Sunday’s slate includes some interesting storylines: Can the Defenders end their cold spell and can the Vipers continue their winning ways?
XFL Season Record: 4-4
St. Louis Battlehawks at DC Defenders
The St. Louis Battlehawks have proven to be a tough out. They’re winners of two straight games, and have the second best TD differential in the league with a mark of +4, trailing only the 4-0 Roughnecks. They are coming off a 23-16 victory over the Seattle Dragons, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. They are a talented team that is thinking big and looking towards the playoffs.
Sitting at 1st place in the East Division, the Battlehawks are loaded on the offensive side of the ball. They’re second in the league in scoring, coming into this contest with an average of 22.7 points per game. Their impressive numbers don’t stop there. They are second in the league in total yards per game, and rush for an astounding 151.2 yards per game. They want to wear teams down over the course of the 60 minutes, ultimately making their opponents tap out.
The Battlehawks quarterback is coming off an impressive Week 4 performance. Jordan Ta’amu was named XFL star of the week after a performance in which he threw for 264 yards and rushed for an additional 63. Ta’Amu gives this offense an extra dimension with his legs, making them a tough cover for any opponent to this point. Defensive coordinators have been left scratching their heads.
What has happened to the DC Defenders? After a 2-0 start in which they had a point differential of +39, they’ve fallen off a cliff in their last two outings. After getting roughed up in Week 3, they were thoroughly outplayed against the previously winless Vipers in a 25-0 defeat.
The Defenders cold spell is confusing, as there is no question this team is talented. Cardale Jones, on paper, is one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the entire XFL, but in his last two games, Jones has only thrown for 175 yards, no touchdowns, and a whopping 5 interceptions. Before the season, you would’ve called me crazy if I said the Defenders may have to bench Jones in favor of a better option, but if he continues his horrid play, that may come into question, and soon.
Entering this game clearly struggling, the oddsmakers have fallen out of favor with the Defenders. Although they’re playing at home in this contest, the Battlehawks are listed as 4.5 point favorites. Still, I’m not buying this Defenders streak. They are too talented of a roster to continue their struggles, and if we’ve learned anything from this league to this point, it’s that you must take each week with a grain of salt. Teams have shown the ability to adjust on the fly, and while the Defenders may lose a close one this week, I expect them to be competitive and cover their end of the spread.
Tampa Bay Vipers at Los Angeles Wildcats
Finally, the Vipers earned their first victory in their short XFL career’s. It came at the hands of the aforementioned Defenders, and it was in emphatic fashion, with a 25-0 demolition. The Vipers to put it frankly, needed that win, and are looking to continue their momentum in this road contest against a solid Wildcats team.
Quarterback Taylor Cornelius has steadily improved his play thus far. He is coming off a solid performance against DC, throwing for 211 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Interestingly enough, although they have only a 1-3 record, the Vipers lead the league in yards per game. Much of this can be attested to the fact that they were playing from behind in their first 3 contests.
The Vipers can thank their defense for their turnaround, as they harassed Cardale Jones and the Defenders all game last week. Their defense is tops in the league in every yardage category, allowing the fewest total yards, rushing yards, and passing yards per game. If they can continue this play, they will put the saying “defense wins championships” to the test. They will have their hands filled with the Wildcats electric quarterback Josh Johnson.
The Wildcats are coming off a disappointing loss to the struggling Guardians, 17-14 a week ago. They failed to build off the momentum they started with their 39-9 victory a week prior, but quarterback Josh Johnson did everything he could to keep the Wildcats in the game. Johnson threw for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns, but threw a costly interception.
If there’s one thing the Wildcats defense can do, it’s take the ball away. Their 7 interceptions on the season is good for 2nd in the league, and they’ve sacked the quarterback a whopping 10 times. The defense needs these big plays, as they can’t seem to get off the field otherwise. They allow 22 points per game, which puts them at the bottom of the league.
The Wildcats are 2.5 point home favorites in this matchup of 1-3 teams. The Vipers enter this game with some momentum, while the Wildcats are left figuring out how they let a game slip out of their grasp. However, I expect Los Angeles to respond this week. Josh Johnson has been playing out of his mind, and in their last home game, the Wildcats won by 30. I expect them to take advantage of some home cooking, and come out with a huge victory in Week 5 to get back on track.