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What AAF Week 1 might tell us about betting on the XFL

If you want to bet on the XFL, you need to consider what the past has taught us about a new football league. It won’t be determinative, but it’s helpful information.

Atmosphere at the Grand Opening of DraftKings Sportsbook at Resorts November 20, 2018 at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Photo by Bill McCay/Getty Images for Draft Kings

The XFL debuts this weekend, with all eight teams in action on national television. The league is embracing sport betting in a big way in hopes it will build interest in the league as more than just a novelty act. The league has quickly engaged with DraftKings SportsBook and other companies as official gaming partners, and television broadcasts will lean into the gambling side of the equation.

Odds are being set up in sportsbooks across the country, looking at everything from game lines to championship odds to win totals. The XFL is a brand new league with players and coaches who have been practicing together for less than two months, so it is difficult to figure out how to approach betting on the league.

The best example of this is figuring out point spreads and point totals for individual games. Most sportsbooks are avoiding point totals in the early going, but Circa Sports has unveiled their totals for all four games — and as this tweet shows, they’re flying by the seat of their pants to a certain extent.

More sportsbooks are starting to unveil point totals, but it’s safe to say most wanted to wait for someone to be the first. Now that Circa appears to be settling in the high 40s, more will follow.

There is no historical data on the XFL teams, but that does not mean we have nothing to work with in trying to handicap Week 1. We know some of the offensive tendencies for the coaches, and we can assess some of the talent on the various depth charts.

We can also look at last year’s AAF and consider how Week 1 went. The two leagues are different in terms of their approach to rules and the game, so this is not even remotely an apples-to-apples comparison. But every piece of information is worth considering, even if we decide it is not determinative.

San Diego at San Antonio

  • Point spread: San Antonio -3
  • Point total: opened at 52.5, moved into mid-50s
  • Final score: San Antonio wins 15-6 — San Antonio covers, hits under

Atlanta at Orlando

  • Point spread: Orlando -5
  • Point total: opened at 51.5, moved into mid-50s
  • Final score: Orlando wins 40-6 — Orlando covers, hits under

Memphis at Birmingham

  • Point spread: Birmingham -3
  • Point total: opened at 49.5, settled at 50.5
  • Final score: Birmingham wins 26-0 — Birmingham covers, hits under

Salt Lake at Arizona

  • Point spread: Arizona -3.5
  • Point total: opened at 52.5, settled at 51.5
  • Final score: Arizona wins 38-22 — Arizona covers, hits over

Notably, all four home teams were favored, and all four won and covered. This weekend, the XFL has three home teams favored and Tampa Bay a field goal road favorite against New York. The travel details are unclear for each team, including what kind of flight and hotel accommodations they will have. Is it worth laying points with all the favorites, or do we go all home teams and take the points against Tampa Bay?

Additionally, three of the four point totals went under in the AAF’s debut weekend. This makes sense because building timing on offense is a work in progress. Defenses have to get on the same page as well, but timing is not quite as big a deal.

There are two big things to pay attention to this weekend. The first is how the rule changes impact the product on the field. Will we see more plays as expected, or will things be slow and clunky initially? The rules are what could dramatically impact point totals heading into Week 2.

The second thing to consider is snap counts. We know what the depth charts say, but it’s safe to say those won’t play out exactly like they currently project. We’ll track all that and early next week we’ll offer up some thoughts on what it all means heading into Week 2.

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