Hello! Brief intro before moving onto the heavy stuff. My name is Michael Lavery, I’m 21 years old and I live in the North of Ireland. All my life I’ve wanted to be a sports journalist or a TV presenter and I’m working towards that right now. The following is somewhat of a drunken word vomit; thoughts and feelings fuelled by a couple beers that I felt would be better in a word doc than in my head. I enjoy writing, it gives me a sense of accomplishment and a joy that I don’t find elsewhere. You can find much shorter versions of these ramblings over on twitter if you wanna follow me @Michaellavery98
I spent 14 years in school. In that time I did all I could. I studied, I was kind, I made friends and I was even Head Boy. Elected as the leading student representative of a school of 1800+ pupils, I was giving speeches to hundreds of students each week and meeting with school governors on the regular (cheese boards and meeting minutes taken – super formal for an 18 year old). I was living an exemplary lifestyle. I had it all right there in front of me, my future, waiting for me to grab it, and then, the exams came.
I failed just about every test I took, missed out on the chance of university and was seemingly back to square one. 14 years down the drain. The schools poster boy had failed all his exams and all eyes were on him, I didn’t know what to do and in a somewhat frenzied state I decided that sticking with my part time job, and moving to full time hours was the answer that I needed.
Two years go by and I’ve started to spend some time in the “real world”. At 19, I was the manager of a new multi-million pound retail convenience store (Fancy wording for a high-tech, modern filling station). A position I achieved through experience alone. I was responsible for everything from rotas to finances, staffing problems to my own 50+ hour week. Skip forward a few months and I’d been on stress/anxiety related sick leave for two months and I’d eventually left my post as manager.
Shortly after, I landed an 8-5, Monday to Friday office job. In the beginning I thought this was bliss. I’d finally found some sort of routine and I was absolutely loving it (My last job had me finishing at 11pm at night and starting again at 5.30am the next morning). But as time went on, and the walls of the office grew smaller, I missed the outside world. I didn’t have a window and the only voice I heard was that of the local radio DJ. The walls became suffocating and I knew I was doing something I didn’t love.
Again, I left my job (snowflake, right?) and spent a while doing literally nothing. I was seeing a lifeline counsellor who was helping me deal with the hardships of the past two years because although the tone of my text may not dictate so, I really had reached the lowest of lows. I gave up all sport, all friendships, all hope. I was in a very bad place.
I don’t want to dwell on that period of my life for too long but thankfully I’ve moved on. To cut a long story short I went back to college, got the grades I needed and come September time I will be moving to Derby in England to study sports journalism. But as is typical with the story of life, nothing is ever easy. Covid has taken centre stage in our lives and everything has ground to a halt. As prep for my uni course, I’ve been writing articles as much as I can. Talking about the NFL and occasionally the XFL and my love for the sport of American Football. The platforms I have been given to produce these articles have been my daily reminder and number one driving force to succeed in this industry. I want to produce high quality, reliable and intriguing content for people to read.
As I speak now I stand face to face with the biggest problem I’ve had to date. How do I practice my trade as a sports journalist when there are no live sports to report on? The answer? Well, it’s tough. I, like many others are feeding off the scraps left to us by the real world and our production is coming mostly through our means of imagination. Many of you will relate when I say that the most fun I (we) have during lockdown is after a few beer and a night spent on the PlayStation with the lads.
The process of writing an article is both time consuming and rewarding, but I love it. I love writing stories which are newly developing or other subjects of which I feel passionate about and I know will resonate with other people. I see myself now as being far past the worst of my darkest days, and now healthily striving on the other side. I’m stretching my legs in a place where I feel comfortable. Not a filling station or an office, but behind my laptop, reporting on the stories I know you want to hear.
When the world as we know it resumes to some sense of normality, I will have to fight for my place again and prove I’m capable of producing high quality content for a worthy platform, and truth be told? I can’t wait. This is everything I have been waiting for since those failed exams in college, so here I am. Ready for the challenge ahead.
I have used this article as a venting method. With the future currently looking so bleak in regards to my profession it’s hard to judge exactly how I should attack it. But with true faith, determination and practice, I know this lockdown won’t have gone to waste. I will have bettered myself compared to those who are entering the same field as me. It is my dream to make a living reporting for the NFL and I will stop at nothing to make sure I get there.
So, what do I do now? Well, I keep writing, I keep producing in the hope that someone sees my work and it takes off to the next level. It’s tough, I know but I am willing to put in the hours and learn my trade so that one day I can become the best at what I do. I am of the heavy assumption that is what everybody at this level strives for? It most certainly is what keeps me going.
