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.

XFL BattleHawks down the Guardians in packed Dome

BattleHawks Joe Powell rounds the corner in the first ever XFL kickoff returned for a touchdown. (Credit: XFL.com)

ST. LOUIS – The highly anticipated return of football to the great City of St. Louis did not disappoint, not one bit. 

Fan’s packed the parking lots downtown early Sunday morning. That means tailgating, partying, and football.

The St. Louis BattleHawks improved to 2-1 after handily taking down the New York Guardians 29-9, New York falls to 1-2 on the year. 

For St. Louis, the game was full of exciting plays across the offense, defense, and special teams. For New York, the game leaves them with even more questions at quarterback than they started with this week and an offense that could not get going for a second straight week. 

A Day of Firsts

On the day of their first home game, the BattleHawks put on a special show for the fans adding both team and league firsts.

On their first possession, the St. Louis backfield duo of Matt Jones and Christine Michael ran the team down the field for a quick opening drive touchdown. Jones, who has missed parts of practice each of the last two weeks with a knee injury, ripped a season long 47-yard rush. Michael capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run.

This is the second straight week the BattleHawks have opened up the game with an opening drive touchdown. Credit to Coach Hayes and OC Coach Long for their preparation going into games. 

St. Louis pulled off the first kickoff return for a touchdown in the league. Early in the second quarter, Keith Mumphrey received a kick from New York’s Matt McCrane. BattleHawks drew up a reverse as Mumphrey tossed the ball to teammate Joe Powell. Powell took the ball all the way to the house, tiptoeing down the sideline before diving in for the score. 

Special Teams were not done there. Two series later after the defense held the McGloin led offense to a three-and-out, St. Louis’s Carlton Agudosi got through the line to block the punt by Justin Vogel. Shaq Jones finished the play for the BattleHawks by recovering the blocked punt, the first of the year for St. Louis. 

On the subsequent offensive drive with a short field to work with, St. Louis took it in for a quick score on a Matt Jones touchdown run. This was the first rushing TD on the young season for the BattleHawks lead back. And that’s not even the biggest highlight of this series. 

Following Jones’s touchdown, QB Jordan Ta’amu shuffle passed the ball to De’Mornay Pierson-El who connected with Alonzo Russell in the end zone for the BattleHawks first success point after conversion.  And to boot, it was a well called 2-point conversion. Prior to this conversion, St. Louis was 0-8 on attempts this season. 

BattleHawks Safety Kenny Robinson hauled in his first professional interception. On the last pass we would see from Guardians starting QB McGloin, Robinson brought in the erratic pass. Robinson is the XFL’s only player who is eligible for the NFL draft this year.  

The big plays don’t stop there. St. Louis kicker Taylor Russolino got in on the action with the first XFL kick over 57 yards hitting from 58 yards out. Russolino also drilled kicks from 39 and 36 yards on the day. 

And last but certainly not least, the fans in St. Louis, all 29,554, filled The Dome on this the first home game of the BattleHawks season. A sold out crowd in the lower bowl made their presence known throughout the game. The stadium was filled with chants throughout the game from ‘BATTLE-HAWKS’, ‘KROENKE SUCKS’, and simply drowning out the Guardians from hearing their play calls. Fans showed up and did their job. 

Guardians Search Continues

New York came into St. Louis following a disappointing shutout week 2 in DC. The Guardians we’re able to manage 9 points against the BattleHawks. It took a drive from third-string QB, Luis Perez, halfway through the fourth quarter to score the team’s first touchdown in almost two full games.

The Guardians started the game with Matt McGloin under center. McGloin got banged up in the first quarter giving way to Marquise Williams. McGloin would get back into the game in the second quarter but his day ended at the end of the first half on the Kenny Robinson interception. Williams led the Guardians after the half but could not generate any sort of offense. 

During a goal-line stand by the St. Louis defense, Williams opted to pass the ball three straight times. The access the XFL gives fans to the game answered the question as to why New York passed the ball when their pass game wasn’t working. A sideline interview with NY QB coach G.A. Mangus said the plays were called with alerts giving both a run and a pass play as options. Mangus admitted at least one play should’ve been a run. With a QB with little first-team reps, play calls need to be succinct so the man under center can focus on executing plays not deciding them. 

Luis Perez would finish off the trio of Guardian quarterbacks to take snaps under center on Sunday. Perez orchestrated the only New York touchdown capitalizing on good field position starting on the St. Louis 40 yard line. 

Balance Across the Board

From the long and diverse week of firsts, it is clear this week’s win was a full team and city effort. St. Louis kept true to their run-first offense. Coach Long dialed up more than double the number of runs (37) compared to the number of passes (18).

Jordan Ta’amu donned the captains ‘C’ on his jersey this week, the first appearance on any BattleHawks jersey this season. Ta’amu mixed in a couple of his, now signature, escape from the pocket plays during the game. But overall, it was a quiet day for Ta’amu. The good news is that this team can play well without Ta’amu needing to light up the stat sheet. 

Another strong showing from the BattleHawks defense this week helped limit the Guardians to only 9 points. The D-line racked up 3 sacks on the day, Andrew Ankrah continues to impress bringing in his second sack on the year, Casey Sayles and Will Clarke each brought in their first sack. DC Coach Jay Hayes’s unit won the turnover battle 1-0, St. Louis is 2-0 when they win or tie on the turnover front. 

Credit the Guardians for putting up the most yards against the BattleHawks defense. This is the first time St. Louis has given up more than 300 yards (307) on defense and totaled less than 300 on offense (273). Though having given up the most yards on the year, it’s a testament to the ‘no quit’ mentality this team has. When New York was putting together strong drives, the St. Louis defense didn’t give in, stopping the opposing offense time after time on the day. 

Late in the game, it would have been nice to see St. Louis open their playbook to let Ta’amu air out the deep ball trying to stretch the field. We’ve also seen a handful of plays with fleet-footed backup quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in the first two weeks but nothing this week. A three-score lead in the fourth quarter seems like an appropriate time to test out the playbook. 

After wins, I normally assign an offensive and defensive game ball. This week I’m mixing up the categories.

First Game Ball: The Special Teams Unit; for the kickoff return, punt block, and 58-yard field goal 

Second Game Ball: The Fans; The Dome was rocking on Sunday and the team thrived off the energy. 

St. Louis, welcome back to the football scene. You didn’t miss a beat.

Didn’t get enough XFL today? BattleHawks are back in the Dome next Saturday, February 29th to take on the Seattle Dragons. New York heads home to take on the now red hot LA Wildcats. 

Fight and Fly On, BattleHawk Nation.

XFL Week Three: New York Guardians – St. Louis BattleHawks Preview

NEW YORK GUARDIANS (1-1) AT ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS (1-1)

  • Sunday, February 23, 3 pm ET/2 pm CT (ESPN) The Dome, St. Louis, MO

INJURIES

(New York) G Garrett Brumfield (Head), C Ian Silberman (Groin), WR Joe Horn (Shoulder), S Andrew Soroh (Thigh), DE Ryan Mueller (Wrist), LB Garrett Dooley (Ankle), RB Darius Victor (Head)

(St. Louis) WR L’Damian Washington (Ankle), DL Will Clarke (Calf), RB Matt Jones (Knee), CB David Rivers (Head), RB Keith Ford (Knee), WR Brandon Reilly (Knee)

Injury notes: The Guardians played without two of their starting offensive linemen last week in Center Ian Silberman and Guard Garrett Brumfield. Silberman has been limited in practice all week, and maybe close to returning to this Sunday. Brumfield has yet to practice. Both Avery Young and Damien Mama will be in line to start if either or both miss the game. Running back Darius Victor was cleared for practice and appears to be on track to play. Head injuries can be tricky, however.

The BattleHawks leading rusher Matt Jones has been battling a knee injury. He played through it last week. WR L’Damian Washington, who has shown good chemistry with rookie Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, is questionable heading into this game. A critical injury not noted here is the loss of St. Louis starting offensive linemen Jake Campos. He was lost for the season and placed on injured reserve. Campos had been starting at left tackle. Andrew McDonald and Brian Wallace would be in line to replace him.

GAME OVERVIEW

Both New York and St. Louis come into this game sporting 1-1 records, but the overall outlook for each franchise couldn’t be any more different. St. Louis is coming off an impressive two-game road stretch at Dallas and Houston. The BattleHawks, led by rookie sensation quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has been one of the league’s most impressive teams thus far. The BattleHawks will be on an emotional high in front of a sold-out home crowd in the Dome. Pro football has returned to St.Louis, and the city has embraced the team with open arms, hearts, and wings.

The Guardians, despite sharing the same record as the BattleHawks, are coming into this electric atmosphere, with a different vibe and feel. New York suffered a demoralizing loss in DC last weekend. The Guardians have struggled out the gate offensively, under signal-caller Matt McGloin and Offensive Coordinator G.A. Mangus. New York’s offense has only converted two first downs in their first two games. Last week’s drama attached to the offense, and Matt McGloin, has dimmed the outlook for the team moving forward. This has been a crucial week of preparation for the Guardians, in getting on the same page.

MATCHUP: The Guardians offense versus the BattleHawks defense

Under G.A. Magnus, New York has employed a ‘Fun N Gun’ style offense. Magnus, a former quarterback and coaching disciple of Steve Spurrier, hasn’t had much fun thus far. New York has taken multiple shots down the field in the passing game in the first two weeks but with little to no success.

The BattleHawks employ a 4-2-5 defense, similar to the Guardians week one opponent, the Tampa Bay Vipers. Under Co-Defensive Coordinators Jay Hayes and Tim Lewis. St. Louis has an athletic front seven that can play sideline to sideline. Andrew Ankrah is a defensive end/linebacker tweener type, who can line up on the line of scrimmage, to stand up and rush. Linebacker Terrance Garvin is an excellent football player, terrific in space. Linebacker/safety Dexter McCoil displays the hybrid nature of the BattleHawks defense. He’s held up well at linebacker and gives their defensive unit scheme versatility. The Guardians will look to run the football against the speed lineup that St.Louis utilizes on defense. New York has two power runners in Tim Cook and Darius Victor, who are fully capable of breaking tackles and winning battles with smaller defensive backs/linebackers. New York has been running the football a lot from the shotgun formation. It may serve them better to utilize the talented group of blocking tight ends; they have on their roster.

The Guardians passing game is still missing two of its top players in DeAngelo Yancey and Tanner Gentry. The uncertainty at the WR spot, outside of Mekale McKay, has held up the teams’ passing attack early in the season. The BattleHawks secondary has a very talented safety duo in future NFL draft pick Kenny Robinson and quality pro-veteran Will Hill. New York will look to attack St. Louis at cornerback. The BattleHawks have held up well there thus far, but may be missing former Guardian David Rivers. St. Louis struggled last week in coverage with XFL star of the week Cam Phillips. Look for Mekale McKay to be targeted often this Sunday, as well as Colby Pearson, who has been underutilized thus far.

Matchup: The Guardians defense versus the BattleHawks offense

The story of the St.Louis offense thus far has been the symmetry developed between BattleHawks Offensive Coordinator/QB’s coach Chuck Long and Jordan Ta’amu. Long, who took over the reins of the offense for Doug Meacham, who departed for TCU, has done a masterful job designing a game plan that plays to Ta’amu’s talents. Despite having an Air-Raid background, Long has developed a ball-control offense that focuses heavily on running the football out of spread sets, and the offense has gotten good mileage out of Ta’amu’s running ability. New York’s strength on their defensive front is their size. Cavon Walker (288), TJ Barnes (360), and Joey Mbu (330) will need to stand up to the challenge and help shut down the BattleHawks ground attack led by Matt Jones and Christine Michael.

St. Louis has the league’s biggest receivers and uses them to block on the edges. Hybrid TE/WR Marcus Lucas fills this role as well. The Guardians have a speedy and athletic back seven of the defense. Players like D’Juan Hines and Ben Heeney, who are linebackers in safeties bodies, may be expected to spy on Ta’amu on passing downs. The Guardians strength in their secondary is their coverage skills, but the size is an issue for New York. Talented cover players like Jamar Summers, Ranthony Texada, and Bryce Jones need to improve their tackling to matchup against the size STL has on the outside.

De’Mornay Pierson El is Jordan Ta’amu’s favorite target underneath. Taking away that easy option from the rookie QB will be vital to the Guardians’ success on third down. New York has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush in the first couple of weeks of the season.  St. Louis has employed a quick and simplified passing attack, with easy reads for its signal-caller. The Guardians will be looking for a way to disguise coverages and get Ta’amu out of his comfort zone.

FINAL SUMMARY

This is a turning point game for the New York Guardians. A win on the road against St.Louis would erase the debacle in DC last weekend. It would also put the Guardians in strong standing for a potential playoff spot in the eastern division. New York would be 2-1 in their division, with victories over both Tampa and St. Louis. The Guardians do not play another divisional opponent until week 8. So completing the first half of their divisional schedule with a 2-1 record would set them up nicely and change the makeup of their entire season.

Winning at St.Louis in their home-opener is a tall task for any XFL team, let alone a struggling Guardians team. The BattleHawks will be flying high on the emotional boost from their home crowd. This is one of those games where New York can afford to lose, but can’t afford to put forth their effort they did last week. A loss wouldn’t kill New York but a loss that resembles last weekend might. If New York continues to struggle offensively, Kevin Gilbride may need to reaccess his decision to relinquish play-calling duties. Gilbride has taken on a CEO role for the team, but he may have to take full ownership of the offense moving forward. How the entire New York Guardians team responds to last week is almost as important as the result of this game.

PREDICTION

BattleHawks 26 Guardians 10

I don’t see this as a good matchup overall for New York. The Guardians have to survive the early tidal wave of emotion that will guide the BattleHawks at the outset of this game. If New York can do that, their confidence can grow as the game moves forward. St. Louis is built to play ball control, and they will most likely do that well during this contest. The Guardians have an uphill battle ahead of them. This game will reveal the character of New York, and how they respond to adversity moving forward.

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.

Week Two Preview: Roughnecks vs. BattleHawks

The Roughnecks are coming off a great home opener win with PJ Walker earning the very first Star of the Week honors for the XFL. (Credit XFL.com)

The first week of the XFL season is now in the record books and Week 2 is well underway and football fans have quickly and pleasantly discovered that the XFL is “for real.”  National television broadcast coverage,  combined with a compelling new league and a new brand of football have fans buzzing about the XFL.  From faster games to new rules (the kickoff and multiple conversion try rules stick out), many fans are starting to see the XFL as a league in their own right and not just another spring “minor” league for the NFL.

One of the interesting story lines this week is the matchup between the Run and Shoot offense of the Houston Roughnecks against the visiting St. Louis BattleHawks.  The back story behind the BattleHawks lies in their victory over the heavily favored Dallas Renegades last Sunday.  The BattleHawks were the only road team to earn a win last week, albeit they beat a Landry Jones-less Renegades team.  This does not negate their 15-9 victory over Dallas as they held the Renegades to only 1 of 10 on third down conversions and largely stymied the Dallas offense.

The Roughnecks are coming off a great home opener win with PJ Walker earning the very first Star of the Week honors for the XFL.  Walker clearly showed off the Run and Shoot mentality of head coach June Jones by going 23 for 29 on pass completions for 298 yards and 4 passing touchdowns.  The Roughnecks also showed off defensive prowess by leading the league Week 1 with a stingy rush defense.  This will be a critical part of the Roughnecks defensive plan this week as the BattleHawks heavily relied on a ground attack in the 15-9 win by carrying the ball 42 times for 191 yards including Matt Jones who carried 21 times for 85 yards and QB Jordan Ta’amu also carrying the ball 9 times for 77 yards as well.  However, Matt Jones is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game and fellow BattleHawks RB Keith Ford has been listed as being out as well.  Houston is listed as a 7.5 point favorite and this week’s matchup should be another entertaining game as one undefeated team will suffer their first loss in this young XFL season.

St. Louis BattleHawks: A Team for the Fans

St. Louis BattleHawks

Missouri, a state celebrating arguably the biggest trophy in all of sports with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs bringing home the Lombardi Trophy winning Super Bowl 54. The best way to continue this historic feeling of peak football is obviously more football. Cue the St. Louis BattleHawks. For 21 years, fans packed The Dome and supported their Rams, that is the Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams. The team was not able to sustain The Greatest Show on Turf later falling into a 10-year playoff drought and subsequent relocation spurred by, his name who should only be used in vain, new team owner Stan Kroenke. Just like that, the magic of the Rams was ripped from the fans and the city. 

The St. Louis BattleHawks are not a replacement for the Rams. They are an addition to the city and the passionate fan base supporting the true hometown teams. This is the only current XFL franchise not sharing a city with an NFL team. The BattleHawks aren’t just for the hometown crowd. It’s open season to pick an XFL team; this fan base is passionate, committed, and growing rapidly. 

Take a look at the online footprint each team has on Twitter (parentheses represent growth in followers over the last 7 days).

  1. St. Louis BattleHawks: 77.3K (+31.3K)
  2. DC Defenders: 62.8K (+30.7K)
  3. Dallas Renegades 61.4K (+22.3K)
  4. Houston Roughnecks: 53K (+20.9K)
  5. New York Guardians: 49.3K (+21.3K)
  6. Seattle Dragons: 45K (+15.1K) 
  7. Tampa Bay Vipers: 44.6K (+15.4K)
  8. LA Wildcats: 34.2K (+11.9K)

What the fans are saying

The best way to see how people view the XFL and the BattleHawks is to hear it directly from them. I did just that and got folks reaction to the new league and team.

Rob from Olathe thinks the XFL has staying power. The authentic approach of the XFL this time around shows they mean business.

Media companies and TV deals are significant. The two major networks contracted are Disney, with games on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN 2; and Fox, with games on Fox, FS1, and FS2. Like Saturday and Sunday during the NCAA and NFL season, fans will be amongst familiar channels and crews supporting these games giving it that authentic football. 

Rob also talked about the innovation the league is embracing and trying out. While he doesn’t think every single change will stick, he is all for trying. The XFL has made every indication that they will continue to evolve and adapt the game. Feedback given the NFL has not incorporated has been listened to by the XFL. A tip of the hat to fans from the XFL catering the product to the consumer. 

BattleHawk Mafia (Kyle) from St. Louis talked about how this city is poised to take off as a fan base and as a team. The social media presence has been a great start to engage fans prior to the season kicking off. St. Louis is a football city and this is a chance for everyone out there to show the NFL what they’re missing. He’s ready for game day with the crew, some drinks in The Dome, and BattleHawk football. He reflected about how going to games creates lifelong bonds between parents and children along with friends.

Ryan from St. Louis joins the city as a transplant but has no doubts about the fan base in the city making this an easy choice for him to root for the BattleHawks. He shared thoughts on what this league can become. First, he’s happy to see former NFL guys get second chances. While the XFL and NFL aren’t affiliated, most guys share the goal to make it to the NFL. Channeling his soccer fandom, Ryan said once the league is built up and established he’d like to see a Premier League-esque system where XFL teams change places with poor-performing NFL teams. 

Cory from Nashville shares Ryan’s excitement to see the talent in the league have a chance to succeed. One guy in particular is Jordan Ta’amu, the BattleHawks QB who produced a ton at Ole Miss. He highlights Ta’amu’s ability to move around the pocket and keep plays alive (something we saw a lot of week 1). He’s excited about Will Hill, former Safety in the NFL, to patrol the backfield (Hill notched an interception week 1 against the Dallas Renegades). It’s guys like Hill and others who show the league as a whole has high caliber talent on the rosters. Fun note, Cory gave these answers before these guys put up stellar first games.

The sense I got from the fans I talked with is that they are ready, the city is ready, and nation is ready for BattleHawk football.

Getting Over the Hurdle

It is fair to acknowledge this league and team don’t come without risk. The UFL, AAF, and even a previous version of the XFL closed their doors after brief stints of existence, the AAF not even making it through their first season. There may be some former Rams fans who are hesitant to jump on board risking another heartbreak and even additional people not wanting to waste their time due to new league fatigue.

The barriers for a successful league exist and are no small feat. The sports world has seen leagues come in go, and heck, the first version of the XFL has been used as a gold standard of what not to do this time around. And that’s the beauty of it. This XFL is not the XFL of 2001 and the only resemblances the two share are the name and the man up top, Vince McMahon. 

A good reminder is that the XFL is a work in progress. The league is stepping in to help evolve the game of football fans know today. Some changes will be great and some changes wont be, but expect a product that will continue to develop to meet and exceed expectations.

Having seen a successful week one in the league, hopefully some of the hesitation has been put to rest. Buzz in the news is increasing week over week, fan bases are growing, and now more than ever is a great time to support the league.

To those XFL fans undecided on a team to follow and those interested seeing what the league is about, there is no wrong choice when picking a team. But I know one fan base who knows there is a right choice. 

And hey, America doesn’t have a team yet in this league…just saying.

Fight and Fly On, BattleHawk Nation.

Did you miss some of the action week one of BattleHawk football? Check out this game recap.

XFL Week 2 Power Rankings

Now that we got our first look at all 8 teams in action, I feel a little more confident in my Power Rankings this week. Unfortunately, there are still a few teams I’m unsure about, especially because teams like LA and Dallas didn’t have their starting quarterbacks. But I can at least say, with a hundred percent certainty, that I feel a lot more confident in my picks this week than I did last week. A few I nailed, a few I whiffed, but these things change week to week, so let’s talk about it.

8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1)
Oh boy. If you read my Power Rankings last week, you’ll know that I had really high hopes for this team. A talented roster, a proven Head Coach, and a good vibe coming out of Training Camp, I thought had this team poised to make a run. Well, either they thought this was still the pre-season, or they really are this bad. I know New York’s secondary is the real deal, but Tampa could not do ANYTHING offensively. Aaron Murray was off, sometimes way off, on too many throws. When his throws were on target, they either dropped the ball or fumbled it. What could go wrong for the Vipers, did go wrong, and it was a complete nightmare. They are glad that there is a running play clock in the XFL, because this thing could have been much worse. Not prepared, not focused, not in sync. A lot of issues for the Vipers in Week 1, and I am really hoping that they can get it together for Week 2. For right now, I am willing to still hold out, because it was Week 1. But with a performance like that, you deserve the no. 8 spot.

7. Seattle Dragons (0-1)
I will start with this. Better than I thought…..just not by much. Brandon Silvers was decent enough. They ran the ball alright with Farrow and Gardner. But they were just simply outmatched. They hung in there with DC, but once DC started getting in a groove, it was evident who the better team was. I think Seattle got lucky with it being Week 1, and the Defenders were still working out some kinks. I think Seattle’s offense will be ok, but their defense just won’t have a chance against teams like DC and Houston. Unless Silvers and company, on the offensive side of the ball, start really getting creative, I think this team can be competitive, but ultimately come out on the losing end of a lot of games. I think Seattle fits perfectly in the no. 7 spot.

6. Los Angeles Wildcats (0-1)
Hmm…this is the most puzzling team to me. On the one hand, we still haven’t seen them at full strength with Josh Johnson under center. But now, reports are coming out that he may not be ready for Game 2, so who knows how long this injury is going to last. And in a 10 Week season, you can be out of the Playoff race fast. But even when Johnson gets back, i’m not sure about what kind of team we are going to get on the field. Nelson Spruce looked amazing, which did not come as a surprise, but I also think part of that was just the fact that Houston’s defense is suspect in between the numbers. As far as the rest of the team, they kind of disappointed me. Now, perhaps it was just the fact that they were playing the best offense in the league, so maybe their defense will bounce back, but their offense definitely left a lot to be desired. Yes, they were in it in the first half, but I think that had more to do with the fact that Houston didn’t really have a good feel on Chad Kanoff yet. Because in that second half, they completely shut him down. When Josh Johnson gets back, they will definitely be better. The question is, just how much better. For right now, I think the no. 6 spot is the perfect spot for them.

5. Dallas Renegades (0-1)
Now, this might be the biggest surprise of these rankings, but I saw something in their game against St. Louis that concerned me. Even with Landry Jones, who should be back next week, I think this might be the most overrated team in the league. Yes, Landry Jones is good, but i’m starting to think he might be the 4th best quarterback in the league. Now, come next week, I could be proven wrong, but we shall see. However, the reason I bring that up, is because based off of what we saw this weekend from Dallas, he is going to have to be a top 2 quarterback in this league if they want to get where many project them to be. Dallas, you should feel lucky that St. Louis didn’t figure it out until the 2nd half, because you got owned in this game. St. Louis controlled this game on the ground, and their defense completely shut down anything you wanted to do offensively. But we will get to St. Louis’ defense later, first we need to talk about Dallas’ game plan. Bob Stoops and Hal Mumme have the name recognition, and perhaps in their heyday they were ahead of the curb. But perhaps, they might be behind the curb here, because this “Air Raid” offense, at least the one we saw Saturday with Phil Nelson, ain’t gonna cut it against teams like DC and Houston. The “Air Raid” is an offense that builds over time in the game, but DC and Houston can have you down by 20 before you know it. Look, i’m still willing to give Dallas a chance, because we still have to see how Landry Jones will do in this offense. But, even the running game and receiving core underwhelmed in this game. Hopefully, it’s just those Week 1 tweaks that need to be worked out, but this game did not show me enough to think Landry Jones is the only solution to fix this. For now, they sit at no. 5.

