roughnecks (-4.5) aren’t as heavy of a favorite to win as the Arlington Renegades this Sunday, but Houston’s substantial spread still represents a shift away from the extremely careful Vegas lines of XFL Weeks 1 and 2. Wade Phillips’ team is crushing the XFL South with minimal TDs-allowed and the most balanced offense in the league. Brandon Silvers connecting with WR Jontre Kirklin has been the best Daily Fantasy pairing in the alternative league through 2 games, and 2 rushing touchdowns by Max Borghi.
The Roughnecks’ defense isn’t the only unit, however, that’s helping to keep Sunday’s late Over/Under line of (36.5) as low as any point-total line found on the XFL this weekend.
San Antonio defenders have held opponents to perilously low numbers of yards-gained and 1st-down conversions; in fact, the Brahmas’ main problem on defense has been the unfortunate tendency to give away 1st downs with penalties. Watching the Roughneck offense square off with the stingiest defense Silvers and Kirklin have faced so far on the year will be amusing. But how the visitors fare with the ball could be even more critical in determining Sunday’s final Over/Under result.
Meanwhile, gamblers (and those clumsy odds-makers of spring football) still have to get used to some of the XFL’s scoring quirks, such as that a favored team can be losing by more than a field goal, score a single time in the waning minutes, and win the game by 5 points.
WagerBop’s Pick: Roughnecks ATS (-4.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.
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