Let’s preface this with an asterisk: I really only enjoyed watching two games this weekend. The other two left me feeling blah. Much like NFL teams, without a quality QB nobody’s really going to go anywhere, no matter how hard you play. And in the XFL, like the NFL, a quality QB is a rare commodity. There are three QBs in the XFL right now who are showing star potential and could all be household names if the league hangs around for awhile, which I am really hoping it does.
— The Really Good —
PJ Walker, QB – Houston (21-31, 170 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) — Let’s get the obvious out of the way early. Right now, PJ Walker is playing the best football in the league, hands down. His ability to make plays when the pocket collapses as well as keep his feet steady while delivering some really impressive throws and always looking downfield sets him apart from the other two contenders for this spot. Considering the defense is pretty much looking at him to pass almost every play (it felt like St. Louis ran a Cover 2 Spy about 70% of the snaps), it’s impressive he has only thrown for 1 INT thus far when compared to 7 TDs.
— The Good —
Jordan Ta’amu, QB – St Louis (30-37, 284 yds, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) — Ta’amu made one bad mistake in the game (one of his interceptions came on a deflected pass, the other was simply a bad throw) but continues to dominate in the completion percentage and simply playmaking ability. Like Walker, Ta’amu is an exciting player to watch. Ta’amu could potentially be in the hunt for the MVP award as the season wears on. He simply has a lot of qualities which will keep his team in it at all times.
— The Good —
Cardale Jones, QB – DC (23-37, 276 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) — You can’t argue with results. The DC Defenders (I want to root for this team so much due to geographical purposes but lordy do I hate that name) have notched two impressive victories in a row, leaving them as one of two undefeated teams left in the XFL (PJ Walker’s Houston Renegades being the other). Cardale has been quietly guiding the Defenders and has put up some consistent numbers on the season so far. If he continues to play like this, and DC continues to win, his name could be up with Walker and Ta’amu for the league MVP.
— The Bad —
Running Backs — This seems to be an issue across the league. I understand it, actually. It’s one thing to offer pass protection on the offensive line. As a blocker, you have the advantage over the defender. In the run game, you need to understand scheme blocking as well as having the strength and quickness to move your assignment out of the way. It’s why the best O-linemen are picked up by NFL teams almost as quickly as a quality QB. That being said, I saw a lot of RPO (Run/Pass Option) plays executed on offense this week across the league and really didn’t see a lot of RBs getting the call. When they did, they usually didn’t follow their blockers very well and only a few showed patience for the hole to open up. As the season wears on and defenses adjust to the passing game, if the running backs don’t get going we’re going to see a lot of low scoring games, which is bad news (there’s a reason the NFL changed the way defenses could hamper offenses… it’s called dwindling viewership. Ignore their line about play safety). Not a single running back has hit 100 yards rushing in a single game (to be fair, Cameron Artis-Payne had 13 carries for 99 yards in Dallas’ win over Los Angeles… c’mon coach, you couldn’t give the man one more carry?) and only 3 have cracked 75 yards in a game. Not a good way to ensure your QB doesn’t become pick prone as they start throwing 40-50 times per game instead of the more manageable 30-35.
— The Ugly —
Tampa Bay Vipers — I don’t know what it is about football in Florida, but there is something in the water down there that is making everything all nasty. The Vipers have yet to score an offensive touchdown this season so far and with the way they’re playing, I don’t see one this coming week against Houston’s hyper aggressive defense. The worst thing is, Tampa Bay seems to be the only team actually running the ball regularly. Week 1 De’Veon Smith had 16 carries for 79 yards (4.9 avg) but couldn’t get in the end zone. Week 2 they trotted out Jacques Patrick (14 carries, 73 yards) to help carry the load for Smith (11 carries, 46 yards) but their quarterback play has been utter garbage. Outside of Matt Jones and the aforementioned Artis-Payne, Tampa Bay has two of the most consistent running backs in the league and yet seem unable to properly utilize them. Considering how Houston managed to shut down Jones and Ta’amu this week, I don’t see it going well in Week 3 for Tampa Bay. Is it too early to say “wait til next year”?
Overall Verdict: I’m still enjoying the XFL, though I can see a huge disparity between some of the teams. Then again, we see that in the NFL on a weekly basis as well, and with the microscope on the league, it’s hard to remember that during the average week in the NFL, with 16 games going, at least one-third of them are stinkers. The XFL has only given me two bad games so far, and both involved Tampa Bay. I’m still enjoying the kickoff, though watching teams struggle on the extra point attempts is amusing because it keeps the games closer. Once teams figure out a way to score from the 5 yard line, the scoring will improve. St. Louis alone missed at least 3 attempts this weekend, which cost them the game.
Side notes: The XFL website needs some work. It was a pain in the rear for me to dig up all the stats for this week and last. It’s not very intuitive, but this is a minor nitpicking detail on my part… all the cool XFL gear in their store is sold out. This is either very good for the league or very bad for whoever is in charge of distribution. Could go either way… average attendance across the league in Week 2 was 19,071 fans, and increase over Week 1’s average attendance of 17,455. This was in large part to a very excited Seattle Dragons fan base which drew a league record 29,172…
Week 3 Bold Predictions (home team has asterisk)
- Houston 35, *Tampa Bay 12
- Dallas 22, *Seattle 20
- *St. Louis 35, New York 33
- DC 28, *Los Angeles 16