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 Week 3 New York Guardians – St.Louis BattleHawks Recap: BattleHawks soar to victory over undisciplined Guardians

“I may need you to be a leader here because the guys that I thought were going to be better than we are at doing that are just not.” – New York Guardians Head Coach/GM Kevin Gilbride to his star receiver Mekale McKay on the sidelines in the 4th quarter of a 29-9 road loss to the St. Louis BattleHawks.

In front of 29,554 fans at the ‘Battledome,’ Pro Football returned to St.Louis in glorious fashion, as the BattleHawks dominated the New York Guardians in a 29-9 victory. St. Louis beat New York in all three phases. Riding the energy and emotion of their crowd, the BattleHawks controlled the contest from the outset with their ground game, rushing for 156 yards on the ground. St. Louis also made big plays on defense and special teams. The BattleHawks Joe Powell returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score on the XFL’s first-ever kick return for a touchdown. St. Louis also blocked a punt on special teams as well.

“You can’t beat the opponent and yourself at the same time.”
    – Guardians Head Coach/GM  Kevin Gilbride on his teams’ performance in the post-game press conference.

For New York, the story of last week’s loss in D.C. was the dysfunction of the Guardians offense and the frustration of veteran Quarterback Matt McGloin. This week, the entire team played undisciplined football. Missed tackles, blown assignments,  personal fouls, ill-advised turnovers, and miscommunication ruled the day for New York. Matt McGloin started off the game connecting on his first three passes, but a Casey Sayles sack on third down knocked him temporarily out of the game with a rib injury. Backup quarterback Marquise Williams replaced him for a couple of series before McGloin returned later in the first half.

The Guardians managed to muster a 53-yard field goal by Matthew McCrane to get on the scoreboard and cut the STL lead to 6-3. The BattleHawks would then go on to score 17 unanswered points to take a 23-3 lead late into the first half.

With a returning Matt McGloin and the Guardians driving late in the first half deep into BattleHawks territory. McGloin threw an errant pass into the leaping hands of rookie Kenny Robinson. The 21-year old All-Big 12 safety out of West Virginia is the first player with college eligibility to decide to play in the XFL, before being drafted in the NFL draft this coming April. McGloin’s momentum-killing interception led to an enraged G.A. Mangus slamming his call sheet down. The embattled offensive coordinator has seen his offense falter all season long.

One of the main culprits of the Guardians woes on Sunday in St. Louis was Guardians’ starting center Ian Silberman, who returned from missing last week’s game due to injury. Silberman, a former 6th round pick of the 49ers, was expected to be one of New York’s leaders upfront. In this game, Silberman played with no composure whatsoever, drawing multiple personal fouls, which helped kill his teams’ drives and momentum. Before the referees could eject Silberman, the Guardians staff decided to bench him.

New York’s offense and special teams weren’t the only culprits in this loss to St. Louis. The Guardians defense missed multiple tackles in this contest and had no answers schematically for the spread run attack of St. Louis. On a lone positive note, New York managed to salvage their day with a late TD drive by third-string Quarterback Luis Perez (4/5 39 yards, 1td). The position of Perez on the depth chart may be changing moving forward. There may be more changes on the horizon for the Guardians. Kevin Gilbride has a lot of difficult decisions to make moving forward, and not a lot of time, only six days before his team’s next game to work with. One of the changes that could come may very well be in who is calling the plays moving forward, and who is on the field when those plays are called.

New York (1-2) will travel back home to host the now (1-2) LA Wildcats, Saturday, 2 pm ET at Metlife Stadium (ABC). The St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1) will look for an encore victory at home as they host the (1-2) Seattle Dragons, Saturday 5 pm ET/4 pm CT  on Fox.

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.

How the Dallas Renegades can beat the Seattle Dragons

The Dallas Renegades will need to find several ways to win their upcoming game on Saturday against the Seattle Dragons.
The Dallas Renegades will need to find several ways to win their upcoming game on Saturday against the Seattle Dragons. (Credit: XFL.com)

The Dallas Renegades are back on the road, and this time they head to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Dragons this Saturday. They went to Carson, California to take down the LA Wildcats in a close 25-18 win. Their latest road trip challenge could put the team to the test. Seattle’s defense is considered to be one of the best in the league and the rushing attack has a deep running back core to deal with. Many challenges face the Renegades heading into their matchup on Saturday. So, the question is how do you defeat the Dragons in the best home field advantage in the league?

