The next stop on our magical 2020 XFL betting tour examines the Tampa Bay Vipers. Las Vegas has Tampa pegged as one of the XFL favorites heading into the regular season’s opening weekend. They are the only road favorite in week one, laying -1.5 in New York against the Guardians on Sunday afternoon, according to DraftKings. The Vipers have a talented roster, a seasoned head coach, and the highest projected win total (7.5) in the entire league. The Tampa Bay Vipers also enter the league with the dubious distinction of having what is widely believed to be the most hideous uniforms in the XFL’s second edition. The helmet logo would have been much better if they used the hissing Viper featured on the chest of the jersey instead of the obnoxious V they settled on. Meanwhile, the two-tone green machine home jerseys look like someone smeared avocado all over their 1990s Seattle SuperSonics throwback. The Vipers hope to shatter the “look good, play good” mantra by living up to the lofty win total posted by Caesars. Welcome to the 2020 Tampa Bay Vipers Betting Preview.
From CFL to NFL to XFL
It has been quite the journey for Tampa Bay Vipers head coach Marc Trestman. Trestman began his coaching career in the Canadian Football League, where he became the first coach to lead the Montreal Alouettes to consecutive Grey Cup titles in the late 2000s. Trestman is likely best known by casual football fans as the Chicago Bears head coach for two seasons from 2013-2015. While coaching the Bears, Trestman did boast a 2nd ranked scoring offense in his first season with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. The wheels fell off in season two in Chicago, however, with the Bears falling to 5-11 and Trestman losing his job in the process. Now Trestman will have another opportunity to showcase his prowess as an offense guru with the Vipers in the 2020 XFL season, where he ranks near the top in terms of head coaches with NFL experience.
Are the Vipers snakebitten or ready to strike?
Here’s to hoping you didn’t draft Antonio Callaway early in your XFL Fantasy League. The much-maligned, ultra-talented wideout from Florida University was placed on Injured Reserve before ever stepping on the field for the Vipers in a regular-season contest. This will undoubtedly be a massive blow for QB Aaron Murray who hoped to make an SEC connection with the former Gator. Murray, the former Georgia Bulldog, was last seen battling the least talented of Phil Simms’ sons to be the Atlanta Legends starting quarterback. If Murray couldn’t easily lock down the starting spot of an AAF franchise, I’m not sure why Vegas thinks he’ll be able to lead this Vipers roster to eight regular-season wins. Without Callaway on the field, Reece Horn and Stacy Coley will be expected to step up for a Tampa roster that is deep at wide receiver, even if their most prominent name is now gone. Seantavius Jones is pegged by some as the team’s new WR1 in fantasy circles. The Vipers also have what most experts believe to be the best pass-catching Tight End in the league in Nick Truesdell. The Salt Lake Stallions legend might prove to be a reliable security blanket for Aaron Murray.
The Tampa Bay Vipers are not nearly as deep at the running back position. Former Michigan Wolverine De’Veon Smith is penciled in as a starter. Smith is more of the bruising type back who doesn’t necessarily fit what Marc Trestman has historically done, which is dump the ball off to his running backs in space. While there has been plenty of buzz about former USF star Quinton Flowers playing a Taysom Hill-type role for the Vipers, Tampa has him listed on the depth chart as an RB. Perhaps Trestman might be looking to mold Flowers into a Matt Forte clone for this Vipers offense.
In a fantasy football driven world like ours, the defensive side of the ball often gets ignored, especially when examining teams in upstart leagues such as the XFL 2.0 this year. This happened just last year when Trent Richardson garnered all the attention for a Birmingham Iron team that began the season 3-0 thanks to a suffocating defense. With so many unknown commodities on the defensive side of the ball for the Tampa Bay Vipers, it’s quite challenging to tell if this unit will be a strength or weakness for Marc Trestman this spring. The Vipers have the potential to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks with what could be a lethal pass-rushing duo of Obum Gwacham and Deiontrez Mount. At Linebacker and in the secondary, Tampa features a smorgasbord of players from elite NCAA programs who just never panned out in the NFL. This includes several former Florida State Seminoles looking to make their mark for the Vipers.
Championship odds: +510 (4th Highest)
Projected Wins: 7.5 (1st Overall)
The Tampa Bay Vipers have the highest win total projection, but sport only a middle of the record odds on capturing the XFL Championship come late April. Eight wins in a ten-game schedule seems like a huge task for even the best of teams, and I’m not convinced Marc Trestman’s bunch is even the best team in their division. The injury to Antonio Callaway only exacerbates things on the offensive side where Aaron Murray is no Jameis Winston (for better far less than worse). I love the Under on the win total for this team as they could potentially overachieve and win their division at 7-3, and I would still cash my wager. In fact, I’ll put two units on Tampa Bay going under the posted goal of 7.5 wins as an official XFL bet.
Official Play: 2U – Under 7.5 wins (-105)
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Chris Smith is Pro Football Network’s expert NFL handicapper and founder of the Free Cash Crew. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSmithPFN.