By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Week 2 was an all-around tough one for the XFL.
After picking up plenty of momentum in its debut, the league came back with sloppy football and low-scoring games. Take out the closing minutes of the Tampa Bay-Seattle game on Saturday, and it was a snoozer of a weekend until the Houston-St. Louis game on Sunday night.
However, the league clearly does have its lightning rods, and things will come together once the offenses get more time to work with each other. Remember, they only had about two months of training camp with no preseason. The fact it will take teams longer to get going means a hot start is key, and two teams seem to be embracing that. And wouldn’t you know it, they have the two best quarterbacks in the league. Let’s get started with the Week 3 Power Rankings with two weeks in the books:
1. Houston Roughnecks (2-0)
Last week: 1
No shocker here, but June Jones’ team is fun to watch on offense. P.J. Walker is the early MVP, putting up not just numbers but highlights. Cam Phillips has caught four of his seven touchdowns, and the two look like one of if not the elite QB/WR combo in the league.
They still have some things to clean up defensively after allowing 390 yards in their 28-24 win over St. Louis, but some of that is expected with Jones’ ‘I don’t care about time of possession’ style. Given that through two weeks it doesn’t look like any team has an elite defense, that may not be much of an issue. As long as Walker continues to impress, they’re nearly unbeatable.
2. DC Defenders (2-0)
Last week: 2
Cardale Jones is still undefeated as a starting quarterback, moving to 13-0 in the college and pros after DC’s 27-0 shutout of the New York Guardians. Now, New York was a mess and gave DC plenty of chances, but the Defenders capitalized on just about every one, which is more than you can say for some of the other teams in this league.
Getting Anthony Johnson from L.A. via trade is a huge boost to their defense. He’s one of the best defenders in the league, recording 1.5 sacks on Saturday, and one of the best interviews as well.
3. Dallas Renegades (1-1)
Last week: 6
Dallas won 25-18 over the Los Angeles Wildcats despite a garbage game from QB Landry Jones, as he himself admitted multiple times during the afternoon. Still, he was an improvement over whatever it was Philip Nelson tried to do last week. While nothing the Renegades do right now stands out, they’re a very well-rounded team who is decent enough at everything, with Jones giving them a high ceiling if he can figure things out.
4. St. Louis Battlehawks (1-1)
Last week: 5
The Battlehawks lost this week, but they looked impressive enough against a talented LA team to earn a small bump in the rankings. Jordan Ta’amu seems to be the perfect quarterback for this league, and once again put up gaudy numbers. If the refs don’t miss a clear offsides late in the game, he probably ends up leading the comeback.
This is one of the youngest teams in the league and it shows at times in the form of penalties and turnovers, but they have plenty of talent and a scheme that fits. They should only get more dangerous as the season goes on.
5.Seattle Dragons (1-1)
Last week: 7
I’m still not sold on Seattle, even after their first win of the season. First off, beating Tampa Bay doesn’t feel like an accomplishment right now. Even with the win, there’s still no sign of a passing game. Brandon Silvers attempted just 18 passes (he completed seven) and threw for only 91 yards (with 68 coming on one play).
The running game has been good, especially former Patriots practice squad back Kenneth Farrow, but it’s not good enough to put them over the top. Their defense made some nice plays on Saturday, but again … Tampa. On the plus side, they drew a pretty solid crowd for their home opener.
6.Los Angeles Wildcats (0-2)
Last week: 4
Los Angeles may have the most individual player talent in the league, yet they’re 0-2. Clearly there are issues in the locker room, which is sort of hilarious given that they’re two weeks into a start-up league meant for guys hoping to get another shot at the NFL. They traded defensive captain and their second best pass rusher Anthony Johnson to DC late in the week, then struggled to get their hands on the immobile Landry Jones.
Keep in mind that comes after they fired their defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson on Monday. Head coach Winston Moss seemed downright depressed in his postgame interview. The whole thing feels like a mess.
The upside for the Wildcats? Wide receiver Nelson Spruce seems like a real NFL prospect after posting his second consecutive monster game. A 6-foot-1 slot receiver, Spruce could be on Bill Belichick’s radar if he didn’t ignore these fringe leagues.
For the second week in a row, I’m going to give L.A. the benefit of the doubt because of their level of talent. They’ll have a tough test next week in D.C., but after that things could get ugly if they don’t show up against New York or Tampa.
7. New York Guardians (1-1)
Last week: 3
Hey, New York’s football team sucks! Who would have thought?
After last week, it looked like the Guardians were going to be a defensive problem for the entire league, but we now have a better idea what kind of team Tampa is, which puts their performance in context. After getting shutout 27-0, I think we can take them out of the conversation with the ‘85 Bears.
Instead, they seem to be the XFL version of the 2018-19 Celtics. Quarterback Matt McGloin seemed to rip into the coaching staff during his halftime interview, and continued to dispense blame after being benched in the second half.
While the team may be a mess, they’re showing us why the XFL is a draw. A QB bashing his coach mid-game? Criticizing his teammates on TV from the sideline after being benched? More please.
8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-2)
Last week: 8
As bad as Marc Trestman was as an NFL head coach, he’s worse as an XFL head coach. With Aaron Murray unavailable with a foot injury (because you can’t openly say you’re benching the guy who was supposed to be the best player in the league), Trestman turned to something called a Taylor Cornelius to play quarterback. ‘Corndog’ got picked off twice and finished with a QB rating of 44.4 in the Vipers’ 17-9 loss in Seattle.
Trestman’s issue isn’t necessarily turning to Cornelius, but once again opting not to use USF product Quinton Flowers. Flowers is a dynamic dual threat quarterback who finished second in the nation in QBR in 2016, behind only first-overall pick Baker Mayfield. Last week the Vipers offense seemed to move well in the limited snaps Flowers got, and losing Murray should have been the perfect chance to expand his role. Instead, he carried the ball only five times and threw it only seven.
The Flowers package looks promising in the rare glimpses we get of it, and clearly nothing else is working. So either Trestman needs to use it more or he could be the first XFL head coach to get fired. How embarrassing would that be? Oh, and Tampa’s Twitter game is still boring.
Barth’s Week 3 Game To Watch: DC Defenders (2-0) @ Los Angeles Wildcats (0-2), Sunday 6 p.m.
Sorry for picking an undefeated team against a winless team, but next week’s slate is pretty ehhh. That being said, this game has a chance to be a track meet, especially if Josh Johnson improves now that he has a start under his belt (he missed Week 1). Dallas at Seattle will probably be a closer game, but it’s hard to see either of those teams lighting up the scoreboard. If you like points, DC-LA is the game for you.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.