Hello everyone! PU has got to be friggin nuts! Not even one week after the Super Bowl and he is back at it, this time looking at the new XFL league which begins play tomorrow (Saturday.)
There are eight teams in the XFL each of which is located in a city where the NFL has had teams. They are the:
Los Angeles Wildcats
New York Guardians
St Louis BattleHawks
Tampa Bay Vipers
There will be two games each on Saturday and Sunday, covered by ABC, Fox and ESPN. This immediately offers hope for the new league with the credibility and revenues that the teams will receive from the television coverage.
The XFL will play a ten game regular season schedule with a two week, four team post season playoff, ending with the championship game on April 26.
Vince McMahon heads up the league with Oliver Luck as the commissioner.
It is reasonable to expect that the first week of games will be watched with great interest. If the product is good, then ratings should not fall off too much after Week 1. If bad, then the league could quickly go the way of the original XFL which folded after the first season.
The immediate question is who will be playing and coaching in the XFL. Bob Stoops of University of Oklahoma fame will be the coach for Dallas. June Jones of NFL Atlanta and San Diego fame is Houston’s head coach. Former Seahawks quarterback and Redskins coach Jim Zorn is at the helm of Seattle. Former Bears coach Marc Trestman is Tampa Bay’s head coach.
Quarterbacks include Landry Jones (Dallas), Cardale Jones (D.C.), Josh Johnson (Los Angeles) and Aaron Murray (Tampa Bay) mostly known from their college days.
The XFL has apparently tried to stay away from “big players”, instead focusing on quality of play and the differences in play to the NFL.
Some interesting rule changes for the XFL include:
- Faster tempo and less play stoppages.
- Kickoffs must go in the air and land between the opponent’s 20-yard line and the end zone. A “major touchback” will be called if the ball reaches the end zone and the receiving team gets the ball at the 35-yard line.
- There are no extra point kicks; teams can choose to go for 1, 2 or 3 points after touchdowns with one play from the 2, 5 or 10-yard line.
- Teams can attempt two forward passes on any one play, as long as the receiver of the first pass is behind the line of scrimmage when caught and then throws again from behind the line of scrimmage.
The major question about the XFL is simple. Will the play be good enough for the league to finish the first season and have a second season?
So with that, let’s look at the games. (One caveat: No one actually knows anything about the teams or the games or how well they will perform. So predictions are totally instinctive. At least you have the Amazing PU reviewing the games for you.)
Seattle Dragons at D.C. Defenders
Spread: Defenders -7.5 (-110), Dragons +7.5 (-110)
On paper, the D.C. Defenders look like the team to take this game. They have a talented team featuring some “quality” players.
Cardale Jones, ex Ohio State quarterback, led the Buckeyes to the 2014 National Title. He was signed to a contract by Buffalo but only got into one game. Later, he was traded to the Chargers and then released, where he signed with Seattle. He never lived up to expectations in the NFL.
Jones will have a “talented” group of receivers, at least for the XFL. Rashad Ross is one of them.
Undrafted, Ross was signed by the Titans in 2013. That began a career of journeyman in the NFL, primarily on the practice squad. Eventually he found a position with the Redskins where he had a productive season in 2015, becoming a kickoff returner and receiver. Ross performed adequately for the Redskins, but in 2016, essentially did nothing being inactive for the first 5 games. From then until the AAF, he was practice squad with a variety of teams. But with the AAF, he was the league’s #2 receiver. He is joined by Eli Rogers, who played for the Steelers last season and Simmie Cobbs of Indiana.
The running backs are Donnel Pumphrey (who has the third-most career rushing yards in NCAA history) and Jhurell Pressley (who led all AAF players in rushing yards).
Seattle is different story. Quarterback will be Brandon Silvers. A product of Troy University, he passed for 10,677 yards with a 64.4% completion rating. He ended his college career with a passing rating of 135.8. Silvers would go undrafted by the NFL. He did play in the AAF and showed some limited promise.
Silvers will have a receiving corps of unproven players: Kasen Williams, John Santiago, Sergio Bailey, Austin Proehl, Alonzo Moore, Dontez Byrd and Keenan Reynolds. The only standout is Reynolds, who was Navy’s quarterback in college. Transitioning to receiver might be tough for him.
