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Are you ready for some (more) football? Featured

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I know it seems like the NFL season just ended, because, well … it just ended. But if you’re someone who simply doesn’t want to wait until next September for more football (or next June, if you’re a CFL connoisseur), then you’re in luck.

The XFL – brainchild of WWE boss Vince McMahon – has returned to cities all over the country. After the ill-fated original flopped after a single season, XFL 2.0 hit the field this past weekend. The schedule will be 10 weeks and no byes, with each team playing five home games. The postseason will be two weeks, with each division’s top two teams facing off for the right to play in the championship game.

The league’s eight teams are as follows:

East Conference:

DC Defenders

New York Guardians

St. Louis Battlehawks

Tampa Bay Vipers

West Conference:

Dallas Renegades

Houston Roughnecks

Los Angeles Wildcats

Seattle Dragons

These teams are centrally owned, as opposed to following the franchise model under which most other American pro leagues operate. In addition to these eight squads, there’s also a ninth roster of 40 players – called simply Team 9 – that serves as a shared practice squad of sorts where players can stay ready to serve as injury replacements or other sort of call-up. At the season’s halfway mark, these 40 will be distributed to the rest of the league (each roster expands by five after Week Five); Team 9 will be replenished with 36 new players.

And of course, there are the rules.

The XFL has plenty of rule changes and tweaks, all designed to improve pace of play and on-field excitement. Rest assured – this isn’t the lunatic chaos of the first XFL. However, the changes are distinct. As for their effectiveness? Well – your mileage may vary. Here’s a breakdown.

Scoring

Point-after touchdown plays

In the XFL, there are no kicked extra points after touchdowns. Instead, teams will have an option to run a play to score either one, two or three extra points, creating the possibility for a nine-point touchdown.

A one-point try will be run from the two-yard line. A two-point try will start at the five and a three-point try will start at the 10.

Game rules

Double-forward passes

Unlike in the NFL, the XFL will allow two forward passes on a play, provided that the first forward pass is caught behind the line of scrimmage.

What’s a catch? 

In the XFL, receivers only need to have one foot – or any other part of their body – contact the ground in bounds, instead of two feet in the NFL.

Kickoffs

The XFL designed its kicking rules in a way to increase the amount of returns we see compared to the NFL while also making returns safer. This results in a kickoff much different than what we’re used to.

On a kickoff, the kicker will kick the ball from their own 30-yard line, but every blocker will be lined up on the opposing team’s 35-yard line. The return team blockers will be lined up at their own 30, just five yards away from the kicking team’s players. Only the kicker and receiver can move before the ball is caught. All other blockers are permitted to move when the ball is caught or three seconds after it hits the ground, if the ball isn’t caught.

Kicks that fly out of bounds or fall short of the opposing 20-yard line will result in the receiving team taking the ball at the kicking team’s 45. Touchbacks will result in the receiving team starting at their own 35.

Teams must inform an official if they plan to use an onside kick, removing the possibility of surprise.

Punts

All punts that result in touchbacks will be placed on the receiving team’s 35-yard line. Punts that go out of bounds will also be placed on the receiving team’s 35-yard line, or wherever the ball went out if that occurred before reaching the 35. The punting team may not cross the line of scrimmage before the ball is punted.

Challenges

There are no coach’s challenges in the XFL; all replay is initiated by the officials.

Overtime

The XFL has devised a completely new format for overtime, sort of a soccer-style shootout.

In overtime, each team’s offense will have five attempts to complete a two-point conversion from the five-yard line, with each successful conversion being worth two points. The team with the most points at the end of the shootout is the winner. If one team clinches a win early, the unnecessary remaining rounds of the shootout will not be played. The visiting team always makes the first attempt. Defenses cannot score in overtime possessions in the event of a turnover.

OT penalties

Penalties in overtime are potentially ruinous. If the offensive team commits a pre-snap penalty, the ball is moved back and the play re-attempted. However, a post-snap penalty means that the play is dead and any score will not count.

If the defense commits a penalty pre-snap, the ball will be moved to the one. For a post-snap penalty, the offensive team will have the option to retry the play from the one if they don’t score. Any future penalties committed by the defense in any future round will result in an automatic score for the offense.

Timing

Game clock

The XFL will use a running clock outside of the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters. During these periods, plays that end out of bounds or with an incompletion will stop the clock until the next snap. The clock will be stopped after all other plays that end in bounds until the ball is spotted and five seconds have run off the play clock. The play clock is 25 seconds and will begin when the ball is spotted following the previous play. There will be a dedicated ball-spotting official to speed up the process.

Timeouts

Each team gets two timeouts per half. Halftime is 10 minutes.

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The XFL’s first weekend appears to have been successful, with solid attendance figures and TV ratings and a decent on-field product. Whether interest can be maintained when the novelty factor wears off remains to be seen. We’ve seen recent alternatives to NFL football implode – the short-lived AAF, the collapse of the Arena League – but the truth is that the American appetite for football is voracious; if this league can present a palatable product, they might have a shot. Only time will tell.

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 February 2020 09:21

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