The Squared Root: XFL Week 5 Review

The half point of the inaugural season! Week five continued to cluttered things in the Eastern conference; three teams in the conference have an identical 3-2 record heading into the second half of the season. The Western conference is starting to see a battle for second place unfold. Three teams in the West have losing records and Houston is starting to separate themselves further as the team to beat. A coaching change has been made for one of the west teams, as Dallas made a change at the offensive coordinator position.

Note: As always, the numbers in front of the team names is the power rankings from AFNN’s Mark Angst heading into the week! Look for his updated power rankings every Wednesday! 

(8)Seattle Dragons – 23 v. (1)Houston Roughnecks – 32

The Dragons came into the game a major underdog, as BJ Daniels got his first start. The defense created three turnovers and the Dragons scored 15 points off of turnovers. Daniels had 144 combined total yards, rushing for two touchdowns but failed to throw for a touchdown. Austin Proehl continues to be the Dragons’ most reliable wide receiver catching three passes for 56 yards. A slow start for the Roughnecks, but the second half was dominant. MVP candidate, PJ Walker threw for 351 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Cam Phillips returned to form after a down week in Dallas and caught 10 passes for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Roughnecks got a good boost from the running game as they ran over 100 yards combined on the day. Houston shutout the Dragons in the fourth quarter. The Roughnecks outgained the Dragons 440-201. Controversy surrounded the ending of this game as PJ Walker took a knee at his own 22 with 2 seconds left in the game on fourth down. The refs ended the game and Seattle never got a play to officially end the game.

Thoughts: The XFL released a statement admitting their error and reassigning the supervising official of the game. It was a quick, swift response that we would have never been subjected to at the NFL level. The Dragons mildly exposed the Roughnecks in this game and may have contributed to the blueprint on how to beat Houston. The defensive line continually beat Houston off the ball and created pressure on Walker. Houston wins another tough game, as they’re showing the fortitude to win close games; all five of their games have been decided by one possession or less. Houston continues to get unexpected production from James Butler and they’ll need that running game to continue to produce if they want to run the table. Seattle, despite the one win, still isn’t out of the playoff hunt in the West but they need better production from their wide receivers.

(6)New York Guardians – 30 v. (3)Dallas Renegades – 12

The Guardians traveled to Dallas looking to gain traction in the Eastern playoff picture. Luis Perez got his second straight start and it proved to be the best decision for Kevin Gilbride. The Guardians opened up the field and Perez delivers throwing for 229 yards and a touchdown. He did throw a pick but overall, he eliminated his mistakes. Three running backs for NY combined for 125 yards rushing and Perez added another 10 the total. Mekale McKay was finally a focal point in the offense catching 3 passes for 67 yards and Colby Pearson continues to become New York’s go to receiver as he hauled in 5 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. The Renegades turned to backup QB Phillip Nelson and the results weren’t good. Nelson threw for 210 yards but averaged a dismal 4.3 yards per attempt and 2 picks. He didn’t throw a touchdown and added 19 yards on the ground. Cameron Artis-Payne, the breakout running back, was held in check and ran for 25 yards on 6 attempts. Flynn Nagel continues to be the security net in this air raid offense catching 7 passes for 46 yards.

Thoughts: Two teams heading in different directions. Landry Jones hasn’t been the pillar of consistence but the Dallas offense seems to move more fluidly when he’s in the game. Nelson, who needed a good showing, flat out disappointed and it hurt the Renegades. Nelson will get another opportunity next week with Landry still out. Next week is a must win for Dallas, especially considering the second playoff spot in the West is still up for grabs. New York’s upset victory clutters the Eastern conference’s playoff picture. They needed help in the D.C and St. Louis game and their wish was granted. The Guardians need to continue opening up the playbook and Perez needs to play mistake free football but New York can easily surprise people and make the playoffs.