From the bottom of my heart, can I just say thank you to everyone who has supported me to this point. Your backing will go further than you ever know and I thank you for that. Thank you for listening to my drunken ramblings and I hope to hear from you all very soon.
The XFL is suspended for the 2020 season bringing an abrupt, premature end to its inaugural season.
On Thursday news broke from Konnor Fulk of XFL News Hub that the league had “…suspended their season.” The news comes after the coronavirus (COVID-19) was labelled a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. The XFL followed suit of the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and NCAA who have all suspended operations at the present time. So as we enter into unchartered waters, what does that mean for the league?
Firstly, the XFL will have a duty of care to protect its current players and employees who will now be jobless for the coming months. We should expect to see team wide announcements based on how they, and the league, plan on caring for player welfare in the times ahead.
Team facilities will more than likely be forced into cleaning routines but will need to be well maintained if there is a chance football will return this year. The news comes just after the XFL had played half of its regular season games.
Over the previous two years the league has worked so hard to promote and advertise their new product in a positive light compared to its predecessor and now they are back to square one. As is the nature with trends these days the XFL will very quickly fall out of relevancy and will have to work harder than ever to become relevant again.
Will the TV companies still want to cover it? What about brand deals and advertising (BudLight etc.) will they stick around until the league is reinstated? Who knows? And perhaps the saddest of all news, no more beer snakes at Audi Field! The people have been robbed of Week 6’s all timer – dammit!
No official time frame has been put on the suspension but with only about eight weeks of game time left and the virus only getting worse, it’s hard to imagine we will be seeing any more XFL football this year. Truly disappointing news for all.
And so, sooner than we thought the season has ended. What was your favourite thing about XFL 2020? Your favourite team? Player? Or particular game?
We have reached the half way point folks. Week five this weekend and we can slowly start to see the playoff picture taking place. Teams who looked like high flying certs at the start of the year have now fallen, and those who got off to slow starts look to be on the rise.
SEATTLE @ HOUSTON
A game which is heavily favoured for a Houston win is also a must win for the 1-3 Dragons. The Roughnecks sit atop all rankings with a 4-0 perfect start to the season and they can thank their star Quarterback for getting them there. PJ Walker has shone brightest of anybody in the league so far and having thrown for 987 yards and 12 TD’s he leads the way for Quarterbacks in the league.
Last week Seattle made a change at QB. Brandon Silvers was benched in favour of BJ Daniels who entered the game against St. Louis and gave the Dragons a bit of life. I don’t think he has what it takes to get them over the line against Houston this week but I do think moving forward he will be a better fit for the offense. Seattle need to figure out a solution for their run game. The three headed rushing monster they had been attempting to go with just isn’t working. It’s time they place their trust in Kenneth Farrow and build an offense around him and Daniels.
Expect to see a lively hometown crowd cheer on their undefeated Roughnecks in a game which I expect will result in a double digit win for the home side.
Prediction: Seattle 15 – 32 Houston
NEW YORK @ DALLAS
This game is going to come down to whichever backup quarterback steps up to the plate best. Luis Perez and Philip Nelson will suit up for the Guardians and the Renegades respectively. Two 2-2 teams facing off in Dallas, where the Renegades are yet to register a win this season, will both be hoping to get on the right side of the win/loss scale.
New York had an important bounce back win against the Wildcats last weekend in the meadowlands after losing their two previous games. As for Dallas, well they were on the wrong end of the score line in last weeks “Texas Throwdown” when they lost to the Roughnecks.
Both teams will need to help their QB’s the best they can, scheming easy throws and perhaps looking towards their run games. Dallas may rely heavily on the work of Cameron Artis Payne or TE Donald Parham who have both been producing well on offence over the past couple of weeks.
I favour the Renegades at home in this one, but will say that if either team opens up a two possession scoring advantage, I don’t see them being caught.
Prediction: New York 20 – 24 Dallas
ST LOUIS @ D.C
The sudden collapse of D.C from 2-0 to 2-2 over the last two weeks caught the attention of just about everyone. Cardale Jones’ perfected recorded as a starter was shattered and the overall on field product turned to dust. Two games on the road in a row resulted in two losses and now DC returns to Audi Field to face a Battlehawks team who has been on the ascendency since week one.
St Louis have won their last games convincingly, bouncing off the home town energy in the Dome. Its obvious St Louis has missed their pro football and they are showing a passion toward the Battlehawks and they have ever so gracefully repaid them. Jordan Ta’amu has been consistent at a high level for pretty much the whole season and based on both teams current form, it is going to take one hell of a performance from DC to stop St. Louis.
