It’s hard not to be at least a little bit excited for the debut of Vince McMahon’s second attempt at creating a successful pro football league as XFL Week 1 kicks off Saturday.
The new rules could lead to some fun plays, and there are some talented players set to take center stage as football fans look for their next fix following a tremendous Super Bowl last weekend. Looking ahead to the four games this weekend — two on Saturday and the remaining two on Sunday — we’re predicting fireworks galore.
Speaking of predictions, let’s dive in to what could go down during XFL Week 1.
Of all the players set to take center stage in XFL Week 1, former Ohio State star Cardale Jones may just be the most recognizable figure, and better yet, he’s set up for success.
Led by noted former NFL and collegiate offense-oriented coach Pep Hamilton, the D.C. Defenders should come out with an extremely aggressive passing game.
It also helps that Jones has a talented receiving corps. He’ll throw to Rashad Ross (an AAF star last year), Eli Rogers (formerly with the Pittsburgh Steelers) and Simmie Cobbs (a star at Indiana). Look for Jones to have a monster game against the Seattle Dragons — the worst team in the XFL, according to the preseason power rankings.
The interesting dynamic at play for the Wildcats in XFL Week 1 is that assumed starter Josh Johnson (an extremely experienced NFL veteran) is expected to be out with a thigh injury. In his stead, Jalan McClendon is expected to start, per the XFL website, and that is a huge wild card in Saturday’s game.
Our bold prediction is that McLendon surprises with a big game as he and Coates shred Houston’s defense to the tune of 200-plus receiving yards for the 26-year-old speedster.
The Vipers will be an interesting team to watch develop this season. Led by respected offensive coach Marc Trestman, former Georgia star Aaron Murray will start under center. The last time we saw him was during the 2019 AAF season, in which he struggled, tossing just three touchdowns and seven picks.
With that in mind, we expect Trestman to center his offense around running back De’Veon Smith, who excelled in the AAF last year. A former four-star recruit who played at Michigan, Smith has a nose for the end zone (23 touchdowns at Michigan and six last year with the Orlando Apollos). He could go off Sunday.
If the XFL is going to really attract the masses as it hopes, then it has to feature a product that not only has a high standard of excellence, but also provides intense entertainment value. That’s what the WWE does every week, and that’s why pro wrestling is so popular these days.
We hope to see the league’s offenses get wild with trick plays. One of the unique rules in place is that it is legal to have a double-forward pass, which is illegal in the NFL. With the coaches involved in the XFL in large part coming from offensive backgrounds, we expect to see a ton of fun trick plays being utilized.
In the same vein as the trick-play bold prediction, we expect the eight teams to come out with aggressive offensive game plans overall.
The league is touting its product as a faster, more streamlined and entertaining version of football. The best way to make that happen is to provide fans with an experience similar to what LSU’s offense did throughout the 2019 campaign with Joe Burrow slinging the pigskin all over the yard.
If the XFL can provide that type of entertainment value, with scoring and huge plays regular occurrences, then this league has the potential to thrive.
There has been a ton of consternation and controversy surrounding the NFL’s overtime rules, and the XFL is doing everything it can to be as different as possible. The league has touted its overtime as “a shootout” that will lead to bonkers scoring as both teams get the same opportunity to win the game.
A full breakdown of the rules can be found here. In an overtime XFL game, both teams get five chances to score from five yards out unless one is mathematically eliminated before the five rounds are up. Every score is worth two points, and only the offense can score. There are no ties, and if the score is even after five rounds in overtime, the two teams keep going until there is a winner.
It should be extremely exciting, and we predict at least one of the XFL Week 1 games will show off the new rules.