If you watched the XFL Week 1, you won’t mistake any quarterbacks for Patrick Mahomes, any offensive lineman for Trent Williams, or any coaches for Andy Reid. You get the point. Pretty much the XFL talent-wise is very similar to watching NFL preseason.
But what the XFL lacks in insane talent, it makes up for in unique features like mic’d up players/coaches and behind the scenes of referees’ decisions. It also has unique rules that keep the games competitive. After touchdowns, teams can go for a 1, 2, or 3-point conversion. Instead of onside kicks, teams can opt for a 4th and 15 from their own 25-yard line. That led to three of the four games the first weekend being decided on the game’s last couple of plays.
The best part for us as DFS players, is there is still more edge than the more well-covered sports. The main tournament still has 50K up top! So if you stay on top of the news (and we do), then you have an edge against the field. Each week RPS subscribers have access to Bobby’s XFL Playbook, Bruce’s projections and the coordinators’ core plays for multiple slates. Use code MEG15 if you aren’t a member of Run Pure Sports yet!
So let’s dive into what we learned about the XFL Week 1:
1. ISLAND GAMES & PIVOTS
This is more of a reminder than a lesson learned. Every XFL game will be an island game. So similar to the Thanksgiving slate or Playoffs in the NFL, we can use that to our advantage by making late swaps or pivots when necessary. We can use the early games on the slate to gain information and make necessary pivots from there.
Maybe this week you take a shot on a contrarian play in the Thursday night game. If it hits, then you can use more chalky plays the rest of the slate. Also, another reminder is to embrace the variance. Think of how much variance we see in the NFL week to week. Now multiply that by a lot for the XFL. While we will follow the trends and data, these spring football leagues are known to have much more variability week to week.
ACTION ITEM: Don’t be afraid to take a couple of contrarian shots, especially in the large field tournament. Maybe you take a shot on a player that had an underwhelming box score Week 1, but still had a high snap share or routes run.
2. DEFENSES IN SHOWDOWN:
As I alluded to in the open, overall the QBs and offensive lines are certainly not the strength of the XFL. After watching week 1, it felt like the defenses were ahead of the offenses. There were 15 turnovers and 22 sacks in just four games last weekend. That led to three teams with scores over 15 DK points.
ACTION ITEM: Until proven otherwise, I will be playing a minimum of 1 DST in Showdown contests and not afraid to play 2 DST in the right matchups. Also, for Classic really look at the matchups for the defense (offensive line, quarterback they face) to try to hit on the defense that scores 12+ DK points or more.
3. QUARTERBACK CAROUSEL:
Orlando’s QB Paxton Lynch has already been benched. Multiple teams rotated in the back-up quarterback. Vegas QB Luis Perez threw two pick-sixes. Washington rotated in backup QB D’Eriq King who rushed eight times and scored a touchdown. Pay very close attention to news from Vegas and Washington to see who is the starting QB in Week 2.
ACTION ITEM: Besides staying on top of the news of who is starting, also pay attention if any teams could rotate QBs. That would obviously affect decisions for both Classic and Showdown on your QB selections.
4. RUN/PASS COACHING TENDENCIES:
The XFL seems to have some clear run and pass-happy teams. Seattle, Houston and Vegas all had over 64% pass rate. Washington, Arlington, and San Antonio all had over a 50% rush rate despite the game script. Orlando and St. Louis are in the middle. But going into the season, it was projected that Orlando would lean more run-heavy and St. Louis a little more pass-heavy given their QB and receiving core.
ACTION ITEM: When looking at volume, you’ll want to target QBs and receivers from Seattle, Houston, Vegas, and probably St. Louis.
Target RBs from San Antonio, Arlington, Washington, and Orlando. But with the run-heavy teams, be careful which teams could have their QBs vulture carries, like Washington.
5. DATA – WHAT ARE THE SIGNALS TO FOLLOW AFTER WEEK 1?
Each week we’ll want to pay attention to usage data. As with any sport, the trick is to determine which data is sticky and we can follow and which is just noise. DK Nation did a great breakdown of the usage for QBs, RBs and WRs below:
ACTION ITEM: Look at players’ targets, carries, and routes run over the final box score. The underlying usage is the signals we should follow and monitor week to week.
6. RECEIVERS OVER RUNNING BACKS IN FLEX?
It was a one-week sample size, but to take down a GPP, you wanted to play just one running back and four receivers (you can count Sal Canella as a receiver). I’m sure the ratio in flex will vary some week to week.
Going into Week 1, it seemed the running backs offered the better floor/ceiling combo. But there were only two RB touchdowns in Week 1 and outside of Kallen Ballage, no RBs seem to have much 100-yard bonus equity. This could of course change week to week, but I was much more impressed by the receivers overall than the running backs.
Also, on two of the four run-heavy teams, there are some concerns about usage. For Washington, the QBs could vulture carries and TD opportunities. For Orlando, their offensive line appears weak and they are projected as the weakest team in the league. So if they are constantly playing in a negative game-script as they were on Saturday night, that could be a problem for the running game. I’m not suggesting to X out those RBs, but just continue to monitor their usage.
ACTION ITEM: I don’t think you need to set a hard rule. But in Week 2, I’m much more likely to build 3 and 4 receiver lineups with just 1 or 2 running backs.
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