It will be interesting to keep tabs on how D.C perform being back at home as opposed to being on the road. They were perfect at home before losing two straight while on their travels. Similarly it will be telling of the commitment of the XFL fan bases to see how they turn out to support a struggling Defenders team.
If Ta’amu and the Battlehawks hit their rhythm early then I can see this becoming a runaway victory.
Prediction: St. Louis 29 – 15 D.C
TAMPA @ LOS ANGELES
A defining game in both teams seasons. The opportunity to move to 2-3 after both earned their first victories of the season against the aforementioned Defenders. The crazy yard gaining Tampa offence will hope to keep their winning formulae going as they travel cross country to face the Wildcats.
400 yards offence has become somewhat of a benchmark for the Vipers despite only having one win but it is fair to assume they are one or two pieces away from everything falling perfectly into place for them and allowing them to rack up more wins. As for LA, well the waters are slightly murkier. The team’s identity is still not clear after their opening losses, a shock win against D.C and then a somewhat disappointing loss against a struggling Guardians team.
Winston Moss will have to “Give it to his players RIGHT NOW!” (See week 4 sound bites to get that reference) if he has any hope of them getting something out of this game. Better play calling will be required this week as the Vipers will almost certainly try to lock down Tre McBride knowing full well he’ll be the main target with Nelson Spruce still out.
A tough one for the home team and a golden opportunity for the road team.
Prediction: Tampa 30 – 24 LA
Hope you enjoyed this shortened format. How do you see this week’s games panning out? Let me know on twitter @MichaelLavery98
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.
Following an exciting opening weekend of football, the XFL train rolls into week two and it’s time to break down each of the games one by one. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out or brand new XFL Podcast with myself and Shaun from the Full10 Yards family where we talk all things XFL breaking it down for you in audio form!
Last week’s predictions got off to an average start, guessing 2/4 winning teams correctly. As always I will have my predictions at the end of segment. Disagree with any? Let me hear it on twitter @MichaelLavery98
GUARDIANS @ DEFENDERS
The first game of week two is between two teams who were able to secure a win in week one and it provides an opportunity to open up the season 2-0 and taking an early stronghold on the Eastern Conference.
The Defenders will want to build on an impressive opening week, carrying on dominant play across all three phases of play. Quarterback Cardale Jones will be hoping to maintain his perfect record as a starter as they welcome in Matt McGloin and the New York Guardians.
Carrying on from last week, it will be interesting to see if Defenders HC Pep Hamilton steps up his aggression levels when it comes to some of the calls he has to make mid game. Last week the Defenders were successful on 1/3 1PAT tries and went 1/1 on 2PAT tries. Perhaps something that the DC staff will want to look into and adjust going forward and as a result we may see more 2PAT attempts from the Defenders.
They will be coming up against a strong Guardians defense who last week won the turn over battle against a poor Tampa Bay Vipers. I can’t imagine this will in any way deter the Defenders and their air attack which worked seamlessly last week, but we may see DC return to the run game. Last week the team rushed for only 68 yards and 28 of which were provided through by the quarterback. 40 yards total rushing for a game indicates a very on dimensional offence and I think we will see Pep Hamilton trying to scheme open some bigger run plays.
As for New York, they will be hoping Matt McGloin can continue on from their opening weekend victory and keep the team playing at an efficient level. One thing worth noting, in terms of travelling as a “road” team this week, the Guardians will have significantly less distance to travel than all other teams on the road this week, something which will undoubtedly benefit them when it comes to game time and how fresh they feel. This is in comparison to the Dragons who last week had to fly cross country to face a Defenders team who benefited from being at home. The Defense in New York will be hoping for similar production turnover wise but will want to clamp down on the amount of yards they allowed against them as Cardale Jones and the Defenders will not be as incompetent in the redzone as the Vipers were last week.
These two teams combined for over 50 points last week and would indicate in every way that we are in for an offensive battle. D.C averaged 5.3 yards per play where New York averaged 5.0. Neither team was overly successful on 3rd down last week – NY going 1/10 and D.C converting only 5/15 but both had 100% records on 4th down. How will the teams adjust for that this week?
Prediction: Guardians 21 – 26 Defenders
GAME TWO: VIPERS @ DRAGONS
Both of these teams had disappointing losses in week one but for different reasons. Seattle were unfortunate not to stay in the game with a chance to tie or go for the win in the 4th quarter. Tampa however, were just very poor when it came to redzone efficiency and didn’t manage to get into the redzone. They will hope to bounce back this week but will face a difficult task travelling cross-country to play in Seattle – a notoriously difficult city to play in as a visitor.
