The latest rendition of Vince McMahon’s XFL has come and gone and by all measurable metrics, it was a smashing success. With the audience on TV averaging just a shade under 4 million viewers and the attendance numbers in the 17,000 to 19,000 range, the XFL exceeded most expectations in their very first week of play. Like the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) found out, however, Week 1 is the easy part. Whether the XFL can sustain over the course of the season remains to be seen, but the product was admittedly even better than expected and its focus on the gambling aspect, if nothing else, gives it a fighting chance. Speaking of gambling, let’s take a look at a spot I have my eye on in Week 2.
New York Guardians at DC Defenders (-6.5, 48), 2:00 PM EST (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
The Defenders got us kicked off last weekend in DC, with not only the first game of the season but the most electric atmosphere of any of the four. In front of a near-sellout crowd at Audi Field, a stadium designed for the MLS that fits the XFL brand perfectly by allowing fans to be right up close to the action, the Defenders put on a show. In that first game, DC overcame a slow first half where their only touchdown was a blocked punt, by scoring 19 points in the second half, including two touchdown passes from quarterback Cardale Jones. After Week 1, Jones was the only quarterback in the league to throw for two or more touchdowns without committing a single turnover, all on the way to throwing for a 116.7 QB Rating, the highest in the league. Jones has still not lost a game as a starter since high school, as he went undefeated during his time with the Ohio State Buckeyes where he finished as not only a National Champion but Heisman candidate.
Like the Defenders, the New York Guardians handled their business at home in Week 1 as well, a 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Vipers. Whether they forced it or not, Viper’s quarterback Aaron Murray had one of the worst performances of the week, completing 16 of 34 passes while throwing for no touchdowns and two interceptions. For the Guardians, quarterback Matt McGloin didn’t exactly light the scoreboard up either, throwing for 182 yards and one touchdown, with a completion percentage of 52%. The Guardians also struggled to get the ball moving on the ground, with their backs combining for just 42 yards on 13 attempts. All in all, while they got the win, breaking down the game further, I see it as the weakest of the Week 1 slate.
While the Guardian’s defense played well last week and took advantage of some putrid offense, it’s not every week you’re going to be on the right side of three fumbles, including one that ended in a scoop and score. Additionally, the Guardians get a different kind of animal in this one with Jones and two of the best receivers in the league in Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross lining up across from this week. The Guardian’s defense and special teams also showed signs in Week 1 of being two of the best units in the league, with not only the blocked punt for a touchdown but a late 69-yeard pick-six by cornerback Bradley Sylve that sealed for the Defenders. I’ll take the Defenders in this one in what could very well end up becoming one of the XFL’s first rivalries given the short proximity between the two metro areas.