XFL Roughnecks Cool Down Dragons

Quarterback PJ Walker led the Houston Roughnecks to their fifth win. (Credit: XFL.com

The Houston Roughnecks took down the Seattle Dragons 32-23 Saturday afternoon in what was a closer game than anyone expected. Houston went in as an 11.5 favorite, but they actually trailed for most of this game. This was BJ Daniels’ first start, PJ Walker’s first game with multiple turnovers, and this was the first game that the Roughnecks would be down by multiple touchdowns. The 14 point deficit the Roughnecks faced Saturday was the largest deficit they have faced all season. They were either going to crumble, or they were going to dig deep and fight. Luckily for all Roughnecks fans, it ended up being the latter. The Roughnecks came back to win the game, and with that they will remain perfect on the season at 5-0. Let’s see how they did it.

First off, let’s talk about PJ Walker, because this was probably his worst game of the season by far. Don’t get me wrong, he still threw for three more touchdowns, he still had some big time plays that were able to bring the Roughnecks back to victory. But he is also the reason that the Roughnecks were in a tough spot to begin with. The Dragons offense looked better with Daniels at the helm, but let’s not act like they were dominating or anything. Two of their touchdowns came from extremely short fields due to Walker turnovers. The first came on a Walker fumble, where he didn’t notice the defender behind him, and he got strip sacked. That lead to Seattle’s first touchdown. Then, later on, he threw probably the worst pass he has thrown all season, where it looked like he was throwing it right to the Dragon defender, who nearly took it back for a pick 6, if it weren’t for PJ tackling him down at the goal line. That lead to another Seattle touchdown. He then threw another interception later on in the game, to bring his turnover total to three. But even after all that, he still made the big time plays to rally his team back to victory. So we got to see how PJ Walker would deal with adversity, and he seemed to deal with it really well. He threw 2 interceptions, and still wasn’t afraid to sling it downfield. Very Brett Farve-ish. He finished with 351 yards, which is a career high, and he did that while completing 71% of his passes, and tossing 3 more touchdowns. So if this is the worst PJ Walker we are going to get, there are a lot of teams that would take that in a heartbeat.

But like always, he wasn’t the only one making plays out there. Welcome back Cam Phillips! Phillips, after being pretty much shut down against Dallas, bounced back with a huge game. He finished with 10 receptions for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was sensational, and he came through big time in the clutch moments, catching what would end up being the game winning touchdown. Sam Mobley, Nick Holley, and Kahlil Lewis were all big in the passing game as well.

But where I was really impressed, was how well the Roughnecks ran the ball. James Butler had himself a game. He ran for 52 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also was very involved in the passing game. Andre Williams also had an excellent game, running for 54 yards. and he was moving the chains all game long. If the Roughnecks can continue to build on their ground game, to go along with what is already an elite passing game, I just don’t see how you can stop this offense. The Dragons defense was very good Saturday, and the Roughnecks still managed to score 32 points. Good luck to anyone trying to stop the “Firework Show”.

The Houston Roughnecks will travel to New York to take on a revitalized Guardians team next Saturday, so we shall see if they can maintain their perfect season going for 6-0. For right now, they are STILL the best team in the XFL, ’til somebody can prove them otherwise.

XFL Week 5 Power Rankings

Four weeks are in the books, and just when you thought you had it all figured out, we have another week where the league shakes up again. The XFL has parity and that is a wonderful thing. At this point, I can honestly say, no team is truly out of it, and while we may have a pretty good idea at who the #1 seed for each conference will be, that race for the #2 seed is going to be interesting and exciting as the season progresses. But for now, let’s look at where we stand heading into Week 5.

8. DC Defenders (2-2) Last Week (4)

Yes, they are 2-2. Yes, I still believe in this team. Yes, I would still pick them over New York and Tampa Bay to grab that #2 seed. But, nobody has looked worse these past two weeks than the DC Defenders. I mean they have looked BAD. At least when Tampa Bay was looking rough those first two weeks, they were at least moving the ball downfield. Their issue was they just couldn’t get into the endzone. DC however, they can’t even move the ball downfield. Every time their offense took the field Sunday night, I had absolutely no confidence in them whatsoever. The real problem though is, neither did they. Their body language was one of defeat, and Pep Hamilton has got a huge test in front of him. We shall see if he can rally his troops, because if he can’t, DC has a shot to end up last in the East. They head back home this weekend, so that should help things, but they face a major test in the St. Louis Battlehawks. And if they play like they have the past two weeks, it is going to get ugly fast. They sit at no. 8.

7. Seattle Dragons (1-3) Last Week (6)

Welcome to the league BJ Daniels. Unfortunately, it took Jim Zorn all the way up until halftime of Week 4 to realize that BJ Daniels was his best option at quarterback. I was tempted to put Seattle a little higher, because they almost upset a really good team in the Battlehawks, but ultimately, I have to see more. And they face a big test this weekend in the undefeated Roughnecks, so we will see what this Dragons team with Daniels at the helm really looks like. From what I saw from the 2nd half on Saturday night though, I am really intrigued to see what this team can do. Now that Daniels will be getting starting reps, and they can form a game plan around his strengths, we will see how serious this team can be in making a run. Their defense is still as solid as ever, and they kept Seattle in that game against St. Louis. But it’s going to come down to the Dragons offense scoring points and not turning the football over. If they can start to do that, they will have a shot. For now, they sit at no. 7.

6. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3) Last Week (5)

Consistency. Consistency! C’mon guys! This team has the talent. This team has the star power. This team has the weapons. But they can’t seem to string together consecutive strong performances. Even within the same game. They look good one drive. They look lost the next. Their defense makes a huge stop. Their defense allows a big play. What is this team? I know what they can be. They can be the team that absolutely destroyed the Defenders last week. But for some reason, some weeks, they would rather be the team that played Saturday afternoon. I get that it was cold. I also understand that Nelson Spruce, their leading receiver, was out. But they had their chances, and they just couldn’t capitalize. They play a much improved Vipers team at home this weekend, so we will see if they can get back on track. For now, they sit at no. 6.

