2020 XFL Rules
The XFL is a new league with new rules. As the NFL works hard to institute its own new rules in small increments over several years, the XFL is in a position to test many “radical” rule changes right off the bat.
Most of the league’s unique standards will be best understood in the context of XFL rules vs. NFL rules, though if you have any familiarity with American football (NFL or NCAA), you should have no trouble seeing why and how the XFL is different.
For bettors especially, it is critical to understand the XFL rule differences, as the league – while familiar – is definitely its own entity, and knowledge is power. When it comes to XFL betting, it rules to know the rules!
“Less Stall, More Ball”
All of the XFL’s rules are based on speeding up the game of football, with a goal of reducing each game’s length from the NFL average (3:12) and the NCAAF average (3:24). Exactly how long the typical XFL game is going to be remains to be seen, but test games indicate that each game will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes (2:40) from kickoff to the final whistle.
In order to fit the maximum amount of football into the minimum amount of airtime, the XFL didn’t just go the Patriots route and deflate the product. Instead, they tightened up the game, cut out the bloat, and kept the clock running. The XFL achieved this through 15 specific innovations, all of which are listed below.
XFL Gameplay Rules
More Returns, Just Not To The Medical Tent
- All kickoffs occur from the 30-yard line, and all kicks must land or be caught between the opposing 20-yard line or endzone. Kicks that land out of bounds or fall short of the 20-year line result in an illegal procedure penalty, with the receiving team being awarded the ball at the 45-yard line.
- Players on the kicking or receiving team (other than the kick returner) cannot move until the ball is touched or three seconds have elapsed since it first touches the ground.
- If a kick is caught and downed in the endzone, it is a “major touchback” and will be spotted at the 35-yard line. If the ball lands inbounds before bouncing into the endzone, downing the ball there is a “minor touchback,” and the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line.
- No surprise onside kicks are allowed, as team must formally declare their intent (at which point NFL onside kick rules apply).
Point After Touchdown –
No Kicks, More Ticks
- Whenever an XFL team scores a TD, that team has the opportunity to score up to three extra points. However, there are no extra point kick attempts allowed. Instead, the scoring team can opt to run a play from a set distance away from the endzone, with the awarded points being based on that distance as follows:
- 1 Point – If a team scores from the 2-yard line on the PAT attempt, it is awarded one point.
- 2 Points – If a team scores from the 5-yard line on the PAT attempt, it is awarded two points.
- 3 Points – If a team scores from the 10-yard line on the PAT attempt, it is awarded three points.
No More Sudden Death!
- Overtime is a five-round “shootout” style period.
- Each round is a single play that starts from the five-yard line, and the team with the most overtime scores wins. Both teams get one try per round.
- OT scores are worth two points each, so a team that is successful on all five tries will have 10 points added to their final score. This is crucial information if you’re betting on the XFL spread or the over/under.
- A turnover results in the end of the play and that team’s chance for the round. Defenses cannot score in XFL overtime.
- Defensive penalties will reset the ball at the one-yard line. Defenses get one penalty per OT, with subsequent penalties in any round resulting in scores for the offense.
- Offensive pre-snap penalties are marked off per standard XFL rules. Offensive post-snap penalties result in the end of the play.
- Visiting teams will always go first in OT, with home teams going second. This is the format for every round of overtime, as there is no “snaking.”
Double Forward Pass –
Throw, Throw Again!
- If a forward pass is completed behind the line of scrimmage, the ball may be thrown forward again. The ball may not be thrown forward once it has passed the line of scrimmage.
- XFL backward laterals are treated the same as in the NFL and NCAA. However, a dropped side lateral is not regarded as a fumble in the XFL, instead resulting in an incomplete pass and a dead ball. This reduces the risk of the double pass and prompts coaches to call the exciting play more frequently.
You Might As Well Just Go For It
- Punt coverage players on either side (i.e. the kicking team and the receiving team) may not cross the line of scrimmage until a punt is kicked, though players can move and situate themselves laterally.
- If the ball is punted out of bounds inside the 35-yard line, it is considered a “major touchback” and will be spotted at the 35-yard line. If a punted ball lands in the opposing endzone or goes out of the endzone, it is also a “major touchback” and will be placed at the 35-yard line.
- Fair catches are allowed, though the XFL believes players will be incentivized to return the ball. Similarly, because punting leads to such good field position for the receiving team, XFL coaches will be incentivized to go for it on fourth down more often.
