The Squared Root: XFL Week 3 in Review
Week three is in the books! It was the week of firsts: the first kickoff return for a touchdown, the first loss for one of the undefeated teams, a first offensive touchdown, a first defeat for an once undefeated quarterback, and a first win for a winless team. The Western Conference tighten up in the standings, while the Eastern Conference is starting to see some separation between the four teams. Quarterback play was significantly better across the league this week in comparison to week two. The season is only ten games and we should start seeing some movements among several teams as they look to improve in areas they need help. Let’s dive into the week three review!
Note: As always the numbers in front of each team is the power ranking from AFNN’s Mark Angst’s power rankings leading into the week.
(2)Houston Roughnecks – 34 v. (8)Tampa Bay Vipers – 27
The Roughnecks went on the road this week and marched into Tampa riding high. The Vipers finally got some offensive momentum and scored their first offensive touchdown of the year. The Vipers defense is the strongest part of this team, but they met their match with the high powered Roughnecks’ offense. PJ Walker and Cam Phillips continued their dominant offensive play by connecting one three touchdowns for the second straight week. Taylor Cornelius, the Vipers backup quarterback, had to fight off the Roughnecks defensive line and “We Want Flowers” chants from 18,000 fans, to put together a very respectable game. Cornelius had the Vipers in position to win the game but failed on a fourth down play to end the game. PJ Walker was the XFL’s second QB to go over 300 yards passing, Cam Phillips caught 8 passes for 194 yards and 3 TDs and Houston got a surprising boost from their run game as James Butler ran for 72 yards on 7 carries.
Thoughts: PJ Walker and Cam Phillips has been the XFL’s version of the perfect marriage. Walker is the consensus front runner for early season MVP, but I’m going to make a case for teammate Cam Phillips. Through three games, Phillips has seven touchdowns including back-to-back three touchdown performances. The Vipers finally saw life on offense and Cornelius was disrespected by fans from the start of the game. Tampa Bay should get back starting QB Aaron Murray next week, which will be interesting to see if there’s any disruption switching quarterbacks for the offense. The Vipers defense got exposed with the deep threat and moving forward is something they’ll need to correct if they want to try and steal the second spot in the East. TB should also see the debut of CFL great SJ Green as he reunites with his CFL head coach next week. TB is trending in the right direction despite being 0-3 through the first three weeks.
(4)Dallas Renegades – 24 v. (5)Seattle Dragons – 12
The tale of two halves, AGAIN, for the Renegades. Dallas struggled in the first half and went into the half losing 12-6, but bounced back nicely in the second half to outscore the Dragons 18-0 on their way to a win. Landry Jones overcame two first half interceptions to end his day throwing for three touchdowns and 274 yards. The surprising emergence of Cameron Artis-Payne has been a nice boost for Dallas as he turned in another good performance with 110 total yards. Emerging TE star, Donald Parham, had a huge day, as he caught 5 passes for 101 yards and 2 TDs. The Dragons’ defense played really well, but lost steam down the stretch as the offense faltered causing the defense to spend a lot time on the field. QB Brandon Silvers had a great bounce back week after a dreadful performance in week two’s win, but the Seattle receivers were still exposed by the Renegades secondary. Silvers threw for 204 yards and 2 TDs but threw a pick and failed to duplicate the same success he had in the early part of the game in the second half. The three-headed RB monster was shut down by the fast and explosive Dallas defense, as all three combined failed to reach 100 yards collectively on the ground.
Thoughts: The most surprising part of the season for Dallas, so far, is the defense. It’s established itself as one of the best defensive units in the league. The offense is still struggling in the first half of games and they need to figure it out and they need to figure it out fast. Despite the win, the Dragons could have easily beaten them if they could have connected on a couple plays and Dallas can’t continually fall behind in their games if they want to play for a Championship. Seattle needs wide receiver help badly. They lack a WR who can take the top off of a defense which is surprising because they lack size, as well. Kasen Williams should be returning for week four but the question remains as to whether or not he’ll make that big of a difference. Austin Proehl has been the sole bright spot for Seattle in the passing game but he lacks the ability to take over games. They need to find a way to keep those dynamic running backs involved and they have to utilize TE Evan Rodriguez more, as well. The one thing this game proved is that the Western Conference is going to be a tight race to the end of the regular season.
