- The main takeaway from Week 2 is that the XFL is a quarterback’s league. The teams with talented quarterbacks have been successful, while teams without have been tough to watch. Just consider this past week’s matchup between the DC Defenders and New York Guardians. The Defenders cruised to a dominant victory behind elite quarterback Cardale Jones, while the Guardians struggled to get a first down as quarterback Matt McGloin threw 2 interceptions and was benched in favor of backup Marquise Williams. However, when teams with competent quarterbacks face each other, as seen last weekend when the St. Louis Battlehawks, led by Jordan Ta'amu, faced P.J. Walker’s Roughnecks in Houston. The game was arguably the most balanced of the season intermission of quarterback skill. As a result, fans were able to enjoy a neck-and-neck shootout, which was more competitive than many NFL games. I am curious to see how the XFL attempts to address this problem in future seasons. Out of all players, the NFL is most likely to poach the XFL’s elite quarterbacks and I think very few fans and coaches would be surprised to see Walker or Jones in an NFL jersey in August. Will the XFL be able to retain enough elite quarterbacks from the pool of players unable to make it in the NFL? Will they attempt to poach players of their own from the Canandian Football League?
- Week 2 featured the first instances several XFL rule modifications were taken advantage of. In the first game of the week, DC Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton called the first ever double pass in XFL history. Schematically, the play design was very similar to a flea flicker. Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones revived the snap and pitched it to running back Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey then pitched it back to Jones, who was standing unguarded in the pocket and was able to pass it to wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins for a 21-yard gain. However, since the first pitch went slightly forward, it is considered a forward pass. Under the NFL rules, Jones would be unable to throw the ball forward after reviving the pitch from Pumphrey. However, in the XFL, this play was perfectly legal. Also, Week 2 saw the first ever successful 3-point conversation in XFL history. After teams score a touchdown, they are given the option of attempting a 1-, 2- or 3-point conversion from the 2, 5 and 10 yard line, respectively. During the first week, not a single coach elected to go for 3 points after scoring. In the first game of Week 2, Hamilton’s Defenders elected to go for three late in the game after extending their lead to 27-0 over the New York Guardians. However, the conversation attempt resulted in an incomplete pass from Jones. The following day, the Los Angeles Wildcats were trailing the Dallas Renegades by 10 points in the 4th quarter, before Nelson Spruce scored a 44-yard touchdown, narrowing the deficit to 4 points. The Wildcats elected to go for the 3-point conversion and were aided by an offsides penalty called on Dallas, which moved the line of scrimmage half the distance to the goal line to the 5. Quarterback Josh Johnson connected with Adonis Jennings in the endzone to complete the conversion. Despite the conversion, the Wildcats ended up losing the game 18-25. Over the course of the season, I am interested to see the creative play calling that makes uses of these modified rules.
- There might be a possible quarterback controversy in New York. Coming off of an incredibly dominant Week 1, Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin was frustrated by the Defenders strong defense. Through 3 quarters, McGloin completed 8 of 19 pass attempts for a total of 44 yards. Exacerbating the struggles, McGloin made some controversial statements to ABC’s sideline reporter immediately after throwing the first of two interceptions, saying, "We need to change the whole entire gameplan.” When asked for a statement during halftime, Guardians head coach Kevin Gilbride responded, "I need to go talk to him & figure out what the problem is because he needs to play better." After throwing a second pick and bring benched in favor of backup Marquise Williams, McGloin double downed on his sentiment, saying, "at no point in time did I think we were comfortable out there. At no point in time did I think we were in a position to try to be successful." I am keeping an eye on who head coach Kevin Gilbride decides to put under center during Week 3 when the Guardians face the Battlehawks in St. Louis.
- The XFL also had its first referee no-call controversy last weekend. Early in the fourth quarter of Sunday evening’s St. Louis-Houston game, the Battlehawks were trailing 18-21 and driving down the field. On 2nd and 14, a Houston defensive lineman clearly jumped offsides. Believing it to be free play, St. Louis quarterback Jordan Ta'amu threw a risky pass intended for wide receiver Alonzo Russell. The pass was intercepted, but the anticipated flag never came. Houston punched in the ball for a touchdown two plays later and was able to hold off the Battlehawks with a final score of 24-28.
