Jan 28, 2020
Jan 28, 2020

XFL Western Conference preview

Dallas Renegades

Houston Roughnecks

Los Angeles Wildcats

Seattle Dragons

XFL Western Conference preview

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 Western Conference to inform your XFL betting knowledge.

Dallas Renegades

Outright implied probability: 25% (1st)

XFL rosters are full of replacement level talent at all skill positions. Success in the first season is going to depend on strong coaching and quarterback play. It makes sense that the Dallas Renegades are preseason betting favourites as they have the coach and quarterback with the best resume.

Bob Stoops had a storied collegiate coaching career leading the Oklahoma Sooners for 18 years prior to his retirement in 2017. Under the command of Stoops, the Sooners finished a season ranked tenth or better eleven different times.

It is extremely difficult to estimate how past performance will translate to the XFL with many rule changes and unknown elements about the game. The one trait that stands out about Stoops is his ability to maximize talent and adapt play calling to the players he has on the field.

In his two decades at Oklahoma, Stoops was able to coach up his players to consistently potent offences that at times looked very different in terms of rush/pass differential. The XFL rules encourage offensive creativity and Stoops could have a field day designing a new offensive scheme to dominate the league.

Landry Jones is projected to start at quarterback for the Renegades. Jones played at Oklahoma for four seasons and was coached by Bob Stoops. The familiarity between coach and QB is a huge asset in a league that is brand new.

Jones stands above the rest of quarterbacks in the league in terms of resume. He was selected in the NFL draft higher than any other player in the league and leads all quarterbacks in collegiate passing yardage.

One caveat the betting market might be ignoring is the lack of practice time. Landry Jones went down early in training camp with a leg injury and missed all joint practices and team scrimmages.

There is uncertainty about the health of Landry for the beginning of the season and Dallas has been scrimmaging with Philip Nelson, a seventh round XFL draft pick with just 28 college starts to his name.

The Renegades are loaded at the skill positions too. Jazz Ferguson has been the highest touted player out of training camp. The six-foot five receiver runs a 4.40 40-yard dash and is a nightmare to match up against at 230 pounds. Former Oklahoma wide receiver Jeff Badet was the top pick in the XFL draft for Dallas and the familiarity with the Sooners offence has been clear.

"It is extremely difficult to estimate how past performance will translate to the XFL with many rule changes and unknown elements about the game."

At running back, the Renegades have two former NFL players battling for the starting role. Cam Artis-Payne played four seasons for the Carolina Panthers and Lance Dunbar behind him featured in 58 NFL games as primarily a third down receiving back.

The injury to Landry Jones could loom large for the Renegades this season as the roster is loaded with talent at other positions on offence. If Stoops gets his starting QB back, Dallas could be extremely difficult to slow down.

Los Angeles Wildcats

Outright implied probability: 16% (3rd)

In an offence first league, it was peculiar to see the Los Angeles Wildcats seek leadership from a defensive mind. Between an uncertain leader at coach and movement at the quarterback position, it is difficult to make the case for the Wildcats to be worth their current price in the market.

Winston Moss has a ton of experience coaching at the highest level. He was an assistant head coach and linebackers coach with the Green Bay Packers from 2006-2018 before Mike McCarthy was let go.

In addition to the Super Bowl ring he won with the team, he also adds another nine years of coaching in the NFL to his resume with the Seahawks and Saints. Prior to coaching, Moss played an eleven-season run in the NFL as a linebacker.

The accolades are all there, but there is no offensive play calling, nor head coaching experience. The duty of play calling and creating a playbook is on the shoulders of Norm Chow. The 73-year-old coached at the collegiate level from 1970 to 2015, when he left his last job at Hawaii.

Chow spent time as an assistant with a high school team in California in 2016 but has not coached at a college or professional level in more than five years. There is no question that Chow has an impressive resume coaching 13 of the top passing 30 quarterbacks in NCAA history, but it remains to be seen how the time off and increasing age will translate over to the new XFL.

The Los Angeles Wildcats were the only team in the league that went into training camp with four quarterbacks on their roster. It was widely anticipated that Luis Perez would continue his incredible story from walking on as QB #9 on a college depth chart to winning a national (DIV II) title and making an NFL roster.

However, the Wildcats elected to part ways with Perez late in the game and appear to have their sights set on Josh Johnson. The 33-year-old QB is the oldest in the league, but without question the most experienced.

Johnson played in more than 30 NFL games, and threw for 1,700 yards at the pro level. Johnson ran for more than 1,800 yards and 6.1 yards per carry in college, but those active legs appear to be well behind him.

It is worth noting that the NFL interest still remains for Johnson. In late November the Detroit Lions offered him a contract, but the XFL blocked it as he was already with Los Angeles.

The focus of the skill position for Los Angeles is at running back. North Carolina standout Elijah Hood will lead the way running the football. The first-round draft pick comes off a shortened college career than saw him run for 2,600 yards, 6.0 yards a carry and 29 touchdowns against ACC competition.

At 23 years old, Hood is the youngest running back in the league. Behind Hood is Larry Rose III who ran for nearly 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns during his time at New Mexico State. No running back in the league has more collegiate receiving yards than Rose which certainly gives options to Chow utilizing multiple backs in formations.

The Wildcats talent at receiver is lacking, and as is the case with every other team, defensive talent is replacement level across the board. It is possible that Norm Chow five years removed from football is able to produce a great offence, but there are more questions than answers with Los Angeles heading into the season.

