This week in sports

XFL Football League tries it again with Feb. 8 relaunch

I’m not sure if anyone ever saw this day coming but the XFL is back.
In 2001, the league lasted one year and was the subject of a documentary in the popular ESPN series “30 for 30.” But it’s now 2020 and just like the first time around the XFL has some strong television partners, including ABC/ESPN and FOX/FS1/FS2.
The first games of the eight-team league kickoff on Saturday, February 8, featuring the Seattle Dragons at DC Defenders at 11 a.m. PT on ABC. The second game has the LA Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks on FOX at 2 p.m. PT. The other four teams face off on February 9: Tampa Bay Vipers at NY Guardians (11 a.m. PT, FOX) and St. Louis Battlehawks at Dallas Renegades (2 p.m. PT, ESPN).
Rather than focusing on player personalities such as “He Hate Me” jersey-wearing running back Rod Smart and WWF-like (now WWE) theatrics from the first go-round like cheerleader cams, the league is focusing the product on the field with some unique rules.
Point after Touchdown will be completely different then the NFL and college versions. In the XFL, a team has an option after a touchdown to go for 1, 2 or 3 points. The play will take place on the 2-, 5- or 10-yard line depending on how many points the team wishes to try for, respectively.
Teams also have the option of doing a double forward pass, that’s right two passes. The only catch is each pass has to be from behind the line of scrimmage.
Overtime is closer to a shootout then a football overtime. Each team gets up to five chances to score points from the five-yard line, with each score being worth 2 points.
Kickoffs and punting are also different, the kicking team (minus the kicker) line up on the receiving team’s 35-yard line, five yards away from the team returning the ball. No one can move until the kick returner touches the ball or 3 seconds after the ball hits the ground. Punting teams cannot head downfield until the ball is kicked.
With the innovative rules, TV partners involved and high demand for live content, the XFL has a chance to succeed. Time will tell if they can hold their audience and make money.
“I expect they learned a lot from the first time and they’ll be more cutting edge and give the viewer the experience they’re looking for while not being as quirky as the previous XFL,” said Station Casinos’ Chuck Esposito. “If it’s a competitive product and the games are good, people will want to watch and bet.”
For the bettors out there, Caesars has released futures on teams to win the 2020 XFL Championship: Tampa Bay +175 (Opened +400); Dallas +400 (Opened +350);  St. Louis +500 (Opened +800); DC +600 (Opened +450); NY +800 (Opened +600);  LA +800 (Opened +600); Seattle +1500 (Opened +1200). There are plans at Caesars to book the games weekly as well.  Westgate Superbook also plans on offering lines as well.
“I expect people to bet it the first few weeks because of the novelty and because people will be missing football,” John Murray, Director of Race and Sports at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. “But when we get into March everyone’s focus will shift to college hoops and they’ll probably forget all about the XFL.”
At Circa Sports, the XFL will be on the board.
“We don’t put stuff up just to put it up,” Circa’s Matt Metcalf said. “I am conceding here because of the TV coverage. I wouldn’t be offering it if it wasn’t on ESPN.”
Esposito said Station Casinos plans to book the XFL.
“People love football,” he said. “Football is king and there’s a strong correlation between being able to watch a game and being able to bet on it.”
While I can’t recommend playing XFL games, I have spoken to a few bettors that did well in the short-lived Alliance of American Football that were able to beat the lines around town. XFL lines will likely fluctuate quite a bit so make your own numbers and have some fun with it if you opt to bet.

2020 XFL Lineup

Dallas Renegades

Head coach: Bob Stoops

Notable players: QB Landry Jones, RB Cameron Artis-Payne

Stadium: Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas


DC Defenders

Head coach: Pep Hamilton

Notable players: RB Donnel Pumphrey, LB A.J. Tarpley

Stadium: Audi Field, Washington, D.C.


Houston Roughnecks

Head coach: June Jones

Notable players: WR Cam Phillips, RB Andre Williams

Stadium: TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas


Los Angeles Wildcats

Head coach: Winston Moss

Notable players: K Nick Novak, LBV Tre Williams

Stadium: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, Calif.


New York Guardians

Head coach: Kevin Gilbride

Notable players: QB Matt McGloin, S Demetrious Cox

Stadium: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ


St. Louis Battlehawks

Head coach: Jonathan Hayes

Notable players: RB Matt Jones, CB Marquez White

Stadium: The Dome at America’s Center, St. Louis


Seattle Dragons

Head coach: Jim Zorn

Notable players: TE Colin Jeter, DT Anthony Moten

Stadium: CenturyLink Field, Seattle


Tampa Bay Vipers

Head coach: Marc Trestman

Notable players: QB Aaron Murray, CB Herb Waters

Stadium: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.