(7)New York Guardians – 9 v. (3)St. Louis BattleHawks – 29
Football returned to St. Louis with a thunderous roar and a perfect gameplan – as well the perfect kickoff return! St. Louis now owns the distinct pleasure of being the first team in the XFL with a kickoff return for a touchdown. The BattleHawks rushed for 156 yards as a team on their way to controlling the game and rising XFL star Jordan Ta’amu wasn’t asked to do much as he only threw the ball 18 times, completing 12 passes for a lackluster 119 yards. Matt Jones continued to extend his XFL league rushing lead as he ran for 95 yards on 15 attempts and 1 TD. Christine Michael added another 44 yards on the ground and a touchdown of his own. Kenny Robinson, the only XFL player who had college eligibility left before joining the BattleHawks, had a defensive touchdown adding to his resume for the upcoming NFL draft. The Guardians, the traveling XFL circus, continued to struggle offensively. McGloin got hurt, Marquise Williams got benched, and YouTube QB, and internet cult leader, Luis Perez led the only offensive touchdown drive of the game late in the fourth, or also known as garbage time. The lone bright spot for the Guardians was the running game as Tim Cook and Darius Victor ran for a combined 100 yards. The Guardians and BattleHawks also had a few fights as tempers got heated throughout the second half of this game.
Thoughts: The Guardians failed all game to stop the BattleHawks’ running game which meant a clean pocket for Ta’amu when he needed to throw. The frustrations from week two boiled over into week three as the Guardians are falling apart all over the place. The issues translated onto the field as several players for NY let their tempers get the best of them and fights ensued. St. Louis is going to be rocking and celebrating for a week as the city saw their returning football team get an impressive win. The BattleHawks might be the most complete team in the XFL and Ta’amu has proven that he’s going to be tough to beat when the important games come down to the wire. The most impressive player on this offense to this point is Matt Jones, the ex-Washington Redskins running back, who struggled with fumbles during his NFL run. Terrance Garvin and Dexter McCoil are early candidates for defensive player of the year for St. Louis, as well.
(1)D.C. Defenders – 9 v. (6)Los Angeles Wildcats – 39
The Defenders traveled cross country to the west coast, or that was what was supposed to happen, but we’re not quite sure if they ever left Washington. The Defenders were decimated by the improving LA Wildcats, as the D.C. couldn’t get out of the gate and were left licking their wounds in their first away game. Arguably the best QB in the league, Cardale Jones threw up the worst performance of the young season by throwing 4 interceptions. This was Cardale Jones first loss as a starter in his football career. He didn’t lead the offense on a single touchdown-ending scoring drive, but he did lead them to a field goal, if that counts? To pair with those four interceptions, Jones only threw for 103 yards, as well. Revenge was the narrative – but not for Rashad Ross or Anthony Johnson – but Wildcats’ WR Tre McBride. McBride has a coming out party and he caught 5 passes for 109 yards and 2 TDs. Josh Johnson reminded everyone he’s not to be slept on and had an impressive 276 yards and 3 TDs. Nelson Spruce had a quiet game but still put up 75 yards on 3 catches. Martez Carter became the second XFL player to score three touchdowns in a single game as he ran for two and caught another.
Thoughts: There’s not much to say about this game. A classic trap game for D.C. and they disappointed their fans in a bad way. The Wildcats dominated the entire game from opening kickoff to the end of the game. Cardale Jones looked out of his element and the improving Wildcats defense pounced on every opportunity. D.C. will need to fix a lot of mistakes and learn from it moving forward to remain in contention as the top team in, not just the Eastern Conference, but the entire XFL. The Wildcats are improving. The win sets them up nicely to tighten up the Western Conference and they put the most points in the XFL through three weeks. If they want to sneak into a playoff spot, they’ll have to continue to get better. Their toughest challenge is they have three away games in the next four weeks as they enter their toughest stretch of their schedule.
Offensive Player of the Week: Cam Phillips, WR Houston Roughnecks – 8 catches for 194 yards and 3 TDs
Defensive Player of the Week: Steven Johnson, LB Seattle Dragons – 14 total tackles(5 assists)
Special Teams Player of the Week: Joe Powell, St. Louis BattleHawks – 84 yard kickoff return for a TD
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!
AFN Live Co-Host and XFL Now Analyst