Get Landry Jones’ Confidence Up Early

Renegade fans saw early that Landry Jones was a bit rusty in his first play on the football field in over two years. He threw two interceptions in the game, but completed almost 70 percent of his passes and threw for over 300 yards (the first XFL player to do so). There are signs that Jones has the ability to be one of the best passers in the XFL. Patience will be key for not only fans, but the Jones as well. During the broadcast, many noticed Jones was taking responsibility for his mistakes and looked confident as the leader of the team. That earned the respect of many in the media and fans alike.

The Dragons defense had a great showing last week as they forced three turnovers and sacked the Tampa Bay Vipers’ quarterbacks four times in the win. They will provide plenty of pressure on Jones. He had similar experience against LA as Jones faced a lot of pressure from the defensive line. Offensive coordinator Hal Mumme will have to call a lot of quick, short passes to add spacing to the passing game and avoid Jones getting hit. Jones knows the offense and knows he needs to protect the ball to win the turnover battle. Expect him to learn from his mistakes and go into week three with a lot more confidence.

Run the Ball

The coaching staff knew from the beginning of the season that the running back position would be tough to decide who to run the ball since the depth of the backs are so deep. Week one was a major disappointment as the team ran for 58 rushing yards against the St. Louis BattleHawks. Week two was a whole different story as they drastically improved with 154 yards rushing in the win against the LA Wildcats. It may be early, but having a successful running game might be the key to the offense being successful. Giving the ball to Cameron Artis-Payne would be a good start.

Artis-Payne only gained six yards on two carries in the season opener. In week two, he recorded 99 yards rushing on 14 carries. His play, as well as Lance Dunbar’s play, made the difference in the fourth quarter against LA. The running game was needed in the game since Landry Jones was easing back into the offense. Artis-Payne and Dunbar were the keys to the team winning their game against the Wildcats. They will be called upon to do it again.

Frank Alexander Needs a Big Game

Winston Craig was ruled out of the game Saturday against the Seattle Dragons which is a big loss for a defensive line that doesn’t have a lot of depth in the first place. Gelen Robinson stepped in nicely last week with two quarterback hurries and one tackle for loss. Being listed as the backup on the roster, Robinson should be taking over as the starter on the opposite end of the best defensive lineman on the team in Frank Alexander.

Alexander recorded the first sack in Dallas Renegades’ history in week one against the St. Louis BattleHawks. He has proven to be a dominant pass rusher with great ability off the edge. He will be called upon to step up and make plays in Craig’s absence. A key could be Alexander might demand double teams which could open up for the other lineman to get sacks and quarterback pressures. With Craig being injured and out, watch out for more blitzes being called from the linebacker position.

Shutdown the Seattle Running Game

The Dragons have three strong running backs who could start for any team in the XFL. With Kenneth Farrow, Ja’Quan Gardner, and Trey Williams splitting carries between the three, Dallas could have their hands full. Dallas fans saw it first hand at Globe Life Park when St. Louis ran for 191 yards with Matt Jones and Jordan Ta’amu gashed the defense. Last week was a better performance from the Dallas defense against the run, but they played a winless LA team who hasn’t had the strongest running game this season. If Dallas’ front seven can’t stop the running game, it could spell for a long day for the defense.

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.

Future XFL expansion: Rooted in talent before TV

A picture-perfect Saturday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park was the backdrop of the LA Wildcats’ XFL home opener. (Credit: XFL.com)

Two weeks into the season and discussions are running rampant on how successful (or not) the XFL has been so far in its infancy. Media engagement, TV rating analysis, and comparison to previous spring football leagues is swirling about.

Expansion is an exciting and engaging topic. The back and forth between media and fans about why city A would be better than B is fun conversation and shows the excitement the league is generating. But expansion may be farther away than conversations lead on.  While there are plenty of encouraging signs for this league compared to leagues past, the overall approach from the XFL has been focused around pacing itself and getting things right.

The XFL Approach

From the announcement of the reincarnated XFL, January 25, 2018, to the kickoff in game one, February 8, 2020, there was over a two-year lead time.

The short-lived Alliance of American Football, or AAF, was announced more than two months after the XFL and kicked off their league less than 11 months after that. The AAF infamously closed its doors mid-way through its first season and the league in total only lasted for 13 months.

True to their approach, the XFL stuck with their timeline not succumbing to the pressure of a rival league.

