XFL Week #6 Betting Preview: St. Louis at Tampa Bay

  • Gambling
  • St. Louis BattleHawks
  • Tampa Bay Vipers
  • XFL
By Jereme Jones March 11, 2020 0 Comment
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The St. Louis Battlehawks travel to take on the Tampa Bay Vipers in Week 6. Everything you need to know to place your bet on this XFL matchup.

St. Louis (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Saturday, March 14, 5 pm, FS2

Going into last week, the St. Louis BattleHawks were seen by most as the second-best team in the XFL and a clear favorite in the East Division. Then the DC game happened. Now, the BattleHawks have a lot of questions to answer. Was the DC game just a bad game, or did it reveal some weaknesses in this St. Louis team? Why couldn’t the BattleHawks offense finish drives? How will the injuries to the offensive line affect the team going forward? The most important question, however, is how does this team bounce back this week?

The St. Louis offense, especially their run game, has been outstanding all season. They are first in the XFL in total yards per game (349.6) and first in rushing yards per game (155.8). Even last week, in their loss to DC, they had a total of 319 yards and ran for 173 yards. What made last week different, and why they lost was that they were not able to finish drives. Some of the problems were due to mistakes. The offensive line had four false starts, a holding penalty, and multiple missed blocking assignments that resulted in sacks. Some of those mistakes were due to injuries to the offensive line. Can they get healthy enough to fix those mistakes this week?

What surprised me most on Sunday was that the offense seemed to go away from the read option and RPO plays that had been so successful for them this season. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also struggled to find open receivers when he wasn’t being pressured, going just 15 of 25 for 146 yards. Offensive coordinator Chuck Long needs to revert to the game plan that had been successful this season if the BattleHawks’ offense is going to get back on track.

On defense, St. Louis has been excellent all year and is loaded with talent. The BattleHawks are 1st in points allowed (15.4), 2nd in total yards allowed (264.2), and 1st in passing yards allowed (143.8). St. Louis also has a ton of talent in their back seven on defense. Linebackers Terence Garvin and Dexter McCoil are both candidates for First Team All-XFL at their position, as are defensive backs Will Hill and Kenny Robinson. Their one weakness on defense has been against the run. Last week, St. Louis gave up 229 yards rushing to DC. This season, the BattleHawks rank 6th in rushing yards allowed (120.4). To win this week, they must improve against the run.

The biggest reason St. Louis must improve against the run this week is because Tampa Bay is the best running team in the XFL. The Vipers, behind backs De’Veon Smith and Jacques Patrick, average 165.6 yards a game on the ground. Tampa Bay also features an improving young quarterback in Taylor “Corndog” Cornelius. In his four starts, Cornelius has completed passes at a 63.4% mark and thrown for 858 yards. He has also shown the ability to effective in the run game, rushing for 114 yards and three touchdowns.

While Cornelius has shown growth this season, he has also showed gone through some growing pains. The biggest of these is his tendency to turn the ball over. He threw six interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter last week in Los Angeles. Cornelius has a great group of wide receivers in Dan Williams (23/338/1), Jalen Tolliver (21/297/1), and Reece Horn (27/240/1). If he can avoid making mistakes, and continue to get the ball to these playmakers, Tampa Bay could again put up a lot of points this week.

Stopping the run must be the focus of the Vipers defense. And they have excelled in that area this season. Tampa Bay has allowed a league-low 75.8 yards rushing per game so far. St. Louis will offer the biggest challenge so far this season to that run defense. Tampa Bay’s leader in the front six has been undersized defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock, who is fourth on the team in tackles (21). Linebackers Lucas Wacha and Terrance Plummer have also been solid this season.

The Tampa Bay secondary has been good this year, third in the XFL in passing yards allowed (183), but is coming off a terrible performance against Los Angeles last week. Part of the problem was that the usually aggressive Vipers were unable to get much pressure on Josh Johnson. The secondary also struggled against a Wildcats receiving corps that was missing Nelson Spruce. I believe in the talent of guys like Marcelis Branch, Tarvarus McFadden, and Anthoula Kelly and expect them to play better this week.

This game features the two best running games in the XFL, and both teams will likely have success on the ground. What this game comes down to then is which team can make the most plays in the passing game. Both sides have young quarterbacks with functional wide receiver groups. The question is which quarterback can avoid making a big mistake. So far this year, Jordan Ta’amu has been more careful with the ball, and the BattleHawks defense has been better at forcing turnovers. Therefore, I am going with the St. Louis BattleHawks to win this game and cover the 3.5 point spread.

Our Pick: St. Louis (-3.5)

XFLOutsider’s 2020 Season Record

Straight Up: 11-5

Against the Spread: 11-5

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