We’ve made it to Week 2 of the XFL, people. Let’s party.
There’s a fine line between too little and too much coverage of such an amazing niche sport, and we at Rotoworld fully plan on wrestling that line to the gates of hell.
What follows is an all-encompassing Week 2 preview featuring betting odds, key matchups, injuries, DFS thoughts (DraftKings) and betting picks.
Now let’s dig into all four of this weekend’s games.
New York Guardians at D.C. Defenders
- Favorite: Defenders (-6.5)
- Over/under: 48
- Time: 2/15, 2:00 PM EST
- TV: ABC
Week 1 Offensive Takeaways
New York's 23-3 win over Tampa Bay
- Matt McGloin wasn't awful last week, although his 46.7% pressure rate is certainly cause for concern. This isn't exactly a mobile QB we're dealing with here. The Guardians put up middling ranks in yards per play (5th), net yards per pass attempt (5th) and yards per rush (7th) despite the win.
- The Guardians are utilizing a two-RB committee between Tim Cook (53% snaps) and Darius Victor (51%). Neither are likely to be confused as elite pass catchers, so it wouldn't be surprising if backup RB Justin Stockton sees more action moving forward.
- Colby Pearson, Mekale McKay and Joe Horn Jr. are locked into three-WR sets. Each flashed on different occasions last week, although I favor McKay as a fan purely because he wears a hoodie underneath his shoulder pads for some added #swag.
D.C.'s 31-19 win over Seattle
- Cardale Jones led the XFL's most-efficient passing offense in Week 1. His 32.3% play-action rate was the highest mark in the league. The Defenders ranked highly in yards per play (3rd) and net yards per pass attempt (1st), but struggled to get too much going on the ground (8th).
- Jhurell Pressley (59% snaps) lost some reps to Donnel Pumphrey (43%), but Pressley racked up 14 combined carries and targets compared to just seven for Pumphrey. The Defenders' starting RB looks a lot like the best RB in the league after racking up seven broken tackles (PFF).
- Eli Rogers (27% target share) was the clear No. 1 pass-game option ahead of Rashad Ross (8%) and Malachi Dupre (15%), although most of Rogers' targets were of the underneath variety. Look for former NFL-preseason superstar Ross to continue to see plenty of downfield shots.
Which team is healthier?
Definitely New York.
Only two players failed to practice in full for the Guardians on Wednesday, although a pair of defenders suffered mid-week setbacks and were listed as limited on Thursday:
- RG Garrett Brumfield (head, DNP, DNP)
- C Ian Silberman (thigh, DNP, DNP)
- DB Dravon Askew-Henry (shoulder, full, limited)
- DT Cavon Walker (ankle, full, limited)
Meanwhile, D.C. has more than a few names to worry about, particularly in the passing game on both sides of the ball.
- TE Khari Lee (foot, DNP, full)
- LB A.J. Tarpley (hand, DNP, full)
- WR DeAndre Thompkins (foot, limited, full)
- WR Malachi Dupre (thigh, limited, full)
- LB Scooby Wright (knee, limited, full)
- S Shamarko Thomas (thigh, limited, full)
- CB Desmond Lawrence (shoulder, limited, full)
- DT Kalani Vakameilalo (ankle, full, DNP)
Key matchup questions
Can New York slow down Jhurell Pressley?
The Guardians were largely pushed around by De'Veon Smith and the Tampa Bay Vipers' rushing attack last week, but they managed to bend not break and ultimately got stops inside their red zone. A repeat performance would be bad news against Pressley, who offers the type of speed (4.38-second 40-yard dash) to make defenses pay in a hurry. DE Olubunmi Rotimi will need to again be on his A-game after racking up seven tackles and three pressures in Week 1.
Can D.C. pressure Matt McGloin?
