Can the Roughnecks stay unbeaten against a suddenly hot Guardians team? And which struggling team can break their losing streak?
XFL Season Record: 7-5
Houston Roughnecks at New York Guardians
In the first game that may be affected by the Coronavirus, the Houston Roughnecks travel to northern New Jersey to face the New York Guardians. This is an interesting test case for the league, because New Jersey Governor has banned events that have more than 250 people attending. Will this game be cancelled, or will there be no fans at Metlife Stadium. Either way, it is a storyline worth following before kickoff.
Now, let’s talk some football, as lord knows we as fans need some sort of excitement with all the cancellations as of late. The Houston Roughnecks are just what we need, as they are without a doubt the most exciting team in the XFL to this point. The Roughnecks have been phenomenal, and have a 5-0 record with no end in sight. They are coming off of a 32-23 victory over the Seattle Dragons, in a game where PJ Walker once again showed that he is the frontrunner for MVP.
Walker was great once again, throwing for 351 yards with three touchdowns. The only blemish on his resume in this game was his two interceptions, but his team combatted those mistakes. Early on, the Roughnecks looked like they might have their perfect season ended. In the 3rd quarter, the Dragons took a 23-14 lead. Just like a true champion would, the Roughnecks responded, scoring 18 unanswered points to win this game, and Walker continued to make plays that no other quarterback could.
The New York Guardians have righted the ship, at least momentarily. They enter this matchup with the Roughnecks on a two game winning streak, defeating the Wildcats and Dallas Renegades in consecutive weeks. Last week, the Guardians went on the road to face a talented Renegades team, and walked out with a 30-12 victory.
It was an impressive performance by New York, as the team got off to a 27-6 lead late in the third quarter. In quarterback Luis Perez’s first start, he compiled 229 yards and a touchdown. Perez looks to have the poise this team needs to get on a winning streak, as they have now won two games in a row, and will look to keep their momentum going against Houston.
The Roughnecks are 6.5 point favorites in this game, as the oddsmakers are favoring the team coming into New York on the road. It’s no secret why. The Roughnecks have an MVP candidate at quarterback, and a defense that can make game-changing plays. The Guardians have picked up momentum, and will need to control the clock and keep it out of Walker’s hands. In the end, I think the Guardians will carry their hot play into this matchup, and while the Roughnecks might win, I’m taking the Guardians to cover the spread.
St. Louis Battlehawks at Tampa Bay Vipers
The St. Louis Battlehawks are coming off of a head-scratching loss to the DC Defenders a week ago, 15-6. The Battlehawks entered their contest a week ago on a complete opposite trajectory than their opponent. They had won two games in a row, while the Defenders had lost two games, in emphatic fashion. It was a mismatch on paper, at least in terms of momentum.
What happened next was shocking. The Battlehawks had their high-flying offense completely shut down, as they could only manage six points on the scoreboard. Quarterback Jordan Ta’Amu also struggled, and had arguably his worst day this season. Ta’Amu only completed 60% of his passes for 174 yards. Ta’Amu failed to record a touchdown or an interception, and his 7.0 yards per attempt indicates that he wasn’t pushing the ball downfield. It was a turn from the norm from Ta’Amu and his passing attack, but I expect them to turn it around again.
The Battlehawks have their running game to thank for keeping last week’s game close. Their one-two punch at running back, arguably the best in the league, combined for 139 yards. Matt Jones and Christine Michael are among the most talented backs in the league, and their NFL experience is showing face each and every week. Look for them to try and pound the ball down the Defenders defense this week, and allow the play-action game to get Ta’Amu back on track.
The Tampa Bay Vipers nearly pulled another upset in Week 5. Coming off of a 25-0 dismantling of the DC Defenders the previous week, they went up against a Wildcats team that needed a win. The Vipers flew out of the gates, opening up a 24-6 lead. As we’ve seen from the Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson before, no lead is safe, and the Wildcats stormed back. Ultimately, the Vipers effort was not enough, and they fell in Week 5 by the count of 41-34.
On offense, the Vipers had their best offensive performance of the season. They put up 34 points, and quarterback Taylor Cornelius continued his season long improvement. He completed 65% of his passes for 300 yards, and threw for two touchdowns. He made a few mistakes, as he was attempting to push the ball downfield with reckless abandon, and ended up throwing two interceptions as well. Still, it is good to see Cornelius have confidence in his arm as well as his teammates, and that bodes well for the Vipers going forward.
The Battlehawks enter this game as three point road favorites. While the Vipers have been improving as of late, I think their luck runs out against a talented Battlehawks team. Both of these teams are coming off of a loss, but Jordan Ta’amu and company are licking their chops to get another chance to rebound. I expect the Battlehawks to get an early lead and never look back, and hold a steady lead throughout en route to win #4 on the season. The Vipers will go back to the drawing board with a disappointing 1-5 mark.