During the week, Seattle announced they had already sold 25,000 tickets for this week’s opener and after an additional 1,000 tickets were put on sale this week they were reported to have “Sold out very quickly”. Typically raucous and intimidating, it will be insightful (in terms of league interest levels) to see what kind of crowd shows up to CenturyLink Field on Saturday.
As for the on field product, Seattle will be hoping to benefit from similar production levels from wideout Austin Proehl. Last week Proehl had 5 receptions for 88 yards and 2 touchdowns and by all accounts had a decent game. His quarterback, Brandon Silvers will hope to cut down on the turnovers and have a cleaner performance. He threw 3 touchdowns but also had two picks in the loss against D.C.
Tampa will need to get on the board early this week and quiet the crowd if they want to get anything from this game. Benefiting from the league’s leading receiver, Daniel Williams, he had 123 yards receiving and will hope to produce similar numbers this week but the team as a whole failed when it came to redzone production. Yes they had nearly 400 yards of offensive (394 total) but as the saying goes “Drive for show and putt for dough”. Last week the Vipers couldn’t finish and that’s the difference between winning and losing.
As of Friday it was announced that quarterback Aaron Murray would not start week two due to injury, but the team made no official announcement whether Quinton Flowers or Taylor Cornelius would assume the starting role this Saturday.
Prediction: Vipers 17 – 29 Dragons
GAME THREE: RENEGADES @ WILDCATS
Frustrating results in week one for both the Renegades and Wildcats will test their strength as a team when it comes to week two.
Dallas were the only team to lose at home in week one, perhaps a damaging result in terms of team moral, but, a welcome boost will have come this week in the form of the announcement that Landry Jones will start at quarterback for the Renegades this week having spent last week on the side lines. His professional calibre will be a welcome addition to the huddle this week as they look to take advantage of a Wildcats team who have had defensive problems this week with the announcement that their defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson had been fired.
The Wildcats will be hosting the game at the Dignity Health Sports Park – an arena we are used to seeing filled with opposing team supporters when it’s the Los Angeles Chargers playing at home. Will we see a different side to the LA football fandom this week as the Wildcats prepare to host their home opener?
Neither side was able to get the ball moving with any meaningful rhythm last week as their offenses stalled out on numerous drives. The Wildcats were shut out in the second half against the Roughnecks – a tough look on a team where fuses seem to be short in regards to personnel shifts. Both teams did however start with their back-up quarterbacks and this week we will hopefully be treated to the full spectacle of QB1’s. Chad Kanoff missed practice due to injury and Josh Johnson was upgraded to limited.
I expect this to be a surprisingly fun watch and based on their quarterback status will give the edge to the visitors.
Prediction:Renegades 31 – 22 Wildcats
GAME FOUR: BATTLEHAWKS @ ROUGHNECKS
The final instalment this week comes from TDECU stadium in Houston. Both teams riding high of the momentum of impressive opening weekend games, they will hope to take the next step on Sunday by securing another win.
St. Louis successfully navigated a road win in a tricky victory against Dallas, and Houston flexed their muscles beating the Wildcats by 20. Roughnecks quarterback, PJ Walker will be eager to prove that last week wasn’t just a one off and that he is talented and capable enough to perform at such a level, week in, week out. As for the Battlehawks, it is the hope of team Head Coach Jonathan Hayes that his quarterback, Jordan Ta’amu, can continue to get it done under centre. We also saw a clear commitment to the run game last week as the Battlehawks stuck with it and tried to wear down the Renegades defence. 191 yards on the ground last week, including 77 from Ta’amu.
It was announced during the week that the first ever XFL Championship game will be played at TDECU stadium, perhaps a somewhat motivational and inspiring announcement for the Roughnecks players as they hope to gain home field advantage in the biggest game of the year.
The Battlehawks will be hoping to get through this week with a win and return home to St. Louis with a perfect record and hopefully play to an electric fan base who will be more than ready to have a hometown team once again.
In my opinion I think this will be the game of the week, a tough job for the Battlehawks on the road and a proud Roughnecks team looking to defend home turf, I’ll give the edge to the team who displayed the most star power and flare in week one.
The first weekend of XFL football is in the books and after an exciting start it’s time to breakdown each of the games one by one and crown our winners and losers. One immediate winner is the XFL themselves, who not long before kick-off announced that they had sold more tickets for this season already, than the AAF had in its entire existence – an exciting announcement to denounce fears of a sinking ship style company. For more general analysis and first impressions be sure to check out “Initial Impressions of XFL 2020” by our own Shaun Blundell.
