Will the DC Defenders remain as a 6.5-point favorite?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia’s first season of the XFL relaunch hits the finish line this Saturday night. The league championship game will be played at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, where the DC Defenders will take on the Arlington Renegades in the league championship game.

The path to the championship could not be more different for the opposing teams. The defenders (10-1) started the season with six straight wins, establishing themselves early on as the team to beat and maintaining the league’s best record all season. After establishing themselves primarily as the league’s most feared attacking attack, defenders opened up their passing attack in the second half of the year and became the league’s most prolific attacker.

The Renegades, the lowest-scoring team in the league, faced far greater adversity. After struggling to find a consistent production with Drew Plitt and Kyle Sloter as quarterback, the Renegades traded for QB Luis Perez in Week 6. Perez brought the lead and stability to the position that the Arlington offense previously lacked. The incremental improvement from the back end of the season resulted in a three-touchdown performance in the playoffs, with Perez completing 70% of his passes. The Renegades might be a 5-6 team on paper, but ahead of the biggest game of the year they’re dangerous and showing their best football.

The The DC Defenders are currently the favorite at -6.5 points over the Arlington Renegades at BetMGM. Should we bet on the big favorite or put our money behind the underdog’s high cap?

DC Defenders (-6.5) vs. Arlington Renegades (O/U 46.5)

It can be difficult to hinder these types of games. Players and coaches may have taken part in league games in other leagues, but this is a whole new experience for everyone involved. On paper, the defenders have been the much better team all season. Arlington’s surprise over Houston in the playoffs marked the first time it had defeated a winning team this season. All of Arlington’s four regular-season wins have come against teams with a record of 3-7 or worse. I think most people expect defenders to be XFL champions. The real question is: can defenders qualify as 6.5-point favourites?

There was no better bet in the XFL than the DC Defenders. They have an ATS rating of 8-3, but most of their success against the number came in the first six games (6-0 ATS). During that time, defensemen beat their opponents by more than nine points per game on average and won three games by double digits. The final four weeks of the season were a whole different story. The offensive exploded as QB Jordan Ta’amu added chemistry with his dynamic WR pair of Lucky Jackson and Chris Blair. However, the defense struggled just as much as the offense. The defensemen finished the season last in the XFL in yards allowed per game and have not beaten a team by more than two points in their last four games.

That’s a big problem when you’re the favorite at 6.5 points. DC failed to cover its previous two games as a favorite of this magnitude and the teams only covered 40% of the overall league. That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for eating that much chalk. But for that reason, we shouldn’t let these numbers discourage us from betting on the right side.

The DC Defenders prepare to take the field prior to an XFL football game against the Seattle Dragons on Saturday, February 8, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Will Newton)

The DC Defenders prepare to take the field prior to an XFL football game against the Seattle Dragons on Saturday, February 8, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Will Newton)

Bet on the defenders putting on their most dominant performance

Great teams react when challenged. Even after a sloppy end to the regular season, DC showed an ability to up the intensity and return to its dominant form in its only playoff game against Seattle. The Sea Dragons were widely considered the toughest defenders and one of the best offenses in the league. The defenders easily won 37-21, helped by an aggressive defense that frustrated QB Ben DiNucci all day, holding him for 6.1 yards per pass attempt and sacking him three times. The 16-point win over the second-best team in the league was enough to convince me that DC’s late-season slip was down to motivation rather than a talent issue.

We get DC with a discount. These two teams played into Week 9, with defenders finishing as 10-point favorites. The Renegades suffered a 28-26 loss, but the game wasn’t as hard fought as the final score suggests. Defenders did what they wanted on either side of the ball, building a 26-9 lead and keeping Arlington’s offense out of the end zone for the first three quarters. Things broke down late for DC after giving backup quarterback D’Eriq King some work in the final quarter. King’s red-zone interception sparked a 17-point comeback at Arlington and forced overtime. DC had to resort to XFL Offensive Player of the Year Ta’amu in overtime, and he sealed the win for DC. The close finish helped DC emerge as the minor favorite and provided an opportunity to see 3.5 points lower than the Week 9 closing range.

The defenders are rested, healthy and prepared. Similar to the NFL, the XFL gives both teams a week off before the championship game. It’s a welcome advantage for the defenders’ top stars on offense, QB Jordan Ta’amu and RB AbramSmith, who struggled with nagging injuries on the track. There’s certainly a degree of prediction in assessing which team will benefit most from the time-out, but I believe it gives an advantage to the more talented team with the better coaching staff — that’s DC. The defenders moved the ball at a rate of 9.1 yards per pass and scored touchdowns on three of their first four drives against the Arlington defense. Also, it gives defensive coordinator Greg Williams more time for game planning after seeing the Arlington offense for the first time with Luis Perez. Head Coach Reggie Barlow shaped DC into one of the most disciplined teams in the league and learned a valuable lesson in Week 9. The defenders didn’t give up until the final whistle. Bet that the better trained and more proven team will cover. The Bet: DC Defenders -6.5 (-115)


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