XFL Betting Guide: Week 1
Where is there value for Week 1's four-game set?
First, we may as well get some context of each team's expected prowess. Here is every team's championship odds, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
|Tampa Bay Vipers||+400|
|New York Guardians||+430|
|Los Angeles Wildcats||+650|
|St. Louis BattleHawks||+1000|
The top of the league is pretty open, and four teams stand out as prime contenders. At numberFire, we have a metric called nERD that indicates expected point differential over an average team on a neutral field.
Regressing title odds and adjusting for league size and a few other tweaks, I came up with an estimated point differential for each team. This plus personnel, injury, and coaching situations help uncover some value spots for Week 1.
Seattle Dragons at DC Defenders (-7.5)
The Dragons are expected to be the worst team in the XFL, and the Defenders are a midrange team based on the betting odds. This game also is in DC as the XFL's opener. Pep Hamilton, DC's coach, and Jim Zorn, coach for the Dragons, each have NFL experience, but the talent levels look to be the difference here.
Cardale Jones will lead the way for the Defenders at quarterback, while the Dragons are rolling out Brandon Silvers, who did rank third in quarterback rating in the AAF. The Dragons' top receiver -- Kasen Williams -- didn't practice on Wednesday, and they're light on playmakers. The Defenders, on the other hand, can roll out Malachi Dupre, Rashad Ross, Jhurrell Pressley, and Donnel Pumphrey offensively.
The spread is quite large, and covering will require points, but the sheer gap in offensive talent points to DC covering.
Los Angeles Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks (-5.5)
Houston (+850) is actually a longer shot to win the title than the Wildcats (+650), but they're pretty heavy home favorites to open up the season. A key reason for that is the uncertain status of Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson, who didn't practice on Wednesday. If he doesn't play, the team will roll out Jalan McClendon, who took 3 sacks on 13 drop backs in the 2019 preseason. Efficiency should be expected to be down in the early goings of this new league, and a swap to a new quarterback can't help an offense score points.
Houston, meanwhile, is rolling out Phillip Walker at quarterback instead of Connor Cook, whom they drafted second overall in the league's skill position draft. Walker had some juice during his time at Temple, and head coach June Jones could get the offense clicking. Former NFL running back Andre Williams has his issues, but he should set up to ground and pound with a lead.
According to oddsFire, 74% of the money and 62% of the bets are on Houston. Houston should cover here.
Tampa Bay Vipers (-2) at New York Guardians
The only road favorite of the week, the Vipers are led by former NFL coach Marc Trestman and former NFL quarterback Aaron Murray. They're projected to be one of the best offenses in the XFL -- probably the best by a good margin, frankly. New York, meanwhile, feels a little overvalued in the betting sector, as the Guardians are in a popular market. In fact, 63% of the money and 53% of the bets are on the Guardians to cover. They do boast a former NFL quarterback in Matt McGloin, but two of their top receivers -- Mekale McKay and Joe Horn -- are on the injury report.
There sure seems like enough reason to back a home team getting points in a season opener, but Murray and the Vipers have some of the best championship projections around. They're also pretty spotless in terms of injuries to open the season. I know it's another favorite, but my money is on the Vipers to cover on the road.
St. Louis BattleHawks at Dallas Renegades (-10)
This is the biggest spread of the weekend, and it makes sense to a degree. St. Louis is constantly listed as the seventh-ranked team in terms of championship expectations. However, Dallas' starting quarterback, Landry Jones, was listed as a limited participant in practice because of his knee injury. His offseason timetable put him on pace to be open to a Week 1 return -- but it's not a guarantee.
Conversely, the St. Louis offense feels a little undervalued. Jordan Ta'amu threw to a bunch of studs at Ole Miss, and he has two big receivers -- Alonzo Russell and L'Damian Washington -- to go to, as well as the shifty De'Mornay Pierson-El. Oh, and remember Christine Michael? He was their first-round pick (sixth overall) in the skill position draft. Michael's elite athleticism in this offense should lead to a big workload.
Given the uncertainty with Dallas' quarterback situation and such a hefty spread, the BattleHawks +10 looks like a nice way to end the first weekend.