Early Impressions and Picks For the XFL

Thanks to the XFL (and last year the AAF, while it lasted), we now have a shorter offseason for America's favorite sport. As usual for upstart football leagues, the ratings aren't great and many sports pundits are openly hostile to the idea of a spring or summer professional league.

I absolutely do not understand it. Despite what those pundits say, it is not ordained by Jesus and Uncle Sam that we can only have football from September to January. Feeling like having football in March is "weird" or "off" doesn't make it so. It's our most popular sport, but it has a shorter season than all other major sports and most minor sports. Why aren't we rooting for an offseason pro league to be successful?

In terms of the innovations: two I like. One I don't like. One I have mixed feelings about.

I like: the overtime format, which I can't wait to see in action, where each team will essentially have five shots to go for two in the traditional sense, and whomever converts more of those five tries wins. If they are even on that count, they go back and forth one at a time until one team converts.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's just like a penalty shootout in soccer and hockey.

I like: the unfiltered talk about the point spread and the over/under. Sports betting is becoming more and more normalized in this country at a rapid pace, to which I say: hip, hip, hooray!

I have mixed feelings about: the after-touchdown conversions. You get to go for a single point after by running a scrimmage play from the 2, or a 2-point conversion from the 5, or a 3-point conversion from the 10.

I like the principle in general, but it's disjointing seeing a successful conversion from the 2 only count for 1 point. I say make that worth 2 points, the 5-yard conversion the 3-pointer, and from the 10, a 4-point conversion. That'll create some fun chaos.

I don't like: the unfettered access to the players and coaches. Hearing the play being called is nice (at least after the color analyst interprets it), but interviewing players right when they come off the field after a big touchdown (or a big incompletion) seems like an "improvement" to a problem that did not exist. Has anyone ever thought, "Wow! Lamar Jackson just scrambled for 15 yards! Damn, I wish I knew what he was thinking now, filtered through the lens of what he's willing to say to a reporter!"

There are two picks I like this week. Spreads accurate at Bovada at the time of writing:

Seattle (+13) over Houston

While I have a losing record on XFL bets this year, I am up in profit, and I have gotten there by pounding big underdogs.

We are still learning about this league and its teams. The oddsmakers are not yet going to be as accurate as they are with a league and season with a history.

What we do know about the league is that seems like there is some parity. Through four weeks, only one team is undefeated and none are winless.

That undefeated team is indeed Houston, but 13 points is way too many in this spot. I've specifically profited on XFL bets by taking the underdog both against the spread and straight up. A couple double-digit underdogs have won outright, and that has more than wiped out my losing bets.

This time, I am not going to place a bet on Seattle to win outright, but I absolutely take 13 points for any team in this league that we are still half-blind on.

Los Angeles (-1.5) over Tampa Bay

Both these teams are improving. Both these teams pounded the DC Defenders at their home in the last two weeks. But that was Tampa's first and only win this year, and now they have to fly across the country. I do think L.A. wins, and I think they win by more than a single point.

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