Ethan Hewett | February 8th, 2020
The time has finally arrived. The league that was founded by Vince McMahon and commissioned by Oliver Luck, is ready to kick off. After going just five days since the Super Bowl, it is time for the XFL. Between a large percentage of players in the league having NFL experience, popular coaches, and an exciting new rule package, there are plenty of reasons to be stoked to watch the new spring league. It’s time to make some predictions and also look into the games that are happening this weekend.
The XFL will follow standard football procedures, for the most part, however, there are a few big differences in how the league will approach special teams and overtime. While we won’t touch on all of them, which you can see on the XFL website, we’ll touch on some of the bigger ones.
This rule seemed the most gimmicky of them all, however, after seeing the rule in effect in scrimmages, it just might work. The only two players moving before the kick is caught are the kicker and the returner. While the rest of the kicking team is lined up on their opponents 35-yard line with the remainder of the receiving team lined up on their own 30-yard line (five yards apart). Once the ball is caught or has been on the ground for three seconds, it is free for all.
Punts, much like kickoffs, have made all but the kicker and returner remain stationary for a majority of the time. Once the punter has kicked the ball, the kicking team can release past the line of scrimmage and defenders lined up on the line of scrimmage can cross over. If the ball goes out of bounds inside the 35-yard line or into the end zone, the ball will be pulled back to the 35-yard line. Fair catches are permitted but disincentivized.
The XFL wanted to keep fans entertained. So why not have a shootout in overtime? Both teams will get five opportunities at two-point conversions from the five-yard line. Whichever team has more points at the end of that wins the game. Simple as that. If one team has been mathematically eliminated before five rounds are completed (team 1 converts first three, while team 2 converts none), then the game would be called there.
If the game is still tied after five rounds, the shootout will continue until there is a winner. Post-snap penalties will result in no points being awarded while pre-snap penalties will be assessed and play resumes.
Forget kicking extra points. The XFL is implementing a new way to get your points after a score. Giving teams the option to go for either a one, two, or three-point conversion. One-pointers will be placed at the two-yard line, two-pointers at the five-yard line, and three-pointers at the 10-yard line. Teams cannot kick and if the defense should force a turnover and return it for a touchdown, it will result in the same amount of points that the offense was going for.
What is a Catch?
For too long college football catch rules have been underrated. Contrary to the NFL, the XFL says that any part of the body can touch in bounds. While also stating that they will not require two feet in bounds.
The Double-Forward Pass
The XFL has also found a way for coaches to get a little more creative with their playbooks by implementing the “double-forward pass.” In the NFL, there can only be one forward pass but any amount of laterals (no forward progress). The XFL has said that there can now be two forward passes as long as both passes originate from behind the line of scrimmage. Once the ball has passed the line of scrimmage, no more forward passes may be attempted.
Week One Games
Without much data and performance to look at, this week will be based around home-field advantage and injuries.
Seattle Dragons @ D.C. Defenders (-7)
Time: 2 PM EST
The opening game of the XFL season will take place in none other than the nation’s capital. D.C. has a lot of talent including quarterback Cardale Jones. While Seattle might keep it close, I have D.C. winning this one pretty big. Between a good play-caller, quarterback, backfield, and receiving corp, this offense should carry the Defenders to victory.
Straight Up: D.C.
Against the Spread: D.C. (-7)
Los Angeles Wildcats @ Houston Roughnecks (-5.5) GAME OF THE WEEK
Time: 5 PM EST
As it shows, this is my game of the week. Both teams have talent on the offensive side of the ball. I really like Phillip Walker for Houston, and quarterback Josh Johnson is going to keep the Wildcats in games nearly every week. Houston takes this one in a close game.
Straight Up: Houston
Against the Spread: Los Angeles (+5.5)
Tampa Bay Vipers @ New York Guardians (+2.5)
Time: 2 PM EST
Tampa Bay is going to need to slow down what is going to likely be a very balanced Guardian offense led by quarterback Matt McGloin. The Guardians also will be taking on Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray, who is most likely one of the more refined mobile quarterbacks in the XFL. However, I think the Guardians pull this one out by at least four points.
Straight Up: New York
Against the Spread: New York (+2.5)
St. Louis Battlehawks @ Dallas Renegades (-10)
Time: 5 PM EST
With the biggest line of the week, the Battlehawks and rookie pro quarterback Jordan Ta’amu head to Dallas to take on the league championship favorite Renegades. The biggest question for this game is if Renegades quarterback Landry Jones will be healthy for the week one match. Either way, I’m taking Dallas straight up but I expect St. Louis to keep this game close, especially if Jones doesn’t play.
Straight Up: Dallas
Against the Spread: St. Louis (+10)
The Dallas Renegades seem to be clear favorites with the most NFL experience on their team and the quarterback-head coach duo of Jones and Bob Stoops. While they have to compete with the Houston Roughnecks in their division, Dallas has the best roster by far and it will take an upset to take away the throne from the Renegades.
I’m going to go with Roughnecks quarterback Phillip Walker. Walker is an undersized quarterback standing at 5’11’’ but he has the talent to leave his mark in this league. Walker still holds both career passing yards and touchdown records at Temple University where he played under now Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. Walker also has Sammie Coates at wide receiver and a solid backfield behind him. Not to mention he beat out Connor Cook, former Michigan State standout, for the starting job.
Coach of the Year: Bob Stoops, Renegades
Offensive Player of the Year: Sammie Coates, WR, Roughnecks
Defensive Player of the Year: Johnathan Calvin, OLB, Renegades
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images