The Defenders somehow managed to allow 115 passing yards and two touchdowns when pressuring Brandon Silvers despite benefiting from two drops during 12-such dropbacks (PFF). Only the L.A. Wildcats had a tougher time protecting their QB than the Guardians last week, and now it looks like they could be without both their starting C and RG. That's bad news against a stingy Defenders' secondary led by PFF's No. 1 CB Elijah Campbell.
QB: It's wild that Cardale Jones ($10,200) comes in as only the QB3 after demonstrating plenty of downfield goodness and rushing ability in Week 1. Still, I'd recommend paying down at the position this week in favor of true dual-threat QB Jordan Ta'amu ($8,900), or QB/RB Quinton Flowers ($7,500) if Aaron Murray (foot) is ultimately sidelined.
RB: Jhurell Pressley ($7,000) is worth paying up for, even with the position's second-highest price tag. Both Tim Cook ($4,400) and Darius Victor ($4,100) seem a bit too cheap after each playing more than half of the offense's snaps, although there are real concerns about the New York offensive line's ability to hold up at far less than 100%.
WR: Malachi Dupre ($4,500) is more than half the price of both Eli Rogers ($9,700) and Rashad Ross ($9,900), but his own thigh injury, combined with a return from DeAndre Thompkins (foot), renders him a risky value play. There's no reason to bother, particularly when Joe Horn ($3,400) is so egregiously underpriced despite commanding a team-best 24% target share on a more-than-fine 78% snap rate. He's my second favorite cheap sub-$4k value play on the slate. McKay and Ross are worthy GPP plays to pay up for thanks to their respective big-play ability.
Bets to watch
I'm pessimistic on New York's ability to consistently move the ball. This seems like a bad matchup for their passing game, and it's unclear if anybody can slow down this Defenders offense. I like D.C. -6.5.
Over 48 is also a bit enticing. I realize last week's Sunday games didn't produce as much promise as we saw on Saturday, but the league's quickened pace and scoring-friendly rules were clear. I'd expect the totals to get back into the 50s as offenses start to gel more.
Tampa Bay Vipers at Seattle Dragons
- Favorite: Vipers (-3)
- Over/under: 45
- Time: 2/15, 5:00 PM EST
- TV: FOX
Week 1 Offensive Takeaways
Tampa Bay's 23-3 loss against New York
- Aaron Murray led the Vipers up and down the field in Week 1, but threw two inexcusable interceptions and didn't lead the offense to the end zone despite having four drives end inside the opposing 10-yard line. Only Houston (5.6) averaged more yards per play than Tampa Bay (5.5).
- De'Veon Smith (65% snaps) worked well ahead of Jacques Patrick (39%). Overall, only Matt Jones (22) had more combined carries and targets than Smith (17). The former Michigan RB leads the XFL with 10 broken tackles after one week (PFF).
- WR Daniel Williams (100% snaps), WR Jalen Tolliver (97%) and TE Nick Truesdell (96%) are cemented as the offense's top-three options in the passing game. There seems to be a decent chance that Truesdell finishes the year as one of the league's most-productive TEs.
Seattle's 31-19 loss against D.C.
- Only stud Houston QB Phillip Walker (28.9% deep-ball rate) threw the ball downfield more often than Brandon Silvers (17.5%). The problem was Silvers didn't boast the same elite efficiency, ultimately leading Seattle to sixth-place ranks in both yards per play and net yards per pass attempt.
- This backfield is a three-headed mess at the moment after each of Kenneth Farrow (42% snaps), Trey Williams (32%) and Ja'Quan Gardner (28%) were plenty involved in Week 1. Williams (3.3 YAC per attempt) appears to be the better talent over both Farrow (2.3) and Gardner (2.2).
- The offense's top-two WRs were easily Keenan Reynolds (94% snaps) and Austin Proehl (70%). It was Proehl (24% target share) who worked as the No. 1 option ahead of Reynolds (17%) from an opportunity perspective, but the former Navy QB still appears to be a big part of the offense.
Which team is healthier?
Probably Tampa Bay.
The big issue for the Vipers is the status of their QB, although a healthy serving of Quinton Flowers certainly wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Murray is ultimately sidelined.