During the more than two years the XFL spent establishing the foundation of the league, they strategically navigated the sporting industry to anchor themselves with prominent industry names. A key move by the league, at that point in time mostly by XFL founder Vince McMahon, is the hiring of Oliver Luck. Luck made his mark in the college football scene where he was part of the first playoff selection committee and was an executive vice president for regulatory affairs. With Luck, the XFL have themselves an experienced executive leading and navigating this venture.

One of the biggest praises and early successes for the XFL is the TV deal they signed with ABC/ESPN and Fox. These two widely recognized sport broadcasting names bring football onto cable and popular sports channels. Their background in NFL/NCAA coverage is a welcomed experienced partner.

Viewership through two weeks has benefited from all the above. The XFL is a more established product on two widely recognizable networks.

XFL

AAF

Week 1

3.118

2.900

Week 2

2.057

0.622

*numbers in millions of viewers

In the XFL, teams are well distributed geographically in major metropolitan areas. In contrast to the AAF where teams were more condensed and questionably excluded the populated Midwest and East Coast. All but one of the XFL teams, the St. Louis BattleHawks, share a city with a current NFL team. It is no coincidence the eight selected XFL cities already have strong professional football fan bases. This move highlights their strategy to garner support in planning for success.

We’re reaching the point where the XFL and AAF can [finally] stopped being compared. The XFL continues to differentiate itself from other spring leagues. Viewership is bound to fluctuate. Remember those critical of support now, they aren’t helping the league grow but let’s see if they want in on the action when it does.

Expansion in Due Time

A common talking point for an XFL expansion timeline is at the expiration of the current TV deal (estimated around 2021 or 2022). The XFL isn’t making money on the current deal but also isn’t spending any either; this allows them to focus capital resources more towards the product itself. If you’re not already familiar, TV deals are a substantial source of revenue in sports. Until the XFL can start making money across the board, especially on the TV side, expansion is unlikely.

While this argument is certainly a factor, I don’t see it as the end-all-be-all.

More importantly, the quality of football the league can produce will be the quintessential factor in determining the fate of the XFL; whether the league will be a long-term success or another failed attempt at a spring football league.  The league seems to have the approach of ensuring a stable foundation before advancing to the next step. Seen with the paced approach from the announcement of the league to first kick, the XFL cares about the quality of the product.

Viewers want to watch good football, good football means more viewers, more viewers mean more TV network interest, more TV interest means more revenue for the league, and more revenue means an opportunity for growth.

Again, the XFL’s preparation indicates the league is interested about the quality of the product.

Through two weeks, players across the league are starting to establish themselves as top talent. Should this talent find success in the NFL, football players around the nation will take note. There is talent out there that could play for the XFL but is currently is not for a variety of reasons. Since the start of the season, three notable CFL players have signed with the XFL. Seeing the opportunity this league could create may entice fringe NFL players and overlooked guys from college to consider joining to league to try and get in on the action.

The pool of potential talent is only moderately tapped. If the XFL can open the flood gates of talent, then this is when the league will truly be poised for expansion. Without a nine team talent surplus, expansion risks putting a lower quality product on the field that would seemingly damage the brand currently being built.

Until then, keep on having fun with speculating potential expansion cities, I know I will.

Note from the writer: There currently is no indication from the XFL about expansion. There are publications from 2018 with potential cities and nothing points to these actively being considered at. As with all news, try to find the source of a claim before believing it as true.

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”!

XFL Dallas Renegades Take Down LA Wildcats 25-18

Renegades QB Landry Jones runs with the ball. (Credit XFL.com)

It was the much anticipated debut of the XFL’s first signing Landry Jones as he and head coach Bob Stoops were together for the first time since 2012. After over 770 days removed from being on the football field, Landry Jones led the Dallas Renegades to their first win of the season as they defeated the LA Wildcats 25-18.

Key Observations

Landry Jones’ Debut Performance

Everyone was excited to see what Landry Jones would look like being the poster boy of the league back in August. There can be some arguments that his performance on the field was up and down. The offense for Dallas looked much better passing the ball as Jones was more willing to throw it deep and make some plays down the field. Unfortunately for Jones and the Renegades, that meant turnovers. He threw two interceptions in the game that both looked ugly.

Despite some inconsistencies, Jones still made some nice throws down the field as he was able to hit Joshua Crockett on a nice 39 yard pass down the field and hit Donald Parham on some nice routes past ten yards as well. His throws looked and felt better than Philip Nelson’s throws in week one. He was confident in the pocket even if he had a lot of pressure put on him all game long. He showed audiences that he had full control of the offense, but even Jones would admit that he wasn’t all that impressed with his performance.

