The Xtra Point: Houston stay perfect but BattleHawks impress again

Leigh Copson:

Week 4 is in the books and our resident American Football expert Leigh Copson has been offering his reaction to the latest round of games in the XFL.

The fourth weekend of the regular season produced some historic moments for the XFL – the biggest being the first ever ‘Texas Throwdown’ between the Houston Roughnecks and the Dallas Renegades, arguably biggest and most hotly-anticipated matchup of the XFL season so far. They hype was off the charts all week long and when the two teams finally stepped out onto the field they delivered on the hype, serving up a fantastic game that went right down to the wire.

That was not the only history moment of Week 4 though – the Tampa Bay Vipers became the first team in league history to have two 100-yard-plus rushers in the same game as they got off the mark with a sensational shutout win over the suddenly slumping DC Defenders, who are in danger of going from bookmaker favourites to also-rans after back-to-back heavy defeats.

There were also successes for the St Louis BattleHawks and New York Guardians on a very eventful and entertaining weekend for American Football’s hottest new league, and before we start looking ahead to Week 5 here are my takes for Week 4 of the 2020 XFL season…

XFL Odds: Who Will Win It All?

BettingPro’s Week 4 XFL MVP: Jacques Patrick

XFL Tampa Bay Vipers running back Jacques Patrick
Tampa Bay Vipers running back Jacques Patrick celebrates his touchdown in the win over the DC Defenders (Photo by Cal Sport Media/SIPA USA/PA Images).

Houston have dominated our weekly award since the start of the season, winning it in two of the first three weeks, and they certainly had contenders for Week 4 too after a big showing from wide receiver Nick Holley and a two-interception display from Deatrick Nichols in the ‘Texas Throwdown’ win at Dallas. St Louis BattleHawks quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was also a contender after an impressive display in his team’s win over Seattle, but we are making running back Jacques Patrick of Tampa Bay our MVP for Week 4. Just one day after burying his father, Patrick paid tribute in the best way he could on the field by playing a key role in the Vipers’ shutout win over DC. The 23-year-old rushed for 108 yards and his first professional touchdown as Tampa finally got their first win on the board, so there is no player more deserving of our weekly award than Patrick.

Defense Shines As Roughnecks Remain Perfect

Linebacker DeMarquis Gates and cornerback Ajene Harris of the Houston Roughnecks celebrate an interception (Photo by Cal Sport Media/SIPA USA/PA Images).

The Houston Roughnecks’ offense was receiving all of the headlines and the vast majority of the praise during the first three weeks of the season, but in Week 4 it was the defense who stepped up to help deliver a historic win over Dallas in the first ever ‘Texas Throwdown’. It was incredible stuff – Cody Brown picked off Landry Jones on the Renegades’ first possession and Deatrick Nichols then followed his team-mates lead by grabbing interceptions during each of Dallas’ next two drives as Houston threatened to run away with it. The offense failed to take full advantage though, converting a couple of field goals before Nick Holley finally went in for the game’s first touchdown, but the Roughnecks were allowing Dallas to stick around and that threatened to backfire on them as the Renegades put up 11 unanswered points before the break. PJ Walker restored Houston’s lead to double figures in the third quarter, only for Dallas to draw with a point minutes later, but the fourth quarter was all about the two defenses and it was Houston’s that delivered the key plays. E Robinson stripped the ball off Jones and took it to the house to give the visitors a seven-point cushion with just under 12 minutes to play, and D Gates then pulled off spectacular interception at his own two-yard line with two minutes to go as Dallas threatened. That proved to be the back-breaking moment for Dallas, who did not get the opportunity to touch the ball again. It was another impressive victory for Houston – the league’s only perfect team – and therefore it is no surprise the bookmakers continue to make them the favourites to win the XFL Championship on their home turf this season. At this point in time it is difficult to make an argument for any other side beating them, especially if the defense builds on that opportunistic display on Sunday.