Houston Roughnecks

Outright implied probability: 11.5% (5th)

The Houston Roughnecks are as big of a coin flip as there is in the XFL. This team has the coaching talent, pedigree and quarterback experience to win the Western Conference. But beyond the HC and QB, there are many holes to be filled.

Experience coaching in the CFL is an enormous asset heading into the first season of the XFL. The game speed and timing rules share many similarities with the Canadian league. It is unlikely that the betting market respects CFL experience with the focus being placed on the NFL and NCAA.

June Jones did a coaching stint in the 1980’s with the CFL, but also has their most recent experience in 2017 and 2018. In 2017 he took over for the 0-8 Hamilton Tiger Cats and went 6-4 in the final ten games of the season.

In 2018 he was in charge of the team from kickoff, put up more than 30 points per game and made a run into the playoffs.

"No team is in a worse personnel position than the Seattle Dragons."

One thing is for certain with Jones, the run and shoot offence has been with him between the CFL, NCAA and USFL. The run and shoot will be hit or miss in the XFL.

It operates out of one or two formations with four or five wide receivers and puts the onus of reading coverage on receivers to set up easy reads and throws for the QB. This system under Jones saw Colt Brennan throw for an NCAA record 58 touchdowns in 2006.

There is an interesting quote from Jones upon taking over from Hamilton. Jones said that “the system is better up here [Canada] because of the personnel limitations teams face with all of the size and skill going to the NFL.”

The main issue with the run and shoot is how easy it is for opposing defences with speed to defend. The XFL faces similar limitations in terms of personnel.

The run and shoot operates out of no huddle as often as possible, which opens up the door for optimism for Jones. For the first time in any league, all offensive players will have communication from their sideline inside their helmet – encouraging the hurry up.

If this becomes Jones vs the opposing defence in a video game type format, further taking the reliance off of the QB, the Roughnecks could be lethal.

The key to everything for Houston is Connor Cook. In his storied career at Michigan State, Cook played in a system that was as far away from a run and shoot as there is. He operated almost entirely under center and is weak when it comes to moving around the pocket.

Getting to work in this system will be an enormous adjustment for Cook. Arm strength has never been an issue for Cook and airing it out will come with ease, but accuracy could continue to haunt Cook at the XFL level.

Without any standout skill players, the Roughnecks are dependent on Jones to make something out of nothing. This team is as boom or bust as there is in the league.

Seattle Dragons

Outright implied probability: 9% (8th)

The Seattle Dragons have the longest odds to win the title. Their most notable player is a receiver – that was a record setting quarterback in College. There appears to be little optimism for the Dragons this year, yet they lead the league in ticket sales. It will be intriguing to see if the strongest home field in the league make up for a lack of talent.

Jim Zorn is a name that many bettors have likely not heard of in many years. The former Seattle Seahawks quarterback has not been on the sidelines for an NFL team since 2012 and is the longest removed from football head coach in the XFL.

In 2008 taking over for Joe Gibbs, Zorn led the Redskins to an 8-8 finish and less than 17 points per game. In 2009, he led the Redskins to a 4-12 finish and once again failed to break the 17 points per game barrier. He was fired after the conclusion of the season.

Mike Reilly will be calling plays for the Dragons. Reilly is an interesting coordinator. He was a head coach with Nebraska and Oregon State, but has been removed from the college game since 2017.

"Experience coaching in the CFL is an enormous asset heading into the first season of the XFL."

The experience that stands out the most is his head coaching position for the San Antonio in the Alliance of American Football in 2019. Any non-NFL and NCAA coaching experience is an asset, and while limited, Reilly is the only coach in the league that has led a team in the AAF.

The rules differences between the AAF and XFL are notable, but the speed of the game is similar. At the time of the league folding, the Commanders were atop the Western Conference.

BJ Daniels is in line for the starting quarterback position. Daniels had a solid career as a starter in college throwing for more than 8,000 yards and running for another 2,000 in four seasons with South Florida. However, pro scouts never took to his game.

Daniels went in the seventh round of the NFL draft and only threw two passes in five seasons before falling out of the league. Daniels was drafted to the Salt Lake Stallions of the AAF but did not make the 52-man roster.

Behind Daniels is Brandon Silvers, who played college football with Troy. Silvers was not drafted in 2018 in the NFL but was drafted to the Memphis Express in the AAF. Silvers was third string to Christian Hackenberg and Zach Mettenberger and started just two games before the league folded.

The most notable skill player is Keenan Reynolds. Bettors will be familiar with Reynolds as the all-time NCAA Division I touchdown leader with 88 for Navy. The confusion that may arise is that Reynolds is a receiver for the Seattle Dragons. For Navy, Reynolds was a quarterback. Reynolds never caught a pass in college.

No team is in a worse personnel position than the Seattle Dragons. They have a coaching staff well removed from football that lacks any track record of offensive success.

Their projected starter is a 31-year-old QB that is eight years removed from meaningful playing time, and a young undrafted QB that was third string to extremely suspect competition in the AAF.

There was a clear push by Dragons ownership to acquire local players and coaches with ties to the city. No team is anywhere close to selling as many tickets as Seattle has to date, and while it is an extreme stretch this could be the one case in the league where home field actually could play an impact on performance. 

Betting Resources - Empowering your betting

Pinnacle’s Betting Resources is one of the most comprehensive collections of expert betting advice anywhere online. Catering to all experience levels our aim is simply to empower bettors to become more knowledgeable.