By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Week 4 saw major movement across the XFL. From Tampa’s first win to a major quarterback injury, the picture is just as cloudy as ever.
Five of the eight teams are now at least .500, and parity can only be good for a league like this. While Houston continues to roll, they’ve been taken to the brink twice in the last two weeks. The battle for the second-best team feels like it’s being fought between three or four teams, and even the squads at the bottom have shown some sort of promise at one point or the other during the season.
What does that mean for the Power Rankings this week? Let’s take a look:
1. Houston Roughnecks (4-0)
Last week: 1
Only four weeks in and I’m already running out of things to say about PJ Walker. He continues to impress week after week, and this time did so despite the Dallas defense blanketing his top receiver Cam Phillips.
The Roughnecks defense made a statement as well with five turnovers, including three interceptions in the first quarter. This team is a wagon, plain and simple.
2. St. Louis Battlehawks (3-1)
Last week: 4
St. Louis has become the best story of the XFL, especially when they play at home in the packed dome. Jordan Ta’amu continues to take over games and De’Mornay Pierson-El is emerging as one of the top receiving threats in the league.
Defensively, the Battlehawks continue to play sound, complimentary team football. Despite only forcing one turnover (which is low for this league) they held Seattle to 3-of-10 on third down and to just 11 first downs overall. The only question left is will their success travel outside of the dome after two straight games at home? They’re in D.C. next week.
3. DC Defenders (2-2)
Last week: 3
DC got blown out in back-to-back weeks by two squads who looked to be among the worst in the league. That 2-0 start feels like ages ago.
The struggles of a losing team were in full display for the nation when a live mic caught quarterback Cardale Jones calling for benchings. On the plus side, the last two teams who had open strife on a broadcast went on to win their next game, but things could get ugly fast for Pep Hamilton’s club. Their end of the third quarter tweet said things best.
4. Dallas Renegades (2-2)
Last week: 2
Dallas hung in there with Houston in the Texas Throwdown, but that’s not the story right now. Quarterback Landry Jones suffered a serious knee injury late in the game on a QB sneak and is expected to be out four to six weeks. That’s a concerning number in the XFL considering a six week injury would cost Jones the rest of the season.
While Jones had been struggling, he’s still a much better option than Phillip Nelson, who started week one in the Renegades only previous loss. The only other quarterback on the roster is Syracuse product Eric Dungey, who is more of a Taysom Hill-type. If I’m the Renegades, I get on the phone with Tampa as soon as possible after Quinton Flowers demanded his release earlier this week.
5. Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3)
Last week: 7
After a week of turmoil, the Vipers finally won a game! Tampa finally got things going on the ground with both running backs going for over 100 yards. Taylor Cornelius, starting over a healthy Aaron Murray, did enough to handle things in between runs and not give a struggling D.C. team any chances to jump back into the game.
I’m still not totally convinced Tampa isn’t the stumbling, bumbling team we saw to start the year, but that’s the second straight strong performance from Marc Trestman’s squad. If he’s willing to embrace this running identity going forward, they have a chance to not get left behind.
6. New York Guardians (2-2)
Last week: 8
The Guardians’ first win since Week 1 was spurred by a QB change with former D-II player of the year Luis Perez taking over the offense. While Perez didn’t put up monster numbers, he didn’t turn the ball over, something that has plagued New York throughout the season.
New York’s defense was aided by a pair of field goal misses, allowing 14 points despite 350 yards from the Los Angeles offense. Other teams will be able to turn that kind of production into points, so the Guardians will have to clean that up if they want to consistently win with Perez.
7. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3)
Last week: 5
Los Angeles failed to follow up their league-record 39 point performance last week with anything close to that sort of production. Josh Johnson didn’t look the same without Nelson Spruce as the Wildcats struggled in and near the red area, repeatedly settling for field goals which they ended up missing.
It’s time to wonder if all the talent on their roster is enough to get them by as other teams start to play better together with reps under their belt. The Wildcats need chemistry, and fast. Winston Moss also made some, we’ll call them interesting decisions throughout the game. This clip is right before he decided to go for a 4th & 2 inside his own 30.
8. Seattle Dragons (1-3)
Last week: 6
Another close game, but another loss for the Seattle Dragons. Jim Zorn finally gave backup quarterback B.J. Daniels a shot with some positive results, but it wasn’t enough to get over the hump in St. Louis.
The defense continues to play well, but they may have to start doing the scoring themselves if the offense remains this anemic. Next week’s trip to Houston isn’t exactly what this team needs right now. They have the least to be excited about of any team in the XFL.
Barth’s Week Five Game You Should Watch: St. Louis Battlehawks (3-1) @ DC Defenders (2-2), Sunday 3 p.m.
Both of these teams have a lot to prove, and the winner gets the inside track on first place in the XFL’s East division. The Battlehawks are trying to win out of the dome for the first time since Week 1. Meanwhile, Cardale Jones and the Defenders are at a crossroads. Are they the dominant team we saw through for the first two weeks, or the team that got run out of the building the last two? Next week’s slate as a whole should yield pretty good games, but this one has the highest stakes.