Tampa Bay Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray

XFL Week 5 Betting Preview: Tampa Bay Vipers at Los Angeles Wildcats

  • Gambling
  • XFL
By Jereme Jones March 5, 2020 0 Comment
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The final game of the XFL weekend features two of the most unpredictable teams in what has been an unpredictable season.

Tampa Bay at Los Angeles (-1.5)

Sunday, March 8, 9 pm, ESPN

The Tampa Bay Vipers began the season as favorites in Vegas to win the XFL Championship and then proceeded to get off to an 0-3 start. They have looked much better in the last two weeks. However, they took the Houston Roughnecks to the limit and then blew out the D.C. Defenders.

The Los Angeles Wildcats are 1-3, but they have also had to face one of the toughest schedules in the XFL. The Wildcats have played Houston and Dallas and traveled across the country to play the New York Guardians. They have also dealt with a number of injuries to key players like Josh Johnson, Nelson Spruce and Martez Carter.

On offense, Tampa Bay is built around their run game, which averages a league-best 171.5 yards per game. De’Veon Smith (296 yards) and Jacques Patrick (231 yards) are ranked first and third in XFL rushing yards. Last week, both rushed for over 100 yards against the Defenders. The Vipers also have good weapons at the receiver position in Dan Williams (18/252/1), Jalen Tolliver (17/202/0), and Reece Horn (18/150/1). They may also be getting tight end, Nick Truesdell, back from injury. Truesdell has been one of the best tight ends in the league when healthy.

The most significant change this season in the Tampa Bay offense has been the play of quarterback Taylor Cornelius. The Corn Dog, who began the season as the third-string quarterback, has steadily improved over his three weeks as a starter. Last week, he went 24 of 31 for 211 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 36 yards and a touchdown.

With Jerry Glanville leading the way, the Vipers have used a heavy blitz scheme to become one of the best defenses in the XFL. Tampa Bay is currently ranked first in fewest yards allowed (237.2) and fourth in points allowed (18.5). The secondary of Tarvarus McFadden, Micah Hanneman, Robert Priester, and Marcelis Branch has been the strength of the defense.

The Vipers secondary will have their hands full with the Los Angeles passing game. The Wildcats, with veteran Josh Johnson at quarterback, lead the XFL in passing yards, averaging 244.5 yards per game. Johnson has one of the deepest receiving groups in the league with Nelson Spruce (20/267/2), Tre McBride (13/236/3), Jordan Smallwood (14/150/1), and Brandon Barnes (9/107/0). Spruce did miss last week’s game with an injury, and his status for this week is still unknown.

The biggest problem for the Los Angeles offense has been the run game. The team averages a league-worst 62 yards per game on the ground. Part of the problem has been injuries to Elijah Hood and Martez Carter, both of whom may be out again this week. To make a push for the playoffs, the Wildcats must fix their running game. It won’t be easy for them to improve this week with their injury issues. They will also be facing the best run defense in the XFL.

The running game has also been a problem for the Wildcats’ defense. Los Angeles has allowed the most rushing yards in the XFL this season, 131.5 per game. Things have gotten better in LA since Winston Moss took over as the defensive coordinator in week two, but last week’s game showed that for the Wildcats to be victorious, the defense has to force turnovers and get to the quarterback. Los Angeles has done both well at times this season; they have seven interceptions and ten sacks. Last week, however, against New York, they were unable to force any turnovers, which helped lead to their loss.

This game comes down to how each team’s strengths and weaknesses match-up. LA’s biggest strength, their passing game, can be negated by the strength of Tampa Bay’s secondary. Meanwhile, the Vipers’ biggest strength, their running game, has a clear advantage over the Wildcats’ weak run defense.

In Tampa, or even on a neutral field, Tampa Bay would likely be close to a six-point favorite. However, the game is in Los Angeles, and one of the most evident trends so far in the XFL is that teams struggle when they travel to the opposite coast. Thus far, road teams going across the county are 0-4 and have lost by an average of 13.3 points. You also have to consider that kickoff is not until 9 pm eastern time.

With all those factors, it’s understandable that Vegas has the Vipers as the underdogs. Without the threat of the run, Jerry Glanville will be able to dial up the pressure and have his defense ready to stop Josh Johnson. Because of this, Tampa Bay pulls a big upset on the road over Los Angeles.

Our Pick: Tampa Bay (Money Line)

XFLOutsider’s 2020 Season Record

Straight Up: 10-2

Against the Spread: 9-3

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