Takeaways from the first Three Weeks
We watched the AAF, the XFL (2020), USFL, and now here we are, using the combined data to know what to expect from this level of football. How many points are teams routinely scoring, how many yards are they producing? Not too many 300-yard passing performances or 100-yard receiving performances, more missed FGs, etc. This must be our guide moving forward because already the market has fallen into the trap of recency bias. Week 2 produced subpar offensive production, and what happened? Week 3 lines opened and saw totals set accordingly, with an average total of 37.5 points. Week 3 produced high-octane offense, and likewise, totals are set higher (two of the games sitting in the 40s). Fading this short-term bias toward recent results can be a profitable strategy this week and beyond.
NFL bettors are well acquainted with the importance of key numbers. Being on the right side of these numbers can often mean the difference between winning and losing a bet. For example, teams favored by 7 points in the NFL are more likely to win by 3 points than by 7. The number 3 is a critical number to consider when making an NFL spread bet. However, the XFL is proving to be quite different. Why? There are no gimme extra points in this league. When considering the scoring interactions of Team A vs. Team B, there are many more instances of 8-6 instead of 7-7, 8-7, or 9-8. This may seem trivial, but it’s not. While 3 is still the most common margin of victory, early data suggests that it may occur only about half as frequently as in NFL games (approximately 4.5% vs. 9%). Other key numbers that matter in the XFL are 2 (as seen in the 8-6 score above), 5 (as seen in 8-3), and 8 (as seen in 8-0). This knowledge opens up a world of opportunities to get creative and bet on derivative bets and other angles. Unfortunately, sportsbooks have caught on to this and have been conservative with the XFL betting menu they release. If you happen to find a sportsbook willing to take bets on more exotic bets, look to overprice the 3.
It is now week four, and teams are starting to show us who they really are. We have some insight into what each team wants to do. DC wants to win with defense and a creative run scheme, the Roughnecks want to throw the ball all over the field, get a lead, and have their defense attack aggressively, while St. Louis aims to win through physical defense and formidable receiving threats on offense. This knowledge can be useful for winning bets. For example, take Seattle, who always goes for the three-point conversion after every touchdown, making them a volatile team to lay points with. While many claim that this strategy is optimal, it is important to note that either way, it will increase their performance variance. Teams that embrace this volatility, like Seattle, can be a great team to fade as a favorite and a great underdog team to play on the money line. Seattle has already failed to cover as a favorite in week 1 and week 2 and probably should have lost the game outright as a favorite in week 3. One of these weeks, we will get the opportunity to take Seattle as an underdog (probably after they have a bad game), so be prepared to embrace the variance.
Let’s talk about the Roughneck Offense. I know, I know. I keep banging this drum. It’s entirely possible that the Roughnecks Offense has just run up against two pretty good defenses in Arlington and San Antonio, and just needed some snaps to get it going. Sure. In the meantime, they have had only ONE good offensive performance. They have had three home games against teams with a combined record of (1-1),(1-1), and (0-2), not counting their own. Not to mention nearly being outgained by the 0-3 Orlando in week 1. I’m not shouting this confidently from the rooftops, but I am whispering it to those that will listen.
Since I’m picking on 3-0 teams, let’s talk about DC. In Game 1, they had some late game fortune on defense and were able to mount a comeback despite being outplayed (4.4-3.3) YPP at home. In Game 2, DC couldn’t get anything going against Vegas until the change of pace QB King entered the game. Vegas, the worst defense in the league, somehow wasn’t prepared for this in a game with 25 mph wind gusts. It’s important to note that even Arlington moved it some against Vegas. In Game 3, Ta’amu showed some touch on the deep ball and the passing game looked competent for the first time. I’m not betting on that remaining the case. The defense has had the benefit of playing in rough weather games, including the monsoon in Vegas. The defense gave up four touchdowns at home to McCarron and is only 3rd in YPP allowed this season.
San Antonio may have just suffered a loss to Houston, but that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. The team has shown impressive defensive play at times, such as when they made St. Louis look incapable of offense for much of their game. Houston managed to score 22 points and had 5.5 yards per play against the Brahma Defense, which isn’t an astronomical number. San Antonio was even in position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter with a first and goal at the 1-yard line in Houston. While they may be a bit conservative on offense, they have a reliable running game and solid quarterback play. Despite their 1-2 record, San Antonio could still be a good team to bet on in the future.
It may sound surprising, but Orlando could be a team that bettors should keep an eye on. They should have won their game against Arlington, as they outgained them with 4.5 yards per play compared to Arlington’s 3.4. Additionally, Orlando has faced the top four defenses by some metrics and managed to move the ball against Houston, the league’s top defense. Their defense has also been impressive, intercepting Brandon Silvers twice, sacking him three times, and holding a solid Brahma rushing attack to just 2.5 yards per carry. Even the All-USFL Sloter was limited to just 124 passing yards against them.
The below rankings are derived from a model that incorporates play by plat data, coaching tendencies, and player data.
- SEA (+2)
- HOU (-)
- SA (-2)
- DC (-)
- STL (+1)
- ORL (+2)
- ARL (-2)
- LV (-1)
HOU v ORL
Hold your nose. Betting on 0-3 teams vs 3-0 teams has been profitable strategy in the NFL. It should only be exacerbated in the less efficient XFL. Last week the sharp money came in late on ORL lets see if it happens again.
SEA v SA
This could be a very exciting matchup of the best offense vs possibly the best defense. SA is on the tail end of three game road trip which is concerning. The game opened Sea -3 and has been bet to -4.5. I make the game 3. If it gets to 5, take San Antonio.
STL v ARL
When you think about Arlington you are probably thinking what I’m thinking. They can’t score. How long does Big Game Bob let this go on? They have the All-USFL Sloter behind center with a full week of practice as a starter. We know STL can score and will be looking to put on a show in the first home game. Game is indoors. This total is too low.
LV v DC
The previous game between these teams saw a low-scoring affair, but Vegas does appear to be moving it better with Hundley starting. DC has a really good rushing scheme that Vegas will get a second chance to defend. The improved field conditions should aid the Viper defense.
What wagers do you plan on putting down in week 4? Let us know down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.