The train has well and truly left the station now and the week one starting line disappears into the distance more and more each week. The true feel of the XFL is taking shape. We know our winners – we know our losers. As football fans though, we know all about making early assumptions. The course of an entire season can change in one week and the fortunes of many are made in these middle of the season games where results can often be unpredictable.
The League standings are as listed below:
As for the standings in terms of my game predictions, I was sitting quite smugly last week having correctly picked the four winning teams moving my overall record to 6-2. This week throws in a few tricky ones so I will hope to survive week three unscathed. Anyway, enough blabber and small talk, let’s talk ball.
GAME ONE: ROUGHNECKS @ VIPERS
The first home game for the Tampa Bay Vipers comes at a vital point in their season. After an 0-2 start on the road against the Guardians and the Dragons they return home to Raymond James Stadium in the hope of using home field advantage to make a desperate U-turn on a season which is seemingly hurtling towards disaster.
Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit too bleak and overly pessimistic in my outlook for Tampa. They have been moving the ball offensively – putting up more offensive yards than both of their previous opponents in the opening two weeks. But it just hasn’t been amounting to anything on the scoreboard and through two weeks they remain the only team in the league who hasn’t scored a touchdown on offense.
Quarterback Aaron Murray will feel comforted that neither of his two back-ups lit things up in his absence and that his job as starter is more than secure when he is ready to return – although that won’t be this week. It was announced from the Vipers camp during the week that both Murray and TE Nick Truesdell are out for the week three match up against Houston. Fans can once again expect to see the role split between Taylor Cornelius and Quinton Flowers.
Neither of the two Tampa back up QB’s are particularly trusted by their fan base and those further afield. Both Flowers and Cornelius were owned by less than 4% of all fantasy owners last week, a decision I’m sure the other 96% of owners were glad they made. Cornelius scored just 4.16 points and Flowers only managed 1.22.
Their Houston based opponents make the trip to Tampa on the back of a 2-0 start and while we’re talking all things fantasy it would be remiss of me not to mention the impact Roughnecks star QB P.J Walker had across draft boards. He and Cam Phillips combined for a league best 54.8 points between them and garnered ownership from 36.49% (Walker) and 32.6% (Philips) of owners respectively.
As for the actual on field product, another clean week for the Roughnecks saw them beat out the Battlehawks in a close game at TDECU Stadium. Walker tacked on another 3 touchdowns to his season total and had no interceptions this past Sunday, a formulae fit to help any team win. Cam Philips will hope to keep up his hot streak against a Tampa team desperate to get their first win on the board. Houston wide out Sammy Coates will be wanting to get out of the starters block this week, a poor opening two games has seen him catch only 3 (yes, THREE) balls on 13 targets going for a disappointing 34 yards and no touchdowns. Not what the former Steelers receiver would have been wanting.
Unless redzone efficiency changes for Tampa, I can see this one being a blowout. Field goals just don’t cut it anymore. And on that note;
Prediction: Roughnecks 34 – 14 Vipers
GAME TWO: RENEGADES @ DRAGONS
The Landry Jones led Renegades looked a much better outfit in week two than the team we saw in week one. They went on the road and beat the Wildcats in LA in a three quarter slug fest which EXPLODED in the fourth eventually running out 25-18 winners.
Thankfully on the right side of the result in week two, Jones, by his own admission has got to clean things up going into week three. He was caught off guard by zone coverages in week two and threw a couple of bad picks but ultimately cleaned his act up enough to become the first quarterback this season to throw for over 300 yards and secure the win for his team.
Hoping to catch him off guard before he gets truly into his rhythm is Jim Zorn and his Seattle Dragons, who at home in front of 30 thousand loud fans, will want to put the brakes on any surging Renegades game plans. Last week the Dragons set the XFL attendance record when 29,172 fans made their way to Century Link field for the home opener.
The fans were rewarded with a win but will hope to see a more fluid operation when their team takes to the Gridiron. Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers had a poor game and got bailed out on numerous occasions by his teams running game and defense. His stats on the day were: 7 completed passes on 18 attempts for 91 yards. 1 Touchdown 1 Interception. An obviously poor day for the teams leading man, he will want to improve on his performance and spread the ball around better.
The Dragons week one star wideout, Austin Proehl, was heavily touted to have a similar outing in week two, and in the land of fantasy owners, people bought into the hype. Proehl was owned by 18.28% of owners and returned a disastrous 0.9 points after his one reception for negative one yard. Don’t jump off the train just yet though, I expect Proehl to see a lot more of the ball this coming Saturday.