- The league’s average attendance was higher than Week 1, however, the figures might be misleading. In Week 2, the league averaged 19,071 fans per game, up 9.3% from Week 1’s average of 17,454. However, Week 2’s average attendance was aided by the first home game at CenturyLink Field In Seattle, which garnered a league record attendance of 29,172 fans (first game to break 20,000 fans in league history). However, when comparing attendance between stadiums that hosted games in both Week 1 and Week 2 paints a bleaker picture. The Defenders had a billed attendance of 15,031 at Audi Field this past weekend, a 12.4% drop from Week 1 (17,163) — although it is worth noting that the temperature was below freezing in Washington at kickoff, which surely depressed attendance. Similarly, attendance at Houston’s TDECU Stadium (17,103 in Week 2) dropped 4.0% from Week 1 (17,815). The Los Angeles Wildcats had the most disappointing turnout of the week, with 14,979 fans at the team’s home opener, the lowest attended game all season. If the home opener at Dignity Health Sports Park was so low, that is not a good sign for the rest of the season in California. Next week will be the final two home openers. The Houston Roughnecks take on the Vipers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, whole the New York Guardians will face the Battlehawks in St. Louis at The Dome. Both are current or former NFL stadiums, so it is unlikely that either will sell out. However, the Battlehawks have the potential for a big turnout. St. Louis has the highest local television ratings for XFL broadcasts so far this season, and the city is clamoring for a team to support since the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016. The team has reportedly sold out the entire bottom bowl at The Dome, which amounts to around 28,000 seats. The team has no plans to open up the upper level and second hand sales are going for an average of $100 per ticket.
- As expected, TV viewership dropped in its second week, but was still pretty respectable for a fledgling league. Between the four broadcasts, the XFL averaged 2.06 million fans, down 37.9% from last week (average of 3.318). Sunday afternoon’s Dallas-Los Angeles game, which was broadcast on ABC, drew the largest viewership of the weekend with an average of 2.397 million viewers. However, that is still a 29% drop from Week 1’s ABC game. The second largest viewership of the weekend was Fox’s coverage of the Tampa-Seattle game, with 2.324 million viewers, a 21% from the previous week’s Fox game. Saturday afternoon’s ABC game between New York and DC averaged 2.146 million viewers, while Sunday evening’s Houston-St. Louis game averaged 1.395 million viewers on FS1. Sunday’s game was the first to be broadcast on FS1, the least carried of the XFL’s four broadcast partners. Big viewership drops between weeks 1 and 2 are nothing new for spring football leagues. As novelty wears off, some fans are assured to tune out. Last year’s AAF had a 69% drop between weeks 1 and 2, although this was certainly magnified by a shift from CBS to sparsely-carried premium cable network NFL Network. The original iteration of the XFL in 2001 dropped 52% between weeks 1 and 2. XFL’s comparatively minor drop is promising, especially if the ratings can stabilize over the coming weeks.
- Keep reading to see WCBN’s XFL power rankings, Players of the Week, MVP race standings, and our Week 3 game to watch.
For the second week in a row, the WCBN Offensive Player of the Week stays in Houston. In Week 2, Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips positioned himself as P.J. Walker’s favorite red zone target, hauling in 3 touchdowns on a total of 63 yards. This breakout game puts Phillips atop the XFL touchdown leaderboard, with 4 total touchdowns during the first two weeks of the season. Continuing off Week 1’s dominant performance, Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker had another impressive showcase in Week 2. He finished the game with 3 passing touchdowns (all to Phillips), 170 passing yards, 27 rushing yards and 0 interceptions. DC Defenders quarterback Cardale Jones lead his team to a dominant victory over the Guardians, accumulating 2 touchdowns on 276 yards and only surrendering a single interception late into the game. St. Louis Battlehawks quarterback Jordan Ta'amu had an impressive stat line, despite failing to complete a comeback against the Roughnecks on Sunday night. Ta'amu had 4 total touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing) with 284 receiving yards and 32 rushing yards, but his two interceptions occurred during critical drives week, possibly preventing the Battlehawks from finishing on top. Other notable offensive performances during Week 2 include Dallas Roughnecks running back Cameron Artis-Payne (2 TD, 99 yards) and Los Angeles Wildcats wideout Nelson Spruce (2 TD, 89 yards).
Defensive Player of the Week: Tavarus McFadden, S, Tampa Bay Vipers
Week 2 will be known as the week of interceptions. Between the week’s four games, there were 11 interceptions, 3 of which were returned for touchdowns. Tampa Bay Vipers safety Tavarus McFadden stood out with his 78-yard interception return off of Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers, earning him Defensive Player of the Week. Defenders linebacker Jameer Thurman (46 yard return) and Dragons defensive end Marcell Frazier (1 yard return) also returned an interception for a touchdown during Week 2. Vipers safety Martellus Branch earned 12 tackles, 5 of which were unassisted, in addition to a sack. Houston Roughnecks linebacker DeMarquis Gates had 9 tackles, all unassisted, as well as a single sack. Also, Dragons linebacker Steven Johnson had 10 additional tackles (5 unassisted) in Week 2, which gives him the most tackles in the XFL, with 18 on the season.
