We’re now halfway through the 2020 XFL regular season, and it’s still anyone’s guess as to which teams are actually for real — or at least every team except the Houston Roughnecks, who lit up the scoreboard yet again in Week 5 to improve to 5-0 on the year.
Outside of Houston, it’s been tossup central across the league. Exhibit A: The DC Defenders entered Week 5 after probably the worst two-game stretch of any team in the XFL, and their embattled quarterback, Cardale Jones, threw his seventh interception of the season early against the St. Louis BattleHawks, who were favored on the road. Even so, it was the Defenders — not the BattleHawks — who stole the weekend spotlight, suddenly returning to form on “D” and getting enough production from replacement QB Tyree Jackson to limit St. Louis to a pair of field goals and leap back above .500.
That’s why, for the third week in a row, we’ve done quite a bit of shuffling for our XFL Power Rankings. The top two teams remain the same, but the rest of the pecking order once again got a makeover:
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- Houston Roughnecks (5-0)
With each passing week, it seems like Houston relies more on P.J. Walker to be magical. That’s a bittersweet recipe, because on one hand, Walker has been more than capable of shouldering the burden, but on the other, you have to wonder if, at some point down the road, June Jones is going to be forced to use a game plan other than, “Let No. 11 do it.” Week 5, in fact, gave us a little taste of that already, with Walker throwing not one but two picks in yet another one-score game. Until he’s not the guy under center, though, it’s impossible to bet against them.
- St. Louis BattleHawks (3-2)
Everyone but the Roughnecks has slipped up on the road, so perhaps we can write off their Week 5 dud against DC to travel woes. But the breakdown of the O-line was not encouraging, especially considering this team’s whole offense is predicated upon protection up front. Even worse: It’s not like St. Louis didn’t break off some big runs against the Defenders. Jordan Ta’amu was simply under so much pressure otherwise that the club looked like a shell of itself. And yet they’ve remained No. 2 on this list for a while for a reason. Ta’amu still controls the ball very well, they still pound the rock with confidence, and their “D” has been very consistent.
- DC Defenders (3-2)
Look who’s back in the top three! Cardale Jones looked as if he learned nothing from DC’s two-game losing streak during a poor start against St. Louis, but fortunately the Defenders lived up to their name in front of the home crowd. Tyree Jackson doesn’t seem like a sustainable answer at QB, but neither does Jones right now, so DC needs to get extremely creative with its ground game. At the very least, the defense having its confidence back should go a long way toward keeping them competitive in the East.
- Los Angeles Wildcats (2-3)
Week 5 was a microcosm of the Wildcats’ entire 2020 season. For a half, everything looked horrible — defense surrendering yards left and right, the mic’d-up QB calling out the offensive coordinator. Then, suddenly, Josh Johnson settled in and looked like the best XFL QB this side of P.J. Walker, floating bomb after bomb while the Wildcats defense morphed into a takeaway machine. When these guys are on, they’re on. The problem is predicting when they won’t be.
- New York Guardians (3-2)
Perhaps we shouldn’t undersell Luis Perez at QB. Since taking over Kevin Gilbride’s offense, the former AAF starter has thrown for 418 yards, three touchdowns and one pick with a passer rating of 92.1. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been really solid. And when you couple that with the Guardians defense, which has been one of the best in the game at home, you’ve got a scrappy contender.
- Tampa Bay Vipers (1-4)
Offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo still deserves a ton of credit for turning this offense around; the Vipers have averaged 28.6 points per game since he took over play-calling duties from Marc Trestman. They also almost upset the Wildcats on the road. But we saw Sunday night that when the run game stalls, they have issues. The defense also looked lost in deep coverage. At the end of the day, they’re better than their record suggests, but not by that much.
- Dallas Renegades (2-3)
The one thing Bob Stoops had going for him was the Renegades defense, and even that fell apart at home on Saturday, with New York hitting 30 points a few weeks after being deemed the XFL’s worst offense. Philip Nelson at QB just isn’t going to get the job done, either. Landry Jones returning in a few more weeks might inspire hope, but that’d also be an exercise in inevitable disappointment.
- Seattle Dragons (1-4)
B.J. Daniels is at least a fun watch when he uses his legs, and Seattle hasn’t rolled over in recent weeks, keeping things close against far superior rosters — like St. Louis in Week 4 and Houston in Week 5. The Dragons give up way too many big plays, however, to keep themselves in contention.