In terms of the footballing side of things, it’s safe to say that the Saturday slot of games provided a more entertaining watch than those on the Sunday. We also saw the benefits of playing in smaller stadiums compared to bigger arenas as the sight oF crowded bleachers helps in creating a better atmosphere as opposed to watching in an empty echo chamber like a partially full MetLife Stadium.
GAME ONE: SEATTLE @ D.C
Final Score: DC Defenders 31, Seattle Dragons 19
Cardale Jones’ shone brighter than most on opening weekend. He helped lead his D.C Defenders to a 31-19 victory over the travelling Seattle Dragons.
A game watched by just over 17,000 people it had an upbeat and engaging atmosphere right the way through. The new kick-off rule proved hugely popular with fans and the intimate insight from reporters on the field was a shock to the system of many viewers at first but felt pleasantly refreshing. As for the football itself, Jones’ performance helped spur on his Defenders to a win against a good Seattle side. Jones’ went 16/26 for 235yds, 2TD 0INT, 116.7QBR on the day. A relatively faultless performance and he was able to spread the ball around nicely finding eight different receivers and two different teammates for his touchdowns. He tacked on an extra 30 on the ground, moving freely and looking sharp.
Seattle didn’t play badly, they were in this game late into the 4th quarter until a Brandon Silvers pass intended for Austin Proehl was picked off and returned for six to put the icing on the cake. Proehl slipped on his route giving Bradley Sylve a clear avenue to walk in for the score. Earlier in the game Proehl scored the first touchdown in XFL history but unfortunately that is not how he, or anyone else, will remember this game. Silvers finished with a line of: 21/40 217yds, 3TD 2INT, 72.6QBR. Head Coach Jim Zorn spoke after the game and said:
“We understand how a few errors can really affect a game and we haveto overcome those”.
dragons hc jim zorn
A good battle on both sides of the ball, it’ll be interesting to see if D.C can build on this momentum rolling in to week two. As for Seattle, it’s a return to the Pacific North West and Century Link Field for their home opener next week against the Tampa Bay Vipers.
GAME TWO: LA @ HOUSTON
Final Score: Houston Roughnecks 37, L.A. Wildcats 17
Welcome to the P.J Walker show. The Roughnecks quarterback had himself a day in the franchise’s first ever outing throwing 4 touchdowns to 4 different receivers. The Roughnecks intentions were clear from the start, they were going to throw the ball and it was up to LA to find a way to stop it.
The Run N’ Shoot offence was on display for the whole league to see and no doubt teams will be taking notice and preparing accordingly. Walker hit eight different receivers for 272yds off of 39 passing attempts and finished with a rating of 103.8. He was able to make all the throws that were asked of him and his accuracy on tight window throws was perfect when it mattered. His athleticism was on display as he completed several throws on the run rolling left and right. When he decided to run the ball he showed flashes of Lamar Jackson in mid-season form, making defenders miss and drawing big pops from the crowd.
His one interception came late in the 4th quarter when he tried to force a ball into the end zone for his fifth touchdown. It was a throw he didn’t have to make but given the form he was in he would have had no doubts he could make it. It wasn’t a bad throw, just a great play from the Wildcats safety.
LA had to start with back-up quarterback Chad Kanoff after it was announced their started Josh Johnson was dealing with a groin injury. Kanoff was able to hold his own throughout the game and had a respectable 21/40 214yds, 1TD 1INT and a rating of 66. The interception wasn’t an errant throw but was a fumble that fell into the lap of a Roughnecks defender who was on the floor after pressuring Kanoff. Kanoff was able to make the correct reads when needed and on the Wildcats opening touchdown drive, the offence ran the same play three times in a row to break down the defence. A simple stick concept to the left side of the formation forcing the defender to make a choice and third time round, when he finally came up to cover the flat, Kanoff hit Jordan Smallwood over the top who made a spectacular fingertip grab for the score.
The Wildcats ended the first half by squandering a chance to take the lead going into the break. An early indication that the new rules will take some getting used to – a field goal try with :01 on the clock, the Wildcats didn’t get the snap off in time as the stop/start clock inside two minutes caught some players off guard who thought the clock started on the snap. A disappointing way to end the half but definitely a coaching point for all teams going forward.
In a somewhat shocking and sudden twist, it was announced Monday that the LA Wildcats had fired the defensive coordinator, Pepper Johnson after just one game.