4. New York Guardians (1-0)
I told you guys. I told you. New York’s secondary is the real deal. Jammar Summers, Bryce Jones, and company will make life hard for any quarterback. And that’s exactly what they did to Aaron Murray Sunday afternoon. 5 sacks, 3 takeaways is what lead the Guardians to victory. Their offense was run really well too on the backs of Victor and Cook, and McGloin threw the ball well to put them in scoring position often. But, as strong as their defense is, and it is definitely top 2, if not the best defense in the league, I think their offense is going to have to get a bit more creative with their passing game to move on up in these rankings. Matt McGloin is very capable, but due to his lack of mobility, he will need to get the ball out quick to his playmakers, which he has with his receiving core. McKay, Pearson, and company can add yards after the catch, which will only help this New York offense as they progress throughout the season. For now, I have them at no. 4.

3. St. Louis Battlehawks (1-0)
Now, I said Dallas being ranked no. 5 might be the biggest surprise on this list. But, perhaps an even bigger surprise is the fact that the team I had as no. 7 last week, is now my no. 3 team. The St. Louis Battlehawks are better, in fact, a lot better, than I thought, and I couldn’t be happier. First off, yes, I understand, they only beat a Dallas team, which was missing Landry Jones, by six points (15-9). I get it. Sal, you’re over reacting! Well, allow me to explain. In the 2nd half of that game, towards the end of the 3rd and in the 4th, Jonathan Hayes and Chuck Long figured out what kind of team they are. And let me tell you rest of XFL, you better be ready. Yes, they are going to lose to Houston next week, but that’s nothing to hang your head about. Chuck Long is going to put Jordan Ta’amu on the verge of success, and possibly in contender-ship for the MVP award at the end of the season. XFL fans, I give you the Baltimore Ravens of the XFL. Yes, if you watched that second half, Ta’amu, Jones, Michael, and Ford ran all over Dallas’ defense, and they are fixing to run all over the league. Now that they are letting Jordan Ta’amu be who he is, which is not a passer, but another threat in the running game, not only will that open up the passing game, but defenders are going to have to decide whether to bite on the run or not. Matt Jones and Keith Ford, plus you can’t forget about Christine Michael, are going to be effective in the running game. But now with Jordan Ta’amu playing to his strengths, that running game might be near unstoppable. And if Ta’amu can make just enough throws, this team might win the East. But that’s not all. Their defense might be the best in the league. It is going to be hard to find openings anywhere against this defense, who are big in size and stature, but can also ball hawk like New York. Now, I don’t think they will have as many takeaways as New York, but they might prevent less points on the board. This St. Louis team is for real, and while I do expect them to lose next week, they might not lose very often after that. They are my no. 3 team.

2. DC Defenders (1-0)
Cardale Jones was awesome Saturday afternoon. He would never go down. Even when you thought they had him, he refused to give in. He showed off his spectacular arm strength and mobility, but really he showed the absolute force that he is at the quarterback position. Good luck sacking Cardale, because it ain’t gonna be easy to get him down on the ground. He spread the ball across numerous receivers, and made the correct reads when he had to. Rashad Ross was who we thought he was going to be, and Eli Rogers made you sure you took notice. But who really opened the field up for DC was their Tight End, Khari Lee, who was terrific Saturday. Don’t forget, DeAndre Thompkins will be joining them soon, who was sidelined with an injury, and at that point, you can’t double team anyone. Their running game didn’t show much Saturday, but I still believe they will be fine. Their defense is what surprised me the most. They aren’t great, but I do believe that they are good enough to win the Championship. This isn’t Old School Football. Defense doesn’t win championships, offense wins championships. If you have an elite offense, you will be there. But, you still need a good defense to get the job done. This team is excellent in all phases, and I wouldn’t argue if you had them no. 1. But there is another team that I believe is currently better than them, so for now they are my no. 2 team.

1. Houston Roughnecks (1-0)
Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to “The Firework Show!”. The highest scoring offense in the league, and the best team in the XFL! The Houston Roughnecks are the real deal, and it took me by surprise just how good this offense is. They scored 37 points, scoring 5 offensive touchdowns, 4 of which came from the electric arm of PJ Walker. Walker was absolutely sensational in his debut, and while it was only one game, if he continues at this rate, he will be a runaway MVP. But as great as PJ Walker was, it wasn’t just him out there making plays. Cam Phillips, Khalil Lewis, James Butler, Nick Holley, and Sammie Coates all made impactful plays on the field. De’Angelo Henderson went out of the game with a injury early in the 1st quarter, but when he comes back, it will be near impossible to stop the plethora of weapons this Houston offense has. But what surprised me the most was the defense. Now, I do want to proceed with caution, because they were playing against a Wildcats team lead by Chad Kanoff instead of Josh Johnson, but we can only go by the one game we have. And the one game we have, this defense was quick and decisive for the most part. They were getting to Chad Kanoff frequently and in the second half, they completely shut him down. Their weakness though, is in between the numbers. Nelson Spruce was having a field day in the middle of the defense, so that is something that we will have to monitor as the season progresses. But for now, I don’t see any team, besides maybe DC, that can stop the Houston Roughnecks, the best team in the XFL.

