This is an intriguing matchup with some fun narratives attached to it. First off, I’ve dubbed the battle between the Houston Roughnecks and Seattle Sea Dragons the June Jones Bowl.
In all seriousness, I am expecting a great game between the two best teams so far. Yes, you heard that right: Seattle is one of the top two teams in my rankings. Now, what are some betting angles to look for in this game? Last week, I mentioned that Seattle is a high-variance team that bettors should take as an underdog on the Money line. Bettors will get that opportunity this week, as Seattle is currently a 4-point underdog at home. Let’s dig into these two teams and discuss some of the differences between them.
Starting with the quarterbacks, Ben DiNucci has been up and down for Seattle, but mostly up as of late. He currently leads the XFL in passing yards and completion percentage. What has gotten him into trouble is his rate of turnover-worthy plays (4.3%), which is very high.
On the other side, his opponent Brandon Silvers has posted a 3.2% TWP rate (4th among starters). With that in mind, you may assume that Silvers has played it safe with his throws. That has not been the case. Silvers has attempted throws, on average, 9.9 yards downfield, which is first in the league. DiNucci is fifth at 8.1 yards per attempt.
So, has Silvers vastly outplayed DiNucci this season despite the yards? Not exactly. According to PFF, DiNucci has a passing grade of 69.8 (out of 100), and Silvers has 60.6. To put those numbers in context, DiNucci is 3rd in the league among starters, and Silvers is 7th, above only Kyle Sloter. Where we see a reason for this disparity is in the Big Time Throw rate. The stat is essentially what it sounds like: the rate at which a QB makes a “difficult throw.” Silvers has posted a BTT rate of 3.4% (7th), while DiNucci has a rate of 5.9% (1st). PFF tries hard to parcel out credit to the appropriate player, but these stats don’t seem to align with what we see on the field. I see Houston’s receivers running open all over the field.
Much of that is due to scheme and talented receiver play. Houston’s receivers have posted the lowest rate of dropped balls (3.3%). AJ Smith, the Roughneck Offensive Coordinator, seems to be doing a masterful job of scheming receivers open.
Both defenses have been good, ranking 2nd and 3rd in my rankings and 1st and 4th in PFF rankings. Where Houston shines is in getting pressure on the opposing QB. Houston leads the XFL with 43 hurries in only 4 games.
According to PFF, Seattle is the number one tackling team and generally top 3 in every defensive category. This will be the most significant test that each of these defenses has faced. A matchup to keep your eye on is the Roughneck pass rush vs the Seattle offensive line. Seattle ranks #1 in Pass protection according to PFF.
Seattle has a rest advantage in this game, not having to travel on a short week. The body clock time for Houston will be 9:30 pm at kick-off, giving Seattle an additional advantage. Another interesting angle to consider is familiarity, as both offensive coordinators are familiar with what the other team wants to do. It remains to be seen whether this will result in any meaningful impact on the score. One would assume that it could be an advantage for the defenses, but it might also offset each other.
Houston has not been tested by a team capable of winning this league, and Seattle is that. If Seattle can avoid making mistakes, they should be able to move the ball effectively. The betting total has gone up from 40.5 to 43, indicating that the market is expecting points to come in bunches. When the touchdowns get scored, it will be important to look at who converts the extra points. Seattle has only converted two out of ten attempts, while Houston has converted four out of sixteen.
I expect this to be the difference in the game, as Seattle will be going for three and will need to convert a lower percentage of these attempts to gain an advantage. This game is on the road on a short week, and with Houston effectively playing it at 9:30 pm Central, it’s a tough spot for Houston. I’ll take Seattle +4, I believe the better bet is playing Seattle on the Moneyline, Currently the moneyline is +160.
Seattle | 23-21
Who do you think will win the opening XFL matchup of the week? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.