There's plenty of excitement building ahead the launch of a new XFL season. Set to kick off on February 8, we’ve provided an in-depth look at each of the four XFL teams in the Eastern Conference to inform your XFL betting knowledge.
New York Guardians
Outright implied probability: 20% (2nd)
Bettors will be hard pressed to make a case that the New York Guardians should be the second-highest priced team in the league. While there is a lot of speed and talent at skill positions, the coaching staff for the Guardians may ultimately hold the team back.
Kevin Gilbride is a bizarre coaching hire. The 68-year-old Guardians head coach started his coaching career in 1974 with Idaho State at the collegiate level.
He made the NFL twenty years later in 1995 and served with multiple teams, most notably winning two Super Bowls as offensive coordinator with the New York Giants. After starting the 2013 season 0-6, John Mara made the comment that the Giants offence is “broken”.
To keep face, Gilbride was allowed to retire following the season. The issue bettors should have with Gilbride entering the inaugural XFL season is the fact that his offence grew stale for the NFL eight years ago. There was, however, never a question about his leadership nor sideline command.
The issue all of the fans, players and ownership of the Giants had was that his play calling never innovated and the team suffered because of that. The strongest of ties for Gilbride within the NFL coaching circle go directly to Tom Coughlin, another head coach that was squeezed out of the NFL due to lack of innovation.
There is a reason that Gilbride has been unemployed for the last seven years and it is difficult to see how his antiquated coaching style could work in a league that encourages creativity and offensive output.
Matt McGloin is in place to be the opening day starter for the Guardians. In 33 games for Penn State, McGloin passed for over 6,300 yards but went undrafted in the NFL.
His pass efficiency rating was the highest in program history for quarterbacks that threw more than 750 passes. McGloin was on NFL rosters between 2013-2018 but started just one game beyond his first season with the Raiders.
"DC is a trendy upset pick if they can find support on defence."
In 2019, McGloin left football to pursue a career in broadcasting. At the time he was signed by the Guardians, he was not active in football.
The Guardians have one of the most athletic receiving groups in the league, which feature names like DeAngelo Yancey, Mekale McCay, and Tanner Gentry. All three have pro experience and played for major schools. In the backfield New York has Justin Stockton who ran a 4.30 and is the fastest player recorded in the league.
While the skill position players have talent, there are huge questions regarding the coaching staff which may ultimately hold back the overpriced Guardians this season.
Tampa Bay Vipers
Outright implied probability: 16% (4th)
The best coaching staff in the league coupled with a reasonable arm at QB may be all the Vipers need to make a run at the XFL Championship. Vipers games are going to be track meets that feature highly efficient offensive outputs. It will be on opponents to try and keep pace.
As mentioned in the Western Conference preview with the Houston Roughnecks, past coaching experience in the CFL is an enormous asset entering the XFL.
The rules for the XFL will see the game play out in a similar manner to the CFL, which is quite different from the NFL. The Vipers could not have hired a better head coach than Marc Trestman.
The Minnesota native bounced around NFL organizations from 1985 to 2006 before finding his place with the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL. He immediately won coach of the year and two Grey Cup titles, leading all-time passing leader Anthony Calvillo to two of his biggest seasons.
He was quickly grabbed by the Chicago Bears where he struggled over the course of two seasons. Following his departure from Chicago, he went back to the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts.
Immediately, he led Toronto to a Grey Cup title, won coach of the year and steamrolled the league with another veteran pocket passer in Ricky Ray. When it comes to efficient offensive output and creativity, Marc Trestman is one of the most underrated names in all of the football world.
His career has been marred by his time with the Bears, but much like the CFL style of play fits his style perfectly, the similarities to the XFL should do the same.
Trestman and the Vipers doubled down on CFL experience acquiring Jamie Elizondo from the Ottawa Redblacks. Elizondo led Trevor Harris (another pocket quarterback) to his two biggest seasons in the CFL including a 5,000+ yard season in 2018. His first season with Ottawa led them to a Grey Cup.
Trestman and Elizondo have their guy in Aaron Murray. The Georgia alum had a storied career with the Bulldogs which ended with an unfortunate knee injury that ultimately hampered him at the NFL level.
His completion percentage was north of 64% in his final two years against SEC defences and he was one of the highest touted QBs in his draft year due to his arm talent, accuracy and pocket awareness.
The style of play for Murray is extremely similar to that of Trevor Harris, Ricky Ray and Anthony Calvillo - the three quarterbacks Trestman and Elizondo broke records with and won championships in Canada.
The Vipers managed to acquire Antonio Callaway from the Cleveland Browns. Callaway has had issues with substance abuse during his two seasons in the NFL, but is arguably the most talented receiver in the XFL.
Combined with Reece Horn and Senatavius Jones, the Vipers have a deadly trio of receivers and Nick Truesdell, the highest rated tight end in the league.
