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Week 5: Sunday Betting Guide for odds & picks

De'Mornay Pierson-El leaps into the St. Louis crowd after scoring a Week 4 touchdown.

The Action Network's staff previews Sunday's games, complete with their projected spread and a pick.

St. Louis BattleHawks at DC Defenders Odds

  • Spread: BattleHawks -5
  • Total: 38.5
  • Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET on Sunday
  • TV: FS1

Odds as of Saturday morning and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


 

BattleHawks vs. Defenders Injury Report

The BattleHawks have listed every player on their injury report as questionable except for running back Sherman Badie (knee), who was just added to the roster this week.

When it comes to their elite usage of the questionable tag, the BattleHawks are the New England Patriots of the XFL.

Running backs Matt Jones (knee) and Christine Michael (illness) both practiced fully on Friday and yet are still listed as questionable. For a solid month, Jones has been technically questionable after practicing on a limited basis early in the week. The BattleHawks are just managing his workload in practice and playing coy with his injury status. He’s fully expected to suit up.

On defense, the BattleHawks might be without starting perimeter cornerback Robert Nelson (illness), who missed practice on Friday but is officially questionable. Rotational cornerback Marquez White (illness) practiced fully on Friday and should play through his questionable tag.

The Defenders are healthy on offense, but they are dealing with issues in their secondary. Starting left corner Elijah Campbell (abdomen) missed Week 4 even though he was a limited practice participant last week. He's shaping up to be another game-time decision, but he looks to be on the doubtful side of his questionable tag.

Rotational corner Doran Grant (hip) started at left corner last week in Campbell's place -- but he's now dealing with an injury, as is starting right corner Desmond Lawrence (back). They're both questionable after practicing limitedly on Friday.

There's an outside chance the Defenders could be without their three top perimeter corners. Matthew Freedman

Key Mismatch

BattleHawks Rush Offense vs. Defenders Rush Defense

This St. Louis team has a distinct advantage against a Defenders defense that has struggled mightily so far against the run.

Despite poor performances last week from running backs Matt Jones (15 carries, 20 yards) and Christine Michael (12 carries, 27 yards), the BattleHawks have one of the league's best backfield duos.

And quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, though not a frequent runner, has had success when he's left the pocket, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

As evidenced by their league-high 58.9% rush rate, the BattleHawks prefer to control the game via the run, and that's where the Defenders are most vulnerable: They have the league's second-worst run defense grade (60.3, per Pro Football Focus).

On top of that, they are dead last with a 31.4 PFF tackling grade. Just last week, the Defenders allowed 230 yards to Tampa Bay Vipers running backs De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick on 5.1 yards per carry.

The Defenders have issues all over the field, but their inability to stop the run is what will give them the most problems in this game. Mike Vitanza

Our Projected Odds

You’ll find our experts’ consensus spread as well as Sean Koerner’s total below. Find their projections for every Week 5 game here.

  • Our Experts' Consensus Spread: BattleHawks -3.6
  • Koerner's Projected Total: 40.4

Pick

Mike Vitanza: St. Louis Battlehawks -4.5

St. Louis faces a Defenders team that has struggled on both sides of the ball over the last two weeks, averaging 4.5 points per game offensively while allowing 32 points per game to opponents. The BattleHawks have been one of the most complete teams in the league, controlling the game with the run on offense while also playing strong defense. Per PFF, they rank second overall in both offense (73.1) and defense (71.4), while DC ranks seventh on offense (60.0) and sixth on defense (64.8). DC's run defense is particularly susceptible (60.3).

The BattleHawks' preferred game plan is to run the ball and limit offensive plays for the opponent. They’ve had success doing just that so far this season. St. Louis running back Matt Jones had a poor Week 4, but he was averaging a healthy 4.3 yards per carry prior to last week and figures to get back on track against a run defense that was torched for over 230 yards last week. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also has had success running the ball, tallying 5.1 yards per carry on 186 rushing yards.

Defensively, the BattleHawks should be able to force turnovers against a Defenders team that has committed six giveaways over the past two weeks. After a hot start, DC passer Cardale Jones has looked especially bad, and I expect that to continue against one of the league’s best defenses.

Even on the road, I like the BattleHawks up to -5.5.

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Josh Johnson (8) leads the Los Angeles Wildcats into Week 5 against the Tampa Bay Vipers.

Tampa Bay Vipers at Los Angeles Wildcats Odds

  • Spread: Wildcats -2.5
  • Total: 41
  • Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET on Sunday
  • TV: ESPN

Odds as of Saturday morning and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


Our staff previews Sunday's game, complete with their projected spread and a pick.

Vipers vs. Wildcats Injury Report

The Vipers got their first win of the year last week, and poof! -- just like that, their season-long injury/personnel issues seem to have disappeared.

Week 1 starting quarterback Aaron Murray (foot) returned last week but served as the backup and now seems set in that role.

Change-of-pace quarterback/halfback Quinton Flowers (personal) left the team last week and missed Week 4, but he's now back and reportedly taking snaps only at running back.

Backup-turned-starter Taylor Cornelius is now firmly entrenched as the team's No. 1 quarterback.

And he should have improved pass-catching options around him this week.

