XFL Week 1: Sunday Game Previews


Graphic by Pat Pryor


Tampa Bay Vipers (0-0) at New York Guardians (0-0)


Where to Watch: Sunday, Feb. 9th, 2:00 PM ET on FOX


Preview


On Sunday, February 8th, the XFL will play two more games as their inaugural weekend comes to a close. To start off, the Tampa Bay Vipers head to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Guardians. The first full Eastern Conference matchup, there’ll be quite a battle in East Rutherford. According to the Action Network, the Guardians had the second highest odds to win the championship as of Friday. They were only behind the Dallas Renegades, who play the St Louis Battlehawks in the late game Sunday.


Jamar Summers leads the Guardians secondary, against Aaron Murray and a Vipers offense that will challenge NY down the field. Matt McGloin can’t be underestimated for the Guardians . After trading for Luis Perez from the Wildcats, McGloin kept the starting job in NY. He’s one of the better quarterbacks in this new league, however with his top two out, he’ll be relying on running backs Tim Cook and Darius Victor to help out.


Players to watch


Tampa Bay Vipers


Quinton Flowers, QB/RB: Yes that’s his position on the official XFL website. With a new rule of allowing double forward passes behind the line of scrimmage, expect to see Quinton Flowers playing a Taysom Hill type role tomorrow to shake up the Guardians defense. Oh, he’s not afraid to run routes either, and his ability to catch passes is nothing to sneeze at.


Nick Truesdell, TE: An experienced Arena League player, Nick played with the Salt Lake Stallions in the short lived AAF. On 27 targets, he caught in 24, for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. With quite a bit of professional football experience, he’ll provide a safety net for Aaron Murray.


New York Guardians


Mekale McKay, WR: Two of the top Guardians receivers are out, but Mekale McKay can’t be ignored. His 6’6” frame provides a nice advantage. Not to mention, he caught 2000 yards worth of passes in college, averaging over 18 yards per reception. He’s the best bet for the Guardians to compete with the Vipers airing it out.


Mat McGloin, QB: He isn’t the most hyped up quarterback in the new league, but he’s certainly isn’t at the bottom of the pack. He spent time with the Raiders, playing in 7 games. One of the most experienced players in the XFL, expectations are high for the veteran, who will bring plenty of knowledge to the team.


Keys to the game


Tampa Bay Vipers

  • Disrupt the run game, force McGloin to throw.

  • Establish the run early, the Guardians top area on defense is their secondary.

  • Get to McGloin, he had 6 sacks and 4 fumbles in 6 games with the Raiders.

New York Guardians

  • Watch out for Quinton Flowers, it’s almost guaranteed that the Vipers will attempt to use the double forward pass.

  • Utilize both running backs to disrupt the front seven of the Vipers.

  • Stop Nick Truesdell and De’Veon Smith. A good secondary is the highlight of their defense, so if they can force Murray to toss it far down I have no doubt they can take the ball away.

Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • De’Veon Smith, RB (Vipers)

  • Mekale McKay, WR (Guardians)

  • Nick Truesdell, TE (Vipers)

  • Matt McGloin, QB (Guardians

  • Aaron Murray, QB (Vipers)

Betting Outlook


Tampa is favored by 3.5, and the over/under is 52.5. With both Saturday games going for at least 50 points, it wouldn’t be surprising to see both these quarterbacks throw a couple touchdowns and go over.


Prediction


Despite being favored, I think Tampa will have a hard time fighting a good New York defense. Murray may have a hard time keeping the ball in his receivers hands, especially without a duo running back corps like the Guardians to fall back on. In this game, the Guardians have the real recipe for a win, but not necessarily a blowout..


Final Score: Guardians 31, Vipers 24


Written by: Pat Pryor, @patpryorgraphic


St. Louis BattleHawks (0-0) at Dallas Renegades (0-0)


Where to Watch: Sunday, Feb. 9th, 5:00 PM ET on ESPN


Preview


The St. Louis BattleHawks kick off their XFL tenure this Sunday in Dallas as they are set to battle the Renegades in the season opener. Dallas is Vegas’ odds-on favorite to win the championship in the XFL’s first season back. The team is coached by former Oklahoma Sooner Championship coach Bob Stoops who famously won as many as 10 Big 12 championships. Coaching the sideline across from him is BattleHawks Head coach Jonathan Hayes. Hayes, a career tight ends coach has familiarity with Stoops from his days as the Special Teams coordinator while at Oklahoma.


The Renegades figure to be led by former Stoops coached Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. However, the nod will go to backup Philip Nelson who last played in the AAF for the San Diego Fleet. Meanwhile, the Throwin’ Samoan, Jordan Ta’amu will start for St. Louis. Ta’amu was last seen in a Texans uniform for about a month of training camp before being released. He is known for his work as the Ole Miss quarterback after taking over the reigns for Shea Patterson.


While Dallas might not be starting the quarterback they planned on initially. Nelson will have quite the haul of weapons in the form of former NFL running back Cameron Artis-Payne, lethal deep-threat wide receiver Jeff Badet, physical freak receiver Jazz Ferguson and physical freak tight end Donald Parham.


St. Louis has plenty of their own weapons in AAF receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El, former NFL receiver Keith Mumphrey, former NFL receivers Alonzo Russell, L’Damian Washington in addition to NFL tight ends Marcus Lucas and Wes Saxton. Not to mention they have two running backs that have plenty of NFL experience and a decent amount of success in the form of XFL star Christine Michael and Matt Jones.


