What a great week of games. Every one had a good story in it. What some consider the best team versus the worst was a tight, fun game to watch. The other 2 - 0 versus 0 - 2 game had the "worse" team get the biggest win by points of any game this year. The St. Louis game had the first kickoff return TD. And the Dallas game had the Roughnecks come from behind in a high scoring fourth quarter. Good stuff.
I hit 3-1 for the third week in a row. Was doing good on my spreads, only missing by 13 points through 3 games. Then I got punched in the gut hard missing by 47 in the Wildcats game, for a total of 60 (4,4,5,47).
Roughnecks vs Vipers: 34 - 27: The Vipers may be 0 - 3 but they certainly held their own against what many consider the best team in the XFL. If Tampa Bay can get their QB position stabilized they could go on a little run.
Renegades vs Dragons: 24 - 12: Like last week, Dallas really came alive in the second half out scoring Seattle 18-0. Jones had another good game throwing for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dallas now leads the league in passing and total yards.
Guardians vs Battlehawks: 9 - 29: Strait to the point, New York did not look good. They played a great first half of their first game but have since taken a bit of a beating. St. Louis is 2 - 1 and their only loss was to 3 - 0 Houston by a slim four points.
Defenders vs Wildcats: 9 - 39: Now that was a turnaround, 0 -2 beating 2 - 0. And not just beating them but dominating all phases of the game, while scoring the most of any team through the first three weeks.
We had our first Kickoff return for a touchdown this week. We knew one was coming just by random chance of course, but you could also see the teams getting a little bit more polished each week, fine tuning the new formation. St. Louis felt good enough with the basics they then added a reverse to their play. A blocker, third from the left on the kicking line of scrimmage, dropped back and looped around to catch the pitch by the returner and was then gone down the right sideline.
After only three weeks I am willing to go ahead and say this XFL tweak for kickoffs will be here to stay. I am talking in football as whole and not just the XFL. I think other leagues will adopt some form of this or make it almost unreturnable like the NFL.
We also had our first double forward pass, albeit an unplanned, unconventional one. It was in the Dallas game and Landry dropped back to pass. He fired it downfield but right before the LOS it was batted back at him. It bounced off another player and then Jones caught it. He then quickly regrouped and fired it downfield to Lance Dunbar for a 16-yard game. Nice way to introduce that rule, making a really neat play out of it.
DC also technically had a double forward pass, but the first pass was a simple 1-yard underhand pitch, almost like a handoff. And then he ran a bit and lateralled it back to the QB who passed it downfield. So, unless you were looking close it really didn't even appear to be a double-forward pass. But I guess at least theirs was a called play.
The St. Louis dome gave us another over 29,000 attendance game, just barely edging Seattle for the record so far. I ranked this stadium environment first in one of my preseason articles and they delivered. They came across loud, passionate and looked great on TV. There was tons of blue, and the white rally towels almost constantly waving. The St. Louis fans were some of the most passionate and verbal in Twitterverse during the buildup year and they showed it wasn't just an internet thing.
Phillip and Phillips are killing it. The lawfirmish QB/Receiver duo are dominating their respective positions. Phillip Walker has more TDs than any other entire team. And Cam Phillips is averaging 108 yards receiving per game. That is 28 yards per game more than the next guy.
We might have found our answer on the most popular point after touchdown. The one and twos have run pretty even the first two weeks with almost no threes. Then this week we had 5 and 4 attempts on the one and threes, respectively. Then there were fourteen, 2-pointers. It was only one week but going for two almost three times more than the others sure make it seem like the coaches have found what they like.
It makes sense going for two. On the one pointer the defense can guess more toward the run as there isn’t much room to run routes and break open. “Wait” you say, “I see 10-yard routes run all the time.” Yes, you may indeed but the problem on the endzone is “everyone” must run the under 10-yard route, so it gets much more crowded when you can’t send at least one guy deeper. Then on the three pointers the defense will lean much more toward the pass as 10-yard runs are rare. So, on the twos that extra three yards can really help run the routes, see a successful run and keep the defense more honest.
81,942: Number of fans for week three in the XFL. Attendance has increased every week so far. That might be hard pressed to keep exceeding it every week, but that is a great sign to be climbing on weeks two and three.
38,327: For comparison sake this is the attendance for week four in the AAF last year. We may not break 81,000 this week but I am pretty sure we won’t lose half of our people either. Attendance is about right on what was predicted/hoped as the XFL was shooting for averaging around 20,000 per venue each week. Hopefully we can keep it up.
61: Percentage of PATs that were for two points. This week the teams certainly leaned on going for two after touchdowns, using the one and three options much more situationally. When the score of the other team didn’t dictate going for a specific amount the teams almost always went for two.
58: Yard field goal by St. Louis’ Taylor Russolino. This team has a couple huge legs in their kicking game. Their punter can boot the laces off the ball as well.
14: Combined tackles for Steven Johnson against Dallas last week. He now has 32 for the season, almost 40% more than the next guy.
10: Number of touchdown passes Phillip Walker of Houston has through three games. He has bowled a turkey in all three games and hit four in week 2.
2-2-1: Stat line for Landry Jones on one play during last week’s game. 2 completion on 2 attempts, and 1 reception. Pretty impressive for one guy on one play.