(2)St. Louis BattleHawks – 6 v. (5)D.C. Defenders – 15

Coming into the week, the BattleHawks were one of the hottest teams in the league. The “favorite” to win the Eastern conference, St. Louis’ QB Jordan Ta’amu had been working his way into the MVP talks. This game was not his best performance, Ta’amu threw for 174 yards and only added another 31 on the ground. The running back duo of Matt Jones and Christine Michael ran for a combined 139 yards but were stopped twice in D.C.’s red zone on fourth and one. The lone bright spot, L’Damien Washington, caught 5 passes for 114 yards but couldn’t find the end zone. The BattleHawks failed to find the end zone of the first time this season. The Defenders turned to Tyree Jackson, after Cardale Jones threw another pick, his sixth in three games. Jackson’s first drive ended in a touchdown pass to TE Khari Lee, but he only threw for 39 yards. He added another 32 yards on 7 attempts on the ground. Jhurrell Pressley put together the best game of his young season running for 107 yards on 15 attempts. The D.C. defense returned to form after a miserable two weeks keeping St. Louis out of the end zone and making two huge plays on fourth and one inside their own red zone.

Thoughts: The Defenders were the most baffling team heading into week five. After looking like one of the best teams in the league, they put up two dreadful performances against two winless teams. They responded. The shut down the BattleHawks and looked like one of the better teams in the league, at least defensively. They need to get this offense figured out because it’s struggling. Tyree Jackson provided a mild spark but the offense still lacked explosive plays. Head coach Pep Hamilton said Cardale Jones will be the starter moving forward, but they need him to return to form in order become a threat. St. Louis had an off week. Away teams continue to struggle and St. Louis was bit by the bug this week. It’s likely just an off game for St. Louis and they’re still one of the best teams in the league. The loss to St. Louis, paired with the D.C and NY wins, makes the top three spots in the East bunched together with 3-2 records.

(4)Tampa Bay Vipers – 34 v. (7)Los Angeles Wildcats – 41

Riding high into the week, Tampa Bay launched up power rankings with the shut out win over D.C. A tough road trip to the west coast and a late start time didn’t stop Tampa Bay from making a statement. Despite the loss, Tampa Bay outgained LA 434 to 345, Taylor Cornelius threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions, including another at the end of the game deep in opponent’s territory which slammed the door shut on the Vipers’ comeback bid. De’Veon Smith led the team in rushing with 69 yards but it was his teammate Jacques Patrick who scored the only rushing touchdown. Reece Horn finally became a major player in this offense catching 9 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Jalen Tolliver added 4 for 96 and a touchdown and Daniel Williams continued his impressive season adding 5 catches for 86 yards, as well. Josh Johnson, trying to keep LA afloat, threw for 288 yards and 4 touchdowns. He added an interception, as well. Nine different players caught passes from Johnson led by Jordan Smallwood, who caught 4 passes for 86 yards. All four of Johnson’s touchdowns were caught by four different players including Tre McBride who has become one of Johnson’s favorite targets in this young season. The win for LA ties them with Dallas for second in the West.

Thoughts: What a game! The second game in Taylor Cornelius’ young career where he had a chance for late game heroics and a chance to tie or win the game. He threw a pick this time but Tampa Bay has to be impressed with his progression. The loss is crushing, though. With D.C. and New York winning, it essentially ends Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes. There’s an outside shot but they need a lot to fall into place as when head into the second half of the season. Despite, the two tough losses late, Cornelius is the best option for Tampa Bay to win moving forward. Josh Johnson is doing everything he can to keep this team in the playoff picture. LA needs more from their running game in order to maintain this level of play and secure a playoff spot. The defense is still struggling and that could spell nightmare for them in the second half if they don’t find a way to improve and shut down opposing offenses.

Offensive Player of the Week: Josh Johnson QB. Los Angeles Wildcats – 20/36 for 288 yards and 4 touchdowns

Defensive Player of the Week: Siupeli Anau DE, D.C. Defenders – 4 tackles, sack, forced fumble and fourth down stop

Special Team Player of the Week: Austin Walter RB, Dallas Renegades – 235 return yards and a touchdown

Look for Mark Angst’s Power Rankings on Wednesday and look for the brand new audio column from AFNN’s Kevin Drake, where he’ll breakdown the upcoming weekend games in his preview and prediction piece. And of course, XFL Now every Thursday at 7PM EST where our panel breaks down the games and news from the league! 

~Michael Washington-Weeks

Host and Analyst of XFL Now and AFN Live