“Let’s call a spade a spade. You know what I mean? Let’s not sugarcoat things. That’s the only way you’re going to play better,” Jones said. “We play in a public arena for all the world to watch so it’s not a secret I didn’t play very good today.”

Jones finished the game 28-40, 305 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The 305 yards makes Jones the first quarterback in the XFL season to throw for over 300 yards in a game.

The most impressive part of Jones’ performance was more about how he handled the off the field interviews. Numerous times during the broadcast on ESPN, he was interviewed about his interceptions and missed opportunities. Instead of taking it the Matt McGloin route and talk down on his teammates and coaches’ game plan, Jones kept taking the blame. He continued to talk about how he needs to improve and no one else.

“It’s the same story over, and over again,” Jones said after he threw his second interception of the game. “I need to make throws.”

His composure and leadership showed XFL fans why he was the first player signed to the league and why he’s a starting quarterback. While fans hope his play gets better (which it should), his words spoke louder and impressed many. It should be a sign of good things to come for Dallas this season.

Josh Johnson’s Impressive XFL Debut

Landry Jones overshadowed the XFL debut of another former NFL quarterback in Josh Johnson. After being out for week one due to an injury, Johnson seemed to have recovered nicely from his injury as many would say he outperformed Jones in some aspects of the game. He seemed calm, cool and collected in the pocket as pressure didn’t seem to rattle him very much.

Johnson’s ability to hit receivers in stride was impressive to watch. While he’s known for being a mobile quarterback, viewers saw more of a pocket quarterback in the game. Credit needs to be given to the offensive line for giving Johnson plenty of time in the pocket. It’s pretty clear that Johnson and Nelson Spruce will be a dynamic QB-WR combo as they connected twice for scores. They should cause a lot of trouble for defenses all season long.

The lack of a consistent running game might have effected Johnson’s performance a bit. Elijah Hood broke off a couple of nice runs, but nothing that would make the Renegades’ defense scared of stopping the run. Johnson never really showed off his scrambling abilities as much either as that might be something the Wildcats and offensive coordinator Norm Chow can think about utilizing this season.

Turnovers Plagued Both Teams

Both teams through three quarters had trouble protecting the football. It became a big problem as Dallas was lucky it didn’t cost them the game. Typically, whoever wins the turnover battle comes out on top in the game. Not this time around. Landry Jones threw two critical interceptions while his tight end Sean Price fumbled that gave LA the ball back. The Wildcats had their chances in the red zone, but two of the times they were within the ten yard line they fumbled the ball and lost it to Dallas. Those were points taken off the board. The argument can be made that it cost them the game.

Cameron Artis-Payne Bounced Back Nicely

Week one’s performance against the St. Louis BattleHawks is one that Cameron Artis-Payne would like to forget about. He wasn’t able to produce a single rushing yard in the game and eventually was replaced mostly by Lance Dunbar. Artis-Payne came back stronger and had the best single game rushing performances of the young XFL season. He came one yard shy of hitting the 100 yard mark and ran in two touchdowns.

The running game for Dallas was stalled out for the first three quarters of the game. The fourth quarter was a whole different story as Dunbar and Artis-Payne had their way with the Wildcats defense. The Renegades seemed to have moved away from the passing game and relied on their running game to bring them home. It could be a strategy that the team uses more often throughout the year. The plan was to pass the ball 60 percent of the time in a game, but with the running game picking up steam, a whole new game plan might be in place heading into week three.

Top Performers

Dallas Renegades

Passing: Landry Jones – 28-40, 305 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions

Rushing: Cameron Artis-Payne – 14 carries, 99 yards, two touchdowns

Receiving: Donald Parham – five catches, 76 yards, one touchdown

LA Wildcats

Passing: Josh Johnson – 18-34, 196 yards, two touchdowns

Rushing: Elijah Hood – 10 carries, 31 yards

Receiving: Nelson Spruce – six catches, 89 yards, two touchdowns

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.

XFL Week 2 Injury Report

Saturday, February 15:

New York Guardians (1-0) at DC Defenders (1-0), 2 pm ET (ABC).

