Week 5 of the XFL season is upon us and our resident American Football expert Leigh Copson has picked out his favourite bets from this weekend’s action.
Seattle Dragons at Houston Roughnecks (Saturday 19:00 GMT)
Houston return home for the first time since Week 2 and they head back to the TDECU Stadium as conquering heroes after winning both of their road games to preserve the XFL’s only 100% record. They have not had it easy, needing interceptions at crucial moments to see off both the Tampa Bay Vipers and the Dallas Renegades, but a win is a win and right now the Roughnecks are the cream of the crop in the XFL heading into Week 5.
They appear to have it good on both sides of the football too. While the offense, namely PJ Walker and Cam Phillips, have received most of the headlines so far this season, it was the defense who stepped up to deliver in sensational fashion during the first ever ‘Texas Throwdown’ with state rivals Dallas. Houston picked off Landry Jones three times and turned a strip sack into a fumble to make it a nightmare day for the veteran quarterback, and when he was replaced by Phillip Nelson the Roughnecks showed no mercy for the backup. DeMarquis Gates’ produced a spectacular interception on his two-yard line to kill off a crucial drive for Dallas that could have ended with them levelling it up and perhaps forcing overtime.
It was a huge win for Houston after week of major hype, but can they follow it up with a fifth consecutive win when Seattle come to town on Saturday? The Dragons are now at 1-3 after last weekend’s defeat in St Louis but they did show some signs of life after halftime when BJ Daniels replaced Brandon Silvers at quarterback. Daniels is expected to start this weekend and will almost certainly provide the offense with another spark, but I still have major concerns over head coach Jim Zorn, who seemingly lost track of the score a week ago and has been far too slow to send in plays at times.
None of this bodes well for a meeting with a Houston offense that can rack up the points and a defense that can rack up turnovers and produce points themselves. Everything points to the Roughnecks improving to 5-0 with a convincing home win on Saturday night, and having seen all four of their previous games pass the 45.5 total points mark, I expect we will see more of the same here as Daniels does a decent job of trying to keep Seattle in it.
New York Guardians at Dallas Renegades (Saturday 22:00 GMT)
The New York Guardians stopped the rot last weekend as they battled past the Los Angeles Wildcats to preserve a 100% home record. Much has been made of the fact LA missed a field goal in that would have levelled things up, but on the flip side the Guardians should, and would, have won by a bigger margin had Mekale McKay hauled in what should have been a touchdown pass from Luis Perez. A win is a win though and the Guardians were going to take it however they could get if after those two heavy beatdowns on the road, but can they build on that win when they travel to a Dallas side dealing with the disappointment of defeat in the first ever ‘Texas Throwdown’?
The Renegades went into that home game against Houston looking to make it three wins on the bounce after successes in Los Angeles and Seattle, but they were guilty of poor first-half performances in both of those games and started slowly again in this one. Landry Jones threw interceptions in each of their first three possessions and had it not been for a stubborn defense the Roughnecks would have been out of sight in the second quarter. The Renegades hauled themselves back into the game with a couple of controversial touchdowns, but their fightback was ended in the closing moments when backup quarterback Phillip Nelson was picked off by DeMarquis Gates at the Houston two-yard line. Nelson, of course, replaced Jones late on after the veteran QB went down with injury and he will get the nod to start for the foreseeable future with Jones expected to sit out the rest of the season. Dallas have lost both games with Nelson at the controls on offense and they have now lost both of their home games this season, so the pressure is firmly on them to get their first home win here. But can they?
The Renegades are the better team, even with Nelson at QB, and they should come out on top here, but Perez brought some life to that New York offense last weekend with the help of running back Darius Victor, and that defense is a solid unit too. The visitors simply cannot be written off here – especially when the handicap has been set at +/-8 and I am expecting a low-scoring game. Even if Dallas do win, they will not run away with it. Therefore I have to suggest taking the points and going with the Guardians in this one. Even if they do not win on the scoreboard, that +8 should give them a bigger final total than the Renegades’.
