Offense has been a huge problem for the New York Guardians, who take the field for their third XFL game Sunday in St. Louis (3 p.m., ESPN).
Last week’s scoring woes were widely publicized after a 27-0 shutout at the hands of the D.C. Defenders. Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin was vocal in his criticism of the New York brain trust on the sideline.
But New York’s offense was also horrible in its 23-3 season-opening win over surprisingly bad Tampa Bay. In that game:
— New York’s only second-half touchdown came on a fumble return by the defense. The offense scored just 16 points.
— New York gained only 226 yards of total offense, with just 2.8 yards per carry on the ground.
— New York converted just 1 of 10 third-down tries.
It’s very important for handicappers to read box scores rather than just watch the scoreboard, particularly at the beginning of a season. Final scores are often the most misleading stats in games. Note that xfl.com is running comprehensive box scores, which can be accessed through its schedule page.
The Guardians will likely close just below 10-point underdogs in St. Louis. The BattleHawks have impressed in two road games — an upset of Dallas and a close loss in Houston — and have moved the ball well under quarterback Jordan Ta’amu from Ole Miss (374 and 390 total yards).
Laying big numbers is dicey in any sport. It’s too early to know whether St. Louis is worthy of so much respect — or New York of such disrespect — until handicappers have a larger sample size. Just remember that high spreads aren’t hard to cover if the dog isn’t going to score!
— Offensive points: New York 16, St. Louis 39
— Offensive yards: New York 363, St. Louis 764
— Third-down conversions: New York 2/21 (10%), St. Louis 17/31 (55%)
— Drive points: New York 0, St. Louis 39
Drive points are those scored on offensive drives of 60 yards or more. St. Louis has established in two road games that it knows how to do that. New York hasn’t managed even a long-distance drive for a field goal.
Also, early XFL games have shown clear turnover problems for visiting teams. It’s tough to start from scratch and execute in hostile territory. In the first two weeks, visitors coughed up the ball 21 times, hosts just eight.
New York’s 1-1 record puts it in the middle of the pack of current futures odds to win the league championship. William Hill rates the eight-team league accordingly (percentage equivalents in parentheses):
— Defenders 9/5 (36%), Roughnecks 11/5 (31%), Renegades 4/1 (20%), BattleHawks 15/2 (12%), Guardians 12/1 (8%), Vipers 15/1 (6%), Dragons 15/1 (6%), Wildcats 25/1 (4%)
Sportsbooks build a universe larger than 100% to create a house edge. Sunday’s other game will feature the league favorite D.C. Defenders laying more than a touchdown on the road at the Los Angeles Wildcats (6 p.m., FS1).