This was actually the best week of the season, hands down. We saw a major upset (well, it was a major upset in my book), some really good shootouts and quarterbacks playing better than they have all season (and in one case, far worse). My beloved Defenders got spanked, and it wasn’t even close. Every team lays an egg once in a while but c’mon guys, against Los Angeles?
— The Really Good —
PJ Walker, QB — Houston (24-36, 306 yds, 3TDs, 0 INT — 4 carries, 34 yds, 1 TD) — I’m getting tired already of remarking at how good PJ Walker has been. I’ve heard some commentary regarding just how many veteran QBs might come “down” to the XFL to try and prove they’re NFL-caliber quarterbacks still. Sorry guys, I hate to say this, but the XFL isn’t going to be a league like the MLS, where aging stars can drop down and expect to play at a lower level for a fat payday. The XFL is quickly shaping up to be a young, dynamic QB league where the slow QB is a sacked one. Guys like Jordan Ta’amu and Cardale Jones are proving this. If you aren’t mobile and have the ability to spot check-down reads in a hurry, you’re not going to survive in the XFL. Fortunately for Houston, they have the ideal XFL quarterback in Walker. Week in and week out he has been dominating every team he plays, and his offensive line is doing a pretty good job protecting him. Unless Walker has a series of stinkers before the end of the season, or someone else has a meteoric rise, he has the MVP sewn up nice and tight. One final note: as the season moves on, Walker’s completion percentage has increased every week (61% Week 1, 65% Week 2, 67% Week 3). Something to keep an eye on more as defenses adjust and get better.
— The Good —
St. Louis Battlehawks — A balanced offense. A good defense. A playmaker at QB and a coach not afraid at taking risks. My friend Rob (he has season tickets to the Battlehawks and is a huge fan) will be thrilled to see the accolades pour to St. Louis this week. Jordan Ta’amu didn’t need to light up the stat sheet (12-18, 119 yards), although if you watched the game you will marvel at that one throw. You know which one I’m talking about. To see Matt Jones once again dominate on the ground (15 carries, 95 yards) makes my little gremlin heart beat happily. I love a good ground game. It takes a lot of pressure off the QB (hey New York, you taking notes here???) and instills a confidence into the team as a whole knowing they don’t have the rely on their QB to carry the load every single snap. Along with Christine Michael (13 carries, 44 yards) the Battlehawks averaged 4.2 YPC. And this is with Lenard Tillery’s 5 carries, 0 yards.
— The Bad —
Cardale Jones, QB — DC (13-26, 103 yds, 0 TD, 4 INTs) — Well, that was a huge letdown. Coming into this week’s game with an undefeated team behind him and a reeling LA Wildcats struggling for an identity, Jones laid a huge turd. Not only was every single interception thrown his fault, they were bad throws to boot. His first interception was so bad I had to rewind and rewatch it just to try and figure out who he was throwing it to. Even then I still wasn’t sure, because both receivers were roughly 4 yards away from the ball while the safety was wide open? I don’t know if that’s how this game is played. Hopefully this is just a blip and he’ll be back to form next week as the Defenders head down to take on the Tampa Bay Vipers. Speaking of…
— The Ugly —
Tampa Bay Vipers — Every league needs the designated whipping boy and unfortunately, this moniker has fallen upon Tampa Bay this season. This week they hung in there against Houston but a curious call by their coach led to their loss. Down by 2 in the 4th Quarter and facing 4th and 4, the Tampa Bay coach elected to go with a field goal despite there being 12:51 left in the game. At this point it looked like Tampa Bay was within easy striking distance of Houston, considering they’d been trading blows all game with neither team being quite able to deliver the knockout shot… until Tampa Bay knocked themselves out. The coach’s call took the wind out of their offense’s sail, killing their momentum and allowing Houston’s seemingly unstoppable offense back onto the field. Walker and company quickly marched down field and scored within two minutes, recapturing the lead and expanding it to 7 after the completed 2 point conversion. From there it felt like Tampa was done, and their failed red zone try the next time down the field simply lacked any heart. The interception thrown with 1:15 left to play was merely the icing on the cake. I’m not sure what’s wrong with Tampa Bay right now. This is the best they’ve played all season and hung with perhaps the best team in the league, and yet somehow they managed to still lose. If I were a Tampa Bay coach, I’d be looking at how to execute my offense more efficiently next week.
— The Other Ugly —
New York Guardians — After their Week 1 victory over Tampa Bay, it’s been all downhill for the Guardians since. Between Matt McGloin reminding everyone why the Raiders decided to go in another direction, and Head Coach Kevin Gilbride showing just how long he’s been out of pro football, I’m really confused at just how they beat Tampa Bay. I almost feel bad for their defense, because they are doing everything they can to give their offense a chance to do something, anything. I believe the problem they’re facing is they don’t have a true QB1 on their team. McGloin is a career backup, Marquise Williams has no NFL experience and is 5 years removed from college, and Luis Perez is known for a single atrocious game for the Rams back in the 2018 season. If they’re going to be a run-first team, then Coach Gilbride needs to commit, otherwise New York is going to flounder and get beat by every team in the league the rest of the way.
Overall Verdict: By far the best week of this young league we’ve had thus far, even with the previously-unbeaten DC egg laying and New York’s continued struggles. The Tampa Bay – Houston game was far closer than anyone expected it to be. Dallas is quietly making a name for themselves in spite of being overshadows by their neighbors to the southeast with Cameron Artis-Payne (13 carries, 80 yds) putting up solid numbers once again. Get him the ball, coach.
Side Notes: Weekly average attendance is up this week once again, even with the no-show crowd in Los Angeles… One of these days the NFL and XFL will learn that football isn’t nearly as popular in Los Angeles as baseball and basketball are… Week 3 average attendance was 20,486. Week 2 was 19,071…
Week 4 Bold Predictions (Home Team Marked with Asterisk)
- Los Angeles 34, *New York 10
- *St. Louis 28, Seattle 18
- Houston 30, *Dallas 28
- DC 24, *Tampa Bay 20
Week 3 Record — (3 – 1)
Season Record — (9 – 3)