By: David Connors @DConBlitz
The Wait is Over
It's been over two years since Vince McMahon announced he was resurrecting the defunct XFL, and he we are, moments away from the kickoff of the 2020 season. Who is going to come out on top? Which players will stand out? With XFL Commissioner, Oliver Luck, putting so much emphasis on league parody, there is little indication on who will emerge at this time. So which teams will establish themselves as the XFL inaugural champions? Who is going to be an Offensive Player of the Year? Defensive Player of the Year? MVP? Here are my predictions for the first season for the reimagined XFL.
East Championship Game
St Louis Battlehawks @ Tampa Bay Vipers
The Tampa Bay Vipers have every tool to reign supreme in the East Conference. It starts with their Head Coach Marc Trestman. Trestman is one of the most successful coaches in the CFL. In 7 years, he led his team to 1st in their division five times and won three Grey Cups for two different organizations. Trestman’s fast-tempo offense should translate seamlessly to the XFL’s shorter play clock. The teamed up QB Aaron Murray with plenty of weapons with former AAF standouts like Seantavius Jones and Reece Horn at receiver and the incredibly reliable Nick Truesdell at Tight End. The Vipers also have playmakers on defense including Terence Garvin who was a turnover machine for the Orlando Apollos in the AAF. With Trestman’s leadership, the Vipers will come out of the gates hot and ride that success to lead the East to early and coast to finish the season with the East’s best record.
Their opponents will be the St. Louis Battlehawks. The Battlehawks are a young team with a lot of potential for big-time stars on its roster. Vegas has the Battlehawks odds of going all the way +700 (2nd worse), however, their odds put a lot of stock in coach and QB experience. Battlehawks Ta’Amu might not have the experience some of the teams’ Quarterbacks with better odds have, but he is a prolific passer with raw talent. He will develop both as an individual and his connection with his stud WR’s. Terrance Williams has 6 years NFL experience with the Dallas Cowboys where he has the 15th most receiving yards in team history. In the slot the Battlehawks have De’Mornay Pierson-El who can create immediate separation in the middle and turn on the jets and get behind a defense. The Battlehawks also showed the most team camaraderie from the videos of the scrimmage games. When the Battlehawks had big plays, every player got psyched for their teammates success. The Battlehawks inexperience will lead them to a slow start, nevertheless, the Battlehawks end the season strong to get the opportunity to face the Vipers in the East Conference Championship game.
West Championship Game
Los Angeles Wildcats @ Dallas Renegades
Dallas has a lot of variables in their favor to be early favorites in the XFL. An experienced Head Coach in Bob Stoop combined with The Godfather of the Air Raid offense Hal Mumme aa their Offensive Coordinator should be a perfect fit for the quick pace the XFL is trying to achieve with the shortened play clock. The Renegade will feature a quick tempo “throw it where they ain’t” offense which should be able to light up the scoreboard against most teams. They also feature the first ever XFL player signed at Quarterback with Landry Jones. Jones' leadership and experience will be just as valuable as his on-the-field talent. It may be a chalk pick, but there is a reason they are the Vegas favorites to win it all this year.
The LA Wildcats will be a hard team to beat with one of the most complete teams in the trenches. Protecting their verteran Quarterback, Josh Johnson, the Wildcat feature two ferocious Tackles with Storm Norton and Jaelin Robinson which should provide ample time for both the Running game and passing game to develop. The Wildcats also feature a rotation of pass rushers that will keep Offensive Coordinators up at night. They have AAF Star Anthony Johnson and XFL preseason sensation Willie Mays. Those guys combined with the physical specimen known as Shawn Oakman will give opposing Offensive Lines a lot to handle every week. When the Wildcats meet Dallas in the West Conference Championship, it will be “must-see” TV.
St. Louis Battlehawks vs Dallas Renegades
To end the inaugural XFL season, fans are going to be treated to an incredible game with a lot of scoring and big plays. Both teams will find ways to light up the scoreboard. However, a couple of costly turnovers by Dallas will be the difference maker as the Battlehawks not only bring football back to the St. Louis, they bring them a Championship. If I were a betting man, I would throw a few dollars on the Battlehawks while their odds are at an all-time low.
Winner: St. Louis Battlehawks
As mentioned before, the Battlehawks were given low odds by Vegas because of the lack of experience by their starting Quarterback Ta’Amu, however, he did beat out a player with success on the NFL stage for the starting job in Tyler Heinicke. Ta’Amu had a memorable Senior year at Ole Miss with just under 4,000 passing yards and another 342 yards on the ground. Not only does he bring so much untapped potential, but anyone who has followed the team to any capacity knows he is the heart and soul of the Battlehawks roster. The team camaraderie mentioned before stems itself through Jordan Ta’amu. I also believe Ta’Amu will have his best games towards the end of the season while he is pushing the Battlehawks to the East Conference Championship Game. With a few heroic performances fresh on the minds of the MVP voters, Ta’Amu will win the 2020 XFL MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year
Although the New York Guardian features a couple of studs on defense, there are a few evident holes that teams will exploit to put up points against the Guardians. What better way to stay in games than to throw it to a 6’6” athlete playing as the perimeter receiver. McKay will have a lot of opportunities to catch a lot of passes and there are very few corners in the XFlL who can cover him...and one of them plays for the Guardians.
Defensive Player of the Year
Kenny Robinson is the only player in the XFL who is draft eligible for the 2020 NFL Rookie Draft. Due to a pending suspension at WVU, Robinson has decided to turn to the XFL to raise his draft stock. Kenny has been given a Top 50 grade by Pro Football Focus’s Mike Renner back in the NFL preseason. He can play coverage with a lot of range and size to keep up with both Tight End and slot receivers. Robinson is also a talented box safety who does not miss a lot of tackles once he gets his hand on a player. He will be optimized in St. Louis playing beside a versatile veteran like Will Hill in the other Safety position. Hill and Robinson can swap roles to keep their opposition guessing. Kenny Robinson is going to make some splash plays that will solidify him as the first Defensive Player of the Year in the revamped XFL.
First Team to Complete a Double Forward Lateral
Tampa Bay Vipers
I know many of you in Blitz Nation enjoy throwing a few dollars here and there at games, therefore, I decided to throw this in here. I have seen this prop bet a time or two and if there is one team who will come out and successfully execute a double forward lateral early, it’s the Tampa Bay Vipers. Not only do they have a crafty Head Coach and creative play callers, but they have Quinton Flowers who is listed on the roster as a Quarterback / Runningback hybrid. Trestman has these up his sleeves and do not be surprised to see one early.
The XFL season is drawing close. XFL fans enjoy the games.