GAME THREE: TAMPA @ NEW YORK
Final Score: New York Guardians 23, Tampa Bay Vipers 3
The Matt McGloin New York Guardians laid down a statement win on Sunday afternoon against a poor Tampa Bay Vipers team. The Guardians finished as 23-3 victors and enjoyed complimentary football resulting in scores on both sides of the ball. McGloin found his rhythm early and settled into the game. He scored the first touchdown in franchise history on a quarterback sneak from the one yard-line on the first drive of the game and throughout the whole game he reminded everybody of his professional calibre as he confidently and efficiently led his team up and down the field. His game: 15/29 182yds, 2TD (1 throwing, 1 rushing) 0INT, 82.8QBR.
An abysmal opening day for the Vipers was a mix of poor execution and good defence by New York. Ball handling was an issue all day, they had three fumbles on the day although only lost one of those. Quarterback Aaron Murray had a couple of picks, the first of which was a bad ball floated to the back of the endzone and swatted into the open arms of a Guardian defender. Murray didn’t make the throws he needed to when called upon and will leave many questioning his starter role ahead of Quinton Flowers who saw a little bit of game time but was used in a more Taysom Hill style role. Flowers finished as the team’s second highest rusher on the day. An understandably frustrated Murray spoke to the media after saying:
“If you turn the ball over three times and the other team doesn’t turn over, it’s simple. We drive down there, get to about the 5-yard line — and bad play by me throwing it up, should’ve just thrown that one away — we had four or five tries in the red zone and came away with no points.“
Vipers QB aaron murray
A second road game in as many weeks for the Vipers sees them travel out west to play Seattle in what will definitely be a difficult game. The Dragons will be wanting to make use of home field advantage while the Vipers will be looking to right the wrongs of Sundays outing.
GAME FOUR: ST. LOUIS @ DALLAS
Final Score: St. Louis BattleHawks 15, Dallas Renegades 9
Despite being the first Quarterback to be a part of XFL 2020, Renegades signal caller Landry Jones spent week one on the side lines. Nursing an injury it was reported that Landry was good to go but was advised to take minimal snaps and so with that in mind Head Coach Bob Stoops opted to go with the back-up: Philip Nelson. Reports suggest Jones will be good to go in weeks 2 or 3 depending on how long the Renegades choose to sit him.
A pretty underwhelming game for the Renegades seen them register to touchdowns and get on the scoreboard through field goals only. Nelson tried to lead a last minute comeback drive which would have made him a team hero; instead he threw a game sealing interceptions and confirmed the loss for Dallas.
On the St. Louis side of things, they will be very happy with what they saw. The only team to get a road win this week, they done so by playing solid fundamental football and quarterback Jordan Ta’amu helped his team secure a first ever win with great play. He was also helped by a solid rushing attack which saw the Battlehawks go for 191yds on the ground. 77 of those provided by Ta’amu himself, including a huge 37 yard rush on a designed quarterback run.
The only fault in the Battlehawks game came on a Marquette King punt which checked up perfectly and was going to stop on the one, only for a Battlehawk to come flying through, scoop the ball and end up in the endzone resulting in a touchback and the ball coming out to the 35 yard line. Steve Beauharnais, the player in question jumped up proclaiming it was a live ball as it had struck the Renegades return man but his protests were in vain and a touchback was awarded.
St Louis go on the road again next week to Houston in a game which is sure to be a cracker, but they will need to keep this momentum up if they wish to return home to The Dome @ America’s centre with a perfect record in week 3.
Check back to Full10 Yards later in the week to catch our preview for week two of the XFL.
That’s a sentence you’re not used to hearing in February, right?
This time of year is usually the beginning of a seven month drought which sees us clutching on to any form of relevant and somewhat interesting football news. Hypothetical trades, mock drafts, and record predictions for teams in the new season, which we all know doesn’t always go to plan (I’m talking to you, Adam Rank).
But finally, after a lot of build-up, exciting rules announcements and the occasional familiar name being thrown into the mix… It’s time for the XFL.
The following is a preview of each of the opening four games followed by my own personal predictions for the games which at this point are complete stabs in the dark but worth a go anyway.
Seattle Dragons @ D.C Defenders
The opening game of the second installment of XFL football comes from Audi Field in Washington D.C where the Dragons take on the Defenders. Both of these teams are the second professional football team in their respective cities, something which could be worth looking into regarding attendance and fan support.
The Defenders are being led by Cardale Jones at quarterback, someone who is already being touted as the potential league MVP before it even kicks off. Jones spent a short time in the pro’s, mostly as a backup or a third stringer. He was drafted 139th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 but has never played more than a half of professional football.
