Houston Roughnecks defense

XFL Week #5 Power Rankings: Roughnecks, BattleHawks, and then?

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By Jereme Jones March 4, 2020 2 Comment
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Four weeks into its inaugural season, parity has become the norm in the XFL making Power Rankings difficult to determine.

Coming into Week #4 of the XFL season, it seemed clear where the power in both divisions resided. Houston and Dallas were the class of the west, followed closely by Los Angeles, while the east was basically down to a two-team race between D.C. and St. Louis. As we head into Week #5, few things are evident in the XFL.

The Defenders got shutout by winless Tampa Bay, and the Wildcats lost to New York. Now, fans in all eight cities can make a case for why their team will be in the playoffs come April. So it is up to us to cut through the confusion and offer up our official XFL Week #5 Power Rankings.

#1 Houston Roughnecks (4-0)

One of the biggest questions for the Roughnecks was what would happen if a defense was able to slow down PJ Walker and Cam Phillips? Would their defense, which is tied for the most points allowed in the XFL this season, be good enough to secure a win? We got that answer on Sunday in the first-ever #TexasThrowdown, and the answer was a resounding yes.

The Dallas defense was able to slow down the Houston offense, holding them to only two touchdowns. Dallas even did what many thought was impossible in the XFL, and shut down Cam Phillips. They held Houston’s star wide receiver to nine yards on only one catch.

But with the offense struggling, the Roughnecks defense stepped up to keep the team undefeated. Houston intercepted Dallas quarterbacks four times and also scored a touchdown off a strip-sack by linebacker Edmond Robinson. The final turnover, a great play by linebacker DeMarquis Gates, happened on the Roughnecks’ two-yard line with only two minutes remaining in the game.

With their dynamic offense and big-play defense, Houston is the class of the XFL and the odds on favorite to be playing at home on April 26 in the first-ever XFL Championship Game.

#2 St. Louis BattleHawks (3-1)

It looks like the 2020 St. Louis BattleHawks have found their formula for success. They get an early lead, play great defense, and then go conservative and run out the clock for a win. That is how St. Louis won again this week. Unlike in week three against New York, quarterback Jordan Ta’amu had to be a much bigger part of the offense. Ta’amu went 20 of 27 passing for 264 yards and a touchdown. He also led the team in rushing with 63 yards on 16 carries.

Running a spread zone-read offense, featuring a lot of RPOs, the BattleHawks built a big first-half lead and then managed to do just enough against Seattle back-up QB B.J. Daniels to hold on to the win. The BattleHawks have several playmakers on both sides of the ball and have to be considered the favorites to represent the East Division in the XFL Championship Game.

#3 Dallas Renegades (2-2)

How good are the Dallas Renegades? They turned the ball over five times and still almost beat the best team in the XFL. The question now is, what do they do at quarterback? With the injury to Landry Jones on Sunday, it looks like Phillip Nelson will retake the starting quarterback position for, potentially, the remainder of the season.

Nelson started the team’s week one loss to St. Louis, utilizing check downs to running backs, going 33 of 42 for 209 yards, and throwing one interception. With offensive weapons like Cameron Artis-Payne, Lance Dunbar, and Donald Parham, Nelson needs to take care of the ball to keep this season on the right track for the Renegades.

With the way Dallas has been playing on defense, that should be enough to earn the Renegades a rematch of the #TexasThrowdown against Houston in the playoffs.

#4 Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3)

To paraphrase Dennis Green, perhaps the Tampa Bay Vipers are who we thought they were. Coming into the season, many, including Vegas, thought the Vipers were the class of the XFL East. After two bad games to start the season, many had changed their minds and declared Tampa Bay the worst team in the XFL. Then, the Vipers took Houston to the limit in week three and completely dominated D.C. last week, 25-0. Now things are looking up in Tampa.

All season the Vipers have shown that they have an aggressive defense, led by Jerry Glanville, and two physical and talented running backs in De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick. The weakness thus far has been the quarterback position.

