With the post-Super Bowl seasonal depression beginning to rear its ugly head, the countdown until week one of the NFL regular season begins, leaving everyone thinking, once again, about how quickly the season comes and goes. Surely there is a lot of excitement with free agency coming up, the combine, the draft, training camp, Hall of Fame inductions and preseason, but there is nothing quite like the NFL games in the regular season and postseason. Here to help get over the hump that is the world without regular season football is the launch of the XFL, essentially a minor league of football with a different, looser rule set.
Some names you may know who are playing in the league are former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Landry Jones, who plays for the Dallas Renegades, former Michigan State and Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook of the Houston Roughnecks, national champion at Ohio State and former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones, playing for the DC Defenders, and former Carolina Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy for the Houston Roughnecks. From the second the scoreboard was shown on the telecast of the game, the XFL appealed to the gambling fans of the sports world by showing the point spreads and the over/under right on the screen.
One of the deviations from the rules of the NFL for the XFL came in an interesting take on the point after attempt. Instead of the traditional kick for one point or running an offensive play for two points, the XFL is set up so that a team can either go for one point from the 2-yard line, two points from the 5-yard line, or three points from the 10-yard line. This changes the dynamic of the game significantly and gives the team more availability to attempt to swing a comeback.
The XFL also allows two forward passes in a play, so long as the first attempt stays behind the line of scrimmage. The catch rule in the XFL is also much better than the NFL, where there is more of a human element involved in making the play. So long as the player has clear possession of the pass before it touches any part of the ground it is considered a catch, giving receivers an advantage. Usually in the NFL, even if it seems the player has full possession of the ball, if the ball even grazes the ground the play will be challenged, reviewed, and likely called back, stating that the ground aided the catch.
The kickoff is also much different from the NFL’s style, and it is designed to promote more kickoff returns for touchdowns. The kicking team lines up and kicks the ball from their own 30-yard line while the receiving team lines up at the opposing team’s 35-yard line, besides the returner who is back deep. Nobody, aside from the returner and the kicker, is allowed to move until the ball is caught.
The overtime rule is set up similarly to a shootout in soccer. Both teams have five individual attempts to score a two-point conversion from the 5-yard line, and whoever succeeds more times is the winner.
The XFL is not what the NFL is, but it sure is a fun way to help get over the end of the NFL season and make the wait for the draft and free agency more bearable. However, the XFL’s organization and the fans of the league should be cautious for the time being after the American Alliance of Football (AAF) folded and ended at the midpoint of the season last year. In a perfect world, the XFL will continue to grow and become a legitimate secondary league to the NFL, promoting players and coaches that have not had a great deal of success in the NFL to try out for the XFL and give their career another chance. More will be clear in weeks to come, and we will be able to determine the predictability for the popularity of the league after the initial excitement of the league wears off a bit.