St Louis BattleHawks at DC Defenders (Sunday 20:00 GMT)
St Louis have enjoyed home comforts of a raucous Dome over the past couple of weeks to win back-to-back games and take top spot in the East, but can they keep this run going when they head back out onto the road in Week 5? The BattleHawks came into the season as an also-ran in the minds of the bookmakers, but through four games they have done an outstanding job of changing the bookies’ minds and a big reason for that has been the play of young quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. He earned the league’s Star of the Week award in Week 4, ending Houston’s dominance of the weekly honour, and it was well deserved after he showcased his dual threat skills to lead the team to victory over Seattle. It was his most impressive performance yet and when you combine a quarterback growing in stature with a punishing run game and a strong defense you have the recipe for success. I think it says a lot that the only team to beat St Louis so far are the 4-0 Roughnecks, and they put up quite the fight in ‘H-town’. The BattleHawks are for real, but can they keep their momentum going on the road?
They could not have asked for a better road game to have at this time than a trip to face a reeling DC team who are in danger of a complete meltdown. The Defenders looked sharp in the opening couple of weeks as they followed up a season-opening success at home to Seattle with a home win over New York, and many expected them to enjoy a successful two-week stint on the road as they prepared to visit the 0-2 Los Angeles Wildcats in Week 3 and the 0-3 Tampa Bay Vipers in Week 4. However, things went disastrously wrong for Pep Hamilton’s team. Cardale Jones had a nightmare game as he threw four picks in a 39-9 blow-out defeat in LA, and things got even worse a week later as they got run over by the Vipers in a 25-0 shut-out loss. Jones was heard repeatedly complaining on the field and off it during the defeat in Florida and at one point told coaches they needed to bench one of his wide receivers. While the commentary team tried to play things down, suggesting this sort of thing was normal, you have to wonder if those outbursts will have caused some friction this week.
DC will be happy to be home for this one as they try to stop the rot, but at this point in time it is almost impossible to go against the in-form BattleHawks. The big reason for my confidence is that run game. St Louis boast a three-headed monster in the backfield in the shape of scrambling QB Ta’amu and the running back pairing of Matt Jones and Christine Michael, and having seen the Defenders give up 100-yard rushing games to two Vipers players a week ago you have to fancy the chances of the BattleHawks running over them again here. They will control the clock, Ta’amu will make some big plays and that defense will contain a frustrated DC offense led by an even more frustrated Jones. All of this will add up to St Louis making it three wins in a row and taking command of the East at the midway point in the season.
Tampa Bay Vipers at Los Angeles Wildcats (Monday 02:00 GMT)
It took them four weeks, but Tampa Bay finally got off the mark last weekend and they did it in impressive fashion, shutting out the DC Defenders in a 25-0 victory. The Vipers had showed some promising signs in the Week 3 loss to Houston, but that performance had done little to ease the pressure on head coach Marc Trestman and it did nothing to develop the developing quarterback controversy that was the subject of even more speculation when Quinton Flowers left the team in the build-up to the game with DC. Tampa Bay put all of that behind them though as running backs Jacques Patrick and De’Veon Smith ran over the DC for 100-plus yard games last weekend, but if Tampa Bay do not follow that up with another victory on Sunday then the talk surrounding Trestman and his QBs will intensify once again. So can they make it back-to-back wins?
Next up for Tampa is a tricky cross-country trip to Los Angeles to face a team who were in a similar position to the Vipers a couple of weeks back. The Wildcats had opened up the campaign with back-to-back losses, but out of nowhere the offense exploded into life with a dominant 39-9 victory over DC and it looked as though Winston Moss’ team had turned the corner. They were highly fancied to follow up that win with a victory in New York last weekend, but the absence of two of their biggest offensive threats was something they could not overcome and a missed field goal proved to be their undoing as the Guardians took it. That leaves the Wildcats in desperate need of a home win as they look to kick-start a playoff push, but can they bring Tampa Bay back down to Earth in the final game of Week 5? That is a tough one to call.
If LA welcome back running back Martez Carter and wide receiver Nelson Spruce it will be a huge shot in the arm for that offense, but I cannot overlook that run game of the Vipers, which will be crucial to any success they have going forward because it takes some of the heat off quarterback Taylor Cornelius. Patrick and Smith, along with the help of that offensive line, dominated DC a week ago and they are now coming up against a Wildcats defense that has been unable to slow down the opposition run game all season long, allowing an average of 131.5 rushing yards per game. That spells trouble for them here and, for me, it spells victory for Tampa Bay.
XFL Week 5 Accumulator Tip
UK bookmakers are offering only a small selection of markets for the XFL, just like they did when the Alliance of American Football launched last year, so if you are looking for bigger odds then why not consider backing all four of our selections in an accumulator bet for Week 5? Doing this offers odds of just over 80/1, with a £10 stake will lead to a return of £805.52 if all four legs are winners.