TAMPA, FL - MARCH 1: Nikita Whitlock #49 of the Tampa Bay Vipers runs on to the field before the XFL game against the DC Defenders at Raymond James Stadium on March 1, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Carmen Mandato/XFL via Getty Images

10 reasons to keep watching the XFL

We've reached the midway point of the XFL season, and somewhat surprising is that the league is still in operation, and the play has not been all that bad.

We don't really know what the future holds for the second installment of this endeavor (still some sparse crowds and viewership is down from Week 1), but all should agree that it's better than the 2001 original. We also think that it's still worth your time to tune in each week.

Here are 10 reasons why...

The gimmicks are gone

For those who have not caught any of the action of the new — and yes, improved — version of the XFL, when, or if, one does, don't expect "He Hate Me" to show up. Also, no WWE personalities are in the broadcast booth or on the sideline. And, thankfully, the opening one-on-one fight for the football is no more.

The first thing the league realized was that it had to solidify its football credibility. So far it's worked. The level of professionalism in all aspects of the XFL has improvement compared to its hokey, made-for-TV predecessor. That's been evident from the start and a reason we're not talking about doom and gloom for the upstart league over its first month.

Enjoy the access

Credit ESPN, ABC and Fox for doing quality work thus far on the XFL —with the latter leading the way — broadcasts. Joey Galloway and Greg McElroy have provided high-quality analysis for ESPN, especially when breaking down play calls. Meanwhile, Fox's Joel Klatt, one of the best college football analysts on TV, has carried over his excellence to the pro circuit.

Perhaps the best part of the league experience is the sideline access the viewer gets through player/coach microphones or in-game sideline interviews with players and coaches, which have been quite entertaining — considering, the booth will cut to a sideline reporter after a quarterback has thrown an interception or made other mistakes.

Last weekend, we heard struggling D.C. quarterback Cardale Jones call out one of his receivers for apparently not playing hard enough. Good stuff.

This game moves

Maybe not necessarily at the speed of the actual game, but the pace at which the XFL contests are played is steady. Unlike in an NFL game, or especially a college contest, XFL action, at least so far, has not dragged on.

Whether we're talking about the 25-second play clock or the league, not the coaches, initiating all play reviews. or the 10-minute halftime or one designated game official in charge of spotting the ball, the pace of an XFL game is noticeably more brisk, thus putting a sense of urgency on the play on the field.

Perhaps it's not great for in-game beer sales, but fans should be OK.

Stay for the kickoffs and extra points

One of the most talked-about aspects of the actual on-field game is the kickoffs. In the XFL, the ball is kicked from the 30-yard line, with the kicking team lined up at the opposition's 35 and the return team on its own 30. Players, other than the kicker, can move once the ball is touched by the designated return man.

There also are no kick-attempted extra points. Instead, the scoring team can run a play from the 2-, 5- or 10-yard line — worth one, two or three points, respectively. It adds to the drama and innovation of the new-look XFL

These guys can play - for the most part

We knew this league was not going to showcase the best of the best in professional football. But it's offering a second chance for some notable former NFL names (Matt Jones, Cameron Artis-Payne, Rahim Moore, to name a few). And the play is good enough to keep an interest.

Sure, the play can be a little sloppy at times, but each of the eight teams in the league has at least one victory. And we're already on watch for a perfect season for one squad as we enter the halfway mark of the campaign.

Roughnecks roll on

So about that undefeated team. The city of Houston might be headed for a pro football championship, albeit of the XFL variety. The Roughnecks are the league's lone unbeaten squad at 4-0.

They've scored a league-leading 16 touchdowns and are one of two teams that's won both of its road games (Dallas being the other). Quarterback P.J. Walker leads the XFL in passing (987 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Cam Phillips in receiving (333 yards). Houston hosts 1-3 Seattle this weekend, with a good chance to improve to 5-0.

Walk-ing his way to the NFL

The aforementioned Walker had a decent collegiate career at Temple, throwing for 10,668 yards with 74 TDs and 44 interceptions and rushing for 763 yards from 2013-16. He spent time on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad the past three seasons but is finally getting his chance to shine on a professional stage.

At the moment, he's the best player on the XFL's best team. Walker is doing it both with his arm and legs without showing much care for his body. The buzz has obviously turned to whether he should get another look from an NFL team.

Marc Trestman's fate

Four weeks into the season, and already one coach could qualify as being on the hot seat. It's no real surprise that fans of the Tampa Bay Vipers have been clamoring for Trestman to be fired.

Trestman, who bombed as head coach of the Chicago Bears (2013 and '14), guided his team to 12 points and some questionable decisions in the first two weeks. The Vipers did not earn their first victory until last week when its defense dominated and the running game, slated to be the team's strength, finally got untracked during a 25-0 win over D.C.

Wonder how much more time that will give Trestman to really turn things around? Or the Tampa natives might get even more restless than they've been.

Betting paradise

The XFL is a friend of the bettor and fantasy player — so much so, that the point spread is shown on the score graphic during a game and prop bets are posted throughout the telecast.

On the XFL's official website, there is the Betting Central page that offers spreads, tips and places to legally put money in play on the XFL. The league's website also offers a fantasy section that posts links to various daily fantasy sites, as well as player rankings.

If Kyler Murray's watching, so should you

How about that for an advertising tool? Maybe the XFL should promote the fact that the former Heisman Trophy winner and current Arizona Cardinal has shown up at a couple of Dallas Renegades games.

Murray has some Oklahoma buddies playing for Dallas, but word is he likes what he's seen so far from the league. It will be interesting to see if more current NFL players will take in an XFL game across the country.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.



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