We saw D’Eriq King break out and supplant Jordan Ta’amu and Brett Hundley replace Luiz Perez. The game instantly became more interesting and DC bettors were rewarded by the change. Some speculation that Hundley would get increased snaps in week 2 pushed the betting line out from -2.5 to -3.5/-4 depending on your book. The market push through three was impressive especially considering the monsoon that was expected. It is safe to assume that the market has faith in Hundley. On Sunday, Orlando attempted to gain some competency on offense by swapping Deandre Francois for Paxton Lynch. It was the same result however and Orlando +4 never came close to cashing. So, out of the eight starting QB’s from last week, three were replaced for significant stretches of the game.
Offense was hit or miss as expected. Teams combined for 4.1 Yards per play this weekend. Short fields generated from mistakes, special teams returns/mistakes attributed to many of the points that were scored. Unlike in the NFL where offense dominates and defense is secondary (no pun intended), the XFL is being dominated by Defense and Turnovers. In Week 2 there were over 3 Turnovers per game. This was down from last week but still a 25% increase over the NFL average. In addition to the turnovers and special teams, Pass Interference seems to not be getting called as liberally as we are used to. Defenders playing with let’s call it “aggressive technique” have been rewarded in the early season. Maybe the refs help offenses out a bit more in week 3? Too early to call this a trend but is important for bettors to watch how this is called going forward. Turnovers should dip at some point as offenses gain familiarity and solidify an identity. More troubling is the lack of offense on a per play level through two weeks. Just 4.3 Yards per play through two weeks. For context, the 2020 version of the XFL had 5.1 yards per play though the first two weeks. Some external factors could be influencing the lack of production. The lack of pass interference calls for one, but also the weather. Over the first two weeks the weather has influenced several of these games with high wind speeds and low temperatures.
Alt Total Unders
Last Week’s article predicted an alternative total under to cash and those that headed the advice were rewarded. In the DC v Vegas game only 24 points were scored. Given that the Total in the game was listed at 34.5, There is an implied probability of 24 or fewer points being scored approximately 18.5% of the time. However, listed prices were in the +500/+550 range (implied probability of 15.4%-16.7%). With the struggling offenses, lack of Pass interference calls, late winter weather, expect these bets to cash at a rate higher than sportsbooks are expecting.
Got it Wrong
Seattle Sea Dragons
Seattle was thought to be the class of the league, with the Ben Denucci at QB and June Jones calling the shots. Instead, Ben Denucci has underachieved and underdelivered in every high leverage spot. Inopportune fumbles and a lack of accuracy have plagued the Sea Dragons. Seattle has moved the ball at times this season but has been unable to convert quality drives into points. The second half of the two headed dragon is Jones, the beloved OC of the alt football universe. The June Jones led Roughnecks of 2020 produced an offense with a Success Rate of 53.1% (higher than the KC Chiefs recent average) and 6.6 Yards per play. No offense in 2023 has come close to this output. While Seattle does lead a group of poor offenses thus far, they have achieved only 5.2 yards per play through two games. Another reason for concern is a lack of aggressiveness. As the Houston head coach, Jones was aggressive with 4th down calls relying on his offense to gain a lead and control the game. With Haslett as HC, Seattle hasn’t been as aggressive. Seattle settled for FG in the first quarter on a 4th and 4 inside the redzone, punted on 4th and 5 at midfield in the second quarter. Both were positive EV go for it situations. Despite underachieving and unlucky breaks, Seattle could easily be 2-0 and more importantly 2-0 against the spread.
St. Louis Battlehawks
Call them the Cardiac battlehawks or just lucky they are 2-0. While I do not think they are a top 3 team in this league, I will take a loss on this one. The offense started to get it going in the second half, McCarron looked good at times with accuracy down field and the willingness to extend drives with his legs. The defense is moving the line of scrimmage and while they don’t do anything else spectacular, they are able to make enough plays to keep the offense in the game. Now the bad news. The Battlehawks are 6th out of 8 in Net Yards per play (sandwiched between Vegas and Orlando). Enjoy it now and pack that upper deck because the smart money is on a fall back to earth. The Battlehawks are currently two point underdogs to the 1-1 DC Defenders.
The below rankings are derived from a model that incorporates play by play data, Coaching tendencies and player data.
San Antonio (+2)
St. Louis (-)
San Antonio moves in the #1 spot with a slight advantage over Houston. Led mostly by a quality performances on defense, SA is a going to be a force if they can get the offense to produce more big plays.
Houston has moved up in the rankings but doesn’t appear to be the powerhouse yet. The Clear market darling in the futures market is led by defense as the offense has been mostly average so far.
Seattle moves down two spots despite being the leader net yards per play through two games.
DC is a difficult team to gauge. Led by a creative run scheme, it seems obvious they would benefit from the more sudden runner in King at QB. Maybe they make the move, and it pays off?
Arlington is another difficult team to gauge. They really really need to find a way to be more explosive on offense. The Defense gave Houston fits last week before tiring late.
Vegas is a team with a shot to improve with Hundley at QB. Probably a buy low team going forward.
Orlando is bad. Possibly very bad. We will find out how bad this week.
Hope you got to this game early as the line has moved from 2.5 to 3.5 and back down to Vegas +3, It’s the total I’m more interested in. Slight value on the Under 38 as the wind is expected to have an impact in this one.
STL v DC
Not a ton line movement in this game. The market doesn’t seem to be overreacting to the 2-0 battlehawks. This game comes down to does King start at QB for DC? I’m right on market here.
Orl v Arl
Orlando is bad and Arlington struggles to move the ball. Orlando is going to be desperate to get a win and fighting to stay afloat in the South Division. I’ll bet on Orlando here to keep it relatively close.
SA v Hou
A Prime-time matchup of Number 1 vs 2. The Roughneck offense vs the best defense in the league. While the roughnecks are rising in the rankings, the problem for them is on offense. They aren’t creating big plays or sustaining drives well enough to lay this many points. I would have recommended the under but its already been bet down from 39.5 to 36. Give me the Brahmas plus the points here