Week 3 of the XFL season is upon us as identities start to take shape and the league’s best players start to rise to the top. While it’s still way too early to definitively say who we’ll see in the championship game come to the end of April, the odds have shifted in favor of the DC Defenders (+200) and Houston Roughnecks (+250). With two weeks of this newest rendition of the league in the books, the meat of the season is just around the corner, where we’ll likely see if this league has the legs to continue for more than one season. Following two winning weeks in the books, let’s see if we can bring home another profitable XFL weekend.
Houston Roughnecks at Tampa Bay Vipers (+6.5, 45), 2:00 PM EST (via DraftKings Sportsbook)
While the DC Defenders, behind the league’s top-ranked quarterback Cardale Jones and his duo of wide receivers in Rashad Ross and Eli Rogers, are getting all the hype thus far, Houston is quietly humming along with an impressive resume of their own. Though the sample size is admittedly small, the Roughnecks are 2-0 with a point differential of +24 through two games. If it were not for a late meaningless touchdown last week against the Battlehawks, the Roughnecks would be 2-0 ATS as well, controlling large stretches of both games they’ve played thus far. While Jones is the clear QB1 in the league, Roughneck’s dual-threat quarterback P.J. Walker ranks third in yards through two games racking up 442 to go along with seven touchdowns and an average QB rating of 108.8. Houston has been strong on the defensive side of the ball as well, with two of the top five tacklers in the league on their unit in DeMarquis Gates and Cody Brown and a team TD +/- of +3 to rank third in the league.
Even with some bad play expected in a league with the caliber of players and set of new rules like the XFL, the Tampa Vipers have been especially bad. After starting the season with former Georgia product and NFL bust Aaron Murray at the helm, the Vipers stumbled out of the blocks when he threw for 231 yards, two interceptions, and a rating of just 45.1 in their first game. With Murray sidelined last week with a foot injury, Tampa Bay turned to a combination of Taylor Cornelius and Quinton Flowers who made Murray’s Week 1 look like an MVP performance. On 34 attempts, the Cornelius/Flowers duo combined for just 172 yards and three interceptions, while the Seattle Dragons did the bare minimum in beating them 17-9 in one of the sloppier games we have seen this young season.
The bottom line for me is while it might be too early to draw any definitive season-long conclusions, I see these two teams as largely exactly who I think they are. Through two games, the Vipers have scored a single touchdown, a gimme pick-six last week when they picked off Dragon’s quarterback Brandon Silvers just after the second half began, and that shouldn’t be any easier against a strong Houston defense. With the Roughnecks on the other side looking like a strong candidate to be at the top of the league come April, I’ll take Houston in my biggest play of this young XFL season.