Four weeks of the XFL are in the books, and teams continue to deliver surprises that shake the landscape of the standings. The top group of teams remains unchanged as we see the contenders separate themselves, but major changes have taken place in the middle of the pack as squads discover what clicks. Below we deceiver where the teams stack up and what to expect as we approach the midway point of the season.
#1 – Houston Roughnecks (4-0; Previously 1st)
Houston remains undefeated after their 27-20 win in the Texas throwdown and is still one of the most exciting teams to watch in the XFL. They lead the league with 16 touchdowns on the season and have proven to be the most complete team. PJ Walker isn’t afraid to air the ball out, and June Jones can consistently rely on him to get the job done. Walker has a dominant weapon in Cam Phillips, who leads the league with 333 receiving yards. When Philips is under tight coverage, Kahlil Lewis and Nick Holley are prime options to make plays.
On the other side of the ball, Deatrick Nichols leads the league with three interceptions and Cody Brown has picked off opposing QBs twice, making the Roughnecks the only team to have two players with multiple interceptions. Their defense has shown some weakness against up-tempo playstyles, but Walker and the high-octane offense have been able to keep themselves ahead of their opposition and they show no signs of slowing down.
#2 – Saint Louis BattleHawks (3-1; Previously 2nd)
The ‘Hawks stayed hot in their 23-16 win over Seattle, and have a solid argument to be atop the power rankings. Jordan Ta’amu can make plays with both his arm and his legs, keeping plays alive and being able to distribute the ball well with accurate throws. Jonathan Hayes runs the most versatile offense in the league and has developed several stars on the field. Matt Jones has rushed for 244 yards, the second-most in the XFL, and De’Mornay Pierson-El has been one of the best receivers when Ta’amu comes out firing on all cylinders.
Hayes has also been able to rely on his defensive, as the squad has given up the least amount of touchdowns. DE Andrew Ankrah has been able to get to the opposing quarterback and S Dexter McCoil has led the team’s efforts in the secondary. The BattleHawks have seen an incredible amount of hype as St. Louis has fully embraced their team, and expect this to continue as fans swear by their mantra that the kaw is the law.
#3 – Dallas Renegades (2-2; Previously 3rd)
It may be a rocky few weeks for the Renegades, as Landry Jones is expected to be out for at least two weeks after suffering a knee injury in the nail-biter loss to Houston. In the meantime, Bob Stoops will be relying on the arm of Philip Nelson, who will need to focus on limiting turnovers after Jones threw three picks and was strip-sacked last weekend. We may see Hal Mumme move away from the air raid and rely on RB Cameron Artis-Payne more, who has been able to move the chains when needed and has racked up 216 rushing yards on the season.
It will be essential for Philip Nelson to find Donald Parham if this team wants to stay competitive, the TE has been an incredible playmaker and is second in the league with 273 receiving yards. The defense has been consistent, helping keep the team in games and alleviating pressure from turnovers. Dallas has the weapons to be successful, but with an untested QB under center this weekend it will be hard to tell if they can step up and deliver at home for the first time this season.
#4 – New York Guardians (2-2; Previously 7th)
Luis Perez was able to get the job done in place of an injured Matt McGloin and set the Guardians’ season back on track with a win against LA. Perez was able to keep the offense moving and didn’t surrender a single turnover while managing the game. I expect Kevin Gilbride to continue this experiment and start Perez this weekend, relying on his consistency and discipline instead of big playmaking to continue this team’s momentum.
The Guardians’ defensive line and pass rush have been strong, with DT Cavon Walker leading the league in sacks. Expect Perez to be more comfortable under center if he makes his second start. It’s still going to take a lot to spark this team’s offense, which is only averaging 12.3 points per game, but this change at QB may continue to bring life to the team and be the catalyst for a productive offense.
#5 – Tampa Bay Vipers (1-3; Previously 8th)
This team has seen a complete turnaround since Marc Trestman gave play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo, getting their first win of the season in a statement 25-0 shutout against DC. Tampa Bay saw the best quarterback play for them all season with Taylor Cornelius, who appears to be the answer to their season-long QB debacle.
This resurgence has seen the Vipers put up the most yards on offensive of any team on the season. The elite RB duo of DeVeon Smith and Jacques Patrick are both top-three in the league in rushing yards, and have been the staple of the team’s ground-and-pound playstyle. The defense has also proved they can make key stops and have given up the fewest yards against, although they haven’t forced many turnovers. This team is riding high on energy and has shown tremendous development.
#6 – Los Angeles Wildcats (1-3; Previously 5th)
This team has shown a lot of potential but struggles with consistency, which was highlighted in their narrow loss to New York. The talent is there, QB Josh Johnson looks poised and in control in the pocket, only giving up one interception on the season. This team has been limited to a degree by injuries, missing both WR Nelson Spruce and RB Martez Carter in their last contest. Their depth at WR should still be providing the team with opportunities to score, and we’ve seen varying levels of performance from the offense.
Winston Moss’s defense has been able to adjust well to their new playcalling and has shown they have the ability to shut down their opposition, but has struggled at times with the same issues with consistency. LA has been great pressuring the quarterback, recording 10 sacks and also earning nine takeaways. This team has the right weapons and star power to be a contender, but they must figure out how to capitalize on chances and move the chains more efficiently. Consistency is key for the Wildcats, and they must find their rhythm on both sides of the ball to find success.
#7 – DC Defenders (2-2; Previously 4th)
How the mighty have fallen. DC has now suffered two consecutive blowouts and looks like a completely different team compared to the squad that topped the power rankings early in the season. Cardale Jones has looked unprepared under center and has made poor decisions that have led to his six interceptions on the season. It doesn’t help that the Defenders lack a run game, limiting their options and making it more difficult to move the ball downfield, let alone find the endzone.
The Defenders’ defense has given up 12 touchdowns, the most in the XFL. They will return back home this weekend, where they have had their two dominant showings. But they are also preparing for a difficult three-game stretch where they will face the BattleHawks, Renegades, and Roughnecks. Pep Hamilton will face a huge test with rallying his team, but there is still time to turn things around. We’ve seen what the Defenders are capable of doing, and they still have that potential.
#8 – Seattle Dragons (1-3; Previously 6th)
After struggling to move the ball in the first half, Brandon Silvers was pulled from the game in favor of BJ Daniels. This decision by Jim Zorn gave the Dragons a spark, as Daniels showed his ability as a dual-threat QB and was able to get the offense moving. This sample size is too small for now, but it like Daniels is the right guy at the helm and Zorn can begin to develop a gameplan that plays to his strengths.
In almost every aspect of the game, Seattle has shown to be underwhelming. They don’t have a top-10 player in the rushing or receiving categories and there aren’t any team statistics they stand out in. LB Steven Johnson has had the best showing, leading the league with 40 tackles in a defense that has been above-average. This team will need to go through a lot of self-evaluation if they want to develop. Making the change at QB was a good start, but is far from the solution.