Tight end Nick Truesdell (knee) missed Weeks 3-4, but he practiced fully on Friday and is expected to play. Additionally, former Canadian Football League standout wide receiver S.J. Green (knee) seems ready to make his XFL debut. He had a full practice session on Friday and is listed as probable.

After his 24-carry, two-reception workload in Week 4, running back De'Veon Smith (foot) practiced on a limited basis this week, but he is officially probable and should be active.

The Wildcats have 14 players on the injury report. Most of them seem likely to play. For instance, it would be a significant surprise if quarterback Josh Johnson (thigh), running back Larry Rose (foot) and tight end Brandon Barnes (knee) didn't play. They all practiced fully on Friday and are listed as probable.

But other players are less certain. Starting edge defender Shawn Oakman (neck) and starting interior defensive lineman Cedric Reed (knee) are questionable after getting in limited practice sessions on Friday. Oakman missed Week 4, and both seem to be game-time decisions.

Running back Martez Carter (hip) is also questionable. After breaking out in Week 3 with 75 yards and three touchdowns, he missed Week 4 and cannot be counted on for Week 5.

And the Wildcats will be without several key players. Slot receiver Nelson Spruce (knee) will miss his second straight week, and his absence is significant: He's No. 2 in the league with 256 yards receiving.

On defense, the Wildcats will be without starting edge defender Devin Taylor (thigh) and starting linebacker Tre' Williams (thigh).

The paragon of health, they are not. Matthew Freedman

Key Mismatch

Wildcats WR Tre McBride vs. Vipers CB Anthoula Kelly

The Wildcats will be without No. 1 wide receiver Nelson Spruce (knee), who also missed Week 4, but since returning from injury in Week 3, Tre McBride has stepped up and played like the team's true top pass-catching option.

Against the Vipers and cornerback Anthoula Kelly in particular, he should produce.

McBride has perhaps the XFL's best quarterback throwing to him in Josh Johnson, who leads the position with an 84.8 offensive grade (per Pro Football Focus). Of any quarterback to start a game, Johnson is No. 1 with 8.1 yards per attempt.

A dynamic field stretcher, McBride leads the league in air yards (349) over the past two weeks.

The Vipers have their perimeter corners rotate sides each quarter, so McBride -- who lines up mostly wide to the left -- will get his opportunity to face cornerback Anthoula Kelly.

While his 58.6 PFF coverage grade isn't horrible, it's decidedly subpar, and he is the league's most exploited corner with 207 yards and two touchdowns allowed in his coverage this year.

In Week 3, Kelly was the primary defender on Houston Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips when he went off for 8-194-3 receiving on 10 targets. Based on how McBride has performed over the past two weeks (13-234-3 receiving on 18 targets), he might be in Phillips' tier.

Against Kelly and the Vipers, McBride could have his third consecutive 100-yard game. Tony Marquis

Our Projected Odds

You’ll find our experts’ consensus spread as well as Sean Koerner’s total below. Find their projections for every Week 5 game here.

  • Our Experts' Consensus Spread: Wildcats -4.2
  • Koerner's Projected Total: 41.1

Picks

Sean Koerner: Wildcats -2.5

My best bet from last week was taking the Guardians +7.5 at home against the Wildcats. It was a blend of taking advantage of the market's overreaction of the Wildcat's 39-9 blowout Week 3 win along with the Guardians offense playing much better than their 9-point output in the week prior would have otherwise indicated.

The tables have turned for Week 5. The Vipers are coming off a 25-0 blowout win over DC, and the market has overcorrected by installing the Wildcats as just -2.5 home favorites against Tampa Bay. I have this number being closer to -4, so it's critical to grab it before it bumps up to the key number of -3.

Though Wildcats wide receiver Nelson Spruce is headed for a second straight missed game, Tre McBride has stepped up in a big way, going for 5/109/2 and 8/127/1 in the past two games. I'm bullish on the LA offense long term as well, as McBride/Spruce may be the best 1-2 WR combo in the league, and we have seen McBride, Spruce, and quarterback Josh Johnson active in the same game only once — a game LA just so happened to put up a XFL-record 39 points.

Heading into last week, the Vipers were playing better than their 0-3 record indicated, so it wasn't surprising to see them finally breakthrough with a convincing victory at home. But after back-to-back home games, they now have to travel cross country. We have seen XFL teams struggle in these spots — New York's upset win over LA last week comes to mind — which gives me confidence taking LA up to -2.5.

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Ben Rolfe: Wildcats -2.5

As Sean pointed out, cross country travel has been an issue for teams in the XFL, with visitors currently sitting at 0-4 ATS in those spots.

These two teams actually compare quite closely by many metrics, with PFF grading the Wildcats third and the Vipers fifth overall entering Week 5. The Wildcats' advantage comes in the form of their offense, which has earned significantly higher marks in passing than the Vipers.

The biggest issue for the Wildcats is their struggles in run defense. LA's 5.0 yards per carry allowed ranks second-worst, while Tampa Bay is tied for first in that metric on offense, also with 5.0.

But given how close these two teams are in terms of their statistics, the potential impact of traveling cross-country looms large. The Vipers found themselves in a similar spot in Week 2 at Seattle, and they struggled en route to a 17-9 loss.

This line is on the move, but it remains a good value for me up to the -3 mark.

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