It has been 18 years since we last saw the XFL, and this time, they might just stick around. Once again led by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, the XFL will this time around serve as an unofficial minor league to the NFL with a shortened season that aligns with the NFL’s offseason. The eight-team league is split into an Eastern and Western division and will play a 10-week regular season playing games on both Saturdays and Sundays with two Thursday night games in weeks 9 and 10.
When the season kicks off on February 8th, the games will be broadcast across six networks through ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, FS2, FOX, ABC, and will, of course, be available through their streaming apps as well. There is also a host of new rules that differ from the NFL, all encouraging scoring and a constant flow of football. Most notably, the league will use a continuous game clock only stopping on timeouts, change of possession, and during the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters. The play clock will be just 25 seconds as well, well short of the 40 seconds currently in place in the NFL. Let’s take a look at the four teams in the Eastern Conference to see where we can spot some value.
New York Guardians (+250)
- Head Coach: Kevin Gilbride
- Stadium: MetLife Stadium
New York football fans won’t have to look up the resume of their new head coach, as he was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for the New York Giants for nearly a decade, calling plays for their two Super Bowl-winning teams during his tenure. Guardians’ fans will be hoping Gilbride can do for Matt McGloin what he did for Eli Manning, as the former Penn State quarterback will now be at the helm in New York. McGloin will have at his disposal a big target in Mekale McKay who spent time in the NFL before being drafted by the Guardians to be their WR1. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Ben Heeney will likely captain the unit and comes into the XFL with 55 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the NFL under his belt.
Tampa Bay Vipers (+550)
- Head Coach: Marc Trestman
- Stadium: Raymond James Stadium
Anyone who has paid attention to the world of football over the last few decades will know the name of Vipers head coach Marc Trestman who has 30+ years of experience coaching the game at the college and professional level. Former Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray will lead the way for this Vipers team, having most recently played in the Alliance of American Football (AAF) following a few stops in the NFL. Murray will have the luxury of having likely the best tight end in the XFL at his disposal in Nick Truesdell, who after bouncing around the Arena Football League and AAF, was the Vipers first (fifth overall) pick in the XFL draft. At the running back position, Quinton Flowers will be a familiar name for Vipers fans as he played quarterback just a few years ago for South Florida University, who also play their home games at Raymond James Stadium.
DC Defenders (+600)
- Head Coach: Pep Hamilton
- Stadium: Audi Field
Located in the beautiful new DC United soccer stadium in Southwest DC, the Defenders could very well be one of the most exciting teams in the entire league led by former stud Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones. Jones might also have one of the best wide receiving cores in the league as well, headlined by Rashad “Rocket” Ross who has been an NFL journeyman since leaving Arizona State in 2012. The last time we saw Ross in pads, he was leading the now-defunct AAF with seven touchdowns, 36 receptions, and 583 yards. On the inside, Jones will have former Steelers wideout Eli Rogers who is arguably the best #2 option in the league and will get plenty of targets with focused attention on Ross. On the defensive side of the ball, the Defenders will be headlined by former Arizona star Scooby Wright at the linebacker position and former Ravens safety Matt Elam running the secondary.
St. Louis BattleHawks (+1000)
- Head Coach: Jonathan Hayes
- Stadium: The Dome at America’s Center
The return of the XFL also brings the return of football to the St. Louis area, who will welcome the game back after losing the Rams in 2015. With some of the longest odds to win the XFL Championship, the BattleHawks will play the underdog role led by former Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. Due to a late change at the offensive coordinator position, running back Christine Michael, who has over 1,000 yards in the NFL, might get a heavier workload earlier in the season. L’Damian Washington will compete for the WR1 position, as the BattleHawks look to form an identity as the season gets going.
When it comes to the game of football, I’ll almost always ride with the best quarterback available. Additionally with a league like the XFL who by all indications will do everything in their power to highlight the offenses, the Defenders led by Jones and offensive guru Pep Hamilton, to me, offer the best value on the board. Throw in two of arguably the best seven or eight wide receivers in the league, and I’ll take the Defenders to bring home the 2020 XFL Championship.
Pick: DC Defenders +600