In 2020, the XFL and its broadcast partners embraced the burgeoning gambling market in a way that few other sports, if any to that point, had done. XFL 2023 has taken the same tact, only now, gambling is much more openly discussed by the major sports leagues today than it was three years ago.
To that end, the XFL has its own pick’em game on its website, encouraging users to play along even if there’s no money involved. For a novice gambler like myself, it’s the perfect way to dip one’s toe into the betting waters without losing an arm and a leg in the process. It’s also incredibly easy to understand, which in the real world of gambling, isn’t necessarily the case.
In the XFL’s Pick’Em game, players are given 300 “footballs” per week to bet on eight over/under numbers set by the site. It’s up to you how much you’d like to wager on each of the eight – a win doubles your number of “footballs.” Even without real cash on the line, the first couple of weeks was too early to get a read on how teams and players would perform. Therefore, I played my first pick’em in week four, when I felt comfortable enough to have a handle on how things would play out.
So, let’s see how I did for my first time playing XFL Pick’Em…
1. Orlando QB Paxton Lynch O/U 20.5 rushing yards
I remembered how, in the previous week, Orlando’s offensive coordinator Robert Ford drew up a few more designed runs for Lynch, so I thought it was possible that would carry over into the game against Houston. I also considered Houston’s strong pass rush may force Lynch to scramble for yardage. But Lynch is not terribly nimble, so navigating the pocket and taking off is not a big part of his game.
The bet: I went UNDER and bet 20 footballs. I went conservative in my first bet, not sure how many footballs I’d need to conserve for the remaining seven picks.
Result: Lynch had zero rushing yards on two attempts so the UNDER was correct, for a payout of 40 footballs. Off on the right foot!
2. Guardians throw for O/U 130.5 yards
That yardage number was very low, even for XFL standards of passing. The Guardians have several talented receivers, so working through the air is not always the problem. Plus, I fully expected Houston to get up big early, forcing Orlando to pass often. Even dinking-and-dunking can get you to 130 yards pretty quickly.
The bet: Still not fully convinced I knew what I was doing, I bet the OVER but put just 15 footballs on the line.
Result: The OVER was solidified in the first half and Orlando finished the game with 286 yards passing. A gain of 30 footballs. Two-for-two!
3. Seattle RB Morgan Ellison O/U 50.5 rushing yards
You know the league is not an offensive juggernaut when the leading rusher’s over/under total for rushing yards is just 50. I had to consider many factors here: Seattle’s preference to pass the ball; San Antonio’s relatively stingy defense; and the health of Ellison, who came into the game a little banged up.
The bet: This is where I really started to find my groove in placing these bets, as I plunked down 65 footballs on the OVER.
Result: Ellison reached the OVER but not by much, going for just 69 yards. Whether by one yard or 19 yards, the result was the same, as I took home 130 footballs in the win.
4. Seattle O/U 240.5 passing yards
On first blush, this was a no-brainer: Sea Dragons QB Ben DiNucci leads the XFL in passing yards, after all. Plus, for as talented as the Brahmas defense is, you knew Seattle was going to throw the ball often. They’re not an offense that lets the defense dictate what they’re going to do.
The bet: After careful consideration, I decided on the OVER, but my bet of 25 footballs showed that I wasn’t “all in” on the idea.
Result: DiNucci went for 264 yards, hitting the OVER. I picked up 50 footballs and kept the momentum going.
5. St. Louis WR Hakeem Butler O/U 65.5 receiving yards
Arlington lost their best CB, Josh Hawkins, to a torn ACL in game three, making him unavailable for their visit to St. Louis. That had to factor into the equation here. Butler had increasingly become a favorite target of QB AJ McCarron – but target shares would be split with guys like Darrius Shepherd and Austin Proehl. McCarron is at his best when asked to manage the game, not throw the ball 35-40 times. I figured it would take five to six receptions for Butler to get to 65 yards, thinking that a bit unlikely.
The bet: I chose the UNDER, and bet 30 footballs on it.
Result: Butler did in fact grab five balls (on six targets), but those five catches went for just 52 yards. The UNDER hit for 60 footballs.
6. St. Louis O/U 55.5 rushing yards
The Battlehawks are in the middle of the pack when it comes to rushing attempts, so I didn’t get much from that data. I knew St. Louis was the better team than Arlington, and with the home field advantage on their side, they could get up early enough to salt it away with the run game. Arlington being without key linebackers in Otaro Alaka and Edmond Robinson was also part of my decision-making process.
The bet: I was feeling particularly good about the OVER here, betting 50 footballs on it, my second-highest bet of the eight.
Result: St. Louis netted 110 rush yards, good for a 3.9 yards per carry average. Not flashy, but enough to get me OVER and another 100 footballs.
7. Vegas QB Brett Hundley O/U 240.5 passing+rushing yards
This one was a little more complicated than the others, as it forced me to factor in not only the potential of Hundley’s passing yardage, but his rushing yardage as well. Against Seattle just the week before, Hundley rushed for 66 yards to lead the team. Clearly, the team wanted to take advantage of his mobility. The week four switch to a new offensive coordinator in Vegas further blurred the picture.
The bet: 240.5 was too rich for my blood against a good Defenders defense in DC. So I went UNDER for 25 footballs.
Result: Hundley was removed early on in the contest, either due to injury or performance, depending on who you believe from the ESPN2 broadcast of the game. Therefore, the UNDER won and I walked away with another 50 footballs.
8. DC WR Lucky Jackson O/U 50.5 receiving yards
Jackson is admittedly one of DC’s top receivers, but recently acquired Chris Blair has been coming on of late, too. DC is as run-heavy of an offense as there is in the XFL, and facing an 0-3 Vegas team, I thought there was a decent chance DC would be able to run it down their throats. Their inconsistent passing game in the first there weeks played a part in my decision as well.
The bet: I went UNDER but bet my fewest footballs of the week at just 10 footballs.
Result: I was right to go light on this one as Lucky was unlucky for me, hitting the OVER with 65 yards. Thankfully, you don’t lose footballs when you get one wrong, so I just ended up with zero on this bet.
I won on seven of eight picks, increasing my football load from 300 to 460. You don’t have to bet all 300 (you’ll notice I didn’t) but as is my understanding, they don’t carry over week to week. They also have a tab where you can turn your picks into parlays (which is apparently taking your wagers and combining them for the potential of a bigger payout if you hit on all within the combination). This was a little too complicated for me in my first foray into this action.
The e-mail I received when I registered for the Pick’Em (which requires a different account than your Huddle account or any other you have through XFL.com or its app) noted you can win prizes for weekly performance and end-of-season grand prizes. You can also create a league and compete against friends.
Given the XFL is at the foundation stage of brand-building and many potential fans don’t have allegiances to teams that would draw them into the games, embracing gambling and fantasy can give otherwise passive fans more of a reason to tune in and pay attention to these games. Ideally, that hooks them onto a team or at the very least the concept of the XFL. Specifically, the XFL Pick’Em allows fans a low-risk way to do so.
As for me? I think my days gambling on the XFL are over. It was a neat thought exercise to go through and try to figure out whether the over or the under is the better play. I don’t feel like I need any extra incentive to pay attention to XFL games though, and the thrill of hitting on my predictions just doesn’t do it for me. Perhaps one week if I have a little extra time I’ll fill out a ballot; what harm would it do, after all? Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do with these 460 footballs sitting in my account.