Special Teams Player of the Week: Elijah Campbell, PK, DC Defenders
DC Defenders placekicker Tyler Rausa continued his dominant season in Week 2, successfully completing all 3 field goal attempts. Rausa has 5 total completed field goals on the season, tied with Dallas Renegades placekicker Austin MacGinnis for most in the XFL. MacGinnis completed 2 field goals during Week 2, remaining perfect so far this season. It is also worth mentioning Los Angeles Wildcats placekicker Nick Novak, who completed a field goal from 47 yards.
1. Houston Roughnecks (2-0)
Week 2 Position: 1 (--)
Week 2 Result: Win vs St. Louis Battlehawks (28-24)
Week 3 Matchup: at Tampa Bay Vipers (+6), 2 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC
2. DC Defenders (2-0)
Week 2 Position: 3 (+1)
Week 2 Result: Win vs New York Guardians (27-0)
Week 3 Matchup: at Los Angeles Wildcats (+8), 6 p.m. ET Sunday, FS1
3. St. Louis Battlehawks (1-1)
Week 2 Position: 4 (+1)
Week 2 Result: Loss at Houston Roughnecks (24-28)
Week 3 Matchup: vs New York Guardians (+9), 3 p.m. ET Sunday, ESPN
4. Dallas Renegades (1-1)
Week 2 Position: 5 (+1)
Week 2 Result: Win at Los Angeles Wildcats (25-18)
Week 3 Matchup: at Seattle Dragons (+4.5), 5 p.m. ET Saturday, Fox
5. Seattle Dragons (1-1)
Week 2 Position: 6 (+1)
Week 2 Result: Win vs Tampa Bay Vipers (17-9)
Week 3 Matchup: vs Dallas Renegades (-4.5), 5 p.m. ET Saturday, Fox
6. New York Guardians (1-1)
Week 2 Position: 2 (-4)
Week 2 Result: Win at DC Defenders (0-27)
Week 3 Matchup: at St. Louis Battlehawks (-9), 3 p.m. ET Sunday, ESPN
7. Los Angeles Wildcats (0-2)
Week 2 Position: 7 (--)
Week 2 Result: Loss vs Dallas Renegades (18-25)
Week 3 Matchup: vs DC Defenders (-8), 6 p.m. ET Sunday, FS1
8. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-2)
Week 2 Position: 8 (--)
Week 2 Result: Loss vs St. Louis Battlehawks (9-17)
Week 3 Matchup: vs Houston Roughnecks (-6), 2 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC
MVP Race Standings:
- P.J. Walker, Roughnecks QB (7 TD / 1 INT / 449 Passing Yards / 53 Rushing Yards)
- Cardale Jones, Defenders QB (4 TD / 1 INT / 511 Passing Yards / 42 Rushing Yards)
- Jordan Ta'amu, Battlehawks QB (4 TD / 2 INT / 493 Passing Yards / 109 Rushing Yards)
- Cam Phillips, Roughnecks WR (4 TD / 130 Receiving Yards)
- Cameron Artis-Payne, Renegades RB (2 TD, 105 Rushing Yards)
- Nelson Spruce, Wildcats WR (2 DT, 192 Receiving Yards)
- Austin Proehl, Dragons WR (2 TD / 81 Receiving Yards)
- Brandon Silvers, Dragons QB (4 TD / 3 INT / 308 Passing Yards)
- Rashad Ross, Defenders WR (1 TD / 147 Receiving Yards)
- De’veon Smith, Vipers RB (0 TD / 125 Rushing Yards)
Week 3 Game to Watch:
St. Louis Battlehawks (-9) vs New York Guardians
Sunday, February 23 -- 3:00 pm ET (ESPN)
- On Sunday, the Battlehawks host the New York Guardians for the first football game at The Dome in St. Louis since the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016. Both teams are coming off of a Week 2 road loss and a win would place either team in second place in the east division. The St. Louis Battlehawks are looking to redeem themselves after a hard fought loss to the Roughnecks, while the New York Guardians are hoping to change their team’s narrative after an embarrassing shutout at the hands of the DC Defenders. Will Matt McGloin be able to redeem himself?