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Fans of pro football must be in pigskin heaven in 2023 as the NFL enters its offseason while one of the ‘other’ pro leagues – the XFL – makes its triumphant return after a pandemic-induced stoppage in 2020 led to its new star-studded ownership group taking charge.
Though both leagues make a living off the game of football, each does it a bit differently in terms of the rules on the field as well as the revenue, salaries, viewership, attendance, and ratings, with the NFL being the reigning champion and the XFL the young, strong, spring challenger.
Here we break down all the different ways these two groups approach the sport and business of football on their way to bringing fans and sports bettors the best possible football product.
(2020, partial season)
(2021 full season)
Average Player Salary
Average Head Coach Salary
QB Brett Hundley, $200k
Aaron Rodgers $50.3 million
14.8 million viewers per game (2022)
16.7 million in 2022, compared to 17.1 million in 2021, down 3%
Most of the rules that the NFL and XFL follow on the field are the same, but here are some of the major differences between how these two leagues of pro football teams will play:
Teams / Divisions / Rosters: The NFL is made up of 32 teams split into two conferences (AFC and NFC) and eight divisions, each team with a 53-man active roster; the XFL is made up of 8 teams split into two divisions (North and South), each team with a 51-man active roster.
KICK OFFS: The NFL kicks off from the 35 yard line and the ball is placed on the 25 after a touchback; in the XFL they kick off from the 30 and only the kicker and returner can move until the ball is caught or after the ball has been on the ground for at least three seconds.
RECEPTIONS: In the NFL, a reception requires two feet and possession of the ball; in the XFL, they will play by college rules and players will need to maintain possession with only one foot inbounds for a catch to be considered legal.
PATS: After an NFL TD, teams can kick from the 15 yard line for an extra point or go for two points from the two yard line; after an XFL TD, teams can go for one point from the two yard line, two points from the five-yard line, or three points from the 10-yard line.
CHALLENGES: NFL coaches are allowed two challenges per game with the possibility of a third, but only certain plays or actions can be challenged; XFL coaches will be given one challenge per game, but it can be about any possible play including judgement calls.
ONSIDE KICKS: The NFL allows for onside kicks to help a team gain a quick turnover; the XFL allows onside kicks but in the 4th quarter they also have the option to convert a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25 to retain possession and keep the offense on the field.
OVERTIME: NFL overtime involves a coin toss for the ball with an extra 10-minute period and if the first team scores a TD the game is over; in the XFL, tied games at the end of regulation will result in alternating attempts from the opponent's five-yard line.
The NFL, easily.
Though that’s like comparing “apples to oranges” since the XFL’s ‘apples’ are only worth millions of dollars and the NFL’s ‘oranges’ are worth billions.
During the XFL’s shortened 2020 season, that league reportedly earned $20 million while the NFL reported 2021 earnings of $17.19 billion for their full season of play.
It’s not really fair to compare those two revenue streams yet since the XFL is just starting out again and the NFL has been generating revenue since 1920.
The NFL first splits up its revenue sources into local and national categories.
Then the league negotiates national merchandise, licensing, and television contracts, which make up most of that national revenue.
Regardless of how well the 32 teams do during the season, each receives an equal share of that money, and after the 2021 season teams reportedly earned a record $309 million each.
The XFL’s new ownership group is made up of wrestler turned actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, IFBB professional bodybuilder Dany Garcia, and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital.
If there is revenue made in 2023, it will go to them.
That league’s postseason creates millions of dollars in profit however due to the league’s economic model that money is split equally among all 32 teams.
The XFL in 2023 has not had a postseason yet but it will begin after all ten games of the regular season are played. The XFL semifinals are scheduled to take place on April 29 and 30 and the league championship will happen on Saturday, May 13.
In 2022, the average worth of an NFL franchise was $4.47 billion, which reportedly represents an increase of 28% year-over-year.
The Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable NFL franchise and are worth $8 billion.
The Cincinnati Bengals are the least valuable NFL franchise currently worth $3 billion.
In 2020, the ownership group led by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson reportedly purchased the XFL for $15 million (plus over $9.2 million in debts and payments) – and that was just hours before an auction could happen.
The NFL wants to spread its popularity worldwide and in 2022 they did that by creating a 5-game international schedule that included matchups in Germany, the U.K., and Mexico.
That NFL international series has been in place since the 2007 season and that along with key television deals have led to the NFL currently having about 390 million to 410 million fans worldwide.
The XFL may be relatively new, but it promises to bring a “global professional football league with innovative rules and an enhanced 360-game experience” to fans across the globe.
Expect those efforts to be met with open international arms as the world continues to fall more and more in love with the game of football.
The XFL is a professional spring football league now on its third reincarnation.
The league failed in 2001 (lack of money and viewers) and in 2020 (Covid-19 worldwide pandemic) and now in 2023 the XFL will attempt it’s third run.
According to the XFL’s site, it is “a fan-first, fast-paced global professional football league with innovative rules and an enhanced 360-game experience. The XFL will bring entertainment to world-class football, with the goal of advancing football and expanding player opportunities.”
Xtreme Football League
Originally owned by pro wrestling mogul Vince McMahon, the XFL’s new ownership group is made up of famed wrestler turned actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, IFBB professional bodybuilder Dany Garcia, and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital.
Given the NFL’s extensive head start, the answer will probably always be “No.”
But that type of competition is most likely not the goal of either league, the XFL the perfect group to give talented but overlooked players the ideal showcase for a spot in the NFL.
Until the XFL can begin to compete financially – meaning with billions of dollars instead of millions – it will probably continue to be considered the NFL’s exciting little brother.
It’s not likely any time soon since the XFL can currently only afford to pay second-tier players to suit up, with the NFL getting first dibs on all the young football superstars and skilled free agents.
That talent break down would have to reverse itself for the XFL to surpass the NFL in fans, revenue, and viewership, and that shift will be an expensive one to make.
In some ways, yes.
All the differences in the XFL’s on-field rules (see above) are meant to encourage action-packed, high-scoring matchups, so it might be exciting for NFL fans to watch the same game played a bit differently by players who have mastered those changes.
Kickoff returns are in play in the XFL, and the chance to go ‘fourth and fifteen’ from your own 25 yard line in lieu of a fourth quarter onside kick promises to add a new level of excitement to the game. Plus the way the XFL handles extra points and overtime is meant to keep games thrilling in the end.
That said, with the NFL’s greater talent level, chances are its games will (on average) be more exciting to watch than the XFL, at least for now.
Football is a brutal and dangerous activity no matter how many rules and pads are in place, so the XFL and the NFL are both fundamentally risky leagues in which to play.
The XFL changed how kickoffs are done primarily to make that a safer play to execute, but that’s no guarantee that it will make the XFL the safer league.
In 2021, the NFL reportedly had 129 total injured players including 93 during regular season games. Expect the XFL to have its own fair share of rehabbing men
For the most part, no, though expect a slight delay in the release of weekly odds by sportsbooks since the XFL teams are new and it could take a bit longer to assess their chances.
Typical bets will be available for XFL fans including Against the Spread, Money Line, and Points Total wagers.
What might be limited is the total amount of futures and weekly specials offered since the oddsmakers are still learning how they want to handle this new league of eight teams made up of relatively unknown players.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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