XFL Plus Player of the Week
Mike Stevens, CB: Los Angeles Wildcats – Stevens picked off Cardale Jones twice. Multiple interceptions by one player are much rarer than say a 300-yard 3 TD game by a QB. So anytime someone gets two in a game they have a good chance of landing in my POW. For good measure Stevens also had a sack, six combined tackles and even a special teams tackle. He was all over the field and played a huge part in their 30-point win.
Last Week Questions Answered
Will a running back step up? Not significantly, but Matt Jones and Cameron Artis-Payne are leading the pack. And Jones has been oh so close to breaking 100-yards the last two weeks. Overall the teams are still using quite a bit of separate runners in the games. Dallas may have only used two their last game, but the DC vs LA game had thirteen different people carry the rock.
Will a team on the ropes box it out? Well, that was for dang sure. The 0 – 2 Wildcats came out swinging and played like the best team in the league last week. They won all aspects of the game play and crushed previously unbeaten DC by thirty.
Which New York team will we get this week? It was pretty clear we got the bad New York as they lost by 20. They have only scored one touchdown in the past two weeks. Not looking good at 1-2 and are on the verge of us not asking which NY team will show up.
Will Seattle or St. Louis win the home opener attendance battle? That was a close one. St Louis edged Seattle, 29,554 to 29,172. It was kind of strange how the first four home openers in week one were all at 17,000 people. And then what everyone thought would be the two biggest were also even, in the 29,000 range.
Fab Four + 1
Houston Roughnecks, 3 – 0: Houston has the leading passer, leading receiver and 4th leading rusher in the league. Their QB is the biggest star in the league through the first three weeks. They are looking every bit the part of the number 1 team in the league.
Dallas Renegades, 2 – 1: This one was tough between the three next teams. DC would be here if they hadn’t lost by 30 last week. I think St. Louis and Dallas have been pretty close over the first three games as far as play and margin of wins. However, I give the nod to Dallas because they didn’t have their starting quarterback for one of the games and were still pretty even with the Battlehawks.
Washington DC Defenders, 2 – 1: As I mentioned above DC would be here if they hadn’t gotten such a shellacking from a previously winless team last week. I have a feeling they will bounce back strong this week.
St. Louis Battlehawks, 2 – 1: This next week could go a long way in helping me decide where the Battlehawks fit in. They look good and solid in most aspects. But I just haven’t noticed as many wow moments as some others. But ‘good’ and ‘solid’ can go a long way in football games. So, we will see.
Los Angeles Wildcats, 1 – 2: Great win last week. Not only just a win but a dominating performance in all phases winning by 30. They play New York this week and if they get a win and go from 0 – 2 last week to 2 – 2 in impressive fashion again it would vault them right into the discussion for top two or three teams in the league.
The Week That Is
Los Angeles at New York: Los Angeles by 10 – I do think the Wildcats keep it going. They played so well last week, and New York has not played their best the last ten quarters. The Wildcats also lead the league in takeaways with nine. Los Angeles gets to five hundred.
Seattle at St. Louis: St Louis by 12 – Matt Jones gets his first 100-yard rushing game. And Ta’amu throws for 2 TDs in a somewhat low scoring game.
Houston at Dallas: Dallas by 4 – I think Dallas finally gets its offense going all game instead of just the second half. I believe we are going to have a bit of a shootout with Landry Jones hitting his grove in his third game back.
Washington DC at Tampa Bay: DC by 9 – My gut told me to go with LA last week for an upset, but my rational thoughts overrode it. I was wrong. My gut doesn’t tell me the Vipers will get the update this time. But DC will not dominate them. I actually hope I am wrong again, so we don’t have any more winless teams in the league.
Four Questions I Want Answered
Which will give in, Houston’s scoring machine or Dallas’ leading defense? Dallas leads the league in least points allowed with 45. Houston leads the league with 13 touchdowns. I am curious which one of these sides is going to keep it rolling this week.
Can the Defenders bounce back? After suffering the biggest loss in the league so far (30 points) this year, the Defenders really need a win. I know, they are still 2 – 1. But they play a winless team again this week. If they first lose to a 0 – 2 team and then a 0 – 3 team the next week it would not play well with their confidence, or gel well in the locker room.
Can Tampa Bay save their season with a win? Same game as the question above so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Tampa Bay is 0 – 3 and starting 0 – 4 in a 10-game season will effectively take them out of the running for probably the rest of the year. For the sake of the league and good meaningful games all year, I hope they pull it out.
Is Los Angeles the 0 – 2 team or the one that just won by 30 points? And that 30-point win was against what some considered the best team in the league through the first two weeks. They play New York this week, who has not been playing well the last couple games. They may just keep the steam roller going.
Week three was a good one. The teams seem to be coming into their own. We are starting to see the team identities emerge. Players are starting to separate themselves into some top-level talent. With any new activity or venture, I always felt it takes a good three times to get the feel of things and start performing at your peak. So, I am excited for this week expecting even better football than the first three weeks. Most of the bugs are worked out with players and coaches locked into their roles and knowing what to fully expect now.
It’s going to be a great rest of the season. Set your DVRs, get your XFL apparel and let’s get going. Just like the players, us fans have three weeks down and our routine set. Chips go here, remote goes there and you don’t even have to look at the channels anymore to get to the second game. Have fun and go enjoy The Week That Is.