If Jones can clean up his game where he needs to and we see similar production from Cameron Artis, Payne I think this week we will see a well-oiled Renegades machine making the trip to the Pacific North West and silencing a loud Seattle home crowd with a road win.
Hopefully it won’t take three quarters for the game to come to life this time round because this game does have the potential to be a slow burner and become a tit for tat field goal fest. Let’s hope we see the opposite and see these offenses start to stretch their legs.
Prediction: Renegades 18 – 12 Dragons
GAME THREE: GUARDIANS @ BATTLEHAWKS
The return to pro football in the city of St. Louis Missouri is finally here. After losing the Rams to LA, the city has gone through half a decade of spending Sundays at the TV instead of at the stadium supporting a team. As we seen in Seattle, I think we can expect to see a large turnout of fans enthusiastically willing their team to win and what a game they have in store too.
This one may not be the back and forth, end to end game that would perhaps be better entertainment value but the Battlehawks are welcoming the New York Guardians into their building at just the right time. Jordan Ta’amu is proving to be legit and his opposite number from New York had a tantrum styled meltdown at half time last week, resulting in him getting benched.
Ta’amu will be hoping that by playing the Guardians at a vulnerable point in their season they can use this to their advantage and put on a high scoring display for their passionate home fans. The Battlehawks came up just short last week in Houston against the Roughnecks in a tough 28-24 loss. A game which many will contest could have gone either way had it not been for some officiating debacles. I digress. Ta’amu will want to build off another solid performance and along with the complimenting running game at his disposal, he will want to stretch the playbook and get another win under his belt as a starter and progress to 2-1 on the season.
The fear when facing a team who was shut out the previous week is that they will be out to prove a point this week and will have no doubt upped their game and will aim to clean up any mistakes which so dearly cost them last week. The upside is that if you get up early on them, the papered cracks start to reappear and you can take advantage of a vulnerable unit.
From a fantasy standpoint, I think Ta’amu will be another welcome addition to any line up you are forming this weekend. He was owned by 15.17% of owners last week and posted a healthy 30.56 points and I expect such form to continue this week.
As for New York. Well, I can’t say much really. They need to improve, and lots. Hopefully Matt McGloin spent enough time on the naughty step (Or as starting QB’s call it: the bench) last week to realise that he was also part of the problem and that putting your coaching staff and team mates on blast isn’t usually the best idea. An abysmal performance last week after a promising opening weekend leaves most of us wondering what this team’s identity truly is.
Oh yeah, did I mention McGloin scored -0.24 fantasy points last week? Expect to see his stock plummet this week.
The Battlehawks will no doubt be fired up for this, and New York will want to come back and produce a statement win. If the Guardians have gathered and regrouped enough from last week, there is potential we see a good game here, but I think with the fiery crowd we will no doubt have in St. Louis this game goes to the Battlehawks
Prediction: Guardians 12 – 27 Battlehawks
GAME FOUR: DEFENDERS @ WILDCATS
The undefeated DC Defenders make their first road trip of the season to face the LA Wildcats in a must win game for the home side. DC Have been the definition of perfection to this point as a direct result of perfect quarterback play by Cardale Jones, and smart play calling by Head Coach Pep Hamilton. The Wildcats however, have struggled. A disappointing loss in week one at Houston saw the firing of their defensive coordinator and the departure of their lead player on defense.
This makes this game the perfect test for the Wildcats to prove they aren’t at the bottom of the pile. A surprise upset victory here would in some cases, throw the league on its head. People would riot, streets would bur….. Ok I’m living in fantasy land but a win for LA would raise eyebrows. That said, do they have the talent to do it? This Defenders team has talent right across the board and after an 0-2 start, the Wildcats will struggle to stop them.
Last week we saw the debut of Josh Johnson under centre for LA. Going 18/34 for 196yds and 2 TDS he was able to move the ball and avoid pressure when asked to do so but ultimately his team came up short. Wideout Nelson Spruce had himself a day. Catching 6 passes on 9 throws, racking in 89yds and two scores he was last week’s highest owned commodity going into week two with over 47.84% of people including him in their squads and the owners were duly rewarded with a 26.9 point performance. He will no doubt be one to watch again this week.
A lot less to say on this game than the others. One team operating at perfection style levels and the other chasing said goals. I don’t think they reach those heights this week but a gut feeling is telling me they will give the Defenders a fright in a close one. I haven’t mustered up the courage to pick them as outright winners but I will go on record as saying a Wildcats win wouldn’t totally shock me.
Prediction: Defenders 28 – 22 Wildcats