A Brief History of the XFL

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As we near the biggest football game of the year, we are reminded of one of the sports’ most memorable experiments.

Vince McMahon, the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, helped found the XFL in 2001 with a vision of fusing his brand into football. The league split its eight teams into two divisions and held a 10-game schedule with no bye weeks. The Los Angeles Xtreme won the lone XFL Championship in a 38-6 thrashing of the San Francisco Demons at the L.A. Coliseum.

The XFL created some rule changes to deviate from the NFL. Instead of a coin toss, the XFL had an “opening scramble.” Players from opposing teams raced from their end zones to the ball at the 50-yard line, and whichever player came away with it got to choose whether his team got possession. The league also allowed bump-and-run coverage and took away fair catches with the intent of spicing the game up. Players also got to choose what name appeared on the back of their jersey, allowing some players to place nicknames and mantras instead of their last name.

Some players were pleasantly surprised with the quality of play in the league, but the XFL ultimately crumbled after just one season. The league was a financial failure and all sides abandoned hopes of a second season.

 

Eagles face big test as road favorites at Seattle on Sunday night

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This might be a week to expect regression from the Philadelphia Eagles, who are in rarefied territory in betting trends and in hostile territory on the field with a primetime road game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Eagles and quarterback Carson Wentz are listed as 5.5-point road favorites against the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks with a 47-point total for the NFL’s Week 13 Sunday Night Football  matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Philadelphia, which is on an 8-0 streak against the spread, is threatening to become just the fourth team in the last 10 seasons to notch nine covers in a row.

The favored team is 7-2 both straight-up and ATS in the last nine editions of this matchup, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, but Seattle has some strong personal trends. The Seahawks, who are home underdogs for the first time since 2012, are 23-9-2 in their last 34 games as the underdog, as well as 21-5 ATS in their last 26 games in December.

The Eagles, who are an NFL-best 10-1 SU and 9-2 ATS, can likely look forward to the Seahawks trying to force Wentz and his receivers to beat them with the pass. Philadelphia running backs such as LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi might see fewer opportunities than usual to get into the open field against a front seven strengthened by defensive tackles Jarran Reed and Sheldon Richardson, along with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Seattle will likely have free safety Earl Thomas back, but the secondary has still been prone to lapses in pass defense, so look for tight end Zach Ertz and the Eagles receiving corps to exploit some busted coverages.

The likelihood of the Seahawks, who are 7-4 SU and 4-6-1 ATS, coming through with a cover – or outright win – will be pegged on whether Russell Wilson’s ability to scramble can frustrate the Eagles’ sixth-ranked defense. Seattle is 10-3 SU and 9-4 ATS in December home games since 2012, when Wilson took over as starting quarterback.

While Seattle finally does have left tackle Duane Brown and left guard Luke Joeckel side by side, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham usually play on the other end of the line and will have the chance to blow up a few plays. Seattle’s running game, which is just 23rd in the NFL in yards per rush, will likely struggle against an Eagles defense that is allowing the fourth-lowest yards per rush.

However, the Eagles haven’t seen a quarterback as resourceful as Wilson, so Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson are likely to get some big opportunities.

The total has gone under in three of the Eagles’ last four games against the Seahawks, while the total has gone under in 13 of the Seahawks’ last 18 games in December.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Washington improves to betting favorite at Cowboys for Thursday Night Football

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Kirk Cousins has played well in Dallas, while the Cowboys and Dak Prescott haven’t performed well anywhere lately.

Washington, with quarterback Cousins at the controls, has improved to a one-point road favorite against the Dallas Cowboys with a 44-point total for the NFL Week 13 Thursday Night Football matchup after opening as a 2.5-point underdog at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The best spin one can put on trends for the game is that both teams are due to break some trends. Washington is just 2-7 straight-up in its last nine games against NFC East rival Dallas, but the Cowboys are a dreadful 1-8 against the spread in their last nine Thursday games. Dallas is also 1-8 SU in its last nine games where it got points at home.

The Redskins, who are 5-6 both SU and ATS, have to win out to have any chance of grabbing an NFC wild-card playoff berth. Cousins has averaged 9.2 yards per pass with six touchdowns and zero interceptions in two career starts in Dallas. The Cowboys seldom blitz with a five-man rush due to coverage issues, so if Washington gets LT Trent Williams (knee) back on Thursday, Cousins should have plenty of clean pockets as he looks for targets such as WR Jamison Crowder.

The Cowboys are allowing the fourth-highest opposing quarterback rating in the NFL.

In the rushing phase, Samaje Perine has been promising as Washington’s feature back. The Redskins rushed for only 50 yards in their last game against Dallas, but the loss of OLB Sean Lee (hamstring) has compromised the Cowboys’ rush defense.

Washington is 2-2 ATS in its last four road games, with the losses coming against the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, who got a backdoor cover with a defensive touchdown on the game’s final play.

The Cowboys, who are 5-6 both SU and 5-6 ATS, need to break out of a major offensive funk. Prescott, RB Alfred Morris and an offensive line that has had consistency issues – but does have LT Tryon Smith healthy – are facing a Washington defense that has allowed 100 or more rushing yards in six of their last eight games, so there’s a chance Dallas might be able to control the line of scrimmage.

In the passing phase, Prescott and WR Dez Bryant have been struggling to get on the same page, and Bryant has struggled in the past when he is covered by Redskins CB Josh Norman. The matchup could be more favorable for TE Jason Witten and WR Terrance Williams.

The total has gone over in nine of the Redskins’ last 12 games vs divisional opponents. But the total has gone under in Dallas’ last five homes games as the underdog, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, and has also gone under in six of the Cowboys’ last seven games at night.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.