Week 5 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 and is looking ahead to how the second half of the regular season will unfold.
Week 5 had it all – epic fightbacks, incredible catches, controversy and a giant ‘Beer Snake’ in DC that XFL commissioner Oliver Luck even played a part in. When all was said and done Houston had maintained their 100% record, DC had got their season back on track and Los Angeles and Tampa Bay had combined for an epic contest that had everything you could want in a game of football.
So before we start looking ahead to Week 6 of the XFL campaign, here are my takes on the latest round of games that officially marked the halfway stage of the regular season…
XFL Odds: Who Will Win It All
BettingPro’s Week 5 XFL MVP:
One week after being held to just one catch for nine yards, Houston Roughnecks wide receiver Cam Phillips came back with a vengeance in the come-from-behind win over Seattle in Week 5. Phillips who had back-to-back hat-tricks in Weeks 2 and 3, hauled in 10 of his 13 targets for 122 yards and two touchdowns. While it was not statistically his best performance of the season so far, it was an outstanding effort by any player’s standard so we have to name Phillips our weekly MVP for the second time this season. And with a league-best 455 yards and nine touchdowns to his name, do not be surprised if the Roughnecks ace takes this award at least one more time before the end of the season.
Houston Overcome Problem To Stay Perfect
Houston continue to boast the only 100% record in the XFL but they had to overcome a major scare to get it done, with the slight aid of a controversial finish. Quarterback PJ Walker’s exploits through the previous four weeks had earned him the attention of the Seattle Seahawks’ scouts, and although he failed to match those previous heights he certainly showed them something overcoming a couple of interceptions and a fumble to lead his team back from 14-0 down to the win. While other XFL quarterbacks have publicly melted down in the face of adversity, Walker showed great poise and confidence as he hit Cam Phillips for a couple of scores and by the end of the game he had racked up 351 yards and three touchdowns through the air to lead his team to a 32-23 success. Nick Holley went in from 50 yards and running back James Butler also got in on the act with a couple of scores, but the headline moment from the game came right at the end when the Roughnecks made a mess of running down the clock and should have gifted possession to Seattle with just two seconds left at around the Houston 22. However, the officials called the game, thinking the home team had successfully eaten up the clock, and it was a blunder that cost one man – the officiating supervisor – his job. The XFL quickly apologised for the colossal cock-up, but the result is in the books and it is in the books as a Houston win. And while Seattle are seemingly the weakest team in the entire league, the way the Roughnecks overcame adversity persuaded the bookies to clip their outright odds once again. If you fancy Houston to go all the way now may be the time to jump on them, because if they carry on like this they will soon be odds-on favourites and not just favourites.
DC Stop Rot To Clip BattleHawks’ Wings
The Week 4 ‘Texas Throwdown’ between Houston and Dallas may have been the most eagerly-awaited game of the season so far, the Week 5 showdown between the DC Defenders and the St Louis BattleHawks may have been the most important. DC went into the game reeling after heavy back-to-back defeats on the road, and those losses in Los Angeles and Tampa had allowed in-form St Louis to hit the summit in the East courtesy of a 3-1 record. That meant the Defenders desperately needed to stop the rot to avoid falling further behind the visiting BattleHawks, and they did just that in a grind of a game that was dominated by two defenses. DC head coach Pep Hamilton finally called time on Cardale Jones as the starting QB when he threw an interception on the very first drive and although his replacement, Tyree Jackson, hardly shone statistically, he was able to lead DC on the game’s only scoring drive and, ultimately, to the victory. Hamilton needs to find a way to get that offense firing, but the defense were back at their best as they shut down Jordan Ta’amu & Co. and if they can continue to keep things close while the coach tries to figure it out on the other side of the football, then DC can stay in the hunt for top spot in the East. St Louis, meanwhile, will not be panicking after the loss, but head coach Jonathan Hayes will be calling on his side to tighten up their play in the coming weeks after a slow start and some sloppy play cost them in the capital. These two teams are considered the biggest threats to Houston in the race to win the XFL Championship so it will be interesting to see if they can build some momentum and tempt the bookies to close the gap.
Dallas Done After Latest Home Defeat?
To say the pre-season favourites have underwhelmed would be a gigantic understatement. Dallas stand at 2-3 having lost all three of their home games so far, and Saturday night’s heavy loss to New York was clearly their worst of the season so far. Philip Nelson has offered little at quarterback since replacing the injured Landry Jones and offensive co-ordinator Hal Mumme has been relieved of his duties. The team claim it is down to the injury he suffered during a sideline collision against Houston, but the cynic in me wonders if the Renegades’ struggles on offense may have played a bigger role in the decision than the team are letting on. Dallas remain the fourth favourites to win it all, but they are quite frankly going backwards and I am shocked that their odds are not longer. The New York Guardians, meanwhile, appear to have overcome their early-season crisis and are heading in the right direction. It is going to take more for me to consider them a contender, but their recent form has not gone unnoticed by the bookmakers and if they can spring an upset against Houston next weekend then their outright odds could shorten pretty dramatically.
LA Hit Back To Win Wild Clash With Vipers
The final game of Week 5 proved to be an instant classic that went right down to the wire. A miserable night appeared to be on the cards for LA quarterback Josh Johnson as he lost his mouth guard and threw an interception on the very first play of the game. By the early stages of the second quarter they trailed 17-0 and halfway through the second period they trailed 24-6, but then one of the best fightbacks you will see all season began. By halftime the Wildcats were within four and a minutes into the final quarter they 33-24 thanks to a run of 27 unanswered points. Tampa Bay were not going to go down with a fight though and had one last chance to level it up or even win it late on, but Cornelius’ pass into the endzone was picked off as Los Angeles held out for an epic 41-34 win. With the victory the Wildcats catapulted themselves right back into the playoff mix in the West and also forced the bookmakers to almost halve their outright odds.
Big Man Touchdown Alert!
Everybody loves a ‘big man touchdown’ and we got one in Week 5 courtesy of Los Angeles Wildcats’ Boogie Roberts. The 6′ 2″ defensive tackle, who is billed at 289lbs but is definitely a few biscuits over that, reacted quickest after Taylor Cornelius was sacked and had the ball knocked away. Roberts, much to the commentators’ delight, wasted not time in scooping it up and rumbling in for the score.
XFL Week 5 Highlights
Houston Roughnecks 32 Seattle Dragons 23
New York Guardians 30 Dallas Renegades 12
DC Defenders 15 St Louis BattleHawks 6
Los Angeles Wildcats 41 Tampa Bay Vipers 34