His career stat line: 6/11 98yds, 0TD, 1INT 46.0QBR
D.C Head Coach Pep Hamilton is more than qualified to lead this team to multiple victories this year. He has years of experience working as a positional coach in the NFL for several teams and was the Colts Offensive Coordinator for two years from 2013-15. The significance of this is that during that time he worked closely with Andrew Luck, someone who he also coached during his time at Stamford.
Why exactly is this important? Well for the success Luck had in his short NFL career, I don’t think it would be a bad idea for Cardale Jones to pick the brain of his new HC. Luck and Jones also have extremely similar measurables, something Hamilton might hope to take advantage of and craft Jones into a Luck style player.
Comparison: Luck v Jones
40 Yard Dash
The Seattle Dragons signal caller goes by the name of Brandon Silver. Silver has no NFL in game experience despite trying out at the New Orleans Saints rookie minicamp and spending a month as a member of the New York Jets. He did however play for the Memphis Express in the short while that the AAF existed. He sat behind Johnny Manziel as a backup before taking over the starting job after a Manziel injury.
His AAF Stat line: 80/125 799yds, 4TD, 2INT, 86.1QBR
Despite not being the most decorated player at his position, he is at least being coached by someone who knows how to lead a franchise. Former Seattle Seahawks lefty QB; Jim Zorn.
Zorn was the Seahawks quarterback for the first eight years of the franchise’s existence. He made it a weekly habit of finding NFL Hall of Famer Steve Largent in the end zone and now they are both members of the Seattle ring of honour.
In his professional coaching career he has been an assistant and also spent one year has the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins (08-09). Jim Zorn Washington revenge game, anybody?
What is key is that Zorn will know exactly what the city of Seattle will want to see from their Dragons. He knows the city, he knows the fans, he knows the seriousness and with that I think he will have the Dragons performing at a high level all year.
This should be a great game to kick off the season, the fireworks and hoopla of the rebirthed XFL will no doubt add to the festival like occasion and hopefully there will be fireworks on the field too. Explosive plays, new kick offs and extra point rules all to be seen this weekend.
Prediction:My week one stab in the dark prediction is for Seattle to win a crowd silencer on the road in D.C with a final score of 34-17.
Los Angeles Wildcats @ Houston Roughnecks
The late slot on Saturday takes us to TDECU stadium in Houston where the Roughnecks will host the Los Angeles Wildcats. The 40,000 seater arena is the battleground for the first primetime matchup of the season.
Houston Quarterback P.J Walker, who played is college ball at Temple, is, by his own admission an undersized quarterback. At 5’ 11” and only 214lbs he draws the pro sized comparison to Russell Wilson and a quick look at his tape shows his footballing ability is similar too. Walker has excellent escape ability when he feels pressure and can get the job done either by rushing or make accurate throws on the move. Despite having this ability to avoid pressure, he doesn’t force early departures from the pocket and when complimented by good protection has the time needed to step into throws and successfully complete the long ball. Something ex-Texans receiver Sammie Coates will be happy about as he makes his return to pro football in Houston. But, when Walker does take off running he has the talent to make defenders look stupid.
The Roughnecks will be running a “Run N’ Shoot” style offence. A pass heavy scheme, it is hoped that Walker can find his receivers deep down field often and force teams to meet their high scoring targets if they have any hopes of winning.
Fronted by Head Coach June Jones, a former NFL QB and HC for the Atlanta Falcons, Houston will be hoping to deliver key blows early in this game and take advantage of playing at home. Jones won the CNN/Sports Illustrated National Coach of the year award back in 1999 before going on to take on several roles as an assistant in both college and pro teams.
Something to watch in the future: Jones stepped in as interim Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers after the now New York Guardians HC Kevin Gilbride was fired. Perhaps something to keep an eye on in the week 6 fixture between Houston and New York.
The visiting Los Angeles Wildcats have a veteran NFL journeyman at the helm. Josh Johnson has been a member of 13 teams since being drafted by the Bucs in the 5th round of the 2008 draft. A cousin of Marshawn Lynch, he played college football at San Diego. Perhaps an indication of his pedigree at his position, the Detroit Lions attempted to resign Johnson in November 2019 but the XFL denied this request.
Wildcats Head Coach Winston Moss was a professional linebacker for the Bucs, LA Raiders and Seahawks. He worked up 20.5 sacks and 3 interceptions during his career. A defensive minded coach, he will undoubtedly have his hands full this weekend but will be hoping to lean on the talents of his players to execute his game plan and slow down the Roughnecks attack.
