The new XFL is more than just a disparate football league. It’s a league with a single dominant team reigning above the others, at least until proven otherwise.
Already a minor-league titan from a defensive standpoint, the 6-0 D.C. Defenders had a Week 6 jailbreak on offense against highly-rated Houston.
QB Jordan Ta’amu punished Houston’s aggressive defense with his arm, finding WKU product Lucky Jackson for 136 of his 245 yards and 1 of 2 passing TDs in D.C.’s 37-26 win. RB Abram Smith inked another touchdown and 95 yards of his own. Smith’s own personal breakout game came the weekend before as the undrafted RB set fresh league records against the St. Louis Battlehawks. The D.C. Defenders are simply a yardage-and-conversion machine on rushing downs, leading the XFL with 160+ rush yards per game. But the nation’s capital is also ranked tops in XFL point scoring, and its defense prohibits running as well as any minor-league football team you can think of in the modern era. The Defenders do have the defects of their virtues upon trying to become the “2019 Baltimore Ravens” of spring pigskin, if opposing QBs are constantly being forced to open up and help to produce high-scoring games like D.C. vs Houston from Week 6.
It’s an angle that XFL speculators should pay close attention to as the Defenders’ weekly schedule varies in difficulty. Houston and St. Louis, for example, are clubs capable of giving D.C. a tough ballgame in the XFL playoffs. (Don’t worry, Seattle fans, we’ll get to you.) Yet with 5 other teams which are not meeting such standards, and there being at least a couple of cellar-dwelling patsies in the mix, WagerBop’s readers must be on the lookout for potentially big mismatches on the XFL’s final stretch of regular-season dates.
Seattle Sea Dragons at Arlington Renegades (Friday, March 31)
WagerBop’s been closely watching XFL point-total lines, the setting (and settling) of which requires Sin City’s handicappers to weigh a conflicting set of factors. A lack of extra-point kicking lowers the XFL’s overall point production a little bit, even as “3-point conversion” attempts give teams who’re trailing by as many as 27 points the chance to mount furious comebacks, because an offense must work for even a single point-after from the 2 yard-line. Running clocks after incomplete passes help to keep QBs throwing the ball when leading games, but some of the league’s offenses are struggling to make TD drives happen.
O/U odds offered on lines like (37) and (38) point-totals really aren’t that conservatively drawn for a matchup like Arlington vs Seattle. The Seattle Sea Dragons have a midseason win streak going, and in Week 5, scored an upset the Houston Roughnecks, but also labored to defeat the hapless Orlando Guardians. The Renegade offense is fast becoming a fright that belongs to Halloween and not Easter, illustrated by a 15-9 loss to San Antonio on Sunday.
Speculators just may anticipate that XFL gamblers, drawn to only a few spare headlines on Seattle’s ex-NFL star Josh Gordon, will pick the “Over” on Friday’s contest hoping that Seattle has another big night through the air. But if that’s going to be the case, picking the Sea Dragons spread at just (-5) points given away seems like the smarter wager to make.
A club doesn’t need any points-after conversion at all to cover (-5) on the point spread if it breaks an XFL deadlock with a 6-point TD. Seattle should be given many, many chances to parlay a mid-game lead out of good field position due to Arlington’s flaccid offense.
WagerBop’s Pick: Sea Dragons ATS (-5)
San Antonio Brahmas at Vegas Vipers (Saturday, April 1)
QB Luis Perez, the former Vipers signal-caller, didn’t finish 4 quarters behind center last weekend, and in Week 7 the journeyman was unceremoniously traded to Arlington for linebacker Ryan Mueller. San Antonio’s dreadfully dull contest with Arlington quickly turned into the “Under Bowl” of Week 6. So why is the opening O/U number at sportsbooks as high as (39) points for Brahmas at Vipers on Saturday, the latter team a (-3) spread favorite?
Possibly because each OL is expected to have an easier time blocking against its opposing defense. Arlington’s pass rush and defensive backfield is holding the Renegades’ 3-3 season aloft, but the Vipers are ranked last in opposing yards-per-game and have gotten torched for an average of 31 PPG over the last 4 outings. San Antonio fields a noble defense that gives up a few too many rushing yards, but the Brahmas may not punish the Vipers’ pass-pro anything like the potent Battlehawks edge rush did in STL’s blow-out midseason triumph.
Vegas is a (-155) moneyline bet to win behind new starting QB Brett Huntley. We’ll go with the club that’s got a slightly better W/L record and a field goal’s worth of points in hand.
WagerBop’s Pick: Brahmas ATS (+3)
D.C. Defenders at Orlando Guardians (Saturday, April 1)
Saturday’s matchup between D.C. and Orlando will involve 2 cities taking almost a complete role-reversal from their place in other noteworthy football leagues of the USA.
Orlando is the home of the UCF Knights and prestigious New Year’s bowl games, not to mention belonging to the same state as the NFL’s recent Super Bowl champions from Tampa Bay. Washington Commanders football has been a dumpster-fire on and off the gridiron for a majority of the past 10 years, while Maryland still struggles to gain traction in Power-5 college pigskin. Yet, an undefeated D.C. Defenders squad will travel to meet the very worst team from the XFL, the Guardians of (otherwise) proud Orlando this weekend. The Defenders are a whopping (-9.5) point spread favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook.
The point spread can hardly be questioned, but what about the prevailing O/U number of (45.5) total points, which anticipates a blow-out win for the Defenders without fully taking into account the team’s style?
If the D.C. Defenders decided to play safe against one of the XFL’s more hapless bids like Orlando, Ta’amu and King’s offense could produce 250 rushing yards in a 22-0 triumph. That’s not the likeliest outcome on Saturday night, but it’s a conceivable handicap that leaves a lot of room for error to aid those calmly betting the low side of the Over/Under.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (45.5)
St. Louis Battlehawks at Houston Roughnecks (Sunday, April 2)
The game on Sunday afternoon will provide the most well-matched clash of titans that the XFL can muster right now, at least until the dominant Defenders hit a dry spell. St. Louis and Houston are each regrouping after tough midseason losses to the league leaders, but FanDuel’s (-3) spread on the Roughnecks, given Week 6’s scores, may give Houston more value than bettors will fork-over as the week winds down.
Houston’s defense was embarrassed by Jordan Ta’amu’s offense, leading to the question of whether a unit with no shortage of hype is really worth all-that and a 3-and-out at the LOS. FanDuel Sportsbook’s main motivation behind casting St Louis as Week 7’s field goal underdog vs Houston appears to be that the Battlehawks won’t play where the club has drawn 30,000 local fans at a time…in the Gateway City.
But if the game this coming Sunday was in STL, would the fierce edge-rushing Battlehawks be a 3-point favorite to crash the pocket and win for a 5th time, or merely a pick’em wager? Saint Louis’ noisy home-field advantage is hardly shared among all XFL brands in the league’s reboot. In 2020, the Roughnecks once hit close to 20,000 host fans for a game, but that number’s been nearly halved since then, as the club leaks attendance in spite of a winning record.
In short, skeptical bookies might try granting the St. Louis Battlehawks more credit for a home-field edge rather than just giving STL more points ATS when on the road.
WagerBop’s Pick: Battlehawks ATS (+3)
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.
Leave a Reply