We’re three weeks into the 2020 XFL season, and while good and bad teams have already begun to emerge, the league remains wide-open, and the outcomes continue to be decided on the field rather than on paper.
The 2-0 D.C. Defenders slotted in as 7.5-point favorites against Josh Johnson and the Los Angeles Wildcats. Los Angeles stunned Cardale Jones and the Defenders with a 39-9 blowout victory, their first of the season.
While P.J. Walker and the Houston Roughnecks did get to 3-0, it was anything but easy against a suddenly scoring-capable Tampa Bay Vipers squad.
Point being, while the early season has given us an indication of the good and bad teams, it still appears anyone can play with anyone on “any given Sunday” (or in this case, sometimes Saturday.)
In my first-ever XFL Power Rankings, the Roughnecks and Defenders topped the list. The same two teams found themselves at #1 and #2 in my post-Week 2 (seen here as Week 3) rankings, delivered on Twitter:
But with plenty of interesting results and outcomes in Week 3, the list is due for a shake-up.
XFL Power Rankings After Week 3
8. New York Guardians (1-2) [Last Week: 7]
The Tampa Bay Vipers are winless and took until their third game to score an offensive touchdown. The fact the New York Guardians still find themselves at #8 in the early season is alarmingly.
The Guardians win came against that same Vipers team, aided by stellar defensive and special teams play. At the time, I thought this the mark of an all-around good team. But without big plays breaking their way, the Guardians offense has been putrid over the past two weeks.
New York was shut out in D.C., losing 27-0, before dropping their Week 3 matchup 29-9 in St. Louis. Yes, both opponents appear to have good teams and the Guardians were on the road. But their lack of any offensive rhythm could be a season-long problem if it’s not addressed quickly.
7. Tampa Bay Vipers (0-3) [Last Week: 8]
In their Week 1 loss to the Guardians, the Vipers actually outgained the Guardians in MetLife Stadium. Tampa Bay doesn’t have the hardest time moving the ball, but getting into the endzone was their bugaboo through two weeks.
But in Week 3, the Vipers played host to the best team in the league (oops, getting ahead of myself, but they are the league’s last undefeated team): the Houston Roughnecks.
Tampa Bay found the endzone not once, not twice, but three times against Houston’s defense. The Vipers would even hold a 27-26 lead in the fourth quarter for a couple moments.
The Vipers offense may continue to score touchdowns after finally getting the first one off their back. I like their odds to get their first win sooner rather than later.
6. Seattle Dragons (1-2) [Last Week: 5]
I’m not quite sure how to sum up the Seattle Dragons team. Their quarterback, Brandon Silvers, is a poised pocket passer; who can struggle to complete 50% of his passes. Wide receiver Austin Proehl has been a bright spot, but besides that, nothing about the Dragons offense jumps off the page.
Defensively, there’s better teams, and there’s worse teams. The Dragons let up 31 points in a Week 1 loss to the Defenders (including a pick-six thrown by Silvers,) 9 points in a Week 2 win over the Vipers, and 24 points in a Week 3 loss to the Renegades.
Right now, I don’t see much room for the Dragons to move. They won’t have the worst record in the league, but they probably won’t ever sniff the top four of these power rankings, or the league standings.
5. Los Angeles Wildcats (1-2) [Last Week: 6]
Through two weeks, the Wildcats struggled to play a complete game. They took a 17-12 lead on the Roughnecks in Week 1, before completely falling apart on both offense and defense. They appeared to have Landry Jones and the Renegades under control defensively in Week 2, but then allowed Jones to heat up and lead Dallas to victory in the second half.
But in Week 3, at home, the Wildcats enjoyed a breakout performance with a 39-9 win over the D.C. Defenders (who came into the matchup as my #2 team in the XFL.)
The Wildcats defense picked off Cardale Jones four times, Josh Johnson passed for three touchdowns against no interceptions, and Los Angeles absolutely crushed the Defenders. The Wildcats improve to 1-2, but should have more confidence and offensive success moving forward.
4. Dallas Renegades (2-1) [Last Week: 4]
Landry Jones has started slow in both of his first two starts in the XFL. He’s thrown for just as many touchdowns as interceptions (four.)
And yet, the Renegades are 2-0 with Jones under center, heating up in the second half against both the Wildcats and Dragons over the past two weeks.
If Jones can cut down on his turnovers and get the offense moving in the first half, the Renegades could be a dangerous team. Dallas’ defense has only allowed six touchdowns, the 2nd-fewest in the league (St. Louis: 5.)
3. D.C. Defenders (2-1) [Last Week: 2]
Cardale Jones and the Defenders were doing everything right through two weeks. They won the XFL’s inaugural game, defeating the Dragons 31-19. In Week 2, the Defenders held down Audi Field again, shutting out the Guardians 27-0 in dominant fashion.
Then the Defenders boarded a plane to Los Angeles and laid a dud of their own.
D.C. wasn’t shut out, but might as well have been, falling 39-9 to the Wildcats. Jones was picked off four times, putting the defense in a very susceptible position to be scored on.
It’s not the end of the world for D.C., as the road has been a formidable environment in the XFL. Much like we’ve heard horror stories about WNBA flights, XFL teams don’t yet have the funds to be flying private or staying in world-class hotels.
The Defenders are tied for the league-high with 9 touchdowns allowed: with six of them coming from the Wildcats. Assuming this game was more of an outlier, the Defenders are usually pretty good at, well, defending.
2. St. Louis BattleHawks (2-1) [Last Week: 3]
In my Post-Week 1 Power Rankings, I had the BattleHawks as the 4th best team in the XFL. Jordan Ta’amu looked like one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, but other offenses put up far more points than the 15 that the BattleHawks put up against the Renegades in Week 1.
After Week 2, St. Louis managed to climb a spot in the rankings: despite a loss. They way they battled and dueled with the Roughnecks, on the road, was enough to convince me St. Louis was a Top-3 team in the early going.
This week, the BattleHawks rise another spot to #2. In professional football’s return to the city of St. Louis, the BattleHawks didn’t disappoint, defeating the New York Guardians 29-9.
St. Louis did everything right in their win. They took care of the ball, played some stifling defense, and even got creative for the XFL’s first-ever kickoff return for a touchdown.
The BattleHawks also boast a league-low five touchdowns allowed.
1. Houston Roughnecks (3-0) [Last Week: 1]
The league’s best offense. The league’s best quarterback. The league’s most prolific touchdown pass catcher. The Houston Roughnecks are riding high at 3-0, and though they allowed the Vipers to give them a scare, their resiliency on the road speaks volumes to just how good this Roughnecks team really is.
P.J. Walker is the early favorite for XFL MVP: and favorite might be an understatement. The quarterback has thrown for 748 yards, 10 touchdowns, and just one interception through three games. He’s led Houston’s offense to 37, 28, and 34 points in their first three games, easily the most high-scoring and consistent offensive unit in the league.
Are the Roughnecks unbeatable? Probably not. As great as their offense has been, the defense has let up 17, 24, and 27 points. Part of the reason for high-scoring opposition is the pace that Houston plays at, but it should be obvious that the Roughnecks defense isn’t the tightest in the league.
Still, the Walker and the Roughnecks outdueled Ta’amu and the BattleHawks (the 2nd-best team in the XFL by my rankings) 28-24 in Week 2. Houston is yet to play the Renegades or Defenders, who could each provide a tough test. The Roughnecks won’t go 10-0, but they’ll finish with the best record in the league.
Header Photo Credit: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
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