5. New York Guardians (2-2) Last Week (8)

Turns out, they didn’t need to “change the entire game plan”, they just needed to change the quarterback. Now, Matt McGloin was out with a injury, but they would be crazy not to go back to Luis Perez. Perez had that offense moving the best it had all season, and the most important thing is, they didn’t turn the football over. Perez isn’t going to light it up on the stat sheet, but honestly, with this team, their offense just needs to be serviceable and turnover free. Their defense is good enough to get the job done, and if their offense can now play clean football and score enough, this team could make a serious run at that #2 seed. Their defense can create takeaways, as they did Saturday, and they will give this offense chances to capitalize. They play Dallas this weekend, who won’t have Landry Jones, so we shall see what they can do. They sit at no. 5.

4. Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3) Last Week (7)

Here come the Vipers! This is the Vipers team we thought we were going to get at the beginning of the season. Well, better late than never I guess. This team has found its identity on offense, and that is pounding the rock. They not only provided the XFL with their first 100 yard rusher, they also provided them with their second. Both Smith and Patrick were phenomenal Sunday night against the Defenders, and the Vipers brought the fight to DC on all levels. Defense, offense, and special teams were all clicking, and the East should be terrified, because this team has all the potential. Cornelius looked good, and as long as he isn’t turning the football over, he should improve week by week. I do wish that they would use Quinton Flowers, but with Flowers requesting for a trade, it seems that that ship has sailed. But nevertheless, this team can hang with the best of them as we have seen the past two weeks. Hopefully they can continue this momentum, because if they can, that #2 seed is ripe for the taking. For now, they sit at no. 4.

3. Dallas Renegades (2-2) Last Week (3)

Thank God Landry Jones’ injury was not as serious as first thought to be. He should be back Week 7 it seems like, so if Phillip Nelson can just hold down the ship until then, the Renegades should be okay. This team is for real. Landry Jones turned the football over three, THREE times…..in the 1st quarter. Yet, they still only lost by one possession, with a real chance to tie or take the lead at the end. Yes, they need to limit the turnovers, but this team is good, and it all starts with their running game. Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar have done an excellent job moving the chains and making plays when nothing else seems to be open. Donald Parham continues to be a beast, and this defense doesn’t get enough credit for how good they are. They held that high powered Houston offense to just 21 points, which is excellent when you consider that they went into that game averaging 33 points a game. Hopefully Jones can make a quick recovery, because this team to me is the clear favorite right now to take that #2 seed in the West. They sit at no. 3.

2. St. Louis BattleHawks (3-1) Last Week (2)

Nothing has changed at the top of the East. That still belongs to the BattleHawks, whose only blemish this season comes against the undefeated Roughnecks, on the road, in a game they could have won. This team is so good, and it all starts with their fantastic head coach Jonathan Hayes. He has this team in a great position to succeed, and his belief and confidence in his players has really shown through. Jordan Ta’amu continues to be a star every single week, making plays with his arm and legs, and the most impressive thing about him is his quick decision making. He protects the football, and he trust his receivers to make plays in the open field. Pierson-El has done just that, and he is quickly becoming a breakout star as well. Of course, you still have Matt Jones, Keith Ford, and Christine Michael holding down that running game, and this defense is the best in the league. I don’t see anyone slowing down this team, and they might roll into DC and crush their season this Sunday. This team is awesome, but they are still no. 2.

1. Houston Roughnecks (4-0) Last Week (1)

Because the Houston Roughnecks have still not tasted defeat. This team is impressive on so many levels. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The Houston offense is unstoppable. You can maybe slow them down a bit, but as long as PJ Walker is under center, you are not shutting them down. Four weeks now, and it’s pretty clear, PJ Walker is the BEST quarterback in the XFL. He is phenomenal! Whether it’s throwing passes like the one he finessed to Nick Holley on the sideline, that was just BEAUTIFUL. Or if he’s running over defenders and knocking them down like he did Sunday afternoon. He has been magical, and there is no stopping him. Now, Dallas’ defense was able to shut down Cam Phillips, but other guys stepped up. Like I mentioned before, Nick Holley was one of those guys, but you also had Khalil Lewis, Sam Mobley, Sammie Coates, and James Butler and Andre Williams all made contributions Sunday afternoon. But again, we already know how good their offense is. But their defense has been suspect this season. They give up a lot of yards, they give up a lot of points, but give them credit, because they somehow ALWAYS come up with a big play. And Sunday afternoon, they came up with a bunch of them. Four interceptions total, five total takeaways, and none greater than the one that sealed the game by Gates at the goal line. Dallas was fixing to punch it in to possibly tie or take the lead, and De Marquise Gates made an excellent interception to seal the game, by never letting that ball off of Nagel’s hands touch the ground. It was spectacular. The defense has sealed the past three wins with game saving interceptions. At some point, that might not be the case, but the point has not come. So they are still the best team in the XFL.

Dallas Loses the Texas Throwdown: What’s Next?

Dallas Renegades QB Landry Jones left Week 4 with a knee injury. (Credit: XFL.com)

The scene at Globe Life Park was unlike anything XFL fans has seen this season. It was an electric feel where you can sense the rivalry between the Dallas Renegades and the Houston Roughnecks growing. Dallas became the first XFL team to have an increase in attendance from game one to game two. Fans were ready to see the new Texas rivalry born and it did not disappoint.

The contest saw Landry Jones throw three interceptions in each of the first three drives of the game. Somehow though, the Dallas defense held Houston to 6-0 after the first quarter. Jones would bounce back and keep Dallas in the game as they came from a 15-0 second deficit to only being down 15-11 at halftime.

