Offense has been a huge problem for the New York Guardians, who take the field for their third XFL game Sunday at St. Louis (3 p.m., ESPN).
Last week’s scoring woes were widely publicized after a 27-0 shutout at the hands of the D.C. Defenders. Guardians’ quarterback Matt McGloin was vocal in his criticisms of the New York braintrust on the sideline.
What’s less well-known is that the Guardians’ offense was also horrible in its 23-3 season-opening win over the surprisingly bad Tampa Bay Vipers.
- New York’s only second-half touchdown came on a fumble return by the defense. The offense itself scored just 16 points.
- The Guardians gained just 226 yards of total offense, with just 2.8 yards-per-carry on the ground.
- They converted just 1 of 10 third down tries for a woeful 10 percent rate.
It’s important for handicappers to read boxscores rather than just scoreboard-watch, particularly at the beginning of a season. Final scores are often the most misleading stat in a game. Note that xfl.com is running comprehensive boxscores, which can be accessed through its schedule page.
The Guardians likely will close at or just below 10-point underdogs in St. Louis. The BattleHawks have impressed in two road games (upset of Dallas, close loss in Houston), and have moved the ball well under quarterback Jordan Ta’amu from Ole Miss (374 and 390 total yards).
Laying big numbers is dicey in any sport. It’s too early to know whether St. Louis is worthy of so much respect (or New York of disrespect) until handicappers have a larger sample size. Just remember that high spreads aren’t hard to cover if the ’dog isn’t going to score. To date:
- Offensive points: New York 16, St. Louis 39
- Offensive yards: New York 363, St. Louis 764
- Third-down conversions: New York 2/21 (9.5 percent), St. Louis 17/31 (55 percent)
- Drive points: New York 0, St. Louis 39
Drive points are those scored on offensive drives of 60 yards or more (a stat we’ll reference occasionally in the NFL). St. Louis has established it knows how to do that in two road games. New York hasn’t yet managed even a long-distance drive for a field goal.
Also worth noting, early XFL games have shown clear turnover issues for visiting teams. It’s tough to start from scratch and execute in hostile territory. In the first two weeks, visitors coughed the ball up 21 times, hosts just eight.
At 1-1, New York is in the middle of the pack of current futures odds to win the league title. William Hill rates the eight-team league accordingly (percentage equivalents in parentheses):
Defenders 9/5 (36 percent), Roughnecks 11/5 (31 percent), Renegades 4/1 (20 percent), BattleHawks 15/2 (12 percent), Guardians 12/1 (8 percent), Vipers 15/1 (6 percent), Dragons 15/1 (6 percent), Wildcats 25/1 (4 percent).
Sportsbooks build a universe larger than 100 percent to create a house edge. Sunday’s other game will feature the league favorite D.C. Defenders laying more than a touchdown on the road at the Los Angeles Wildcats (6 p.m., FS1).