By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The XFL has officially made it to the midway point of its inaugural season without folding. Take that doubters!
While we could have some fun with mid-season MVPs and the like, Week 5 had everybody talking about the XFL referees. There were a number of questionable calls this week, but the end of the Houston-Seattle game in the early Saturday window stands out.
Houston had the ball on fourth down with four seconds to go. Instead dropping back and humming the ball into the stands, PJ Walker tried to take a delayed knee, but ended up going down early. While the game clock ran out, replay clearly showed there should have been two seconds left on the clock. Seattle should have had one more play from the 22 yard line in a league where a nine-point game is a one-score difference.
The league’s officiating supervisor Wes Booker went on the ESPN broadcast in the ensuing chaos, and admitted even though the refs screwed up, they were declaring the game ‘over.’
So there’s the ugly. However, how the league handled the situation should set a new standard for holding officials accountable. The XFL quickly released a statement admitting their mistake. That included an announcement that Booker had been ‘reassigned’ following his appearance on the broadcast.
Imagine the NFL handling an officiating controversy that immediately and transparently? Never.
Anyways, on to this week’s Power Rankings…
1. Houston Roughnecks (5-0)
Last week: 1
The Houston Roughnecks checked off another box this week, proving they can win from behind in their 32-23 victory over Seattle. After falling down 14 points early, the Roughnecks slowly made their way back, taking the lead halfway through the fourth quarter. They finished the game on a 32-9 run.
Quarterback PJ Walker and wide receiver Cam Phillips continue to prove they belong at the next level. Walker struggled early but finished with 351 yards and three touchdowns. 122 of those yards and two of those touchdowns went to Phillips, who recorded 10 catches on 13 targets.
2. New York Guardians (3-2)
Last week: 6
It feels like there’s a new number two team every week, and it just feels wrong to put any of the three 3-2 teams right behind Houston because they all have somewhat major questions or obvious flaws. Still, this week the honor goes to the Guardians.
With Matt McGloin in the rear view mirror, New York has returned to the successful team we saw early in the season. Luis Perez seems to be much more in sync with the rest of the offense. The biggest beneficiary has been wide receiver Mekale McKay. Perez’s deep ball has allowed the Guardians offense to unlock McKay’s game breaking ability.
Through two weeks it looked like New York’s defense would be the best unit in the league, and after a couple of off games they’re shaping back into form. They turned in three turnovers in Saturday’s win, and held the Renegades to just 3.3 yards per play. They’ll face a massive test next week when they get a visit from the Houston Renegades.
3. DC Defenders (3-2)
Last week: 3
DC got back on track, albeit without Cardale Jones. Jones was benched early in their win over St. Louis for former Buffalo Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson. Jackson only threw the ball 14 times, but was able to manage the offense and avoid turnovers. Jhurell Pressley picked up the slack rushing for 107 yards on 15 carries.
This continues a trend early in the XFL season with teams benching their bigger name quarterbacks and becoming more run focused on offense. Both Tampa Bay and New York saw success after following a similar formula over the last few weeks. It will be interesting to see what if any effect this has on the ratings, with closer games but less big name players.
Perhaps these legendary cup snakes will keep people tuning in:
4. St. Louis Battlehawks (3-2)
Last week: 2
St. Louis is undefeated at home but now just 1-2 on the road after falling to DC 15-6 on Sunday. Jordan Ta’amu was finally contained and the rest of the Battlehawks offense failed to rise to the occasion. Key areas were killer for St. Louis’ offense. They were 4-for-16 on offense and 0-for-3 in the red zone.
The red zone issues are particularly concerning with a quarterback like Ta’amu, who is truly a dual-threat. The Battlehawks have to find ways for the offense to perform when he’s not 100 percent on his game, especially on the road.
They’re still the best special teams unit in the league though:
5. Dallas Renegades (2-3)
Last week: 4
Dallas just isn’t going to be the same team without Landry Jones, and their 30-12 loss to New York this week showed that. Jones wasn’t putting up major numbers, but his ability to understand and direct Hal Mumme’s offense and take care of business before the snap was invaluable.
Given how some other teams have succeeded after switching to moblie quarterbacks, it may be time to give former Syracuse star Eric Dungey a look.
6. Los Angeles Wildcats (2-3)
Last week: 7
Los Angeles’ offense has had up-and-down games, but this week was a case of up-and-down laves. Down 17-0 and 24-6 in the second quarter, the Wildcats flipped a switch at halftime, putting up 21 second-half points in their 41-34 win.
The defense was able to seal the win behind four turnovers, including a game-sealing scoop and score in the fourth quarter. This was the team Los Angeles should be given their abundance of talent, we’ll see if they can build on this performance next week.
7. Tampa Bay Vipers (1-4)
Last week: 5
Tampa’s offense appeared just in time for their defense to fall apart. They allowed the first 40-point game in XFL history, wasting a 34-point performance from the offense. Los Angeles was five-for-five in the red zone, a rarity in this league.
The curious case of Quinton Flowers continued as he returned to action after demanding a trade last week. Flowers recorded just a handful of snaps, but no official touches. While he looks like he could be the key to unlocking this offense, it doesn’t appear Marc Trestman thinks so.
8. Seattle Dragons (1-4)
Last week: 8
Once again, Seattle played a close game and lost. There isn’t much more to say at this point. They’re in every game but never win. B.J. Daniels has some pop and the defense isn’t awful, so they still can be dangerous down the stretch, but right now they’re in danger of running themselves out of contention too early.
Barth’s Week Five Game You Should Watch: Houston Roughnecks (5-0) @ New York Guardians (3-2), Saturday 2 p.m.
A top offense versus a top defense is always a good game, right? Houston’s top scoring offense visits New York, who has allowed the second fewest points of any team this season. With Luis Perez now under center, will the Guardians be able to limit the Roughneck’s explosive plays on both sides of the ball and hand them their first loss? We’ll find out on Saturday.
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.