The XFL’s 2020 season is off to a hot start with the first four debut games finishing up this past weekend. Although the XFL pre-existed and failed in 2001, football fans are eager to see what the new innovative league has in store, especially after the end of the NFL postseason earlier this month. The XFL is meant to be ultra-accessible to the fans, as the league has incorporated several aspects to the game to keep fans drawn in. These include live commentary from referees and booth reviews, live audio from play calling on both offense and defense, and on-field interviews after scoring plays.

The league consists of eight teams (split into XFC East and West) that will play a 10-week regular season with a two-week postseason that has two semifinal playoff games and a championship game.

The XFL prides itself on being fast-paced, and as such has rule and game changes that allow offenses to score in higher quantities than the NFL. For example, they have adjusted the traditional kickoff to forcing teams to line up on the return side of the field five yards apart and waiting for the returner to make contact with the ball before going after him. They have also implemented a shorter halftime (10 minutes instead of 15), a 25-second play clock instead of 40 seconds, giving teams two timeouts instead of three, and not allowing coaches to have challenged. Instead, they make all plays subject to review by the replay official.

Several other changes have been made to help make the game of football interesting to fans, such as the aforementioned new kickoff format. This rule change is a good idea as it eliminates the amount of touchbacks fans are used to seeing in the NCAA and NFL, and it can also reduce the number of high-speed collision injuries that come from a traditional kickoff.

Another large rule change that makes the game more interesting is allowing teams to have three different options to receive points after a touchdown. The scoring team must choose between running a play from the two, five and  10-yard line to earn (one, two or three) points. We believe this adds excitement to the game as the extra-point kick in the NFL now is almost automatic. Having teams recreate drives from a short distance is more exciting and suspenseful.

There are several other rule changes that the XFL has made, including a one foot inbounds rule to have clear possession, continual coach-player communication and a simplified illegal man downfield rule. All of these rule changes are meant to make the game more enjoyable for fans and players alike “for the love of football.”

XFC East

DC Defenders

Even before the season started, the Defenders looked like they were going to be a force to be reckoned with. Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones put on a clinic in his XFL debut, completing 16 of 26 passes for 291 with two touchdowns and no picks in a 31-19 dismantling of the Seattle Dragons. With an offensive core of former Steelers WR Eli Rogers, LSU standout Malachi Dupre and FBS all-time leading rusher Donnel Pumphrey, Jones is going to have plenty of opportunities to show off his rocket arm this year. The defensive side of the ball has three potential NFL-caliber defenders in former Ravens first-round pick Matt Elam, ex-Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas and ex-Broncos safety Rahim Moore. The defense forced three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), one of which was a pick-six. The special teams also scored a touchdown from a blocked punt. The Defenders have a high chance to win the inaugural XFL championship, due in no small part to their balance on both sides of the ball.

New York Guardians

The Guardians have former longtime New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride as their head coach, providing a sense of legitimacy behind the headset after winning two Super Bowls in 2007 and 2011. Their first game was a 23-3 shellacking of the Vipers, which could be a preview of things to come. Local Scranton hero and Penn State walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin played solid, completing 15 of 29 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. McGloin will provide a lot of excitement for viewers in this area due to his local appeal. Aside from the quarterback room, which contains former AAF starting quarterback Luis Perez and former North Carolina starter Marquise Williams, as well as former Towson University star running back Tim Cook, there are very few recognizable names on the Guardians roster. While McGloin might have the ability to have an MVP-caliber season, the other players on the roster better make a name for themselves in a hurry if the Guardians have any shot of keeping up with the Defenders. However, their defense was very solid against the Vipers, forcing two interceptions and a fumble recovered for a touchdown. Could this be a reincarnation of the fellow Floridians 1972 Miami Dolphins No-Name Defense?

St. Louis BattleHawks

The BattleHawks have an intriguing roster led by former Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who completed 20 of 27 passes for 209 yards and a passing touchdown, as well as rushing nine times for 77 yards in his exciting winning debut against the Renegades. There are several recognizable NFL names on the BattleHawks, with ex-Seahawks fantasy football darling Christine Michael, ex-Redskins starting running back Matt Jones, flamboyant punter Marquette King and former Ravens starting safety Will Hill, who forced a game-clinching interception at the end of the game. King deserves mention for his multitude of perfect punts that kept the Renegades pinned back all game long. They are coached by Jonathan Hayes, who was the longtime tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals for 15 years. While there is a lot of promise with the BattleHawks they do not look like they are going to be exceptional in a tough division, as they struggled to put away a Renegades team that was without its starting quarterback in Landry Jones.