The most impressive part of the game was how the Dallas defense was able to make Houston quarterback PJ Walker look human. They held him to a season low 61 percent completion percentage and picked him off once. Star receiver Cam Phillips also felt the wreath of the Dallas defense as he was held to a season low one catch and nine yards. Defense was never the issue for the team during the game. That defaults to the offense.

Turnovers continue to be the thorn on the Renegades’ back. Five turnovers throughout the game was a combination of bad throws by Landry Jones and drops by Jazz Ferguson and Flynn Nagel. The running game got off to a great start in the first half, but lacked in the second half due to the amount of passing they turned to. On the last drive for Dallas’ offense, the season-altering event occurred for the team.

Landry Jones took an awkward hit on a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter as he injured his knee. Jones left the game and didn’t return as he was seen hugging coach Bob Stoops on the sidelines and at the end of the game was on crutches. Philip Nelson stepped in and got the team down to the Houston three where Nagel dropped a pass that was picked off by Houston to end the game with a 27-20 loss.

Where does the team go from there?

Dallas enters week five at 2-2, but still in second place in the West Division. That’s the good news for the team. The bad news is Dallas might be without their starting quarterback most of the season if not the rest of the season. The rumor is he injured his MCL which could mean he’s out for four to six weeks. That means the keys to the offense most likely goes to Philip Nelson for the rest of the season. He looked more efficient on the final drive of the game versus Houston than he did in the first game against St. Louis. Nelson has earned the right to lead the offense and could be the solution to their turnover problems.

Hal Humme also suffered a broken leg in the game and will be forced to call plays from the booth for the foreseeable future. His play calling might change where we see more running by Lance Dunbar and Cameron Artis-Payne. The offensive line has proven to be able to run block effective even with both left guards getting hurt. Pass blocking was great as well protecting the quarterbacks by only allowing one sack in the game.

The team will need more production from their receivers though. Outside of Flynn Negal and Jeff Badet, the receivers have been inconsistent. Tight end Donald Parham has been their best pass catcher all season long as he had made multiple great plays in the passing game. Players like Jazz Ferguson and Freddie Martino will need to step up to make plays for Nelson.

Defense has been the strength of the team as they have been stellar all season. A unit that can contain quarterbacks like Jordan Ta’amu and PJ Walker to their lowest stat lines of the season. Josh Hawkins and Derron Smith have made the secondary one of the best in the league. Linebackers like Greer Martini, Asantay Brown, and Tegray Scales have played a huge role in stopping the run and back in pass coverage. Gerald Rivers came in and made some nice plays as well. Not to mention veteran defensive lineman Frank Alexander was able to create some tipped passes to shutdown Walker on Sunday.

This is a Dallas team that still has plenty of talent on offense and defense. Their success and failure will depend on the performance of Philip Nelson and how well he can protect the ball. If the team continues to grow their running game and be effective with their short pass/screen plays, this is a team that could have no problem making a run for the playoffs.

Roughnecks Take Firm Control of the XFL West

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The Houston Roughnecks and Dallas Renegades met for the first time this season, and the much anticipated “Texas Throwdown” did not disappoint. The final result was a 27-20 Houston victory, and it was not easy. The Renegades gave the Roughnecks all they could handle, and to be quite honest, if certain things *cough cough* five takeaways, go a bit differently, the Renegades might be sitting at the top of the West right now. However, those five takeaways did happen, and because of that, the Houston Roughnecks stayed perfect on the season, and took a firm control of the West.

Before we begin getting into the details of the game, I first want to stay that my prayers go out to Landry Jones, who suffered a grueling injury to his previously injured knee late in the 4th quarter, and his status for the remainder of the season is unknown at this time. I hope he can make a speedy recovery, and possibly make a return this season. But more so, I just hope that his playing career is not over, because he worked extremely hard to make it back on the football field, and it would be a shame if that were to be taken away from him. So I pray he is able heal and heal quickly.

Now, as for the game goes, the Roughnecks looked good, but certainly not great. The defense came to play, and they were the ones that won this game for Houston. Literally. They scored the winning touchdown and made the game saving interception. They had three, count them, THREE 1st quarter interceptions, and they never allowed Dallas’ strong running game to get going. They really played a phenomenal game, and good thing they did, because this offense didn’t have its best day. First off, let’s give credit where it’s due. The Renegades defense is pretty good, and they played great this game. They completely eliminated Cam Phillips from the game plan, and they limited PJ Walker to just 25/41 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, with a 83.3 rating. This was PJ Walker’s worst game to date, and it’s the first game this season that Walker did not pose a quarterback rating above 100. But man did he come through when they needed him to. He ran the ball effectively, even running over some defenders, and he made some BEAUTIFUL throws in this game. His gem to Nick Holley on the sideline on 3rd down was picture perfect. That throw goes right up there with his sidearm touchdown throw to Phillips against St. Louis as his best throw of the season. Actually, you also can’t forget that beautiful throw down the middle of the field to Nick Holley against the Wildcats. Man, is PJ Walker good. But it was nice to see other players step up when Phillips was taken out of the equation. I’m glad Walker didn’t just try to force it to Phillips and got everyone involved. This wasn’t their best game by any means, but they got the job done.

But the heroes this week are clearly the defense. Man were they phenomenal. 5 takeaways, and the most impressive of them was Gates interception off the hands of Nagel. Wow! How did he make that catch!? I have said about this defense, they are not great, they will give up a lot of yards, maybe even a lot of points. But when they need to come up with a big play, they always certainly seem to do so. How many games has this defense sealed for this team? You could actually say, the past three games have all been sealed by the defense. They continue to lead the league in sacks, and if they can keep getting pressure and the offense continues to force teams to play from behind, there will be no stopping this team, which is why they are still undefeated.

The Houston Roughnecks are CLEARLY the best team in the league, and I think they are the HEAVY favorites to win the XFL Championship at this time. Place your bets now, ’cause the Roughnecks ain’t going anywhere.

