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Inside the XFL

by Fran Stuchbury
February 13, 2020 - XFL (XFL)

XFL off to a solid start

This past weekend the XFL kicked off its season, receiving generally favorable reviews from around the country.

The league showed its willingness to innovate, staring with kickoffs. In the NFL a lot of kickoffs result in touchbacks, leading to an extended amount of dead-time, following a fait accompli extra point. In the XFL's opening weekend 90 percent of kickoffs were returned. The XFL encourages returnable kicks by stipulating the kick must travel past the opponent's 20-yard line. If it doesn't or it is kicked out of bounds, the ball is placed on the opponent's 45-yard line. Instead of the coverage team running from the point of the kick, they start off down the field, lined up five yards from the opposition. They must wait until the kickoff is caught to pursue the returner, cutting down on high-speed collisions.

Here is the opening kickoff in the Seattle Dragons - DC Defenders game:

Enhancing the television broadcasts were microphones on the the players and coaches. Viewers were able to hear some play calls as well as players being interviewed after big plays by the sideline field reporters.

New York Guardians cornerback Jamar Summers miked up:

ESPN's Pat MacAfee proved an entertaining field reporter during the St. Louis BattleHawks - Dallas Renegades game. McAfee didn't hesitate to give his opinion on a booming punt by BattleHawks punter Marquette King:

In the XFL there are no kicks for extra points. Instead, teams choose one play: a one-point conversion from the two-yard line, a two-point conversion from the five-yard line or a three-point conversion from the 10-yard line.

Of the 19 touchdowns that were scored the opening week, teams made four of eleven one-point conversions, and three of eight two-point conversions. No three-point conversions were attempted.

Here are all 19 touchdowns from the inaugural games:

Fans were also provided an inside look at the instant replay process. League games showed the replay officials viewing the plays and discussing what they saw. The approach brings a refreshing bit of transparency to a process that too often causes confusion and consternation.

XFL Head of Officials Dean Blandino explains the replay process:

The average attendance with the four home games in Washington, Houston, New York and Dallas was about 17,400 fans. Audi Field in Washington, DC, home of the DC Defenders, was particularly loud. With its capacity of about 20,000, the soccer specific stadium is home of MLS's D.C. United and the NWSL's Washington Spirit.

Television ratings showed plenty of promise with 3.3 million people tuning into the first XFL game between the Seattle Dragons and DC Defenders. The weekend's four XFL games were the four most watched sporting events of the weekend for adults 18 to 49, leading to plenty of optimism the league is reaching its intended audience.

XFL ESPN announcer Steve Levy said it best about the XFL on Twitter:

Extra Points

  • The Los Angeles Wildcats abruptly fired defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson following the team's 37-17 loss to the Houston Roughnecks.
  • Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray is day-to-day with a leg injury. If he is unable to play, Quinton Flowers could spend time at quarterback against Seattle. Once Murray is healthy enough to play he will remain the team's starting quarterback.
  • The Dallas Renegades will get a boost to their offense with Landry Jones starting this week against the Los Angeles Wildcats after being out last week with a knee injury.
  • CFL star wide receiver SJ Green signed with the Seattle Dragons. Green played 12 years in the CFL, compiling 716 receptions for 10,222 yards and 60 touchdowns. He will be a welcome weapon on the Dragons' offense.
  • The New York Guardians defense dominated their 23-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Vipers with five sacks and three interceptions. This week the Guardians play at the DC Defenders.
  • The St. Louis BattleHawks have a duel threat quarterback in Jordan Ta'amu who passed for 209 yards and rushed for 77 in their 15-9 upset victory over the Dallas Renegades.
  • Home teams went 3-1 in week one.
  • The Houston Chronicle reported that TDECU Stadium, home of the Houston Roughnecks, will host the XFL championship game. The XFL held all team training camps in Houston, and its central location should make travel plans relatively easy.
  • My XFL best bet lock of the week is the Seattle Dragons +2.5 over the Tampa Bay Vipers. Due to ticket demand, the Dragons opened more seating so that could translate into a big home field advantage. The Dragons' 31-19 loss to the DC Defenders was much closer than it looked. Two Defenders' touchdowns came off a blocked punt and an interception returned for a touchdown due to a Dragons' wide receiver falling down on his break. If the Dragons can find a way to avoid similar miscues, they could be in line for a home victory.

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