- QB Aaron Murray (foot, DNP, DNP)
- TE DeAndre Goolsby (neck, DNP, limited)
- G Jerald Foster (shoulder, limited, limited)
- C Jordan McCrey (knee, limited, limited)
- DT Jason Neill (groin, limited, limited)
- DL Bobby Richardson (knee, full, limited)
- CB Rannell Hall (thigh, limited, limited)
- CB Shelton Lewis (hand, IR)
Maybe consider pounding this game's under considering both starting QBs failed to practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Silvers suffered his injury at the end of Week 1 and didn't appear to be in particularly good shape afterwards. Further worsening matters is the reality that he wasn't the only Dragons player to be sidelined to start the week.
- G Cyril Richardson (ankle, IR)
- QB Brandon Silvers (ankle, DNP, DNP)
- TE Cam Clear (undisclosed, DNP, DNP)
- TE Isaiah Battle (ankle, full, DNP)
- C Dillon Day (calf, DNP, DNP)
- TE Ben Johnson (back, DNP, DNP)
- WR Kasen Williams (quad, DNP, DNP)
- DT Anthony Moten (ankle, DNP, DNP)
- CB Mohammed Seisay (groin, full, limited)
Key matchup questions
Can Seattle shut down this Tampa Bay rushing attack?
We already mentioned De'Veon Smith is a beast, but backup QB/RB Quinton Flowers is a whole different headache for defenses to deal with. Tampa Bay utilized the former South Florida beast as a QB and slot WR, utilizing misdirection and motion to create plenty of rushing lanes for everyone involved. The Dragons did a great job limiting the Defenders to a league-worst 2.43 yards per carry last week, but this matchup will be even tougher to win.
Can Brandon Silvers and company create big plays?
Silvers only completed 1-of-7 deep balls last week. This can't be chalked up to the receivers, as the lone completion was the only ball that was deemed catchable by PFF. Both Reynolds and (especially) Proehl showed off some great ability to create after the catch, but they'll need their QB to do a better job putting them in positions to succeed. Perhaps they'll target CB Shelton Lewis, who allowed 57 yards and a touchdown on just two targets into his coverage last week.
QB: Neither Aaron Murray ($9,200) nor Brandon Silvers ($8,200) demonstrated much mobility even before suffering their respective lower-body injuries. I'm way more inclined to chase Tampa Bay backup Quinton Flowers ($7,500) than Seattle backup BJ Daniels ($8,000) considering the former QB's proven ability to rack up rushing yards from all over the field.
RB: De'Veon Smith ($7,500) should continue to see all the work he can handle after an impressive Week 1 performance. He's worth rostering in cash lineups if you're able to pay down at QB and at WR. I'm inclined to not touch this Seattle backfield with a 10-foot pole until we see some sort of evidence that one of the three RBs involved is pulling away.
WR: Hopefully you checked out last week's preview when I dubbed then min-priced WR Daniel Williams ($7,600) as my favorite play on the slate. I wouldn't chase this massive salary increase, nor take chances on TE Nick Truesdell ($6,700). The easy value play is Jalen Tolliver ($3,900), who posted elite 97% snap and 19% target rates last week. Tolliver is my favorite sub-$4,000 value play on the slate. The only viable receivers in the Seattle offense are Keenan Reynolds ($6,300) and Austin Proehl ($9,200). This massive salary disparity between the pair is probably unwarranted.
Bets to watch
The Vipers' Week 1 loss was at least a little bit fluky considering their efficient performance on a per-play basis. Still, they now have to travel across the country to take on a Seattle team that also had some misfortune last week in the form of a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown. Note that injuries to both starting QBs makes this a matchup to pay particularly close attention to in the lead up to kickoff.
I like both under 45 and Seattle +3.
Proceed to the next page for coverage on Dallas Renegades at Los Angeles Wildcats and St. Louis BattleHawks at Houston Roughnecks.