I’ll admit it, I slept in on Saturday and missed the first hour or so of the action. But, the Dragons hung tough! They were in it for about three quarters, then the back-breaking pick-six really ended any threat.
I thought Brandon Silvers looked okay. For what it’s worth, I didn’t love the offensive scheme – it seemed to lack much of a deep play aspect – and I thought the play-calling was suspect. For the life of me, I don’t know why we kept going for 1 on the point(s) after touchdowns, when it’s nearly impossible to run in those situations, from the 2-yard line. The defense is just going to run blitz and let the quarterback try to beat them one-on-one. I would be passing for every PAT and I’d be going for 3 every single time. I’m sure the analytics nerds would be with me on this one; but these are re-tread NFL, CFL, and college coaches who couldn’t find work anywhere else, so I’m sure anything even REMOTELY analytical is going out the window.
The only other XFL action I saw was the end of the Dallas/St. Louis game on Sunday. That game was a snooze, and the other two games were complete blowouts, so I don’t know if we have a real good handle on which teams are the best. I’d venture to guess that D.C. is pretty high up there, based on their quarterback play and their defense.
If we can figure out over the course of the next month which defenses are elite, we’ll figure out how to bet in this new ecosystem. D.C. looks like they have a strong defense. Seattle looks better than expected (if you expected them to be in last place). Tampa looks atrocious apparently (and a lot worse than expected).
For what it’s worth, it looks like only one game hit the OVER. I think a lot of prognosticators were expecting teams to go for 2 or 3 more on those PATs; and, you know, I think they expected defenses to be truly terrible when you factored in all the rule changes.
Speaking of which, I liked most of what the XFL had to offer in that department. I liked the new kickoffs. I like all the punt rules (really anything that encourages teams to go for it on 4th down more often). I generally like the PAT offerings, but I would say if you’re going to give them the option of going for 1, put it at the 1 yard line (and keep everything else the same). That way you could FEASIBLY expect a team to actually run it in.
I won’t say the weekend was a disaster for the XFL, but it was very far from a triumph. It sounds like the ratings and attendance numbers were okay, but as I said before, I would expect those to drop as the season goes on. This weekend was all about the novelty and the possibility of watching a trainwreck. Now that we know it’s not really a trainwreck – but just kind of okay – most football fans will be able to throw up their hands and say, “It was what we thought it was.”
As for the broadcast, it was a little much. I sort of liked hearing the play calls come in, and having the announcers explain what it all means. But, even when they heard the play come in, the announcers didn’t seem to have a great success rate actually predicting the play. Also, I mean, it’s gotta be pretty easy to have someone on the opposing team watching the game on TV and relaying it to the defensive coaches, right? If you’re allowed to be in the ear of players all the way through the snap … I dunno. If you’re worried about the integrity of XFL games, I guess you’ve got some life choices to make sooner or later.
I didn’t care one bit for the sideline interviews during the game. I don’t care what the players think, and they really have very little to say anyway. 1 out of 10 times you might get a thoughtful or interesting answer, and that’s just not a great ratio. And, what was with the sideline reporters just standing there and holding their mics out when the players posed and celebrated after a big play? It’s awkward, man! Give it a rest!
What the XFL needs is the offenses to pick it up in a significant way. I keep coming back to that thought, to which my counter is: if football fans only watched for the offense, why wasn’t the Arena Football League a bigger success? I can’t answer that. I really enjoyed the Arena league! I thought it was fun and exciting and different-enough to feel more like a basketball game played with footballs. But, I do believe you need defense to be successful in this environment. You just need something that’s not a 15-9 slugfest, or a 23-3 rout.
The Seattle/D.C. game was probably the best of the bunch. If we can just open up the playbook a TAD, I think they’ll do an okay job of holding down a decent percentage of viewers from week one.
Seattle hosts Tampa this week. Tampa is favored by 2 to 3 points, depending on where you look. Tampa was one of the heavy pre-season favorites, so they might still be riding on that gravy train. I just can’t see how a team that only scored 3 points is going to fly all the way to Seattle and put up much of a fight. But, they’re the experts and I’m not, so while I’ll defer to them, I think I’d bet at least 25% of the Taylor Family Farm on Seattle to cover.