Renegades Reeling After Texas Throwdown Defeat

Dallas Renegades head coach Bob Stoops (Photo by Cal Sport Media/SIPA USA/PA Images).

While Houston celebrated, Dallas were left dejected as they fell to 2-2 for the season. While the loss has hardly killed their playoff bid, it was a big setback for them because they are now two games behind their state rivals in the West. They also have major concerns over starting quarterback Landry Jones, who exited the game on Sunday with a knee injury that may well end his XFL career and his professional football career as a whole. Jones has hardly been in fantastic form, throwing seven interceptions in just three appearances, but his veteran presence would have been key to Dallas in their push for the postseason. So where do they go from here? A home game against New York is most welcome right now, but Dallas have really failed to live up to the tag of preseason favourites and their odds have drifted week upon week. Next Saturday is a must-win outing for them, but right now it would take a very brave person to put money on Dallas making it to the XFL Championship Game, let alone winning it.

BattleHawks Defend The Dome Once Again

St. Louis Battlehawks wide receiver L’Damian Washington (Photo by Cal Sport Media/SIPA USA/PA Images).

St Louis has fallen in love with its BattleHawks and who can blame a fanbase that was starved of professional football for five years. Almost 30,000 turned up at the Dome for the second week running and their team delivered them another ‘W’ in return as young quarterback Jordan Ta’amu produced his most accomplished performance yet. The 22-year-old QB completed 20 of his 27 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown in the 23-16 win over Seattle, and he also showcased his talents as a duel threat by carrying the ball 16 times for 63 yards. Factor in a strong, punishing run game and a strong defense and the BattleHawks have the perfect recipe for a run to the Championship Game. They have now won three straight as they prepare to head back out on the road to face a slumping DC Defenders team, and if Ta’amu continues to grow and St Louis continue to rack up wins then the trend of their odds shortening week by week will only continue.

Crisis In DC After Vipers Shut Them Out

The DC Defenders were the bookmakers’ favourites to win it all a couple of weeks ago, now they are desperate need of a victory to steady the ship as the word ‘crisis’ rears its ugly head. Nobody saw the Week 3 blow-out in Los Angeles coming, but that performance and result was so bad that many – me included – fancied winless Tampa Bay to sneak a first win of the season on Sunday night. The Vipers did deliver the ‘W’, but they did not sneak it. They downright dominated DC on their way to victory. The Defenders were embarrassed when they only put up nine points in LA, but they were even worse here as they failed to put a single point on the board. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, made history by becoming the first team to have two players rush for 100 yards in the same game, and perhaps Taylor Cornelius went some way to easing the quarterback controversy that has been the huge talking point surrounding the Vipers in recent weeks. While it would be foolish to suddenly say that Tampa have turned the corner, it was a huge win for them because it now means they are just one win off the second playoff spot in the wide open East. If they can follow this up in Los Angeles then they will be right back in the mix for the postseason. DC, meanwhile, simply have to find a way to stop this rot because they are heading backwards. It will be far from easy – next up for them is a home game against a St Louis team who are flying right now thanks to back-to-back wins and look to be the best team in the East at this time.

“You Want It, I’m Gonna Give It To You Right Now!”

Trailing 14-6 on the road and stuck on their own 28-yard-line, the Los Angeles Wildcats desperately needed to find a spark and somebody on the offense wanted to find it by going for it on fourth down. Head coach Winston Moss, who XFL fans are growing to love for his no-nonsense approach and general coolness, granted that risky wish in blunt fashion, and whoever wanted to go for it must have been relieved when the officials overrode an incomplete pass by throwing a flag to give the Wildcats a fresh set of downs!

XFL Week 4 Highlights

New York Guardians 17 Los Angeles Wildcats 14

St Louis BattleHawks 23 Seattle Dragons 16

Houston Roughnecks 27 Dallas Renegades 20

Tampa Bay Vipers 25 DC Defenders 0