The going theory around the American sports media water-cooler for decades has been the following: non-NFL football leagues are destined for mediocrity or failure.
They’d been proven right so far, as every attempt at fielding an alternative professional league that could rival the NFL’s dominance ended up bankrupt. The USFL. The Arena Football League (several times). The Alliance of American Football, just last year. The NFL was a nigh-omnipotent entity, the one and only option, master of all it surveyed.
And now, along comes the XFL. So much lies in the way of their success.
First of all, there’s the unhelpful brand name. I’ve written about how this XFL is different in nearly every aspect than the wrestling-adjacent dumpster fire the 2001 league of the same name spat out on a weekly basis. It’s not great when the first thing people think of when they hear your league’s title is “He Hate Me.” Then there’s the lack of a built-in, institutional audience. The new XFL would have to win hearts and minds all on its own. And finally, would their big rule changes prove exciting or a hindrance to the fan?
Good news: The XFL’s showing promise. It’s clearly differentiated itself from its predecessor, its ratings and crowd sizes are far larger than expected, and their alterations to football as usual are a hit.
The league’s maintained momentum, shying away from going head-to-head with the NFL and instead positioning itself as a fun-filled, unpredictable alternative. And it keeps on rolling this weekend.
Below I’ll preview each upcoming game and give you my picks. Feel free to follow me on Twitter to keep up with the latest and greatest news, rankings, and in-game commentary. And as always, all game times are in God’s Time Zone (CST).
Tampa Bay Vipers vs. Houston Roughnecks (1p, ABC): Oh man, this one should be a bloodbath. The Vipers have shown absolutely no consistency on offense, identity-less, aimless. Their D has been fine, but PJ Walker’s been shredding stout secondaries the last two weeks now. Don’t expect the Roughnecks to slow down. And if you’re playing daily fantasy like a lot of XFL fans are, I’d grab as many high-value Houston receivers as you can. PICK: Houston
Seattle Dragons vs. Dallas Renegades (4p, FOX): Normally, my inclination would be to pick the Renegades. But Landry Jones looked decidedly mortal for three quarters last week. This game’s in Seattle, who obliterated the nascent XFL attendance record last week. Apparently the atmosphere was incredible. If Seattle feeds the run game and takes the pressure off of skittish QB Brandon Silvers, they could eke this out. PICK: Seattle
St. Louis BattleHawks vs. New York Guardians (2p, ESPN): The BattleHawks have quietly garnered a 1-1 record against two good teams on the road, and Jordan Ta’amu is leading the offense capably. They’re finally back at home, as football returns to the Gateway City for the first time in years. Expect a gigantic crowd that will probably throw noted grump and Guardians QB Matt McGloin into another paroxysm of blaming everyone but himself. PICK: St. Louis
Los Angeles Wildcats vs. DC Defenders (5p, FS1): You have to give Winston Moss credit for last week. The Wildcats looked to be in organizational disarray after Week 1 when Moss fired his defensive coordinator and cut his captain. But then they looked effective, if a tad shaky, in a close loss to Dallas. It won’t be enough for them this week, as Cardale Jones leads the most balanced team in the league into town. PICK: DC
What do you think of the XFL so far? Want me to keep these columns a-comin’? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And as always, happy watching!