Where Tampa Bay spent up and focused on offensive talent, they neglected their defence. Every Vipers game has the potential for huge point totals. Keep an eye on prices early in the year, but it is quite clear that Tampa is the best bet entering the XFL season.
Outright implied probability: 11% (6th)
The DC Defenders are going to be a sneaky team this season in the XFL, with the best chance of challenging the Tampa Bay Vipers for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The team is loaded with skill players and went young with their coaching hires. There is plenty of potential in the nation’s capital.
At 45 years old, Pep Hamilton is the youngest head coach in the XFL. For most bettors, Pep will not be a household name. He has bounced back and forth from the college to pro level since 1997, but made his big claim to fame in 2011-2012 developing Andrew Luck into the top draft pick in the NFL.
Many describe Luck as the protégé of Hamilton, and the connection between the two was the deciding factor in the move from Stanford to Indianapolis in 2013 where Hamilton was the offensive coordinator for three seasons.
Pep went back to the college level in 2017 where he served as the passing game coordinator for the Wolverines for the 2017 and 2018 season. Hamilton discusses how this job allowed him to focus more on offensive play calling.
His style matched with Defenders’ offensive coordinator Tanner Engstrand could prove to be extremely interesting. Engstrand is another young hire who worked with Hamilton at Michigan as an offensive analyst.
What the two lack in leadership and head coaching/coordinator experience they make up for in modern play calling an offensive knowledge.
Hamilton and Engstrand have a number of options. As disappointing as Cardale Jones turned out to be at the NFL level, he is not far enough removed from football that there are questions about his athleticism and talent.
Jones has incredible size, arm strength and has terrific placement on his deep ball. Behind him are Jhurrell Pressley and Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey leads all XFL skill players in yards from scrimmage at the college level.
Multiple 2,000+ yard seasons and more than 6 yards per carry on 1,100 attempts is a huge asset to bring to the XFL where defenders are a step slower than the pro level.
"At 45 years old, Pep Hamilton is the youngest head coach in the XFL."
Pressley could be the most dynamic player in the league out of the backfield considering his versatility. Rashad Ross is a legitimate deep threat outwide. His claim to fame is running a 4.35 at the NFL combine, and he clocked the fastest play in the NFL in 2015 when he hit 22mph on a kick return.
With Hamilton and Engstrand leading the way and a list weapons on offence, the Defenders could be extremely entertaining to watch this season.
The modern approach taken by ownership could go a long way in comparison to other teams that elected to hire outdated experience. DC is a trendy upset pick if they can find support on defence.
St. Louis Battlehawks
Outright implied probability: 10% (7th)
The Battlehawks may have the highest ceiling and the lowest floor in the XFL. There are so many question marks throughout the coaching staff and roster that should make the development of St Louis one of the more interesting stories this season.
Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long are two names that will be unknown to many bettors and may well be known for their time on the football field rather than the sidelines for those familiar. Jonathan Hayes played eleven seasons in the NFL and was an early second round draft pick in 1985. At the time of graduation from Iowa, Chuck Long broke every passing record at Iowa and held the best completion percentage for any QB in NCAA that attempted more than 1,000 passes.
He was the second player in the NCAA (behind Doug Flutie) to throw for more than 10,000 yards.
The best coaching staff in the league coupled with a reasonable arm at QB may be all the Vipers need to make a run at the XFL Championship."
What the two did on the field never matched their coaching accolades. Long has not been involved with football since 2012 and Hayes has never been in consideration for many major coaching positions at a professional level.
In a strange circumstance, there is more known about the coaching style of coordinator Long than there is Hayes. Long is a strong supporter of the Air Raid play calling style which relies on spread formations with a focus on crossing patterns and running the football.
With options at wide receiver and running back, the pieces are there for the Battlehawks to contend, but it remains to be seen how much the coaching will hold them back
All signs point to Jordan Ta’amu earning the opening day starter role at quarterback. Ta’amu finished the 2018 NCAA season with Ole Miss ranked second in the SEC for passing yards behind Tua Tagovailoa.
Ta’amu went undrafted but did sign with the Houston Texans in the 2019 NFL preseason. He is the only quarterback of the first eight QB’s allocated to XFL rosters that does not have any professional experience.
At 22 years old, he is also the youngest QB in the XFL. L’Damian Washington at wideout is another SEC product that poses matchup issues standing 6”4’.
Alongside him is De’Mornay Pierson-El who has played in the NFL, CFL and AAF since leaving college in 2017. In the backfield St Louis has more SEC talent in Christine Michael and Matt Jones who played at A&M and Florida.
Michael was a sprinter in college and Jones was drafted 95th overall after his junior season. No backfield has more professional experience than St Louis.
If offensive timing proves to be an issue early, St Louis has the option to lean on their backfield, which is a big asset in the early stage of the season.
However, there is still a high level of concern about the inexperience of the head coach when it comes to managing games and innovating on offence that may ultimately hold this team back.