To be honest, we as football fans didn’t know what we were going to see, but to our surprise the gambling discussion was prevalent from the very beginning of the first game. The announcers throughout the four games mentioned the spread on the games and the total more times than we could count (which is a good thing). We had a bit of controversy in the very first game when it came to the total. The over/under in the Defenders/Dragons game was 51.5 and in the 4th quarter with DC up 31-19, the Dragons kicked a field goal to make it 31-22 and the game had gone over which was mentioned on the broadcast except there was a running into the kicker penalty. Head coach Jim Zorn of the Dragons elected to take the points off the board and try for a touchdown. The Dragons turned the ball over on the DC 5 yard line with four minutes left and the game finished at 31-19.
Also, on Sunday during the Dallas/St. Louis game the ESPN announcer Tom Hart made many references in terms of the spread and who was covering at the time and explained what was happening with the over/under. At the end of the game when they displayed the final score ESPN also added the spread and total on the screen and showed who covered the spread. In all my years of watching sports that was an absolute first. So, expect that to be the norm moving into week 2 and beyond.
I’ve got to give ESPN sideline reporter Dianna Russini credit. I’ve never seen a sideline report scrabble and run around like she did to get in game analysis from players. Russini, did a great job, as did everyone reporting from the sidelines and I’d give this an “A” but during her first ever XFL report a Dragons player on live television threw out two F-Bombs which probably made ESPN think about if that was such a good idea or not. There were a few instances when the game needed instant replay and they got it right every single time and were extremely quick about it. We are interested in the game but don’t need there to be 5 minute instant replays either, so that was refreshing. I was impressed with the referees on how they controlled the game and not calling holding calls like they do constantly in the NFL. The NFL officials sadly should have taken notes from the XFL on how to manage a game. Also, when there was an issue (and was not often at all ) they got together and got the call right in a timely fashion, and again it was refreshing.
The defense in these games was solid and hard hitting, but the offense was average at best. For example, the Dallas Renegades and head coach Bob Stoops had a tough time even putting together first downs and yet they were a 9 point favorite and only managed 9 total points in the game. Possibly the best player in the league is their injured quarterback Landry Jones, who if is back this week against Los Angeles will be able to improve on my C+ grade. Maybe it’s just that the quarterbacks in this league are having an issue with their accuracy going deep downfield and thus a main reason why they are not in the NFL.
The gambling aspect really was something to hear and see as I explained earlier. Just to think when Al Michaels of Sunday Night Football, even makes a sort of gambling reference, we as fans would go crazy and talk about it the next day. Here, we got a heavy dose of it from the first snap to the last. It would have been better to see some exciting plays and more scoring. After week 1, five of the eight teams failed to score 20 or more points.
Harry’s Picks for Week 2
New York Guardians @ DC Defenders -6.5 & 47.5
The Defenders live up to their name and shut down QB Matt McGloin and the Guardians.
Defenders -6.5 and Under 47.5
Tampa Bay Vipers -2 & 43.5 @ Seattle Dragons
Vipers clean up their turnover issues and the Dragons continue to have problems on defense.
Vipers -2 and Under 43.5
Dallas Renegades -4.5 & 47.5 @ Los Angeles Wildcats
Wildcats +4.5 and Over 47.5
The Wildcats bounce back after getting rolled by the Roughnecks and cover in their home opener.
St Louis Battlehawks @ Houston Roughnecks -8 & 49.5
Battlehawks +8 and Over 49.5
Jump on the over as both squads show off their offensive weapons in the highest scoring game of the week.
GOOD LUCK !