Fast Start: How Dallas Beats Houston

Dallas Renegades Tight End Donald Parham (Credit: XFL.com)

The last time Dallas Renegade fans saw their team at Globe Life Park, the offense didn’t have Landry Jones at quarterback, the team struggled to put a touchdown drive, and the defense allowed almost 200 yards rushing. Things hopefully will go differently as they take on the only undefeated team in the XFL, the Houston Roughnecks.

Dallas’ defense will have the unfortunate task to containing Houston’s star quarterback PJ Walker. Walker’s playmaking ability is similar to the skill sets that St. Louis BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu displayed against Dallas’ defense in week one. Houston receiver Cam Phillips provides matchup nightmares for the Dallas secondary. The Dallas defense will have to focus on running back James Butler who can make an impact running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. With the high powered offense coming into Arlington on Sunday, how can Dallas defend their turf? Simple, get off to a fast start.

Dallas’ biggest flaw is their lack of fast starts to games. They have not scored more than six points in the first half in any of their first three games. Landry Jones has played a role in their slow starts as he has thrown two interceptions in his first two starts. Their running game led by Cameron Artis-Payne and Lance Dunbar have not typically found their stride until about the fourth quarter. Defensively, the unit has always kept their offense in the game, but the offense hasn’t always been there to finish the job. Why is a slow start a problem? Because Houston is the complete opposite.

The Roughnecks are well known in the first three weeks to come out firing in the first half. A lot of that has to do with the big play ability that Walker and company can deliver. They’ve had all their three games produce multiple 20 plus yard touchdowns. Most of the damage has been done by Walker and Phillips. Walker’s ability to use his legs to get out of trouble and throw on the run makes him the best quarterbacks in the XFL.

Dallas will need to respond to that by getting off to a fast start and utilize their Air Raid offense to create explosive plays. The team has receivers that are fast enough to burn any corner in the league. Tight end Donald Parham has already proven to be a deep threat for Jones as he caught a pass last week against Seattle that went for over 60 yards for a touchdown. Those are the type of plays Dallas needs. The issue has come up with Jones not being as accurate with his deep ball passes through the last two weeks. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme has to come out of the gates with his play calling. He must call deep passes early to get Jones going and even if it ends with no catch, at least try to force the pass interference penalty to gain a chunk of yards.

The Renegades shouldn’t forget their running backs though. Both Artis-Payne and Dunbar have been used a lot in the passing game on short passes and screen passes for the most part. Opening up the running game with them though could go a long way. Their running game usually doesn’t pick up steam until late in the third quarter or fourth quarter. They need it to open up early and often. It’s tough since the identity of this offense is usually passing the ball, but they have the running backs to have one of the best rushing attacks in the league. Mumme needs to take advantage of the talented running backs and run the ball.

Field goals are nice for the team to have, but if the Renegades are unable to score touchdowns in the first two quarters against Houston, it could end up being a long day for the team.

XFL Week 4 Power Rankings

We are now 3 weeks in, and man oh man, is football crazy. One week you think you know exactly how the season is going to turn out, and the very next week, something happens that throws everything out of whack. That is what Week 3 in the XFL was, and let’s not waste any time. Let’s get to it.

8. New York Guardians (1-2) Last Week (7)
The New York Guardians are an absolute dumpster fire. Matt McGloin is becoming more and more Jay Cutler-esque as the weeks go by. Marquise Williams certainly hasn’t been any better. Luis Perez might be the answer, but even then, not great. G.A. Magnus has been atrocious. Kevin Gilbride can’t seem to control his team. It’s an absolute mess. The only bright spot has still been their defense, which by the numbers, has been pretty good. But it won’t matter if their offense can’t stay on the field and score points. This season is quickly spiraling out of control, and I don’t see it turning around. The Guardians will probably guard the no. 8 spot til season’s end.

7. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-3) Last Week (8)
BREAKING NEWS! The Vipers can actually play competitive football! Man, they gave the Roughnecks all they could handle, and had a legitimate shot at winning that game in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter. Now, this week, Marc Trestman addressed the media and noted that quarterback Quinton Flowers, who was starting to excel a little bit in this offense, would be taking an extended leave of absence. That definitely hurts some of the momentum that they built this weekend. But, I think this team still has a slight chance to make a Playoff run. They definitely have the talent, and the fight is still there. It’s just going to come down to quarterback play and coaching. I’m not sure how much I trust Marc Trestman, but if this weekend is any indication, he might be able to rally the troops and make a push. They play DC at home this weekend, and we will get to them later, but that is a winnable game. So we shall see if they can continue to keep that momentum they had. For now though, they sit at no. 7.

6. Seattle Dragons (1-2) Last Week (6)
The Dragons are who we thought they were. Solid defense. Offense has its moments. Good coaching. But they just aren’t quite good enough to compete in the loaded West. Keenan Reynolds and Austin Proehl are very productive. Kenneth Farrow is dynamic. Their defense makes stops, and causes turnovers. The problem is, they can’t always capitalize on those turnovers, because Brandon Silvers just isn’t that dude. He’s a good quarterback. He makes some good throws. He makes some timely throws. But when the moment is calling him, he just can’t seem to deliver. They had a shot, late in the game against Dallas, to get back in it, and Silvers just could not come through. I don’t know if BJ Daniels is the answer, but I don’t think it would hurt to try. For now, Seattle sits at no. 6.

5. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2) Last Week (5)
Wow! The Wildcats showed up Sunday night. They were unstoppable! They looked like the best team in the league. I want everybody to take caution a little bit. First, I called this. I said, once Josh Johnson gets acclimated to this offense, they will be right there in the hunt for the top of the West. Well, I told you so. Josh Johnson was incredible. Martez Carter was sensational. But it was the coming out party of Tre McBride that really put this team in the hunt. We already knew about Nelson Spruce, who is reportedly injured, but hopefully not anything too serious. But it was the emergence of a second deep threat that now makes this team scary. And let’s not forget about the most impressive part of LA that night, their defense. Which caused the Defenders to turn the ball over 4 times in the game. They really dominated in all phases. BUT, the reason I said be cautious, is because this game was somewhat, I think, of an anomaly. They had a lot of short fields, and the DC Defenders just looked completely out of sorts. I want to see a more consistent performance from these guys before I totally buy in. So until then, I will still sit them at no. 5. But I do think this team has the capability to potentially win the West this season, because they can be that good.