XFL Timing Rules
25-Second Play Clock – Hike The Ball Already!
- The XFL has a 25-second play clock as opposed to the 40-second play clock used by the NFL. This will dramatically increase the number of plays run in the game, increasing excitement.
Comeback Period – The 2-Minute Power Drill
- During the last two minutes of each half, plays that end inbounds result in a clock stoppage until the ball is spotted, at which time there is a five-second clock runoff.
- On incomplete passes and plays that end out of bounds, the clock will be stopped until the next snap.
Running Game Clock – Stop, Drop, And Roll
- Outside the 2-minute comeback period, incompletions and plays that end out of bounds will result in a clock stoppage. However, the game clock will start once the ball is spotted. In the NFL, incompletions stop the clock until the next snap.
Timeouts – No Rest For The Weary
- Each XFL team gets two one-minute timeouts per half, which is one less than the three per half used in the NFL and NCAA.
Replay Rulings – No Challenge Flags, No Problem
- XFL coaches have no challenge flags, meaning they cannot initiate challenges of any play outcomes. Instead, the XFL utilizes a special Replay Official who works from a booth above the field and triggers all reviews.
Reviewable plays currently include only the following:
- Questions of possession
- Questions of player or ball contact with the ground
- Goal line contact
- Sideline contact
- Line of scrimmage contact
- Line to gain contact
- Number of players on the field
- Game administration
- Penalty enforcement
- Correcting the down
- Spotting the ball after a foul
- Game clock issues
- Player disqualifications
- Any player safety issues
- Officiating errors within the last five minutes or OT
XFL “Common Sense” Rules
One Foot Inbounds – “A Catch Is Made With Your Hands, Not Your Feet”
- The XFL catch rule is akin to the college football rule: During or after securing the ball, the receiver only has to have one foot (or knee, elbow, buttock, etc.) inbounds for the catch to count.
Ball-Spotting Official – I See What You Did There
- The XFL utilizes a dedicated ball-spotting official. This should reduce the time to spot the ball between plays from the NFL standard of about 12 seconds, leading to more up-tempo play.
Coach-Player Communication – Can You Hear Me Now?
- Select offensive XFL players will have direct communication access to their coaches on the sidelines. This is achieved through a helmet-based receiver so players can get instructions and play calls quickly and clearly.
- XFL partners (ABC, ESPN, FOX, etc.) will have access to these audio feeds and are permitted to use them in TV broadcasts.
Simplified Illegal Man Downfield – A Bad Rule Made Slightly Less Bad
- Ineligible receivers can move up to three yards beyond the line of scrimmage before the ball is thrown. The metric simplifies the current NFL rule, which has a one-yard grace zone and is otherwise subject to interpretation. This will help XFL teams better support popular “Run Pass Option” plays.
Shorter Halftime – The Show Must Go On
- XFL halftime lasts for only 10 minutes. This contrasts with NFL and college football halftimes, which can last for up to 20 minutes.
How The New XFL Rules Affect Betting Strategy
Bettors are used to the NFL and NCAAF game, and they understand the basic rules that govern the action. This, of course, has helped them win untold amounts of money. But the new XFL doesn’t really have much for football bettors to draw from, as its rules and standards are relatively unique.
Fortunately, given the above rule changes, there’s not enough there to warrant a whole new football betting strategy, which should suit existing bettors to a tee. In fact, most established football wagering models should work well for XFL games.
The only real difference to be aware of is that the XFL game is going to be faster and feature more scoring than the NFL. While it may not have the offensive pace of a top-tier BCS team playing an FBS scrub in a glorified practice game, Sportsbooks will adjust their XFL totals and spreads accordingly. The league should differ from the NFL in these latter regards, favoring higher numbers in both cases. You might also expect lower-scoring fourth quarters, as teams will likely be running on fumes by then.
Additionally, live betting may be impacted by the quicker pace of XFL play. In-game betting lines are posted automatically during NFL contests, giving bettors 30 seconds or so to get their wagers in. The XFL’s play clock and play speed will make live betting more difficult, and it is unclear if current sportsbook systems will be able to keep up at the outset. However, since all the best XFL betting sites have live in-play wagering options, you can expect XFL live odds to launch sooner rather than later. For further information about XFL rules and betting see our XFL Faq's page.