XFL betting preview, Friday recaps
Friday brought us one day deeper into our withdrawals from the NFL season in the Tuley’s Takes home office, yet one day closer to more football with the XFL season kicking off on Saturday.
I know a lot of people say it’s an inferior brand of football, but nonetheless it’s still football, which is the best betting sport with teams playing just one game a week and the way the scoring goes. Besides, we’ve had a lot of success with these minor-league spring football leagues in the past as our emphasis on underdogs and Unders meshes well with leagues that have evenly matched teams.
This is actually the third iteration of the XFL, which had its inaugural one-year season in 2001 and then the 2020 reboot that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was on-board with the XFL when it made its splashy debut in 2001 and covered every game of the Las Vegas Outlaws out at Sam Boyd Stadium (if you see an old tape of the season opener with its mid-field scramble for the ball in lieu of a coin-flip, I can be seen running onto the field to take a photo).
But the thing I remember most about the season was that an early-season game on NBC went to overtime and delayed the start of a “Saturday Night Live” episode with Jennifer Lopez by 45 minutes. SNL founder Lorne Michaels was so upset that the league changed its rules to include a running clock to avoid that happening again. I jumped on the Unders as the oddsmakers failed to adjust enough with the betting totals, but I’ve always regretted not making more money on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as it truly was a perfect storm.
The 2020 version was also good for Under bettors, which has also been the case for the other spring-football attempts (AAF in 2019, USFL in 2022) as it is hard for the offenses to be in sync after starting from scratch, so the defenses are ahead of the offenses for the most part. The oddsmakers have done a better job this time around as they set all of the betting totals below 40 points and early bettors have bet them even lower. I did make sure to get Under 37 in Saturday’s season-opener between the Vegas Vipers and Arlington Renegades (see below) and posted it yesterday, so I hope readers took that cue if they’re joining us on the Unders. I’m fairly sure 3 of the 4 games this weekend will stay Under their opening totals but not as confident against the closing lines (not a stretch to predict they’ll split 2-2, so there doesn’t appear to be an edge to blindly betting the Unders at this point).
Another criticism I hear about these spring football leagues is “it’s players we’ve never heard of,” but while there certainly will be a lot of players from FCS/Division I-AA and lower levels of college football that didn’t get much of a chance to make the NFL, if you watch a lot of Power 5 college football there’s sure to be many recognizable names from nationally televised games in addition to a lot of former NFL players looking for a second chance: WR Josh Gordon, WR Martavis Bryant, QB Ben DiNucci, QB Kyle Sloter, QB Jordan Ta’amu, QB Paxton Lynch, QB A.J. McCarron, RB Matt Jones and LB Vic Beasley.
As I’ve been telling people, it’s no different from handicapping new college football teams every year with their turnover of players.
Any way you slice it, it’s good to have football back so soon!
Let’s get to our daily recaps of Friday;s betting action (a very light schedule with the NBA All-Star Break) and then offer our Best Bets for Saturday, leading off with an NHL First-Period Over parlay along with our previously posted XFL plays for opening weekend.
NHL: Underdogs went 3-2 on Friday with upsets by the Blackhawks (+220 in 4-3 win at Senators), Rangers (+115 in 5-4 win at Oilers) and Wild (-105 in 2-1 win vs. Stars). Road teams also led 3-2. Overs 4-3.
CBB: There were zero Top 25 teams in action on Friday, but we’ll see 19 in action on Saturday, including two games between ranked teams, both in the Big 12: No. Kansas State hosting No. 15 Iowa State as 3-point home favorites at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT and No. 5 Kansas hosting No. 9 Baylor as 5.5-point home faves at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT.
Saturday NHL Best Bet
Flyers-Canucks 1P Over 1.5 -180/Sabres-Sharks 1P Over -190 (parlay payoff +137): Even though we’re excited about having football with the XFL, we’re still considering this our Best Bet of the day despite losing with Friday’s play. The Stars-Wild 1P Under 1.5 came through for us with a scoreless tie in the opening 20 minutes; however, the Ducks let us down again (they’re 5-6 in their last 11 games) with their 1P Over as the Kings led just 1-0. Still, it was worth a shot at a +214 payoff and we’re still crushing it lately with these parlays. So, let’s fire away again with this one as the Canucks have cashed 8 straight and are 15-2 in their last 17 as they’re clearly the top 1P Over team at 42-13 (76.4%) while the Flyers are the No. 7 team at 34-19, including 7-3 in their last 10. Meanwhile, the Sabres and Sharks are the No. 4 and No. 9 1P Over teams, respectively, and have combined to hit at 65-44 (59.6%).
XFL Week 1 Best Bets
Vegas Vipers-Arlington Renegades Under 37 (Saturday): We wanted to get this pick posted ASAP as there were still 37s out there on Friday and we predicted it would get bet lower. And it was, as the only 37 I see as of early Saturday morning is at Station Casinos here in Las Vegas. As we wrote above, we’ve seen Unders dominate in all these spring football leagues (XFL, AAF, USFL) and we’ve already seen all these opening totals getting bet that way, so as always shop around for the best numbers you can get. I still believe it’s worth a play as I don’t expect 37 to be as much of a “key number” as it used to be in the NFL, especially with no PAT kicks as teams can go for a 1-point conversion from the 2-yard line, 2-point conversion from the 5-yard line or a 3-point conversion from the 10-yard line.
Seattle Sea Dragons -1 at DC Defenders (Sunday): My “dog-or-pass” philosophy is getting tested as I wish I had given out this play when the Sea Dragons opened as an underdog. I bet them at pick-’em and now they’re favored as they should have been all along. With no ties in the XFL, we feel it’s OK to lay -1 and risk a push if it lands on the number. I believed more bettors would be jumping on the bandwagon when they started hearing more about head coach Jim Haslett (2000 NFL coach of the year) and former Cowboys QB Ben DiNucci along with offensive coordinator June Jones, and that’s been the case as the Sea Dragons are up to -1.5 at most books as of early Saturday. I still believe they’re the right side, but lay points at your own risk.