4. DC Defenders (2-1) Last Week (2)
Sunday night is one to forget about if you’re the DC Defenders. They looked AWFUL against the Wildcats this weekend. Cardale Jones was just bad, no other way to slice it. Pep Hamilton didn’t have any answers for Winston Moss’ defense. The running game continues to struggle. And their defense was exposed. Now, I do think this game was somewhat of an anomaly. I don’t believe Cardale Jones is going to be this bad every single week. I think Pep Hamilton is a great coach who will make adjustments. But, I do have to say, I think the Defenders clear weaknesses were really masked the first two weeks getting to play Seattle and New York at home. Look, the Defenders are still a Top 4 team I believe. But, they are not as elite as we thought they were. And I think there is a strong possibility, that if they make it to the Playoffs, which I still believe they will, it will be on the road against a St. Louis team that might be better than them. DC sits at no. 4 for now.

3. Dallas Renegades (2-1) Last Week (4)
Man does this team take a while to get going. But once they do, they dominate and demoralize you. And they use their running game to do it. Cameron Artis-Payne might be…..scratch that, IS the best running back in the XFL. Matt Jones is a close second, but what Artis-Payne is doing is phenomenal. He is wearing down defenses, and they just haven’t been able to slow him down. Landry Jones is getting more and more comfortable each week, and this offense has a nice balance to it. But we have to talk about the star that is emerging in Dallas in tight end, Donald Parham. This dude is massive, but he can run downfield with the best of them. This tight end was burning defensive backs down the field Saturday night, and he is a locomotive that is getting better each week. He is quickly becoming Landry Jones’ favorite target and for good reason. This team is just hitting its stride, and they will have a big test this week with Houston coming to their house. Landry Jones has got to cut down on the turnovers, but the Dallas Renegades are for real. They sit at no. 3.

2. St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1) Last Week (3)
I absolutely love this team. Their energy. Their heart. Their passion. It’s infectious! Jonathan Hayes has this team playing great football, and it all starts with breakout star Jordan Ta’amu. Nobody expected Ta’amu to be this good, but this dude is straight up ballin’. He’s doing it with his arm. He’s doing it with his legs. His football IQ has been excellent. He really is doing it all. Pair that with a very strong running game, in fact the best overall rushing team in the XFL, and you have a recipe for success. Matt Jones and Christine Michael are dominating on the ground, and Ta’amu forces defenses to stay on their toes. But it’s this defense that takes this team to the next level. They are, without a doubt, the BEST defense in the XFL. They make stops and force turnovers, which leads to their running game keeping the opposing defense on the field for longer than they would like to be. Could you imagine, a East Conference Championship game in the Dome…. I’m starting to think that is becoming more and more of a reality as the weeks go by. The BattleHawks are the second best team in the XFL.

1. Houston Roughnecks (3-0) Last Week (1)
But they still aren’t no. 1, because that still belongs to the only undefeated team left in the XFL, the Houston Roughnecks. PJ Walker. Cam Phillips. Those names should strike fear in every team they play this season. I’m to the point, that I feel the only chance you have at beating the Roughnecks, is you are going to have to outscore them. Because you are NOT stopping the Walker and Phillips connection, the most lethal duo in the XFL. James Butler, Nick Holley, Sam Mobley, Khalil Lewis, and Sammie Coates hasn’t even got going yet. This team is LOADED! They are without a doubt, the BEST OFFENSE IN THE LEAGUE. Hands down! And it all starts with June Jones. His play calling has been nothing short of extraordinary. This Roughnecks team makes it look so easy to get into the end zone. PJ Walker is the MVP three weeks in, and Cam Phillips should be second on that list. Now, their defense is a little concerning. But as long as they can do just enough, and be opportunistic in the turnover battle, this team has got to be the favorite for the XFL Championship. The Houston Roughnecks are the best team in the XFL.

Houston Roughnecks Survive in Tampa Bay

Houston QB PJ Walker led the Roughnecks to a win over the Vipers. (Credit XFL.com)

In a close game, the Houston Roughnecks escaped Tampa Bay with a 34-27 win over the Vipers in what was not only a competitive game, but an exciting one that came down to the wire. The Roughnecks came in with a perfect record of 2-0, and they left with a perfect record of 3-0, but it was not easy. They played a desperate Tampa Bay team that was looking for its first win of the season, and the Vipers showed a fight and heart that their hometown fans desperately wanted from them all season.

Once again this week, it was the PJ Walker/Cam Phillips show. The duo connected on three touchdowns for the second week in a row, and they further cemented the fact that they are without a doubt, the most unstoppable force in the XFL. PJ Walker was outstanding with 306 yards through the air, 34 yards on the ground, 3 touchdowns through the air, and one crazy touchdown run that came on a fumbled snap. His pocket presence remains excellent and he still does an excellent job of keeping his eyes down field. That was displayed beautifully on Walker and Phillips’ 84-yard touchdown connection, in which Walker escaped the pocket, got crushed by two defenders, and threw a perfect pass to Phillips, who then turned on the gas and did the rest. Their chemistry is what has separated the Roughnecks offense from the rest of the league, and I don’t see any defense in the XFL that can slow them down.

But it wasn’t just the passing game this week. Oh no. The Roughnecks ran the ball very effectively. James Butler was excellent, with 72 yards on just 7 attempts, and he pulled off some big time runs, especially late in the game. PJ Walker also added to the running game with some timely runs, for a very balanced offense this week. Look, we all know, the Roughnecks bread and butter is the “Run and Shoot” high flying passing game. But, if June Jones can find success with the running game as well, this offense will be impossible to stop.

