Week 1 of the XFL went about as expected, with teams going 2-2 against the spread and the under going 3-1, with one game going way over, one right near the total and two way under. Not knowing just how good the winners and how bad the losers are is still a problem. The Defenders and Roughnecks looked the best, while the Vipers, Renegades and Wildcats looked pretty awful, but injuries, matchups and a few critical plays made big impacts on Week 1.
New York Guardians at DC Defenders (-6.5)
Both teams come into this game with a win under their belt, but the Defenders looked better, as they had the most efficient passing offense in Week 1 with Cardale Jones and a top flight receiver group. The Guardians held the Vipers to just three points, but gave up the most yards of any defense. The Vipers Aaron Murray wasn’t any help with critical turnovers, but the Defenders have shown they can score and be efficient on offense.
Matt McGloin was also pressured on 47 percent of his dropbacks, second worst in the league according to PFF. That’s likely more on McGloin than them having a super porous offensive line, as he is a statue in the pocket.
I also expect Jhurell Pressley to be able to attack this defense on the ground and Jones to have more luck than a gimpy Aaron Murray had against the Guardians pass defense. The question is, can the Defenders cover the spread again this week? I think they did a good job with this number, but I also think the Defenders out-class the Guardians and have a distinct advantage across the board.
My pick: Defenders 27 - Guardians 17
Tampa Bay Vipers (-3) at Seattle Dragons
Week 2 pits two winless teams against each other at CenturyLink Field. Both teams weren’t great in Week 1, but the Dragons were able to actually find the end zone with three first half touchdown passes, as Brandon Silvers hit Austin Proehl twice for scores. But Silvers ended up with the worst PFF grade of any quarterback with more than four pass attempts. He completed just 52 percent of his passes for a poor 5.4 yards per attempt and two interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown. He also was injured toward the end of the game and hasn’t practiced this week.
The Vipers quarterback Aaron Murray wasn’t any better than Silvers, but did manage 6.8 yards per attempt. But he also hasn’t practiced this week with his own injury. B.J. Daniels would get the start if Silvers can’t go and Quinton Flowers and Taylor Cornelius would likely share work at quarterback if Murray can’t go. Flowers ability as a runner was on display last week and more usage for him isn’t likely to be a bad thing for the offense.
I like the Vipers, as they have a better rushing attack and Flowers is going to be disruptive no matter who is the starting quarterback, but traveling cross country as road favorites is troublesome, especially after their inability to score last week. But, I’m going to go against my gut here and and take the road favorites because nothing about this Dragons team gives me the feeling they can win a close game.
My pick: Vipers 20 - Dragons -15
Dallas Renegades (-4) at Los Angeles Wildcats
Here is the second game between winless teams and also the second game this week with a road favorite. The Renegades looked awful on offense last week, as they were pass heavy but mostly to players at or behind the line of scrimmage. Philip Nelson tried just two deep passes that were off target and not caught. The good news is that they should get Landry Jones back this week, which is likely why the odds are in Dallas’ favor.
The Wildcats are in all kinds of trouble at their quarterback position, as their backup, Chad Kanoff, is hurting and Josh Johnson still isn’t practicing in full. Their No. 3 quarterback, Jalan McClendon, was sacked twice and completed 1-of-4 passes for zero yards in his short time at quarterback in Week 1.
The Wildcats were scorched by Phillip Walker and also gave up an insane number of pressures as Kanoff and McClendon were pressured on over 50 percent of their dropbacks. That had a lot to do with Kony Ealy and the Roughnecks defensive line, but there was some poor blocking in there to be sure.
If both Johnson and Kanoff are out and Landry Jones starts, I don’t know how I can justify betting on the Wildcats to do much more than lay down in the fetal position.
My pick: Renegades 27 - Los Angeles 10
St. Louis BattleHawks at Houston Roughnecks (-8)
The Roughnecks put up the most points in Week 1, covering the spread and pushing the game over the point total. Only the Defenders covered and no other game went over. The question this week is if they can continue their high-scoring ways against St. Louis? The Battlehawks were challenged deep only two times and neither of the passes was accurate while the Roughnecks went 20+ yards on a pass attempt 11 times, completing four passes for two touchdowns. The efficiency wasn’t great, but the BattleHawks get a completely different passing offense to defend this week.
The Roughnecks manhandled the Wildcats offensive line and gave up the worst adjusted completion percentage in Week 1, which is good. The BattleHawks were led by Jordan Ta’amu who had an efficient game, completing 20-of-27 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown. The team went run heavy but Ta’amu was part of that, rushing nine times for 77 yards.
Will the BattleHawks be able to slow the Roughnecks enough to give their run focused offense time to work or will Ta’amu and company need to quickly scrap their plans and start dropping back, letting the Roughnecks pass rush get to work? I don’t see how the BattleHawks aren’t forced to throw more this week and we just don’t know if they can successfully do that on a consistent basis. They aren’t exactly built for it, but it sure will be interesting to see how they respond. I have more faith in the Roughnecks pass rush and passing offense than I do in the Battlehawks rushing offense, so I expect them to win, but by 8+ points?
That is a bunch of points to give, but St. Louis barely beat a Dallas team without their starting quarterback and now they go on the road again to take on what appears to be at least a Top-2 offense in the league. I was wrong about the Wildcats beating the spread in Houston last week and I think I’m going to give Houston the benefit of the doubt this week.
My pick: Roughnecks 30 - BattleHawks - 17
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