It looks like that weakness, at least for now, has been strengthened by Taylor Cornelius. The former Oklahoma State quarterback started the season third on the depth chart but has shown considerable improvement in each of the last three weeks. He has the ability to be efficient in the passing game and has been surprisingly effective in the run game.

If Cornelius can continue to grow, this Vipers team has a chance to go from 0-3 to a spot in the playoffs.

#5 Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3)

You may be asking yourself how the Wildcats can be 1-3 and ranked two spots ahead of a Guardians? Playing across the country, without their top offensive weapon (Nelson Spruce) and top two running backs (Elijah Hood and Martez Carter), the Wildcats only lost by three to New York.

While the final results haven’t been there this season, save for the big win against D.C. in week three, there is no doubt that LA has one of the most talented teams, and best quarterbacks, in the XFL. If Spruce, Hood, and Carter can get healthy, and the defense can get back to forcing turnovers, I still believe this team has the potential to compete for a playoff spot in the west.

#6 Seattle Dragons (1-3)

What a difference a half makes. At halftime of the Dragons game against St. Louis, I was ready to write 2020 off as a lost season for Seattle. Enter B.J. Daniels. The 30-year old veteran took over at quarterback in the 2nd half. He almost led the Dragons to an improbable comeback against the BattleHawks. Daniels was explosive, showing the ability to run and make big plays through the air as well.

If head coach Jim Zorn makes the decision to turn the offense into a spread zone-read attack, similar to St. Louis, the great fans in Seattle will have an exciting team to watch for the remainder of the season. The Dragons might be in too deep of a hole already to make the playoffs. Still, with Daniels at QB, their three-headed monster at running back, and a solid defense that can force turnovers, they are dangerous enough that they might be able to get a few more wins and keep someone else out of the playoffs as well.

#7 New York Guardians (2-2)

The Guardians are another team that changed their fortune this week by making a change at quarterback. Former AAF quarterback Luis Perez took the reigns for New York, and while he was far from spectacular, 18 of 26 for 150 yards and a touchdown, he made the plays necessary to move the chains and avoided turnovers. Most importantly, he led the Guardians to a win over LA.

With a quarterback like Perez, head coach Kevin Gilbride can afford to hang his hat on the New York run game and a tough defense. The offense showed the ability to put together long scoring drives, although they will eventually need to turn those field goals into touchdowns. And, the defense showed the ability to get after the quarterback and force turnovers.

While it may not be as sexy of a formula as Houston has implemented, in the XFL this season, it might be enough to sneak the Guardians into the playoffs.

#8 D.C. Defenders (2-2)

No team has had a greater, or more confusing, fall from grace the last two weeks than the D.C. Defenders. A team that looked like a lock for the XFL Championship early on has looked lost in back-to-back losses by a combined score of 64-9. In those losses, quarterback Cardale Jones has completed only 48% of his passes, thrown five interceptions, and has been benched twice.

The passing game struggles, and non-existent run game, have put extra stress on a D.C. defense that has also struggled lately. Against LA, many of the struggles could be blamed on the bad field position they were given by the offense’s turnovers. Against Tampa Bay, however, the defense caved entirely on the ground, giving up 266 yards. They also missed numerous tackles on both running backs and receivers.

This is a team that is hurting right now and needs a good week in a bad way. Unfortunately for the Defenders, this week, they host the division-leading BattleHawks. How D.C. plays this week may determine if they end the season in the playoffs or the basement of the XFL standings.

Playoff Predictions After Week #4

East Semi-Final: Tampa Bay at St. Louis

West Semi-Final: Dallas at Houston

XFL Championship Game: St. Louis vs. Houston

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2 Comments

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XFLOutsider

March 4, 2020

I am not sure I would go that far on Trestman, although I do think he made the right move in handing off the play calling duties to Jamie Elizondo.

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Ray

March 4, 2020

Great article. As a Vipers fan I agree our QB will get better and confidence will be prominent in his decisions too. SJ Green can run and score too. Would you agree that Trestman should stick to GM duties now?

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