New York Guardians: There is some reason for concern here for the Guardians, as two of their three starting interior offensive linemen C Ian Silberman and G Garrett Brumfield have already been ruled OUT for Saturday’s game. Fortunately, their replacements are center Damien Mama and guard Avery Young who both have NFL experience and are more than capable of stepping in for them. The only active player that was unable to play last week due to an illness was TE Keenan Brown, who will make his debut on Saturday. Brown is talented and will join former Monmouth University TE Jake Powell on the depth chart, who played very well as the starter last game, catching 4 passes on 6 targets for 28 yards. 

DC Defenders: WR DeAndre Thompkins and LB Scooby Wright were unable to play in last week’s opener but they will make their debut this week against the Guardians. Thompkins, a former Penn State receiver, is listed as a starter over Week 1 stars; Eli Rogers and Rashad Ross, so it will be interesting to see if his return affects their target share. The only player who is listed questionable is backup DT Kalani Vakameilalo.

Tampa Bay Vipers (0-1) at Seattle Dragons (0-1), 5 pm ET (FOX).

Tampa Bay Vipers: Vipers starting QB Aaron Murray has been officially ruled OUT for this week’s game due to a foot injury. The former Georgia Bulldog all-time passer struggled in last week’s loss against the Guardians, throwing 2 interceptions, 0 touchdowns, with a QB rating of 45.1. The replacement quarterback options are former Cincinnati Bengals RB and University of South Florida start QB Quinton Flowers, as well as Taylor Cornelius and Chase Litton, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that. Bobby Richardson and TE DeAndre Goolsby are listed as questionable.

Seattle Dragons: The injury bug has hit the Seattle Dragon real hard; as eight players have missed practice so far this week. The most notable name is starting QB Brandon Silvers, who suffered an ankle injury last week against DC. Former University of South Florida star B.J. Daniels would be called upon in relief of Silvers if he’s unable to go, but he is probable so Silvers should be good to start. Starting WR Kasen Williams, OT Isaiah Battle and TE Cam Clear each missed last week’s game and have once again been ruled OUT. Also, starting center Dillon Day is listed as doubtful, left guard Cyril Richardson, DT Anthony Moten, TE Ben Johnson, and CB Mohammed Seisay are questionable.

Sunday, February 16:

Dallas Renegades (0-1) at LA Wildcats (0-1), 3 pm ET (ABC).

Dallas Renegades: The Landry Jones-Bob Stoops era in Dallas will officially begin on Sunday afternoon, as Landry Jones has recovered from the knee injury he suffered last month and will start against the Wildcats. Phillip Nelson replaced Jones as the starter for the Renegades last week and will head back to the bench. Third string Eric Dungey is taking a brief leave of absence for personal reasons, so they’ve signed former HBO Hard Knocks fan favorite Brogan Roback for depth. Starting DE Winston Craig and LB Jon Calvin haven’t participated in practice so far this week and Hau’oli Kikaha is questionable with limited participation.

LA Wildcats: Last week, starting QB Chad Kanoff looked pretty impressive; despite the 20-point loss they suffered against Houston. Kanoff finished with a stat-line of 21-39, 214 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT, but unfortunately left the game after suffering a head/shoulder injury. Kanoff replaced Josh Johnson due to a thigh injury he suffered, but now Johnson has recovered and is expected to start. There are three contributing players that haven’t participated in practice so far this week to keep an eye on; WR Saeed Blacknall, RB/WR DuJuan Harris, CB Jaylen Dunlap. 

St. Louis BattleHawks (1-0) at Houston Roughnecks, 6 pm ET (FS1).

St. Louis BattleHawks: Much like the Seattle Dragons; the BattleHawks have been hit hard with injuries, as five players are questionable and have not practiced so far this week. DE Will Clarke, WR Brandon Reilly, CB David Rivers, RB Matt Jones and Keith Ford. For fantasy purposes, definitely look out for the status of Jones and Ford, because if they’re both unable to go; Christine Michael is for a ton of action. It’s definitely a bit concerning that Michael had 0 yards on 7 carries, but the majority of their run game when through Jones on 21 carries for 85 yards, so if he and Ford are out Michael will get another chance as the starter.

Houston Roughnecks: Former Denver Broncos RB De’Angelo Henderson suffered a shoulder injury early last game against the Wildcats forcing him to leave the game. Henderson’s status is in doubt for this week, as he’s yet to practice this week, which would potentially but James Butler in line for a quality workload. Their other notable injury to watch is DE Cashaud Lyons who hasn’t practiced this week.