The XFL returned to mostly positive reviews, and we were thrilled with the new league at the Tuley’s Takes home office.
We were happy with the overall quality of play — it’s not the NFL, but that’s OK — and thought the new rules were good without making it gimmicky. The referees were also a bright spot as they mostly let the players play, plus we loved the transparency of 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 I thought the networks struck an appropriate balance for their mainstream audiences.
Reports from sportsbooks have varied, with some handling more bets than others. Limits are low, and no huge bets were reported, so the books didn’t see any big decisions in Week 1. Matthew Chaprales, head of content at PointsBet, said a regional bias with the New York-Tampa Bay game generated the highest handle, twice as much as the St. Louis-Dallas game. Chaprales said the XFL games “mirrored college and NBA games of similar profiles handle-wise,” such as the New York Guardians game being on par with the NBA’s Celtics-Thunder game Sunday.
So we’ll see if the XFL picks up more betting interest in the coming weeks. The big test will come next month, when it has to compete with March Madness.
I split my Best Bets at 1-1 ATS in “Point Spread Weekly.” I lost on the Los Angeles Wildcats + 4.5 in their 37-17 loss Saturday at Houston but then won on the New York Guardians + 2.5 in their 23-3 upset of Tampa Bay on Sunday. We enjoyed betting it and will certainly continue and hope for success similar to last year’s Alliance of American Football, when we rattled off seven straight Best Bet winners before the league folded after Week 8.
Overall, favorites and underdogs split 2-2 SU and 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 dogs Sunday. Home teams were 3-1 SU and ATS with Dallas, the preseason title favorite, the only host to fail in the openers. Under went 3-1, with the first #BadBeat in XFL history coming in the very first game as the total closed at 51.5 points in DC’s 31-19 win vs. Seattle. The #BadBeat came when Seattle kicked a field goal to move within 31-22 but then took the points off the board to continue its drive, only to lose a fumble. Neither team scored in the final five minutes.
On Sunday night’s “Opening Lines Show,” I predicted after the Week 1 totals closed between 51 and 53 that we would see a slight adjustment down to 47 or 48 for the average Over/Under. That looks about right, with three of this week’s games right around those numbers. I think it’s also interesting that we have two games with 1-0 teams and two games with 0-1 teams, so after this week we’ll have two undefeated teams at 2-0, four at 1-1 and two winless teams at 0-2.
Here are my takes on the Week 2 matchups. Lines are from Circa Sports in Las Vegas as of Tuesday afternoon.
New York Guardians (O/U 48) @ DC Defenders (-5.5)
Tuley’s Take: A lot of people are jumping on the DC bandwagon after the Defenders’ 31-19 win over Seattle. But while QB Cardale Jones played well and the team looked good, I wouldn’t crown them yet. After all, 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. This line opened DC -2 on Sunday but has steamed up by more than a field goal. I think that’s an overreaction but will gladly take the added points. I might be biased since New York was my Best Bet in Week 1, but while QB Matt McGloin played as well as I expected, I was much more impressed with the defense. 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 I’m trusting the Guardians’ defense will show up on this short trip. Best Bet: New York + 5.5.
Tampa Bay Vipers (-2.5) @ Seattle Dragons (O/U 47)
Tuley’s Take: Tampa Bay QB 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. On “Betting Across America” on Monday, I mentioned Tampa Bay -2.5 for those who like betting favorites, as the Vipers should rebound from that performance against Seattle’s weaker defense. I hope Murray gets another chance, as they do have plenty of big receivers plus TE Nick Truesdell. Best Bet: Pass (lean to Tampa Bay -2.5).
Dallas Renegades (-4.5) @ Los Angeles Wildcats (O/U 47)
Tuley’s Take: These were the two most disappointing teams of Week 1. Dallas was expected to be the top team in the league but lost an ugly 15-9 game to St. Louis. L.A., which I considered a live long shot, suffered the worst loss of the opening weekend, falling 37-17 to Houston. The Wildcats’ loss was so bad that defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson got fired after just one game. Injury updates are few and far between, so we’re waiting to see if Landry Jones or Eric Dungey takes over for Philip Nelson in Dallas or if Josh Johnson will be back for L.A. Charles Kanoff played OK at times for the Wildcats, and I would lean to L.A. if it’s Kanoff vs. Nelson, but for now it’s a waiting game. Best Bet: Pass (lean to Los Angeles + 4.5).
St. Louis BattleHawks (O/U 51.5) @ Houston Roughnecks (-7.5)
Tuley’s Takes: Houston QB P.J. Walker threw for 272 yards and four TDs in the opener, and we saw why he beat out Connor Cook for the starting job. The Roughnecks probably had the best overall performance in their 37-17 rout of Los Angeles as 7.5-point home faves, but the BattleHawks were just as impressive in beating preseason favorite Dallas 15-9 as nine-point road dogs and + 310 on the money line. Of course, Dallas was without its top two QBs, and it wasn’t like St. Louis lit up the scoreboard, so I can’t pull the trigger on the underdog here. This is the lone Over/Under that’s sitting above 50, and I think that’s due to everyone seeing how Houston put up 37 points last week behind Walker. Since I’m not as confident in St. Louis to contribute to the scoring, I’ll go with Under. Best Bet: Under 51.5.
XFL futures (Circa Sports)
DC Defenders + 250
Houston Roughnecks + 325
Dallas Renegades + 450
New York Guardians + 500
Tampa Bay Vipers + 700
St. Louis BattleHawks + 700
Los Angeles Wildcats + 1100
Seattle Dragons + 2000