But, we have to talk about the most worrying part of the team. The defense. As I have said every week, this defense is good enough to win a Championship, because the offense is going to score a lot of points. However, good enough does not mean great. Because a great defense, they are not. They are opportunistic, which once again helped with Gates sealing the win with a interception in the closing minute. But just like the Wildcats and Battlehawks before them, the Vipers were able to move the ball regularly against this defense, and it might become a problem as the season progresses. Again, because this offense is so great, it’s not that big of a problem, but once you get into the playoffs, and play the elite of the elite, it might be the thing that breaks this Roughnecks team. They can get to the quarterback, that’s for sure, but if they don’t, they can be exposed. Hopefully, they can clean that up as they continue the season, because it’s the only thing that is potentially holding them back.

All in all, the Roughnecks are likely the best team in the XFL, and until somebody shows that they can slow down PJ Walker and Cam Phillips, fans should take the Roughnecks against anybody. Houston, you are still undefeated.

XFL Week 3 Power Rankings

Well, that’s 2 weeks now officially in the history books. We saw all different kinds of games this weekend. We saw defensive battles, slow building dramas, back and forth thrillers, and total domination, in what was another exciting week of XFL Football. This week’s Power Rankings are the most confident I have felt thus far, but of course, with the nature of football, that can all change week to week. So let’s see where we stand heading into week 3.

8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-2) Last Week (8)

XFL fans, allow me to introduce to you your “Homecoming” team of the XFL 2020, the Tampa Bay Vipers. They are such a mess. Marc Trestman can’t decide on a quarterback. Whoever he decides will be playing quarterback that day, absolutely stinks. The defense gives up too many big plays. I have lost all confidence in this team, and it’s a shame, because they are talented in their skill positions. But in the sport of football, the quarterback position is the most important. And when you don’t have good quarterback play, you will struggle mightily. The Vipers will be playing their first home game this Saturday, but unfortunately for them, it will be against the Houston Roughnecks, and it will probably be a long day in Tampa for the Vipers. They are still at no. 8, and I expect them to remain there. Houston, congratulations, it’s “Homecoming Week”.

7. New York Guardians (1-1) Last Week (4)

Matt McGloin is leading this team. And after Saturday afternoon, that’s all you need to know to know why they are ranked no. 7. If Tampa had a decent quarterback, they would be ranked 8th. Once again, it’s a real shame. Because just like with Tampa Bay, they are talented. They got some good receivers. They got some decent running backs. They have an elite defense. They have a great Head Coach. But their “leader” is Matt McGloin. And if Saturday is any indication, he is not the right guy to be leading a locker room. If you can’t take ownership for your own mistakes, and you just throw your teammates and coaches under the bus, you don’t DESERVE to lead a team. Yes, he has some talent, but working together, as a team, goes far more than talent ever will. Until McGloin can buy into the concept of “TEAM”, they will sit at no. 7, and possibly fall to no. 8.

6. Seattle Dragons (1-1) Last Week (7)

Seattle, you have impressed me. By no means am I picking you to win the Championship, but you guys will be competitive in every game, and that is “For the Love of Football”. Brandon Silvers is not an elite XFL quarterback, but he has had his moments, and his play makers have made plays when they needed to. But the strength of this team is the defense, which is no unfamiliar territory for Seattle. Their defense has impressed me the past few weeks against DC and Tampa Bay, and if they can keep that up, I think they have the potential to pull off some real upsets. Especially when they play at home, with that raucous crowd. The key for their offense is to get the running game going, and take that pressure off of Brandon Silvers. If he can just limit the turnovers and make the key throws, this team should be fine, and at least be in most of their games til the end. They are my no. 6 team.

5. Los Angeles Wildcats (0-2) Last Week (6)

Some people are probably going to be surprised that I have LA ranked 5, especially since they haven’t gotten a win yet. But honestly, in their 25-18 loss to Dallas, they looked pretty good. Especially in the 4th quarter once Josh Johnson started getting that chemistry with Nelson Spruce. You have to remember, Johnson hasn’t even been able to really practice with his team much, due to him signing late, then getting injured. I believe that this team has enough talent to start racking up some wins. And don’t be surprised if that starts this Sunday against DC at home. I believe people are looking at that 0-2 record and really underestimating what this Wildcats team is capable of. If Johnson and Spruce can build that connection, this can become a scary team in the West. I have not counted the Wildcats out yet, and I think they might surprise the league here the next few weeks. For now, they sit at no. 5.

4. Dallas Renegades (1-1) Last Week (5)

This team is good. Yes, it took them a while to get going, but once they did, I don’t think they’re looking back. This might be the most well balanced offense in the league. They can run it with Artis-Payne and Dunbar. They can sure throw it with Landry Jones. And I believe they have play makers at the wide receiver position that can make plays in the open field. All of this was on display Sunday afternoon, once Landry Jones settled in the offense. Much like Johnson, he has not had a lot of reps with his team, so that chemistry will only build and get better. Their defense is good, not great, but if they can keep their running game strong, long drives will keep their defense on the sideline. The Renegades are threat in the West, and Houston better be looking over its shoulder. Dallas sits at no. 4.

3. St. Louis Battlehawks (1-1) Last Week (3)

St. Louis showed Sunday night, they are for real. They can compete with the big dogs, and they have a legitimate shot at winning the East and taking home the XFL Championship. Jordan Ta’amu is the real deal, and man is he fun to watch. He can do it with his arm, he can do it with his legs, and he has a strong running game backing him up. Matt Jones is a beast, and Christine Michael finally came alive in this game. Keith Ford will be back, and their receivers are really underrated. Pierson-El is a stud, and Washington can ball as well. But man, the defense is LEGIT. I’m confident in saying, this is the best defense in the XFL. All around, they can stop the run, protect against the pass, and they can cause turnovers. I think this team has a fight that can carry them a long way, and their Head Coach brings an energy that can motivate this team to a title. It’s why they are my 3rd ranked team.