The BattleHawks are not expected by Vegas to do much of anything this season, they will look to prove the naysayers wrong with a quality start to the season this Sunday.


Players to watch


St. Louis BattleHawks


QB Jordan Ta’amu


Ta’amu won the starting nod over former NFL quarterback Taylor Heinicke, Brogan Roback and Nick Fitzgerald this season. The Throwin’ Samoan started out as previously mentioned with Ole Miss as a junior college transfer that was forced to backup Shea Patterson. Patterson suffered an injury which ultimately led to Ta’amu getting the nod and eventually Patterson ended up transferring. Ta’amu is a quarterback that can push the ball down the field with his impressive overall arm talent. However, one thing that coach Hayes liked about Ta’amu was his ability to operate as a dual threat. Ta’amu is going to be operating an air raid offense that will be perfectly suited to his strengths. Ta’amu is 100 percent the player to watch as he has the potential to be the best quarterback or even player in this league.


RB Christine Michael


The 29-year-old running back won a Super Bowl and then promptly bounced around the NFL through five different teams. Michael is one of the absolute stars in this league. He was the first Phase 1 player draft pick in St. Louis BattleHawks history and went sixth-overall in the draft. Michael is in an air raid offense which would lead you to believe he may not receive the carries other running backs might but make no mistake he will receive a workload. He’s one of the more talented players in the league and the BattleHawks will make sure to keep him involved on Sunday.


FS Kenny Robinson


The former Mountaineer had college eligibility left and could have transferred to another college after being academically dismissed from West Virginia. However, Robinson decided to be a trail blazer and start potentially the newest trend for college players. He decided to enter the XFL draft as a former All-Big 12 safety. The talented NFL draft prospect decided to forgo the normal stereotypical pre-draft process and prove himself against the XFL’s best. Robinson, as a rookie has already made a name for himself and has won the free safety job according to the team site. The 21-year-old figures to make plenty of plays with his overall ball skills, athleticism and range this season.


Dallas Renegades


QB Philip Nelson


Nelson started his college career at Minnesota before promptly bouncing in between Rutgers and East Carolina. Following college, he left for the CFL and ultimately was drafted in the third-round of the AAF draft by the San Diego Fleet. Fleet starting quarterback Mike Bercovici struggled and ended up handing over the job to Nelson. The Renegades took the 26-year-old signal-caller in the seventh-round of the 2020 XFL draft. While the team was prepared to roll out the season with Landry Jones, once again by way of injury Nelson received his opportunity and will start this game. For Nelson, he’s got the weapons and the coaches confidence to start the season. His play will be a big part of deciding the overall result for the banged up Renegades.


RB Cameron Artis-Payne


The former Auburn and soon-after NFL running back went in the third-round of the 2020 XFL draft. The four-year Carolina Panther running back is one of the top running backs heading into the XFL season. The Renegades will likely look to pound the rock with a big offensive line headlined by former NFL offensive linemen Willie Beavers and Pace Murphy. With Dallas starting their backup quarterback you can expect them to test the St. Louis run defense early on with a heavy dose of Artis-Payne.


WR Jeff Badet


The former Kentucky Wildcat transfer, Oklahoma Sooner, and NFL receiver Jeff Badet is lightning in a bottle. It won’t be hard to watch this man come Sunday. Expect Nelson to look his way as much as possible. Badet was drafted early on in the XFL draft and with his 4.27 forty-yard speed, Badet basically becomes the team’s equalizer moving forward. In a league that expected to bring extremely high scoring contests, Badet figures to fit in right at home.


Keys to the game


St. Louis Battlehawks

  • Establish the run early with Christine Michael & Matt Jones

  • Force Philip Nelson to make plays with his legs

  • Do not baby Ta’amu, let it rip

Dallas Renegades

  • Establish the run early with Cameron Artis-Payne

  • Don’t put the game on Philip Nelson’s back

  • Contain Jordan Ta’amu and limit his mobility outside of the pocket

Top 5 Fantasy Players

  • Jordan Ta’amu, QB, St. Louis BattleHawks

  • Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Dallas Renegades

  • Keith Mumphrey, WR, St. Louis BattleHawks

  • Jeff Badet, WR, Dallas Renegades

  • Christine Michael, RB, St. Louis BattleHawks

Betting Outlook


Despite not having an opening game yet and the injury to Landry Jones. The Renegades went from the opening 7.5 favorites to now being 9 point favorites this Sunday.

If you want the upset of the week, look no further than this game right here. With hardly anything to go off as we enter a new league, Vegas has leaned on coaching experience and familiarity as the basis for the pick. However, the dynamic passing attack of St. Louis is not one to be slept on. As a matter of fact, I expect them to win the game easily.


Prediction


The way I see this going is the arrival of potentially the face of the XFL, Jordan Ta’amu. The St. Louis BattleHawks have a spotty defense on paper but this is going to be a high-scoring offense and one of the best offenses in the league. With my confidence in Ta’amu and the overall air raid base offense the BattleHawks will run, I believe they will be able to outweigh their defensive struggles and win this game. Moreso, I think this game the defense will even step up and shut down backup starter Philip Nelson.

I do think Dallas can win this game but they will need to pound the rock with Artis-Payne and that won’t be the easiest thing to do. Overall, Dallas might be a completely different team with Landry Jones the next time these two square off but Nelson being under center in this one really has me leaning St. Louis in a big way.


Final Score: St. Louis BattleHawks 38, Dallas Renegades 22


Written by: Jake Ellenbogen

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