Two of the XFL’s big winners from week one go head-to-head today as the St. Louis BattleHawks take on the Houston Roughnecks in some East vs West division action (6pm ET Sunday on FS1).
The return of the XFL has been successful league-wide as it seems there is no such thing as an over-abundance of football to be had. With the NFL season over, the XFL fills a springtime void that many football fans probably never realized they needed. While the XFL’s presence has been positive for all fans, the role it has played for one fan base in particular has been so much more than that.
Of the eight XFL franchises, seven of them are in cities home to NFL franchises as well. The Guardians share New York with the Jets and Giants, while the Dragons share Seattle with the Seahawks, the Renegades share Dallas with the Cowboys, the Roughnecks share Houston with the Texans, the Vipers share Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, the Defenders share Washington DC with the Redskins and the Wildcats share LA with the Chargers and Rams. That is the same Rams who once played their home games in the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
Today, that Dome is the home to football once again, for the first time since the Rams left St. Louis for LA, in 2016. The revived XFL has brought the people of St. Louis a new team to root for in the BattleHawks and so far, so good for the football-starved city. Across town, the Kansas City Chiefs play and in 2019-20, the team won the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. The state of Missouri may not have to wait much longer for a second football championship as the BattleHawks certainly have their name in the early conversation for best in the XFL East.
Leading the way for St. Louis is QB Jordan Ta’amu, who completed a second-best mark of 74 percent of his passes in the BattleHawks’ week one victory over the favored Renegades. His mark was bested only by, perhaps ironically, Dallas’ Nelson, who completed 79 percent of his passes, though one of his incompletes was a costly interception. Ta’amu kept the stat sheet clean as he had zero turnovers, one touchdown and an XFL second best 108.4 passer rating. There is much to like about Ta’amu’s performance.
The 22-year-old, who was undrafted out of college after playing just two years of football at Ole Miss, had 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his time as a Rebel. In the NFL, Ta’amu did spend time with the Houston Texans, taking a few preseason snaps before being let go prior to the regular season. Houston’s loss is St. Louis’ gain as Ta’amu was exciting to watch in week one, impressing with his arm and dazzling with his leg. Among all qualified XFL rushers, Ta’amu totaled the third highest yards on the ground with 77. The player with the most yards, was another BattleHawk, in the form of former Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts’ rusher, Matt Jones.
Jones’ most successful NFL season was his first in 2015 as he rushed for 490 yards and added another 304 yards in receiving. While Jones wasn’t much used in the passing game in week one, his potential to do so and all-around versatility, makes him a dangerous weapon for the BattleHawks. Coupled with the speed and rushing ability of Ta’amu, the BattleHawks have a strong ground-based threat that should make any of the league’s defenses worry. The balanced passing game was also impressive as Ta’amu spread the ball around to three different receivers for at least three receptions each.
PJ Walker Makes a Great First Impression
The XFL may have its first frontrunner for MVP and his name is PJ Walker. A standout at Temple University, Walker won the starting QB job from Connor Cook in the XFL’s preseason period. Last week he showed why the Roughnecks made a great decision in naming him their top guy. Walker, who last spent time with the Colts as a backup, but never took an NFL snap, took full advantage of his return to in-game action for the first time since he played his college finale in 2016.
One would think the time off would lead to rust or a diminished skillset, but with his NFL dream still alive, Walker has remained well conditioned and has clearly not lost a step. Walker, who tossed for over 2,000 yards and 13+ touchdowns in each of his four seasons at Temple, kicked off his XFL career in a big way. The league’s top QB after week one, Walker threw for an XFL-high 272 yards and four touchdowns. He had one interception among the 39 passes he threw and finished with a third-best 103.8 QB rating. Additionally, Walker carried the ball four times for 26 yards.
Walker, much like Ta’amu, found success by spreading the ball out. This included four receptions to Cam Philips, four to Nick Holley and five to Kahil Lewis. Chemistry was certainly not a problem for Houston as their offense gelled well en route to scoring the most points of any XFL team in week one, 37. The 20-point margin of victory over LA also tied the Guardians victory over Tampa Bay as the biggest point-differential win of the first week.
Our XFL Preview’s St. Louis BattleHawks vs Houston Roughnecks Predictions & Betting Picks Conclusion
Both BattleHawks and Roughnecks are coming off week one wins courtesy of their signal callers. With quarterbacks who performed well and offenses that are already clicking better than much of the rest of the league, perhaps today will offer an XFL playoff teaser. Of course, the Defenders will also be in the conversation as will likely the Renegades, but right now, all eyes are on the BattleHawks and Roughnecks as one of these teams will go to 1-1 by the time the weekend is over. These are the St. Louis BattleHawks vs Houston Roughnecks predictions for this XFL Sunday game preview:
- Entering this game, Houston are eight-point home favorites with the foremost oddsmakers for Americans, a mark we think they’ll cover in another strong performance by Walker and co. So the first of the picks is to bet the Roughnecks -8pts @ best odds of -110 with 5Dimes.
- We expect the total points to be scored to go over 47.5pts @ -109 with Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.