2. DC Defenders (2-0) Last Week (2)

Total domination is what this team did to the New York Guardians Saturday afternoon. Cardale Jones is just that good. Rashad Ross is just that good. Eli Rogers is just that good. And oh yeah, DeAndre Thompkins made his return, and yep, he is just that good. Add that with a running game that seemed to be finding life in the 4th quarter, and a defense that has a pick six in each game so far, and you have the best team in the East. The DC Defenders are great, and Pep Hamilton is the main reason why. His play calling has been outstanding, and his willingness to take risk has paid off tremendously. This team has an identity, and it sticks to that. Have Cardale Jones make plays on the move, give the ball to their play makers, and let their defense have its opportunities. Drop in their some trick plays, and you have a recipe for success. But, they are still no. 2.

1. Houston Roughnecks (2-0) Last Week (1)

Because the Houston Roughnecks are still the best team in the XFL. PJ Walker is hands down, right now, at this moment, not just the best quarterback in the league, he is the best player in the league. He has looked unstoppable through the first 2 weeks, and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon. But he ain’t by himself. Cam Phillips, who was named the Star of the Week this week, is an absolute beast. He can route run, he can turn on the gas, and he can catch with the best of them. Khalil Lewis, Nick Holley, Sammie Coates, James Butler, who do you try and stop? Good luck to any defense that has to play this Houston offense this season. But what’s scary for the league, is this defense is coming alive week by week. They get to the quarterback, and I mean they GET TO THE QUARTERBACK. Not to mention, they capitalize on every opportunity they get with takeaways, and they do not break easily. This is the clear favorite right now to win the West, and my current favorite to win it all. The Houston Roughnecks are the XFL’s best team until somebody proves otherwise.

Roughnecks Outlast BattleHawks Sunday Night

Houston Roughnecks Cam Phillips celebrates a touchdown by jumping into the stands. (Credit: XFL.com)

In what was definitely the “Game of the Week” and arguably the “Game of the Year” thus far, in the battle between the Houston Roughnecks and the St. Louis BattleHawks, the Roughnecks out dueled the BattleHawks to remain perfect on the season. Only the Roughnecks and the Defenders remain undefeated this season at 2-0. But while DC had an easy time handling the New York Guardians with a 27-0 victory, Sunday night was a back and forth battle for all four quarters. The Roughnecks and BattleHawks proved last night that they are both contenders for the Championship, and they will both be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses. It was a game with crazy plays, some that withstood, some that didn’t, and there was excitement throughout the game. So let’s break it down and analyze what happened.

First off, we have to talk about the best QB to WR duo in the league. PJ Walker and Cam Phillips were outstanding once again with 3 touchdowns for the dynamic duo through the air. Their chemistry seems to get better by the week, and I don’t see a team that can slow them down anytime soon. PJ Walker finished with 170 yards, on 20/31 passing, and 3 touchdowns, all of which went to his favorite target, Cam Phillips, who finished with 8 receptions for 63 yards and 3 touchdowns. These two have their timing down perfectly, and that was extremely evident when PJ channeled his inner Patrick Mahomes and threw a beautiful side arm pass that lead Phillips perfectly. They were in sync all night and that is only going to grow stronger the longer they play together. The XFL better be on alert, if they aren’t already, because this connection is the most lethal in the league.

As far as the rest of the offense goes, it was spectacular. Khalil Lewis and Nick Holley were excellent again in the passing game, and James Butler and PJ Walker contributed nicely on the ground. I thought June Jones called a nice balanced attack, while never forgetting what their identity is. They pretty much got what they wanted against a very good BattleHawks defense, and even when the plays broke down, they were able to make on the fly adjustments that were for positive yardage. Of course, it helps whenever you have PJ Walker under center. Much like Deshaun Watson, the play is never over when he has the ball in his hands. He avoided numerous sacks in this game, and still the most impressive thing is, he keeps his eyes down field to look to pass before he runs with the ball. De’Angelo Henderson was out this week, so expect when he gets back healthy to be utilized pretty heavily in both the running game and passing game.

But now, let’s talk about the most impressive thing for me for the second straight week, and that’s this Roughneck defense. Before the season started, I could have told you that this was going to be the best offense in the league. In fact, I think most people believed that. But the reason people were hesitant to buy into the Roughnecks as true title contenders, was because there were questions about their defense. Yes, they played well last week, but that was against Chad Kanoff, Los Angeles’ second string quarterback, and a Wildcat team that, well to put it nicely, has internal issues. So I wanted to see how this defense would do against one of the best offenses in the league, and they delivered. 2 takeaways, 3 sacks, and getting the open field tackles when they needed them most, helped seal a win against the BattleHawks. Now, in no way am I saying that this defense is elite by any means, but when you combine them with this offense, they play well enough to win you a Championship. They are very much a bend but don’t break opportunistic defense that hits hard and plays fast.

But, having said that, St. Louis was able to move the ball on them, and if it wasn’t for those takeaways, the BattleHawks might have won the game. So this team still has some work to do on the defensive side of the ball, and the middle of the field still seems to be their biggest weakness. If they can at least just limit teams in the red zone and hold them to field goals, this offense will score enough points to get the job done.

All in all, I loved what I saw from the Roughnecks in a gritty game against a good opponent, and I still believe, after this week, they are the favorites to win the West. But I think this team has bigger goals than just winning the West, and if they want to achieve those goals, the defense will still need to try and iron some things out. But the offense still looks as lethal as ever, and, at least for right now, nothing is stopping “The Firework Show”!