If Seattle is to have success, it will be the ground game that guides them. They will have former AAF running backs Kenneth Farrow, Trey Williams and Ja’Quan Gardner, all of whom had success in the AAF.
For defense backs to protect against the D.C.passing game, they will have Matt Elam, Shamarko Thomas and Rahim Moore.
Expect this game to be all D.C.
Prediction: Defenders win and COVER the spread.
Los Angeles Wildcats at Houston Roughnecks
Spread: Roughnecks -5.5 (-110), Wildcats +5.5 (-110)
This is an interesting game from the perspective that Wildcat quarterback Josh Johnson is a proven NFL quarterback, though a true journeyman, and been on the roster of many different teams. If Johnson is good to go after suffering a thigh injury in the pre season, it gives the Wildcats something to look forward to. If not, the Chad Kanoff gets the nod, a Princeton qb who joined the Arizona as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and essentially became a permanent fixture of practice squads for various teams until now.
Running back Elijah Hood will be the main focus of the offense with the Wildcat’s quarterback situation.
Houston comes into the game with P.J. Walker at quarterback. Walker played college at Temple and played in all four preseason games for the Colts this past season. Sammie Coates is the wide receiver, who performed well with the Steelers in 2016 when he finished with 435 yards and two touchdowns. Backing him up is Andre Williams at RB, who won the 2013 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back and was a Heisman finalist.
With the Wildcat quarterback issues, give this one to the Roughnecks.
Prediction: Roughnecks win and COVER the spread.
Tampa Bay Vipers at New York Guardians
Spread: Vipers -2.5 (-115), Guardians +2.5 (-105)
Tampa Bay begins the XFL with Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray calling the plays. Murray was a star at Georgia, breaking many SEC quarterback records. However, drafted into the NFL, Murray was a supreme bust. Joining the AAF last season, Murray was not impressive. He finished the season with a 3-7 TD-INT ratio and was third in the league in interceptions and tied for third in sacks taken despite not starting the whole season.
Surrounding Murray is a more talented group of players. Receivers are Reece Horn, Tanner McEvoy, Seantavius Jones and Donteea Dye.
De’Veon Smith is at running back for the Vipers and looked good in the AAF playing for the Orlando Apollos.
Watch for Quinton Flowers who is both a quarterback and running back for Tampa Bay. Flowers gives the Vipers some interesting options including trick plays taking advantage of the double forward pass rule, or to come up with something for the point after touchdown scoring plays.
The Guardians will be led by former Oakland Raider quarterback Matt McGloin. McGloin actually started for the Raiders in 2013 after injuries claimed two other quarterbacks and won a couple of games. After that, he was benched for poor performances and when Derek Carr was drafted, McGloin was no longer needed, even in a backup role. He became a journeyman qb never really getting to play much again, even with a number of teams.
The AAF was a bigger success for McKay. He earned the nickname “Big Play McKay” in the AAF while averaging over 17 yards per reception for the San Antonio Commanders.
Running backs include Tim Cook III, Justin Stockton, Darius Victor and Matthew Colburn II.
This game really is a tossup. No one truly knows how to pick the winner. PU goes with the Guardians.
Prediction: Guardians win in an UPSET.
St. Louis BattleHawks at Dallas Renegades
Spread: Renegades -9 (-110), Battlehawks +9 (-110)
In the final game of the week, St Louis goes to Dallas as 9 point underdogs. They are the only team with a starting quarterback without any regular season NFL experience, Jordan Ta’amu. Ta’amu played well at Ole .
St. Louis running backs include Matt Jones (who had success on the Redskins) and Christine Michael (who was a former second-round NFL Draft pick).
The Renegades have more talent that the other teams in the league. They begin with
Landry Jones will lead this team. He played college ball at Oklahoma and was drafted by the Steelers in the 115th position. He played with the Steelers, Jacksonville and Oakland during his NFL career. (Jones may not play Week 1 due to a lingering knee injury suffered in January.)
Receiver Jazz Ferguson has an injury to his hand and may not play. But even with that, the Renegades have so much talent, they should win this game with few problems. winning this one fairly easily.
Prediction: Renegades win and COVER the spread.
And there we have it. PU’s predictions for the first games of the new XFL league. This should be fun to watch, at least for the first week. After that, it is anyone’s guess how the league will proceed and whether it will be successful or not.