XFL 2020: Is The Glass Half Empty Or Half Full? NJ Sportsbooks Weigh In

From Week 1 to Week 2, sports betting in New Jersey on the XFL was up, but viewership was down.

The quality of play ranged from abysmal to quite strong, leaving enough room for both optimists and pessimists of the winter-spring football league before Week 3.

The upcoming Saturday schedule features the undefeated Houston Roughnecks visiting the winless Tampa Bay Vipers as 6.5-point favorites.  In the second game of the day, the Dallas Renegades are -5 against the host Seattle Dragons in a match of 1-1 teams. Both Saturday spreads come from DraftKings Sportsbook.

On Sunday, the 1-1 St. Louis BattleHawks celebrate their home opener against the 1-1 New York Guardians as a 10-point FanDuel Sportsbook favorite. The unbeaten DC Defenders hit the road by giving 8.5 to the winless Los Angeles Wildcats, completing the Sunday schedule.

Three of the four road teams are laying points.

Claim Your $1,250 Bonus at DraftKings Sportsbook
Up to $1,250 FREE
New User Bonus. T&Cs Apply.
DraftKings Promo: Bet $5 Win $200
PLUS $50 Free On Deposit
PLUS Up to $1,000 Deposit Bonus
To Claim: Click Play Now

What NJ Sportsbooks have to say

While the league averaged more than 3 million television viewers per game in the first week. A little more than 2 million viewers returned for the second according to published reports.

The XFL could survive with Week 2 numbers. Most likely, the figured dropped-off because of curiosity driving higher Week 1 television ratings.

If viewership stabilizes near 2 million, networks should be satisfied that this investment won’t hurt them.

By working collaboratively, the networks cross-promote themselves and the league. The XFL may indeed satisfy its low-to-moderate bar for success as a winter sports-betting reprieve.

NJ Gambling Sites spoke exclusively with Johnny Avello, the DraftKings director of sportsbook operations, and Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill (Caesars) Director of Trading, this week. Both believe the league held up well.

Handle was up around 25% from the first week, so we’re happy with the progression,” Avello said. 

“There was more total money (the under was wagered on substantially). We also offered in-game lines which handled about 20% of all action.”

In-game action provided timely wagering opportunities. The over-under lines continually drifted downward, enticing bettors to stab at the lower game totals.  It was a tantalizing proposition.

Avello said the weekend finale, St. Louis and Houston, received the biggest game handle. He believes the positioning of the game, coming on the heels of an exciting finish between Los Angeles and Dallas in the first contest, enhanced the wagering flow.

Another benefit was the 6 p.m. (EST) start for St. Louis-Houston a one-hour difference from the second game of Week 1. That pushed this game into prime-time viewing territory. (The format is similar in Week 3).

XFL 2020 bridges Super Bowl and March Madness action

The league has been considered a nice betting bridge between the Super Bowl and March Madness. But Avello thinks the XFL train does not have to stop there.

“The key factor for this league staying intact is for them to keep doing what they are doing and for us to keep creating new offerings,” he said.

“I don’t believe March Madness threatens the XFL because the opening Thursday and Friday are two of the bigger focused days of tournament betting. It spreads out a little bit more on Saturday and Sunday (when the XFL plays) and then moving forward from that point, spreads out even more.”

Avello believes fantasy betting has been a pleasant addition to the DraftKings package. Stars include quarterbacks Cardale Jones and P.J. Walker of Houston, and Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips, the XFL’ top-ranked star from Week 2.

Keep an eye on Renegades quarterback Landry Jones, who should improve after his rusty first returning from injury, and back Cameron Artis-Payne, who was the real star of the team’s victory against Los Angeles last week.

William Hill: XFL Performs Well

Bogdanovich believes the XFL has surpassed initial expectations.

“I would give it a B+ or A-,” Bogdanovich said.

“The league has been rock solid. I am shocked that we are doing the numbers we are. The XFL has enjoyed a much better start than previous leagues.”

“I assume it will only get better,” he added. “There are two games each day. It is staggered, no overkill. I think it can hold its own during this time. Hopefully the play gets a little better, I think it will. Many of these guys have been in mothballs for a while and now they are playing.”

Bogdanovich said television coverage and its emphasis on gambling has helped inspire wagering and he believes action could improve once bettors lock in on a favorite team or player.

“We were dead even doing business from Week 1 to Week 2, which is not a bad thing because the XFL had a strong debut,” he said. “I have heard that some other books increased quite a bit in the second week.”

XFL 2020 Week 2 Report Card

Play started shabbily Saturday afternoon when New York Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin was horrific. He was not on the same page as his receivers and said the entire game plan had to be scrapped at halftime. New York lost 27-0 to DC.

The second game suffered a similar dilemma, with Tampa Bay and Seattle notching only one offensive TD in Seattle’s 17-9 win.

Through two games, Tampa has still not scored an offensive touchdown.

Twitter was buzzing about the weak quarterback play sinking the league. Indeed, many signal callers missed wide-open receivers and the only completions were short screens to the backs or small gains to tight ends.

Game 3 looked shaky until the Dallas running game and Los Angeles passing game rescued a game that limped through three quarters with Dallas leading 6-3.

Then came the five quarters that rescued the week. Los Angeles and Dallas scored 34 fourth-quarter points in what became a 25-18 Dallas win and the Houston-St. Louis game totaled 52. That was 86 points in five quarters, giving hope that the offenses will solidify.

The league needs the deep ball.

Houston’s 28-24 win over a resilient St. Louis gave the game a prime-time feel and it passed a test.

The Los Angeles Wildcats secured the first 3-point conversion in league history, a daring maneuver turning a 19-15 deficit into a 19-18 game. It was daring because a miss would have taken a game-tying field goal out of the equation.

Some analysists criticized Washington for trying a 3-pointer when leading the Guardians 27-0. Actually, there was no better time to try that. Somewhere down the line, a team will need a 3-point play. Practice it while there is no pressure.

NJ Gambling Sites XFL Power Rankings

  • DC Defenders
  • Houston Roughnecks
  • St. Louis Battle Hawks
  • Dallas Renegades
  • Seattle Dragons
  • New York Guardians
  • Los Angeles Wildcats
  • Tampa Bay Vipers
About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.