BattleHawks Fall Short Against the Roughnecks in Week 2 Thriller

Houston QB PJ Walker evades the BattleHawks Jake Payne. (Credit: XFL.com)

HOUSTON – In the most exciting game of the weekend, the Houston Roughnecks and St. Louis BattleHawks traded jabs for four quarters of hardnose football. In the end, Houston (2-0) held on to top St. Louis (1-1) with a final score of 28-24. 

Two of the best quarterbacks in the league squared up and showed their stuff. Houston is led by the shifty PJ Walker. Walker was with the Colts alongside former NFL QB Andrew Luck. Andrew gave Walker high praise encouraging his dad, and XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, to let Walker try out for the league. Andrew and Oliver both made good decisions as Walker has been one of the most fun players to watch over the first 2 weeks.  

And St. Louis’s own Jordan Ta’amu, the fleet-footed strong-armed 22-year old who is the youngest starting QB in the league.  

Week 2 saw St. Louis stick to their game 1 identity being a run-first team, carrying the ball 43 times for 126 yards. Rush attempts accounted for 54% of their plays this week, down from close to 60% week 1. The BattleHawks likely would’ve kept that 60% run/pass ratio had they not been down the entire second half. 

Matt Jones battled a knee injury during the week which impacted his carry total on the day. He also looked to have reaggravated his knee early in the second half. He ended the day with 16 carries for 44 yards. Christine Michael picked up carries this week with Jones nursing an injury and Keith Ford out for the game. Michael put up a similar line with 15 rushes for 38 yards. 

BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu impressed most of the day. He went 30/37 for 284 yards, 3 TDs, and 32 more yards on the ground. The blemish on his stat line is the two interceptions.

Houston’s Cody Brown and Jeremiah Johnson brought in the two picks for the Roughnecks. Interceptions are bad enough, but both guys added big returns after the inceptions to the St. Louis 1 and 6-yard lines, respectively. The Roughnecks didn’t miss a beat on offense following the interceptions adding two touchdowns with only a short field to work with. 

Trading First Half Punches

The opening drive for the Roughnecks started with a 37-yard kick return by Houston’s Ajene Harris. Houston moved the ball this series but the BattleHawk defense held them to a 44-yard field goal. 

The BattleHawks answered the Roughnecks opener with an opening drive touchdown for themselves. Both Matt Jones and Christine Michael started in the backfield with Jones getting the first carry of the day. 

The drive was highlighted by a 27-yard connection between Keith Mumphrey and Ta’amu and finished off with a short pass to Jones for a nice 25-yard catch and run touchdown to give St. Louis a 6-3 lead. 

Not stopping there, Houston responded with a 6 play 66-yard drive ending in the end zone on a PJ Walker pass to Cam Phillips putting the Roughnecks up 12-6; this duo went on to connect for 3 TDs together on the night.

St. Louis struggled to move the ball for the remainder of the first half. There next four drives went punt, punt, interception, turn over on downs. They went into halftime down 21-6.

Opening drives to start a game are usually scripted/ predetermined as part of a team’s gameplan. St. Louis opened their first drive by utilizing four straight plays with a man in motion, and 6 of 9 plays on the touchdown scoring drive. The remainder of the half saw very little motion. For something to be planned and executed well on the first drive and then thrown out for almost the remainder of the game wasn’t something you like to see. 

Second Half Sparks

Coming out to start the second half, the BattleHawks strung together a 13 play drive. Ta’amu and Pierson-El connected for a 23 yard gain, the pair finished off the drive connecting on a 1-yard reception to make the score 21-12. 

After the BattleHawks defense forced a 3 and out, the offense marched back down the field for another 13 play drive capped off by a 4 yard run by Ta’amu. This closed Houston’s lead to 3, 21-18. 

Not to be overlooked in the game is the BattleHawks defense. Week 1 they didn’t give up a touchdown against the Dallas Renegades. Many people brushed this off since the Renegades were without starting QB Landry Jones. 

Don’t let the 28 points-against be the nail in the coffin for this unit. 13 of those points only required the Roughnecks to move the ball a combined 7 yards. Houston was moving the ball well in the first half picking up big chunk plays of 33 and 20 yards. 

As good as the offense was in the second half, the defense was a half-step ahead of them to close out the night. The biggest play they gave up in the second half was a 15-yard scramble by Walker, the drive ended in Houston punting. 

Sacks were elusive on the night largely due to PJ Walker’s awareness in the pocket. Andrew Ankrah was the only one able to record a sack on the day, also bringing home a team-high two tackles for a loss. Cornerback Darius Hillary also played a great game on defense. Hillary was tracking the ball well barely missing two picks, he was jumping the routes like crazy. 

Controversial No-Call

The controversial point in the game came with less than 11 minutes left in the 4th quarter. A perfect punt by Houston’s Austin Rehkow and a pair of offsides by the offense had the BattleHawks back up to their own one-yard line. After clawing their way into Roughneck territory, Ta’amu and the offensive line saw Roughneck MLB Frank Ginda jump offsides. Assuming the refs saw the play and called it, Ta’amu had a free play and threw the ball up to the receiver with the deepest route. Not a single ref threw their flag and Ta’amu’s lob was picked off. 

Ta’amu throws the ball in this situation thinking the play has only upside and any negative play will be taken off the board due to the defensive penalty. The no-call reversed the course of the game with 7 point swing in favor of the Roughnecks.

This season, XFL refs have called games very well. The use of the replay official in the booth has added transparency and is appreciated league-wide. It will be interesting to see how the XFL responds to this potentially game-changing call, arguably the biggest on the year so far.

The BattleHawks would drive and score one more TD with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game to make it 28-24. But the damage was done and Houston hung on to win a thriller, 28-24. 

In the end, Houston won the turnover battle 2-0 and that was the difference-maker this week. The teams competed for all four quarters and we all got to see a great game a football. 

The BattleHawks come home next Sunday, February 23rd for their home opener against the New York Guardians. 

Expect The Dome to be full and the stadium to be popping because football will be back in St. Louis!

Fight and fly on, BattleHawk Nation.