The first week of XFL 2020 is on the books and the reviews have been consistently positive. The first game between the Seattle Dragons and the DC Defenders on Saturday afternoon averaged 3.3 million viewers, peaking at 4 million in the last 15 minutes of broadcast. Social media engagement also appeared to be high.
XFL bets also met with more interest than expected. Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the settlement of the bet just a week after the end of the NFL season.
PointsBet made more money in week 1 of the XFL than we did in the entire week [albeit truncated] Alliance of American Football season last year, ”said Matthew Chaprales, content director of PointsBet USA. Of course, this was one of the goals of the XFL – to be more progressive when it comes to sports betting.
"We're assuming the spread from the start," said Jeffrey Pollack, president and chief operating officer of the league. “This is a core business strategy for XFL. We understand that for many of our fans, betting on the games has become as essential to the gaming experience as betting on a helmet, ball and jerseys. We are preparing for this. Our mission and infrastructure are geared towards the future of sports betting soon. There are incredible possibilities. "
Both major XFL television partners, ABC / ESPN and Fox, had the final spread and total scorebugs at the bottom of the screen and openly discussed the betting implications towards the end of their games. VSiN also conducted two in-game live betcasts on iHeart Radio.
Most of the line movements in week 1 took place in the total. The first sportsbook to hit the market was Circa Sports in Las Vegas. There was 40½ on each of the four games, and all of them were essentially bet until the end in the low 50s.
It was very difficult to set totals because there was no data (the teams did not play any preparatory games). The league clearly wants more points with certain rules that favor the offense. However, we only saw one game that was above the final amount specified (LA in Houston). It will take some time for the violations to slow down their timing and enforce their different philosophies.
The extra point conversions throw many of the algorithms and general point spread math out of hand. There are no traditional PAT kicks in the XFL and the offensive can be carried out with one point (from the 2-yard line), two points (from the 5) or three pointers (from the 10). In traditional football, there are important point spread numbers (i.e. 3 and 7), but with these conversion rules there are essentially no key numbers.
With just a week of XFL action, bettors and bookmakers alike will be even more prone to bias, and this should give smart bettors an opportunity to take advantage of what appears to be a big parity in this league early on.