Tampa Bay Vipers

The Vipers have been getting a lot of love from oddsmakers entering the season. If their first game is any indication, those oddsmakers better start pumping the brakes. The Vipers got thumped by the Guardians in a 23-3 rout. They have former Georgia Bulldogs record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray under center, joined on offense by former Seahawks WR Tanner McEvoy and ex-Arena football star Nick Truesdell. However Murray played poor in his XFL debut, throwing two picks against. Former South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers can be an intriguing piece of this offense, as he was electric when he filled in for Murray. He is athletic enough to also be used on the perimeter or in the backfield, and this could be the start of a quarterback controversy if Murray continues to play poorly. Former Browns receiver and Florida Gators star Antonio Callaway, who was going to be the focal point of the Vipers offense, was recently placed on injured reserve with a leg injury. They also have several decent defensive backs, with ex-Falcons CB Jalen Collins and former Bears CB Demontre Hurst forming a solid shutdown duo. There is potential for the Vipers to turn things around and have a sneakily solid season.

XFC West

Dallas Renegades

Despite being favored over their opponent, the Renegades  were bested by the BattleHawks after a game-long slugfest. The Renegades offense was timid for the most part, as field goal scoring dominated the game early on. QB Philip Nelson took over for ex-Steelers QB Landry Jones,and had an uneventful night going 33 for 42 with 209 passing yards with one interception. With a chance of a comeback at his fingers, Jones threw an interception in the late seconds of the game to seal the win for the BattleHawks.  Despite the offense’s lack of explosiveness, fans should look forward to the team’s chances next week against the Wildcats when Jones takes his offensive weapons like WR Jazz Ferguson. Former Indiana Hoosiers LB Tegray Scales and ex-Panthers DE Frank Alexander held the BattleHawks Ta’amu for a majority of the game, combining for two sacks, two quarterback hits and four tackles for loss. With Jones coming back to the lineup next week, the Renegades definitely have a strong case to win the XFL Championship.

Houston Roughnecks

The Roughnecks are off to a hot start after their win against the Wildcats on Saturday. The team is led by head coach and general manager June Jones who has coached football for several Division I universities, the NFL and the CFL. Former Temple QB P.J. Walker is someone to look forward to this season alongside his offensive weapons of former Steelers third-round pick Khalil Lewis (who he dropped a dime to two minutes into the game for six) and former Kent State QB/WR Nick Holley (a Julian Edelman mini-me). Walker’s impressive arm was on display all night as he went 23-39 with four touchdowns and 272 passing yards. Walker and the offense are perfectly complemented on the defensive side of the ball with ex-Cardinals CB Deatrick Nichols who had an interception, two passes defended and a sack on the night, and former number 60 pick in the 2014 draft DE Kony Ealy who had five quarterback hits and a half-sack. The Roughnecks hold a strong case to be XFL Champions down the line with their stout athleticism on all sides of the ball.

Los Angeles Wildcats

Although the Wildcats were tamed on Saturday by Walker and company, there is a lot to look forward to for their season to come. DE Shawn Oakman, and former Baylor standout, looks like the right man to continue to lead the team down the stretch with one sack and two QB hits. Other defensive standouts like ex-Titans safety LaDarius Wiley and former sixth-round pick CB Harlan Miller are keys to keeping the Wildcats afloat while they hash out their offensive troubles. Despite many struggles on the offensive side of the ball throughout the night, former Rams undrafted WR Nelson Spruce had a big night with 11 receptions and 103 receiving yards on the night. Spruce is someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses and as the Wildcats work through their quarterback blues. Ex-Cardinals QB Charles Kanoff struggled throughout the night with a completion percentage of 53, 214 passing yards, one touchdown and an interception, but with their first-ever game in the books, the team has plenty of time before their matchup with the Dallas Renegades.

Seattle Dragons

The Dragons kicked off the XFL 2020 season against the DC Defenders this past Saturday in a late-game blow out by the Defenders. Putting aside their woes from the night, fans should look forward to watching WR Austin Proehl later down the line as he came up big for the Dragons with two touchdowns, and five receptions for 88 yards. QB Brandon Silvers showed some promise throughout the first half as he kept the game in close contention although he later added to the blowout throwing two interceptions (one of which was returned for a pick-six). He finished the game with three touchdowns and 217 yards. On the opposite side of the ball, notable players like DT Will Suton blew up the Defenders offense early on in the game alongside DE Jacquies Smith. Each of the defensive big men split a sack and combined for three tackles for loss and a quarterback hit. Despite some struggles late in the game, fans should look forward to how head coach Jim Zorn works to clean up the offense and the durability of the defense.