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Which XFL teams delivered on their expectations?

With the 2020 XFL season ending after just five rounds, teams that underachieved were denied the opportunity to surge in the second half of the originally-scheduled season. While many people might dismiss a mere five games as insufficient evidence of a team’s longer-term trajectory, the emergence of trends and traits within winning and losing runs suggests that five games is more than enough time for judgement.

Roughnecks stun the new XFL franchise

The biggest overachievers, obviously, are the Houston Roughnecks. Alongside the LA Wildcats, the Texan outfit were the joint second-longest shot (at +850) ahead of 2020:

The sight of the Houston Roughnecks going 5-0 was a surprise for many, with the Roughnecks dropping to just +160 to win the title over the course of those five matches. The offense was key to that, with their tally of 21 touchdowns being unmatched by any other team. Additionally, Houston have never once scored less than 27 points.

Despite the perfect return, there are several sobering elements. Notably, Roughnecks have since become the first team of 2020 to see a defection. Quarterback P.J Walker has now gone to the Carolina Panthers, who stood as rank outsiders within the latest American Football betting odds to win the NFC South division ahead of the 2020 NFL season, and needed a player in his position.

There is also the fact that the Roughnecks’ five victories were all attained by a margin of less than ten points, suggesting that they are somewhat reliant to excess on their lethal attack.

St Louis Battlehawks ones to watch

There was also a significant three-round drop for the Battlehawks, who lay in the middle of the futures long list before the season, averaging +650. That stood at around +550 after three rounds, making the drop to +325 after five rounds all the more remarkable in the context of the split record they possessed (3-2).

Game five was a shock to the system, with the measly six-point haul against DC Defenders open to interpretation, as a minor blip or the start of a sharp downturn:

New-era ‘baptism of fire’ for Vipers

At the wrong end of the scale, the rank underachievers from the XFL’s restart were the Tampa Bay Vipers. The odds against them winning the championship lengthened from +300 (joint favorites) to a massive +2500. The main issue has been the use of their QBs, and how they have struggled to form any real chemistry with the remainder of the field.

Among the main causes of this is the perceived mismanagement of Quinton Flowers by head coach Marc Trestman. With Trestman himself orchestrating many a passage involving dynamic offensive moves as a player, there is no lack of ability from the coach or his charges, but merely a clash of ideas judging by the overall demeanor of the squad.

Overall, with the possible exception of the highest-earning NFL defector P.J Walker, no QB has truly stood out across the XFL. However, the Vipers’ numbers stand out as particularly terrible, with Aaron Murray, Tyler Cornelius and Quinton Flowers having combined for just one touchdown in offense, and six interceptions in defense.

Despite these woes, the Vipers showed their potential for destruction in Week 4, thrashing the DC Defenders 25-0.

How will new ownership affect the teams?

The overall package will need to appeal to both fans and players alike. In Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the new band of owners are led by a premier face of sports entertainment, and a man who was there when the ‘old’ XFL failed so drastically under McMahon and Ebersol.

Naturally, channeling some of his charisma into the XFL brand – and doing his part to create memorably personalities on the pitch that are relevant to the current generation – will be crucial in both long and short-term phases of development under the new regime.

For a starting point, novel elements of the original XFL – such as the emphasis on nicknames and gimmicks, and a more liberal approach to tackling – must also be reinvented and made relevant for the new target audience. Ultimately, a lot more research will be needed to ensure that the mistakes from the past are not repeated.

Mark is the founder and editor of XFL News Hub. The site was started in January of 2018, within days of the announced return of the XFL. Contact him directly by emailing mark.perry@xflnewshub.com

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