XFL BattleHawks Take Down Renegades to Secure First Win

BattleHawks QB Jordan Ta’amu impressed with almost every aspect of his game. (Photo: XFL.com)

The St. Louis BattleHawks marched into Dallas as the biggest underdog in the league week 1. Undeterred, St. Louis played team football taking down the Renegades 15-6. St. Louis secured two big firsts this game: the first win in franchise history and the first XFL team to win on the road. They move to 1-0 on the year. 

While not a high scoring affair, the BattleHawks and Renegades provided an action packed event the XFL has been promising. 

Offense Begins to Mesh

St. Louis established the run game early and leaned on it throughout the game. Running back Matt Jones shouldered the largest load, carrying the ball 21 times for 85 yards. Jones was able to chip away medium gains most runs then setting up good yardage for second and third downs. Keith Ford added a 16 yard run for the BattleHawks first touchdown late in the first half. The surprise of the day was Jones getting the start over Christine Michael who was slotted first on the depth chart. Jones took advantage of this opportunity while Michael struggled all game; 0 yards on 7 attempts and losing a yard on his lone reception. 

BattleHawks QB Jordan Ta’amu impressed with almost every aspect of his game. Through the air, Ta’amu was 20/27 with 183 yards and a TD, on the ground he added 77 yards on nine carries. Ta’amu said he had nerves starting out but throughout the game, you could see him settle in. Coach Hayes said he was impressed by the young quarterback’s poise. Access to in-game audio let us in on a conversation between the two after Ta’amu took a 12-yard sack on third down, leaving a long 48-yard field goal attempt Taylor Russolino nailed, Hayes stressed the importance of throwing the ball away.   

Ta’amu started a drive halfway through the third quarter by hitting receivers on three straight attempts for 10, 11, and 13 yards. A couple plays later Ta’amu tore down the field for a 37-yard run. He capped off the drive by connecting with Alonzo Russell in the back of the endzone, both party’s first touchdowns of the season.

Eight receivers got in on the action today. Wideout turned tight end Marcus Lucas hauled in 4 catches. L’Damian Washington pulled in a team-high 5 receptions. Alonzo Russel showed off his hands in the endzone for 1 of his 3. And De’Mornay Pierson-El had the longest play for the offense after a speedy catch-and-run for 41 yards. 

Offensive game ball: QB Jordan Ta’amu

Lockdown Defense

The BattleHawks don’t win this game without the defense showing up the way it did. Drive after drive the front seven kept the pressure on Renegades QB Philip Nelson. Four BattleHawks picked up a sack on the day, linebackers Terence Garvin and Dexter McCoil, then Dewayne Hendrix and Jake Payne from the line.

Dallas could not get their run game going all night, as a team they only had 12 attempts for 58 yards. With nothing working on the ground, the Renegades went pass-heavy with Nelson going 33/42 for 199 yards. The backfield was put to the test and they passed. Most completions were for short yardage only. Former NFL safety Will Hill sealed the game for St. Louis picking off Nelson with less than 30 seconds left in the game. All around, the BattleHawk defense played as one cohesive unit avoiding the big play and shutting the Renegades out of the endzone. 

Defensive game ball: S Will Hill

The major blemish on the day was all the penalities, 9 for 78 yards (though the final penalty was intentional to give punter Marquette King more room to kick). Several drives stalled out as a result keeping Dallas in the game all night. St. Louis was the most penalized team through week 1, something that will need to be addressed moving forward. 

If you tuned in to the game this week, you saw the great new fan features the XFL rolled out this season. In-game interviews, listening in on play calls, and hearing the refs deliberate and most importantly get calls right highlighted the changes in the broadcast. 

St. Louis keeps their Texas road trip going as they head down to Houston next Sunday to take on the 1-0 Roughnecks. 

Fly and Fight on, St. Louis.