Prediction: I think this will be one of the closer games of the weekend but I see the home team coming out on top. Houston wins it: 26-21.
Tampa Bay Vipers @ New York Guardians
Moving into the early slot on Sunday and we will get to see the first instalment of the Tampa Bay Vipers and the New York Guardians. Being played at MetLife this game is sure to have all the feelings of a regular football Sunday.
Guardians Head Coach Kevin Gilbride will be hoping to get his team off to a fast start in the league. Overseeing operations in New York as a play caller he will be hoping his team leave their mark as a smash mouth, run you over style football team, something which is always associated with teams playing in the meadowlands.
He will no doubt be confident that his team can pile up the wins, the Guardians start the season with seasoned pro, Matt McGloin under centre. A former raider who knows all about playing tough.
His Career Stat line: 13 Games Played 7 Started 161/277 1868yds, 11TD, 11INT 75.3QBR
I’m not entirely confident in McGloin’s ability to shine as the star of this league, but I do believe he will be more than capable of managing in-game situations at an effective and professional level and guiding this team to victory. That said, if he doesn’t perform, the New York fans will have no problem in letting him hear it.
Making the trip up the east coast is the green and yellow of the Tampa Bay Vipers. Spearheaded by Head Coach Marc Trestman and Quarterback Aaron Murray, the team travels to New York in the hope of returning to Florida with a season opening win.
Murray, a former Georgia Bulldog was a 5th round pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. After bouncing between teams for a number of years, he took up a role as the QB for the Atlanta Legends of the AAF before coming to Tampa in the hope of being the cities best quarterback (30INT Jameis Winston shouldn’t be too hard to beat).
His Head Coach, Trestman, has an impressive history of coaching. Over 39 years he’s been with 10 NFL teams as either an assistant or a coordinator and has had his fair share of coffees elsewhere too coaching in both college and the CFL.
This should be a gritty game, with both teams trying to make some noise in the early Sunday window and gain some attention before week 2. A tough one to call so I’ll give the benefit to the team with a QB who has NFL experience and are playing at home.
Prediction:Guardians 27-20 Vipers.
St Louis Battlehawks @ Dallas Renegades
Potentially the best game of the weekend slot, aptly left to the primetime Sunday evening slot. A city left in the lurch without pro football since 2015, St. Louis fans were beyond hurt when the rams left them and have been crying out for football since. The Battlehawks fans will have to wait until week 3 to see their team play at home but I don’t think that will stop them from travelling to Dallas show support to their team.
Dallas is a footballing hub, the Cowboys have been calling themselves America’s team for what feels like forever and the entire city of Dallas lives for the sport. The Renegades will count as the State of Texas’ 4th pro football team, but they will have no intentions of being known as such. They want to be number one and behind quarterback Landry Jones they are in great shape to do so.
Jones is the forefront of this offense and he will hope to lay down a marker for the standard at which other teams aspire to be at. He was the first player to be selected for the XFL at the start of the team’s allocation process.
Jones’ professional career saw him drafted by the Steelers with the 115th overall pick in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft. A competent backup, he even saw some playing time in the playoffs, relieving an injured Ben Roethlisberger in the 2015 wild-card game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Roethlisberger would eventually return to the game but it is a credit to Jones and his work as a backup that he was ready to go when called upon. I think we can expect to see a great player coach chemistry with the Renegades. Jones and HC Bob Stoops worked together during his time in college. They will need to bring their “A” game in order to stop a resurgent St. Louis side who will be wanting to prove the point that pro football belongs in their city.
The Battlehawks are entering this game with quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and Head Coach Jonathan Hayes. Wanting to implement their status as winners from the start they will have to lean heavily on the knowledge of their HC and the veterans in the team with pro experience such as ex-Seahawks running back Christine Michael. In his career, he amassed over 1,000 rushing yards off 254 carries over a period of 4 years.
First special teams mention of the day, Marquette King, ex-Raiders punter makes his return to football for the Battlehawks in the hopes of re-igniting his career.
A primetime showdown to round out week one of the new XFL season, a game I think will come down to wire. Fourth quarter plays will be crucial and coaches aggression strategies on their PAT attempts will be important in determining a winner. I’ll side with the home team in this one but wouldn’t be surprised to see the visitors get a win.
Prediction:Renegades 28-26 Battlehawks.
So there you have it, the week 1 preview is at a close. Let us know your thoughts on the XFL by tweeting us @full10Yards on Twitter. Whether you love it, hate it or aren’t even going to watch it, we want to know!